Unsolicited Feedback: Boom 2

16 November 2022  •  Filed under ,

Proposed changes to the Boom experience

Unsolicited Feedback is a series which explores design possibilities from an outsider perspective. These design exercises consider what could be while acknowledging that, inside organizations, there are complex reasons for why products are shaped the way that they are. We’re just having fun here.

I like Boom a lot. I’ve written about it in the past, and raved about how installing it on my computers has significantly enriched my music-listening experience. It’s got nice features and is generally easy to understand.

Could be better, though.

The Problem

My issue with Boom is the extent to which various settings have to be individually adjusted every time the audio output is changed. In my case, I like turning the Preamp and Boom Volume all the way up when I’m listening through my headphones. It just sounds nicer that way. However, when I switch to listening through my speakers, I have to turn the Preamp all the way down, and the Boom Volume down to around 10%. If I forget to do this, the output is too powerful and the resulting blast of high volume could permanently damage my speakers. No bueno!

The Equalizer preset also needs to change every time the audio output is changed. Added to the other adjustments, this is a total of 4 mandatory interactions that I have to remember to do just to change between headphones and speakers:

The current Boom 2 interface
  1. Adjust Preamp volume
  2. Adjust Boom Volume
  3. Change Equalizer Preset
  4. Finally, select the new audio output

It’s not the end of the world, but it gets pretty annoying. Here’s what I think would work better.

The Proposal

What if there were Listening Profiles that could collect & recall all of these settings? When switching to a different Profile, all of its saved selections (O/P Device, Preamp, Boom Volume, Equalizer, and Effects) would be swapped in automatically. The interface would need to be redesigned a bit to better convey this hierarchy, with the Listening Profile sitting at the top left as the primary controller:

Boom with Listening Profiles

Making edits to a Listening Profile would work just like current Equalizer edits. When any change is made to any control, the Listening Profile dropdown would receive Cancel and Save icons to either discard or commit the changes. Here, for example, the equalizer changed, so the interface is allowing us to save or discard changes at both the Listening Profile and Equalizer levels. I think saving the Listening Profile would implicitly also apply the Equalizer change, but the user could also replace/cancel the Equalizer and therefore nullify the Listening Profile change. For the purposes of this exercise, we’re accepting the Listening Profile change. I don’t love this particular Save/Cancel pattern, but it’s what Boom uses so I’m sticking with it for this exercise:

Listening Profile has changed

Inside the Listening Profile UI, clicking the red Cancel icon would revert the Profile back to its previous, saved state. Clicking the green Save icon would allow the user to replace (overwrite) the currently-selected Profile, or create a New one:

New or Replace Listening Profile UI

Selecting “Replace” updates the current Profile with the new settings. Selecting “New” allows the user to type a new name and create a new Profile:

Specify New Listening Profile name

The new Profile is saved & applied:

New Listening Profile saved

Profiles are selectable in the Listening Profiles list:

New Listening Profile in selection list

There It Is

With one dropdown selection, five settings can be changed at once. No more multi-step mental checklist.

I’m not that smart, so I have to wonder why Boom doesn’t work this way already. It could be that no one has complained about this stuff before, or that most people don’t switch inputs as often as I do, or that Boom prefers to keep these settings independent for some reason.

This UI also solves for more complex scenarios, such as:

  • The user has multiples of the same output type. For example, someone who listens with more than one set of headphones would likely want very different settings for each one.
  • The user may plug their headphones and speakers into the same 3.5mm jack, unplugging one and plugging in the other as needed. Boom would see these both as Headphones, but they would likely require different Profiles for the best sound.
  • The user may daisy-chain their headphones to their speakers, which then connect to the computer. Boom isn’t going magically detect those headphones, so bespoke Profiles are a good solution to differentiate between them.

So there it is. Like I said, there may be good reasons for not doing this, but—then again—maybe there aren’t?

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