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Silver Sonic XL

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Have you ever wanted to have super sonic hearing just like the Bionic Woman did? Well the Bell and Howell Silver Sonic XL claims to do almost just that by amplifying sounds up to 90 feet away. I'll 'Try It, Before You Buy It!'

The device, by Bell & Howell, comes with two watch type batteries included and three earpieces of various sizes. It also comes with an instruction booklet, that for me was totally useless. Because it was all in French! Evidently, the manufacturer failed to put an English version in with the product. Luckily, the Silver Sonic XL is pretty easy to work. It has a low and high setting for sensitivity and volume control. The device looks very similar to a 'Blue Tooth' device which allows you to talk on your cell phone hands free.

According to the product's TV commercial, the Silver Sonic XL allows you to hear individual conversations from people up to 90 feet away. I tried this by walking through our station's sales area and attempting to use the device to hear conversations on the other side of the office. I was able to hear some conversations but not as clearly as the commercial implies. The advertisement also promises the ability for the earpiece to pick up conversations in a crowded and loud environment like at the beach. Well, since we don't have a beach in Louisville, I went to the busy intersection of Floyd St. and Broadway. There I tested the Silver Sonic XL on its ability to allow me to hear people talking across the busy roadway. Not! All I was able to hear was extremely loud mufflers and car horns.

Next, I tested another promise of the Silver Sonic XL. It claims to allow one to hear the TV at low volume as to not disturb your partner lying in bed right next to you. For this test, I needed a test subject. Barb Soete has been the receptionist at WAVE-3 TV for fourteen years. She has to filter out a lot of commotion and conversation in order to answer the phones. She was willing to test the Silver Sonic XL for me and see if she was indeed able to hear the TV in our lobby when the sound was turned way down.

"No, I can't hear the TV but I can pick up all the other noises around me. But no TV at all."

Barb wasn't real impressed with the Silver Sonic XL, and this reporter wasn't either. To me it may be useful in attempting to listen to a TV or radio in an environment where there needs to be quiet. But other than that, it appears to work just as well as a microphone hooked up to a pair of earphones. The Silver Sonic XL picks up a lot of ambient sound around you including your own voice when you talk. So, in the end, if you buy the product, just don't expect to clearly hear conversations at great distances or behind walls. And make sure you're careful with the volume!

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