Ambassador Translator review: Over-ear comfort and accurate translation

Ambassador Translator review Over-ear comfort and accurate translation zdnet
  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Comfortable to wear and easy to share
  • Fast and accurate
  • Simple app

Cons

  • Wear in right ear only
  • App does not retain pairing information

The Ambassador Translator from Waverly Labs is a language translation device designed to be worn over the ear. This form factor makes the earpieces more hygienic for sharing than in-ear buds, and they can easily be swapped around among wearers.

The translator will translate 20 languages and 42 dialects including Arabic, Russian, Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese, and Vietnamese among others.

Battery life will last up to six hours when fully charged, and it is important to fully charge the units out of the box or you will not be able to pair them to the app using Bluetooth.

In the box there is a mesh pouch to hold the interpreter ear covers, an instruction leaflet and a charging cable with micro-USB. The earpieces are large – about the size of a hen's egg sliced longitudinally, and they hang over your ears with a comfortable loop.

Click the Ambassador logo at the front of the earpiece to talk and adjust the volume by clicking the switch on the side.

They are designed to be worn over your right ear, and are not very comfortable if you wear them over your left ear. Hard luck if your left ear is your 'better' ear for hearing – or you are deaf in the right ear.

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White lights flash when the earpieces are being charged and when the 450mAh battery reaches 100% charge, the lights turn green. The LEDs blink red when recording and white during playback.

Volume buttons are on the bottom of the device. Hold the volume down for four seconds to turn the Ambassador off. Use the click-to-talk button at the front of the earpiece to start or stop speech translation. The device will translate voices from up to eight feet away from each earpiece.

When the earpiece is initially switched on it goes into pairing mode so you can pair it with the app. The app, which is easy to use and has a nice display, offers three ways of using the translator:

  • Listen mode lets you speak to a person near you (within eight feet) and translates their language into your chosen language. All you need to do to start the translation is to activate the click-to-talk button to begin listening and click it again to stop or pause listening
  • Lecture mode will translate what you are saying to your smartphone's speakerphone so that others can hear the translations of your spoken word. You can pair your audio-out jack to your smartphone to pair it to a speaker system.
  • Converse mode uses two earpieces so you can both hear the other person, and the ear pieces will translate between themselves.

You can switch between click to talk or continuous streaming in the settings. The app records everything it hears in the chosen language and is quite accurate with minimal time lag.

The translator is designed to work even when you wear face masks. You do need to speak clearly and loudly through the mask for the translator to pick up what you are saying.

In this version, you do need to be connected to the cloud to get the speech translation feature but future versions of the app will include offline functionality – which will be useful in areas with poor data connectivity.

The app does not seem to remember the pairing of the earpieces – meaning that I had to pair the earpieces to the app every time I wanted to use them. The earpieces switch themselves off after 10 minutes, so even downloading the update means that I needed to re pair the earpieces which was frustrating.

I do like the idea of the LEDs so you can tell when the Ambassador is picking up speech. However, in practice these are difficult to see when both parties are wearing the devices– especially in daylight. If both users have short haircuts, you will not have this problem.

All in all, I do like the Waverly Labs Ambassador Translator – despite my issues with the app losing pairing information. For under $180 the Ambassador is an affordable translation device that will not let you down. Translation from most of the languages I tried is fast and accurate with few embarrassing errors.

I also like that they are not in-ear speakers so could be used with a hearing aid. Constant pairing of the earpieces is a pain that needs to be addressed before the Ambassador would be my first choice when I need a quick translator.