How to: hear better on Bluetooth

Gennum cuts out the noise to deliver crystal clear sound

2006 | 2005

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Sure, mobile phones are convenient, but only if you can hear one another. And although a wireless headset that connects to your cell via a Bluetooth signal frees up your hands, it can degrade the audio quality further. The microphone is usually by your cheekbone, after all, not your mouth.

Gennum Corp. (TSX: GND), headquartered in Burlington, Ont., set out to solve the problem, leveraging 32 years of developing technologies for hearing aids. The acoustic challenge is similar: trying to cancel out background noises, leaving the clear sound of someone speaking. In October, Gennum released the nXZEN digital wireless headset, which boasts industry-leading noise cancellation.

The $180 nXZEN represents Gennum's efforts to turnaround its audio and wireless division, which is struggling as sales dwindle for its analogue hearing instrument products. But then, the entire company is in transition: it's been searching for a CEO since November. Even its healthy video division, which makes video transport chips for broadcast studios, is shifting into high-definition TV by making video-image processors for HD sets.

The digital wireless headset product represents a similar strategy to that of HD-TV: leveraging existing expertise into a high-growth consumer market. Still, the headset product comes with new challenges: finding retail distribution networks and consumer support. Nevertheless, the opportunity for Gennum to use its knowledge of acoustics and digital processing in a booming growth market — well, it just sounded too good to ignore.