The AfterMaster Pro purely subjective review
The AfterMaster Pro is a small box that makes things sound clearer, louder, more distinct, and more even/balanced throughout play on any HDMI or 1/8th inch connection.
I’m going to state up top this is the completely subjective review. I’m attempting to get the line-outs and side by side comparisons now that I know more of what is going on in the little box of magic.
By that last sentence you should know I generally approve of this product.
What is The AfterMaster Pro?
It’s an audio mastering device that can pass through video and audio through HDMI, or just audio through a standard headphone jack. The entire box is mostly devoted to feeding a chip with the AfterMaster Pro process on it and then shooting it back out.
It contains a rechargeable battery so you can use it to listen to audio on a headset.
What does it do?
Have you ever been trying to watch a movie or TV show while the significant other/little ones were sleeping nearby? If so you’re probably familiar with exactly where the volume button on the remote is and if you’re not attached to it, you at least know how to throw a shoe fast enough to cut out the audio during the inevitable gunfight scene that came right after the protagonists were whispering.
“mumble mumble mumble BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM”
Yeah, it fixes that.
The oversimplification is you’ll hear the whispers, you’ll hear the booms, but they’ll all be in the same ballpark. But it’s more than just a real time normalizer or compressor.
A bit of my history around AM
Back in 2015 I was asked to stop by and see the AfterMaster Pro at the upcoming CES 2016 in January. They had a prototype of the box that would eventually become the AfterMaster Pro home unit and a movie with some extreme range of audio from rain dripping in a puddle to explosions and spaceship engine noise and screaming over the spaceship noises.
I listened, liked what I heard more with the AfterMaster Pro than without, and decided to get on their radar. Issues came up that delayed the unit’s release (changing HDCP/HDMI spec,) and they’re just out now in the market.
However, since January 2016, when I think about it I’ve been counting how many times I have to change the volume during the average movie in order to not wake the babies or to hear Hugh Laurie speak on Chance. It’s been about once every three minutes. Your sound system and wakeup dB for the SO/kiddos may of course vary.
How about now?
I’ve been using the unit for things I can Chromecast and TV for about a month. The last movie I paid any attention to I changed the volume three times, and the first change was because the volume was just a wee bit too loud initially, then I’d set it too low, then it was just right for the entire rest of the movie.
I feel like I should scream “the entire rest of the movie!” to convey that that is not a standard post-sleeping child thing.
What is it actually doing?
Stuff. Lots of it! Takes the vocals up, the louder booms down, some EQ to make the dialog be clearer, fix some of the surround sound mess, drops distortion, and make things louder overall. No, it’s not just an amp. It’s an audio processor that tinkers constantly at the audio to do many many a pleasing thing.
What’s really distracting about it is it’s not particularly distracting what it does. It’s like listening to a movie with headphones on only there are no headphones. No fear of blasting someone out of REM sleep into rage mode.
It makes of your show usually fully audible, but not unbearable.
Perhaps it could be considered a whole-room hearing aid, but that still doesn’t feel like an apt description of the thing.
What about for music?
Makes it a little louder without distorting, vocals sound slightly better, I’ll confess this is not something I’ve found a great use case for as most things I listen to seem to be mastered for what I’m listening on, however I have had some pleasant low-quality live recordings sound better.
Most newer recordings put through the AfterMaster Pro sound a little fuller, louder, bigger. That said, the amount of stuff one has to carry around to listen via the AfterMaster Pro have dissuaded me from doing extensive tests. Phone, 1/8th” to the AfterMaster, 1/8th” to the wired headphones. Not my particular use preference.
They tell me it cleans up crappy audio pretty well and gave me a scenario in which a police body cam recording was put through it and it went from inaudible to sounding like they were in the room. I don’t have a good terrible recording to play with however.
There are some good music examples both on Aftermaster’s site and on their Indigogo page, although the way it’s set up it sort of sounds like to the untrained ear that it’s just getting louder.
Could this be done somehow else?
I had a conversation with one of the people behind this product, and yes, they can provide this as the main audio track on what is broadcast. There’s not a particular reason that it has to be done in this product or at your house. Smart displays can license the CODEC and include it as an option should they want.
Basically the audio can be mastered before it gets in your house. This product is useful because it’s not.
A quick list of what this isn’t (as far as Paul’s limited knowledge goes,) – auto gain, night mode, real time normalizer, the cure for every bad mastered audio out there, a v-shaped anything, a marmoset.
When is the objective review?
Hopefully soon. The issue I was having was that I do not have a way to extract HDMI audio from a source, and the standard jack MP3 results were just not representative of what this is doing to TV/streaming audio, which is where this thing shines.
I’ve enlisted the help of an audio sweetening company and hopefully will have some actual metricable data as opposed to you having to trust the old guy who reviews stuff and has a stake in every sale (which on this product I don’t, but you have no reason to believe me.)
Where can I hear one before I get one?
If you have a line in, laptop, or some way to access your sound bar/speakers/etc they have a nifty little demo on aftermaster.com – scroll down to “Hear the difference yourself.” Plug that into your sound system, listen to A & B. That is what will be done by the AfterMaster Pro to any audio.
You’ll want to run it to your TV or whatever you’re planning on listening on as different speakers will sound quite different.
You may be thinking at first “hey, this just makes things louder” – I’d advise listening to one minute normal, restart on AfterMastered version, see if you notice the difference. If you don’t, it’s probably not for you.
I ended up watching about 30 minutes of a movie scene by scene AfterMastered and not to decide it was doing something… what that something was I would spend the next bit trying to figure out.
Where can I get one?
Currently you can get them on Amazon for about $170.
I called up their warranty number and talked to John who said if you don’t like it, and didn’t destroy it, you can return it for a refund. You will be out shipping.
Tech issues along the way
Should be noted that you want to use their USB charger (or better,) and charge the thing for a little while before using. One of my chargers it looked like it was working with, but it was not (video would come on for a second then go off.) That was my charger’s issue, but just a warning.
My system all the audio-out goes over optical cables, so I can only catch the audio pre-TV on a Chromecast, XBOX One, Satellite. Unfortunately most of my audio is from Netflix on the TV, Plex, YouTube on the TV. There’s not a great way to grab the audio from those before they go to my ancient JVC TH-C6, although I could just use the stereo through I guess.
Is the AfterMaster Pro worth it?
I find it incredibly useful to not wake my children up and be able to watch my movie without straining to hear. You might find a great use case in not disturbing a significant other or freaking a dog out, make your system noticeably louder without causing distortion. The audio sounds better on my ancient speakers and makes it feel like I moved up a decade in amps.
If you don’t have a problem with waking people up, are pleased with the audio as it stands, or don’t mind changing volume, this probably is not a great improvement to your setup.
Listen for yourself on their website. I can’t imagine it works on every possible configuration of devices, but you can get a pretty good idea of what it’s doing real time if you listen.
Don’t like it? Not for you? Not going to cause me to modify my opinion of you in one bit until I can hammer out the objective AfterMaster Pro review, which for silly reasons has now taken over a year and two separate audio companies.