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Roger Pen review

Roger Pen review

the assistive listening device all-rounder

I welcomed the addition of Bluetooth technology to Cochlear Implant processors in 2015 with excitement. I duly invested in Bluetooth compatible assistive listening devices. It helped enhance my communication experiences. Today, I use the Cochlear Mini-Mic for social situations. Alongside this, I use the Cochlear Mini-Mic 2 for Skype calls, music and phone calls.

After four years, my Cochlear Mini-Mic is on its last legs, and Cochlear no longer manufacture this. I have not found the new Cochlear Mini-Mic 2 to be adequate for my social communication needs.

It was time to invest in a backup for my Cochlear Mini Mic. So, following research, I decided on the Phonak Roger Pen. The marketing text says it's 'A handy microphone for various listening situations. Thanks to its portable design, it can be conveniently used where additional support is needed over distance and in noise. It can also transmit the sound of multimedia devices, e.g. TV and has wideband Bluetooth for cellphone calls.'

What follows is a comprehensive review of the Roger Pen. Please note, everyone's listening experience can be different. I wear one Cochlear Implant processor. I'm writing from my personal listening experience.

Buying the Roger Pen second-hand

I purchased my Roger Pen second hand. In the first few weeks, At the onset of using the device, it worked fine. But, then I encountered a problem with it in that I couldn't turn the power off. A couple of factory resets later, and it now works fine again. But, I would urge anyone who buys a Roger Pen to heed caution when purchasing second-hand.

I chose to buy second-hand as it was more cost effective for me.

The Roger Pen requires an extra purchase of:-

(a) A Mylink receiver: This is a receiver attached to a neck loop. Roger MyLink is a universal neckloop receiver compatible with any hearing aid or cochlear implant with a T-coil.

or

(b) A Roger X receiver: This is a chip that fits into your processor. (Check with the supplier that you have the correct receiver before buying.) For almost every hearing instrument and CI sound processor there is a compatible Roger receiver.

Roger X Receiver

Roger X Receiver

I chose to get the Roger X receiver which is compatible with my Cochlear Nucleus Six Processor. I find this receiver to be more direct and efficient as opposed to a neck loop. Usage is simple as you turn your processor on and pairing is then almost instant with the Roger Pen.

Compatibility

The Roger Pen is used with miniature Roger receivers, which can be attached directly to hearing aids or cochlear implants For almost every hearing instrument and CI sound processor there is a compatible Roger receiver.

Cost

The approximate price of a Roger Pen (which includes a docking station) is USD $740. A Mylink receiver will set you back approximately $179.99. A Roger X receiver will cost roughly $440. It's a lot of money, so the question is, does the technology live up to the cost?

Battery Life

The battery life of the Roger Pen is impressive at a duration of eight hours.

How long does it take to charge the Roger Pen to full capacity?

An empty battery will reach its full charge within two hours.

Distance

What's impressive is the distance range of the Roger Pen which is up to 20 metres. What's great for me is that I now use the device to attend cookery and yoga classes. I no longer worry about having to be at the front of the lesson. My Cochlear Mini Mics have a minimal distance range.

The Roger Pen Docking station

Roger Pen Docking station - placed sideways

Roger Pen Docking station - placed sideways

As mentioned earlier the docking station comes together with the pen. I like the docking station idea for use with the television. It makes the television experience both accessible and user-friendly. There are two ports to the docking station. One port is for USB charging.

So, I dock the pen, and I don't have to worry about the battery running out. The other port is for audio purposes. I connect an audio lead from the television to the docking station. With the Roger Pen docked and charging, I turn on my processor. I turn on the tv and the sound streams to my ear. It's a quick and efficient process. The sound quality from my television to the Roger Pen is excellent. So, when I listen to Youtube music, for example, it sounds crystal clear.

Design and Robustness

I do like the design of the Roger Pen. It's discreet. Also, it's very robust and metal! If I drop the pen onto a hard floor, it's undamaged. My Cochlear Mini Mic 2 is plastic and has a few bumps and scratches.

Listening to music

As I travel a lot, I like to listen to music from an iPod. I use a short micro-USB audio cable to connect my multimedia device direct to my Roger Pen.

The iPod is one of the best MP3 players for sound quality. But, my portable music experience, to date, feels slightly crisper and precise with the Cochlear Mini-Mic 2. It may be that I need to adjust my iPod settings slightly or I may need to get a new input lead.

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Review continued…

Using the Roger Pen with the phone

The Roger Pen allows you to connect to Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and smartphones to make and receive phone calls. I found the pairing with my mobile phone to be a simple process. I'm not a regular phone user but, the sound quality, for me, was excellent and I could hear my friend's voice.

Using GPS

You can connect any Roger microphone to your car’s GPS or smartphone to hear directions in your ears. You can do this by connecting the cable provided with your Roger microphone to the headphone output of your multimedia or GPS device. It enables you to hear its sound in your ears. I have not used this feature so I cannot comment.

Skype calls

These are an essential part of my work. For the past year, I have used the Cochlear Mini-Mic 2 for this purpose, and it's worked very well for me. Sound quality has been crisp and clear. I have tested the Roger Pen with personal Skype calls, and it's been a process of adjustment for me. Sound quality is excellent. But, I am not used to the slight differentiation in sound in comparison to the Cochlear Mini-Mic 2. The clarity is different. I am also reluctant to veer away from using a tried and trusted method which works well for me.

Phonak Roger Pen with Lanyard.

Phonak Roger Pen with Lanyard.

The Lanyard

This is usually provided with any new Roger Pen purchased. But, double check with the supplier. It’s incredibly useful to have. The Lanyard is a corded neck strap. It’s approximately 48cm in length and can be used for hands-free use of the Roger Pen transmitter. It’s designed for the speaker to wear.

The Roger Pen settings

The Pen has an automatic microphone. If you wish to override this mode, you can do this manually. The Roger Pen features three manual microphone modes accessible in turn by pressing the microphone button. There is a small round light at the front of the Roger Pen. It flashes pink to show the microphone mode selected. For example, one flash is interview mode; two flashes mean Conference mode; three flashes equal Handheld/lanyard mode.

The manual modes are vital as you will need to select the best microphone for your environment. These are the modes explained:-

1) Interview mode. Select this mode if you want to hear one particular speaker by pointing the Roger Pen towards them. Surrounding noise and the voices of other speakers around you will reduce.

2) Conference mode. Select this mode if you want Roger Pen to pick-up voices from all around (i.e. friends sat around a table).

3) Handheld/lanyard mode. If you want to hear one particular speaker and it is noisy, it’s best for them to hold the Roger Pen themselves. They should keep it within 20 cm / 8 inches of their mouth.

The automatic mode is not enough for my needs. It doesn't adjust fittingly to the environment that I'm in. I keep the manual microphone settings on my phone notes for reference.

Environmental settings and communication

I am adjusting to getting used to the manual settings outlined above. Here are some examples of using the Roger Pen in different environmental situations.

The success rating mark shows how effectively the Roger Pen cuts out background noise.

I will update location examples further at regular intervals.

Location one: Bar, Spalding, Peterborough

Noise rating: Quiet to Medium

Roger Pen setting: Number 1

Method: Interview mode. (Handheld and directional)

Success rating: Marks out of 10 = 9

Two friends and I were seated around a small table in a pub. I pointed the Roger Pen at each speaker. The Roger Pen's placed at a distance of approximately 15 cm from the speaker's mouth. Voice quality was clear and clarified.

Location two: Backpackers Bar, Phi Phi Thailand

Noise rating: Very Noisy

Roger Pen setting: Number 3

Method: Handheld.

Success rating: Marks out of 10 = 9

I had a fantastic experience using the Roger Pen in a backpackers bar in Phi Phi, Thailand. It was incredibly loud as a band played on stage. Primarily, I used Cochlear Mini-Mic. But, it was not powerful enough to cut through the background noise. So, I decided to try the Roger Pen on manual setting number 3: Handheld/lanyard mode. I found it to be handy with my two friends who were with me. They held the Roger Pen to their mouths when speaking. As the evening progressed, the bar activity became rowdier. The backpackers were enjoying the cover tunes of the band and singing along. My friends and I joined in. They would sing into the Roger Pen. At this stage, it probably looked like a karaoke microphone to drunken backpackers. What I noticed was the Roger Pen was a conversation starter. People were curious, and some wanted to sing into the microphone. It was an enjoyable experience. But, that night we made new friendships and had a lot of fun, and yes, the Roger Pen was a catalyst to this.

Location three: Outdoor Yoga class, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Noise rating: Quiet

Roger Pen setting: Number 3

Method: Lanyard

Success rating: Marks out of 10 = 7

The Roger Pen performed admirably in this setting due to the impressive distance range. The Yoga Teacher would move around the class giving instructions. At no point, did the signal drop. But, it wasn't always easy to follow what the teacher said clarity-wise. It is because I was using the Lanyard. With the Lanyard, the Roger Pen is further away from the speaker's voice. The clarity level, with this setting, seems to decrease slightly.

Location four: Coffee Bar, Ho Chin Minh City, Vietnam

Noise rating: Medium to Loud

Roger Pen setting: Number 3

Method: Lanyard

Success rating: Marks out of 10 = 5

The Roger Pen's performance in this setting was disappointing. On reflection, it may have been better to dispel with the Lanyard and revert to Handheld mode in this setting.

Conclusion

The Roger Pen is straightforward to use. I find it to be very user-friendly and accessible. The Roger X receiver helps in this respect. It means that I turn my processor on and pairing with the Roger Pen is almost instant. I don't have to press any buttons or remote controls to ensure connectivity.

In social situations, it's a process of trying the different modes to find what is suitable for that particular environment. Also, simple alignment of the Roger Pen towards a speaker can ensure a better listening experience. It also helps if the speaker keeps the Roger Pen still. With constant movement, it will not perform to its full potential.

I am hoping that with more usage, I will adapt quicker in identifying the correct setting. I'm discovering that it works better in some situations than others. But, what's clear is that the power of the Roger Pen usurped in the Backpackers Bar in Phi Phi. It outperformed the Cochlear Mini Mic.

The main message is that the Roger Pen does have potential in communication and social situations. I will need to persevere further with it.

My musical experience with Roger Pen is a work in progress. As mentioned earlier, the iPod sound feels slightly crisper and more precise with the Cochlear Mini-Mic 2. It may be that I need to adjust my iPod settings slightly or I may need to get a new input lead. I work remotely, and I do listen to a lot of my music in coffee shops while working. The fact that the Pen is not easily damaged and has a long battery life makes me want to persist further with it in this respect.

The docking station and connection to my television is a brilliant idea. I like the flexibility and ease of use that the docking station provides. The sound quality from my TV using this method is excellent. The Roger Pen also performed well when I used it for my Skype and a mobile phone conversation.

Overall, my situation is that I am reliant and familiarised with other assistive listening devices. So, I am reluctant and slow to change. I haven't quite hit the heights with the Roger Pen yet. With more usage, I can see myself being less dependent on my other assistive listening devices. It also has the potential in that you can use it alongside other Roger Pens in a microphone network. Various assistive listening devices do not have this feature. I'm curious to try this in the future.

For the newbie, the Roger Pen has lots to offer. It is an excellent all-rounder in terms of performance, accessibility and user-friendliness.

Should you wish to purchase a Roger Pen new, you can connect with a Phonak hearing specialist using this link.

If you cannot afford to buy the Roger Pen new, then consider purchasing second-hand. As mentioned earlier, I had initial teething problems with the Roger Pen having bought it second hand. But, following a factory reset, there have been no problems since then. I paid approximately $320 total for my Roger X Receiver and Roger Pen (which included the docking station) on eBay.

The final verdict

The Roger Pen is an excellent all-rounder. It's a costly assistive listening device, but, for those Cochlear Implant users who are looking to enhance their listening experiences further, it ticks a lot of boxes.

-End-

If you like this article, you might like… What is a Cochlear Implant? This overview includes simple factual and video information.

If you like this article, you might like... The Cochlear Implant Animator. A fascinating interview with Animator and Director, Eric Giessmann, who talks about his path to success, losing his hearing and what inspired him to create the ‘Ciborg/Cochlear Implant animation.'

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