Any list of gaming’s most evergreen (or resilient, at least) brands has to include Atari among them. Atari’s biggest and brightest years were arguably in the 1980’s. But ever since the days of the Atari Lynx handheld console in the early 90’s and Jaguar hardware a few years later undersold against expectations, the company has over two decades and more been sold, rebranded, and been through bankruptcy.
Lately, the Atari brand has been attached to a a new console, hotels and esports, among other things. Among those “other things” in recent years is the Atari Speakerhat, which ties the nostalgia of the heyday of the Atari (and Pong) brand to the more modern technology of IoT and wearables. That’s what we’ll be taking a look at in this product review.
The package deal
The hat comes in a larger-than-expected black gift box, sheathed with a white Atari logo-branded slip-off red cardboard outer shell. Once you slip off the shell and unpeel the tape tabs at either end of the box, the box can be popped open for inspection.
Inside both halves of the foam-lined box, there’s the hat itself (folded in half) along with a sealed packet of instructions and a quick start guide, a sticker and a micro USB-to-USB charger.
Setup and usability
Setting up the Speakerhat is pretty easy. There’s a single do-it-all button and a blue connectivity notification light that accomplishes most of the functionality that puts the “Bluetooth” and “speaker” into the hat.
The hat comes with a working charge out of the box, which is quite helpful if you want to explore the capabilities of the hat right away. So, to get connected with any Bluetooth-capable device, you depress the button and accept the connection on the device, like most any other Bluetooth connection. Then you can play any audio source through to the hat’s speakers as you like. Stop/pause is possible by hitting the button. But, control over audio volume and tracks isn’t part of the hat’s capabilities.
Beyond playing whatever audio you please through Bluetooth to the hat’s two front-mounted stereo speakers, the Speakerhat can take calls too The module inside the hat has a micro USB connection for power and a 2.5mm jack for a wired microphone (not included). However, a mic is inside the hat’s brim, so not-private calls are doable.
- Atari brand limited edition black cotton embroidered “Pong” logo
- Features the Fuji icon and the “1972” launch year on back
- Bluetooth plays music and audio and make/take phone calls
- Use voice control
- LED Indicator Light
- Hidden Microphone
- Premium construction
- Curved visor
- Adjustable cloth strap
- Atari stickers
- Distinctive gift box
The Atari Speakerhat is certainly more versatile than an average hat, but how well does it perform the “speakerhat” part of its duties? The two brim-mounted speakers are fairly thin but fit into the brim of the hat. One might expect performance compromises for the design to work — and there are.
When playing a wide range of music including game music tracks, the music sounded thin on the treble side and especially on the bass end. For voice and other mid-range sound, though, the audio came through clearly and cleanly. I found myself wishing, maybe a bit unrealistically, for haptic feedback, which might have added a little subwoofer-type thump to the sound.
Testing the Bluetooth’s range, it was not disappointing. It was mostly clear throughout my living space and even mostly held up immediately outdoors. I appreciated that the hat’s battery seemed to keep a charge for hours, outlasting my phone in pumping out my playlist through it.
It bears mentioning the cotton hat is rugged, durable and comfortable. It’s not in the sales information, but with the bigger hat size and adjustable buckle strap, I’d call the Speakerhat one-size-fits-all. One big caveat you’ll figure out quickly: The Speakerhat really should not be worn if you expect to sweat in it or get it dirty, as it cannot be washed. It can be wiped down with a damp cloth, but that’s about all the cleaning options available.
- Easy to set up, easy to use
- The hat is designed to fit a wide variety of heads, including my own, which definitely was a plus.
- Solid Bluetooth connectivity
- Holds its battery charge for hours
- The two stereo speakers sounds thin but clear, which is only “okay” but perhaps it’s the best one might expect from speakers in a hat.
- The $99.99 price tag for a hat like this won’t necessarily appeal to a large audience, but the exception would be retrogames enthusiasts.
- The Speakerhat cannot be washed, so that limits the number of times and places the hat can be worn.
The Atari Speakerhat is best suited for folks (or maybe as a gift for them) who have a strong attraction to the Atari and Pong brands. Besides the Pong hat, Atari also offers two snapback-style hats in blue and black with white “Atari” text, an all-black Fuji logo Atari hat, and a Blade Runner 2049-themed Atari hat, each a speakerhat priced at $99.99 For the price tag, the mixed bag of neat branding, good battery life and Bluetooth connectivity, coupled with okay audio sound and limited wearability might not be enough to make it a sale for the mass market of gamers.