Striking product images draw you in, don’t they? Even when you’re not sure what the doohickey is, or does, you know you want it, or at the very least want to know about it. The Mutalk certainly has striking product images—but not in a good way.
Shiftall’s creation is a “Bluetooth mic that isolates your voice, making it difficult for others to hear,” but the brand promo pics offer equal parts bafflement and amusement. A guffaw followed by, “Is it a portable Monsters, Inc. Scream Extractor?” is, we’d wager, not the first impression Shiftall’s marketing team are after.
But we’re professionals at WIRED, and the Bluetooth isolating microphone gimp mask is a new category for us. So let’s strap it on, get to work, and pray to Marsellus Wallace that no one sees us.
Designed for discreet conversations in public places, shy people, ebullient gamers, and shouty bosses, the Mutalk supposedly offers a simple solution to a common issue. But does it work, does it need to work, and will it make a difference to your home, office, and remote working existence? And will anyone ever speak to you again once they know you use it?
How Does It Work?
The Mutalk “utilizes the Helmholtz resonator principle” to achieve a sound muting effect when the user talks into it. This principle deals with the transfer of acoustic resonance through different materials, the main example of which is blowing across the top of a bottle with different amounts of liquid inside—but the principle has also, more practically, been used in car mufflers to alter the pitch and reduce exhaust noise.
That description undermines Hermann von Helmholtz’s legacy, but, essentially, when you talk into the Multalk mouthpiece, your words transmit clearly to the Bluetooth microphone but are muffled for anyone listening close by.
To use, you simply connect the 183-gram mask to your phone’s Bluetooth, the same way you would a pair of headphones. There is a 3.5-mm headphone socket for hands-free conversations, although the Venn diagram for people prepared to invest in conversation-muting Bluetooth microphones and those still using wired headphones is pretty small.
In terms of features, it’s all rather simple. There’s no fancy frequency tweaking app. It uses Bluetooth 5.1, and has USB-C charging (one hour) and an eight-hour battery life. It’s also impossible to ignore the removable head straps, moisture-absorbing cushion, and washable rubber mouth pad. Washable. Rubber. Mouth. Pad.
What Are You Wearing?
As a man prepared to wear the Dyson Zone in public, I didn’t think wearable tech could get any more embarrassing, but how wrong I was. Wearing the Mutalk was hysterically funny for my work colleagues, disturbing to children, and “completely unacceptable” for my wife.