Hi all. Not a ukulele review, but a tool to use with the ukulele.

There's a thread running about metronome apps for the Apple Watch, which has significant limitations as a metronome - it can't buzz very strongly, and it limits the app life-cycle so it's at best tricky to keep a metronome watch running long enough for a song and at worst impossible.

Soundbrenner.com finally delivered on the Soundbrenner Core "Musician's Smartwatch" that they kick-started a year ago, and I've been using it in practice for about a month now.



It has three music oriented features:
  1. A metronome. This is the reason I bought it, and this works really well. It has three levels of pulse so it can differentiate the downbeat and a secondary downbeat from normal beats.

    I've used it with ukulele, bass guitar/uke, and keyboard (and off-label with weights). The pulse is noticeable without throwing me off. It also came with a longer strap so it can be worn elsewhere (chest, ankle, etc.). I understand that drummers don't like it on the wrist.

    The two things I like about the haptic pulse rather than an audible metronome is that it's more subtle - in theory I can use it while playing bass with the group, so long as I'm the one counting in, and the sound doesn't interfere with other listening - I've been working on fretless intonation and it's easier not splitting my listening between the note I'm playing and the metronome click.

    In addition to the haptic pulse there's a visual cue which is pretty but useless to me - I'm definitely not watching my watch while playing. I suppose it could be useful to somebody watching. This can be turned off.

    The metronome easy to set from the watch itself - push a button to cycle through the settings (bpm, number of beats, beat value, and pulse patterns) then double tap to start. It can also be controlled by Soundbrenner's metronome app or via Ableton Link by any DAW that uses it.

    The app lets you create presets and setlist so you can have settings for several songs set up ahead of time. It doesn't allow for changing time within a song, but a DAW could do that if needed.

    Multiple Cores can be linked together if you have a group with them. I haven't played with anybody else with one.
  2. A tuner. The watch head can click off of the strap and magnetically connect to the metal bits on an instrument and act as a tuner.

    I haven't tried this since I've mostly played instruments which don't have appropriate metal bits, just geared or plastic tuning machines. It does come with a sticky backed metal disk so you can retrofit.

    I also have enough dedicated tuners with nice bright displays that it hasn't been an issue. It's a nice backup I suppose.
  3. A decibel meter. Again, not something I've used yet, but I probably will instead of running the one on my phone. Usually I know if I'm going to be in an environment where I'll want ear plugs, but I like to know the details.


Out side of the music features it's a stretch to call this a smart watch. It tells the time and date and it has a timer and a stopwatch. I had this on my casio in high school long before the term "smartwatch" was invented.

Soundbrenner has promised an update to deliver phone notifications later this month. Other than fitness tracking, this is the only "smart" bit I've used on any of the other smart watches I've had, so I won't miss apps. YMMV

There's no hint of other apps coming and it doesn't have the sensors to be a fitness tracker.

My pet peeve on smart watches is battery life. I've skipped the Apple Watch because of short battery life. This one doesn't seem bad when worn as a watch, but since I'm using the metronome daily I'm running it down quickly and I keep topping it off. Since it's not a sleep tracker it's easy to charge up overnight.

Like everything else, it uses a custom charging cable. This one attaches magnetically and connects more easily and more surely than the one from my fitbit. The cable is green, which makes it easy to find in the snarl of cables on my charger and doesn't interfere with my other color coding: black for micro-usb, white or red for lightning, and white for USB-C.

As a watch it's not bad. The screen is basic but bright and readable. In a Seattle winter I haven't had any opportunity to see if it washes out in bright sun.

I like ultra thin watches, so this is a bit bigger and bulkier than I prefer, but it's light and hasn't bothered me. It's not jewelry, but it's not ugly and doesn't scream smart watch. Mine has their leather strap. It's an ok strap, but I'll probably swap it out later. The metal buckle is already showing wear.

I haven't had any trouble with this, but others have reported the removable watch head coming loose from the strap mount and getting lost. It seems pretty solid to me. I suspect they didn't have the mechanical lock fully engaged. This is probably much more of an issue if you detach it regularly to use as a tuner.

Mine did get bricked during an update and wouldn't turn on. Soundbrenner support responded quickly with a firmware update that got me back running in only a couple of hours. This fix meant I missed out on their lovely "Fedruary" typo that entertained many others.

Overall I'm quite pleased with this at the super-early bird kickstarter price I paid. I'd think about the current $229 asking price for the base model, but not the $329 for the steel. I don't know how realistic those prices are: it's available at Sweetwater and Guitar Center, and they discount most things readily for the asking.