Bellman Domino Pro

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(Tested November 2009)

Instructions

They are clear and concise.

Equipment

Transmitter, receiver, travel case, manual and pocket reference guide with warranty (2 years), universal charger with adapter plugs, charging cable, external microphone, stereo cable with audio jack, neck straps, in-ear phones (ear bud). Note that a neck loop is available and is supplied as an accessory. It is not otherwise supplied. A scart lead can also be supplied.

Ease of use

The equipment is easy to use.  I tested the Domino Pro with a telecoil neck loop. The clip on the receiver allows it to be attached to clothing or hung around the neck on a blue neck band. The neck loop has a joining clip which allows it to be placed easily around the neck.  On account of the joining clip the receiver cannot be hung around the neck on the neck loop. The weight of the receiver can cause the neck loop to become disconnected.  Use must be made of the blue neck strap provided. This does mean a lot of wires dangling around the neck. These can usually be hidden by clothing except perhaps in hot weather. The transmitter also has a blue neck strap on which it hangs. It can also be placed on clothing using the clip.

Microphones are present in both the receiver and the transmitter and both have either an omni-directional and a uni-directional ability. It is possible to control both of these from the receiver. They can be switched on together or separately. This is very useful.  In addition there is an independent external microphone connected by a wire to the transmitter (but not to the receiver) and this can be clipped to clothing worn by a person sitting nearby. Use of this cuts off the sound from the transmitter’s built-in microphone. Understand that the uni-directional ability is only relative. Sound from that direction is favoured but the sounds all around are also heard.

Neck loop This was supplied as an extra. It is a fine coated black wire and has a connecting plugs which make it easier to place around the neck. The wire, being narrow can lie comfortably around the neck. The neck loop wire which attaches to the receiver is very long (perhaps a bit too long?). This allows the receiver to be hand held and pointed at a direction of one’s choice – towards the speaker.

Batteries

Rechargeable batteries – 2.5 hours charging time.  Anticipated length of use prior to recharge 8-12 hours. There is a low battery warning.  In practice I found that the low battery warning only came on when the battery was just about to fail.

Uses

Committee meetings

I attended several meetings and group gatherings. Typical of these was the local church hall for the local Horticultural AGM.  There was no available fitted telecoil in the hall.  This was a largish room, without any soft furnishings and a relatively high ceiling. About 50 people were there. It was obviously a room in which the sound was going to be a problem. There was no amplification, loud speaker or microphone.

I left the transmitter on the committee table and sat fairly near the back. I was able to hear the committee perfectly. If the transmitter is within 2 metres of the speaker I could hear well. Obviously the closer the transmitting microphone is to the speaker the better. When people spoke from the room I was able to switch to the receiver mike and when hand held using the directional facility heard the speaker pretty well. I had to keep adjusting the volume between the two microphones but I quickly got used to that and was able to also hear the views of those speaking from the floor relatively well.

I attended another committee meeting a few days later with about 60 people present (again no sound amplification) and had the same experience. I was able to enjoy good hearing in an otherwise impossible situation.
Even when sound amplification is provided at meetings like this I find that despite there being plenty of sound the clarity of speech  is invariably very poor and on these occasions the use of a listener is invaluable.

Use in group gatherings

If there are more than 4 in the group and if the room is unfurnished it is likely that the Domino Pro will help. The transmitter can be placed on the table in the middle or it can be hand held and pointed towards the speaker. The focus of the directional capability is no better than with the other listeners with a similar facility. Sound is picked up from all around and only slightly enhanced in the direction to which it is pointed.

Use in a restaurant/pub

One can either place the receiver on the table around which a small group is sitting or use the transmitter in the same way. The ability to hear is enhanced but if the background noise is considerable the micropphone is overwhelmed and in this case I found little benefit. If one dines with just one other person one can ask the dining guest to wear the external microphone.  Then the ability to hear is greatly improved.

Use in the car

There was interference when the Domino was used in 2 cars. This was the electronic hem associated with the telecoil rather than the Domino.  It can vary greatly from one car to another

Use for watching the television

I used three methods. 1. When used with the audio lead I found that when the transmitter is placed close to the set there is marked pixellation (interference) of the picture.   With the transmitter about 5 ft away this reduced considerably.  On one occasion the pixellation remained a nuisance even at that the 5 ft distance and the Domino had to be switched off. The interference seemed to vary from day to day. At other times I was able to enjoy good quality sound with the audio lead however the volume setting had to be on maximum.  3) When used with the ear buds the sound was very good. Very loud in fact – it might be too loud for those who are not as deaf as I.

Use with a guide going round museums

Time did not allow this to be tested, but my impression of the Domino is that this would be a very good use for it.

Settings menu

This is difficult to access. I had to talk to someone at Action on Hearing Loss HQ. He explained ‘the knack’. I then gradually got to understand it. It is not particularly easy to change the settings. Those who are less dexterous than I would find there are considerable problems. With normal use one should not need to use the settings menu. 

Summary

Both these devices will likely benefit those who are hard of hearing. It would help especially those who, like myself, are moderately severely affected.

It would be advisable to warn those thinking of purchasing the Domino of the following
1) The neck loop is sometimes only supplied as an extra.
2) There is sometimes an electronic hum interference when the Domino is used in some cars.
3) Interference to the television picture is a serious nuisance though it may be largely controlled by moving the transmitter about 2 metres away from the set. The audio lead should be 2 metres long to make this possible.  If pixellation remains a problem an aerial filter may be needed (see above).
4) The system menu is difficult to access and if changes are needed it may even need to be returned to the vendor for the necessary help (I am thinking of those lacking dexterity).
5) The Domino is good for dining, lectures, meetings and group gatherings, and tours with a guide.  It is a quality instrument and functions well in many situations.  The caveats outlined should be noted.  It should be thoroughly tried out before finalizing a purchase.

In comparison with the Contego

The two devices are trying to solve the same problems in communication.

  • The Domino, like the Contego, has very good sound transmission qualities. The volume control of the receiver microphone is possible when listening to the transmitter. This allows good reception at times especially if there is much background noise at the point where the receiver is located (committee meetings, restaurants etc).   This facility  is also available on the Contego but it is not quite so easy. Both the transmitter and receiver microphones can be switched on at the same time so that one can listen to those sitting near. In this respect it does not differ from the Contego.
  • Both devices are small and easily carried around but the Contego has fewer wires which tend to get in a tangle. The neck loop of the Domino is superior (would be ideal if it were made in one piece).  A neck strap is needed to support the receiver – this is a little obtrusive.  The two listeners are approximately the same size and weight.
  • The Domino Pro has a frequency control. The Contego does not. This is of little concern for me because I use the listeners with my hearing aid in place. The quality of sound I receive is not sufficiently good for me to appreciate the value of frequency control. To those who are not as deaf as I or for those who use the stethoset this control would, I presume, be an advantage. Those who would use a headphone set or ear buds would benefit from this and equally the lack of frequency control would put the Contego on a disadvantage.
  • Personally I found the Contego was easier to use in a car – the Domino is not recommended for use in a car.
  • Contego is better for watching television as this does not cause pixellation. With the Domino this may be partly controlled by placing the transmitter at some distance from the set.   Having contacted the makers about the TV interference the reply I was given is that a bandpass filter on the aerial might be needed.  If TV viewing/listening is important this is certainly something that needs looking into at the point of purchase.