Ears Pricked; UNIT 1 Brings the Noise

Paulie | | Gear ReviewGear Review
Offering audio-communications in a cutting edge helmet, Unit 1 Soundshield is charging. Photo: courtesy Unit 1

“You’ve really got to check these guys out,” the mountain marketing manager points excitedly to promotional signage arrayed around the base area. “Unit 1 has taken the helmet to a whole new level.”

I read the demo day signs with respectful interest while in truth I’m thinking, I’m the classic skier with a loud beanie, outdated iPod, and earbuds–but that was before Unit 1 and their evolutionary take on tech-forward lid protection. It’s a snow sport helmet that offers everything in audio technology at no hassle to the athlete.

Soundshield sets a new standard of intuitive snow technology. Photo: P.M. Fadden

Hefting the Unit 1 Soundshield, I immediately note how lightweight the product is. This surprises me because featured within its streamline shape are ear-covering, removable headphones, a battery mighty enough to power 16hrs of playtime, a charge port for the same, BlueTooth wireless tech and, as matter of course, an ABS hardshell construction backed by EPS liner.

Designed to function as both safety measure and mountainside beats lab, the Unit 1 Soundshield promises responsiveness as well as versatility. And its performance delivers the goods.

The perfect track to accompany an epic line. Photo: P.M. Fadden

The Soundshield’s sturdy chin strap and liner keep the helmet snugly in place despite quick edge work on ripper lines and there’s zero disruption to my field of vision. Plus, the comfortable Unit 1 design allows for a goggle strap to be worn around or under the helmet itself, which is another pleasant surprise as I’m the skier who when wearing a helmet strangely prefers to do so without a beanie.

A phone syncs fluidly with the Soundshield, allowing the athlete’s on slope soundtrack to be as dynamic as the terrain they ski. In my case, specifically, somebody has lent me a phone for quick access to its music collection and, seriously, the shred playlist that greets my ear is comprised of piano-powered break-up ballads. But that doesn’t diminish the rich, full-bodied quality of sound produced by each 40MM headphone driver. Only one lap into the demo and the caliber of the Soundshield is clear.

Unit 1 is made by skiers, for skiers. And their skyrocket start is a story of dedication to delivering excellence—while bagging accolades along the way.

Hard at work…and play. Unit 1 is redefining audio-communications in a snow helmet. Photo: courtesy Unit 1

Smash success on the crowdfunding stage won the Patagonia-born Unit 1 company a ticket to Europe and entrance to the world’s first sports-oriented accelerator hosted by the Adidas family. Blast ahead through only one year of travel, partnerships, plus endless R&D, and Unit 1 is accepting a Red Dot Award, and joining the likes of BMW, Audi, Samsung, and Apple in receiving recognition for product design excellence. The icing on the cake came later that same year when the company paired with Argentina’s Chapelco Ski Resort—and sells out of its entire stock.

Now, at the start gate of its 2nd Gen. product launch, Unit 1 hopes to build on those early successes via the very helmet capping my dome.

With walkie-talkie and phone tech equipped, Soundshield opens new offices to taking a conference call. Photo: courtesy Unit 1

Assessing the couloir below me, I suddenly realize there’s a call coming in. Normally, on a shred day as frigid as this one, the idea of taking a call is laughable. First of all, it’s far too cold for the phone’s battery. Then there’s my prudent use of layers to consider; how on Earth could I operate a button?

The Soundshield is ready even in extreme weather. A single, simple touch to my ear—even wearing the heaviest mitten–and I’m on-call with a mate who’s keen to meet up for a shred. A single press more and I’m back to rockin’ while ridin’.

A new sort of armory; the crew kits out with Soundshield. Photo: P.M. Fadden

When I find myself in the company of a crew all using the Unit 1 App, we can communicate thanks to the Soundshield walkie-talkie feature. I press and hold its main button to report on the stash spot; releasing sends the message to those in tune.

And the detachable headphone design of Soundshield seems to have kept Unit 1 on-point even when off-mountain. The headphone’s band is perhaps among the strongest I have ever personally used. And that solidness is nicely off-set by soft padding that shapes well to the ear.

First chair to last call and all walks of life in-between. Photo: courtesy Unit 1

Whatever the weather (or the layering) Unit 1 Soundshield functionality maintains top-tier protection for my head and excellent audio-communication service to enhance the shred experience. For a lifelong skier who’d never found the right fit when it came headgear, the Soundshield has me suddenly all ears.


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