Velodyne was kind enough to send me a pair of vPulse earbud headphones to try out. Hit the jump and see what I thought of these little guys and earbud headphones in general.
So let me just preface this by saying my only experience with earbud headphones have been with Apple’s freebies that come with their hardware. I never thought they sounded particularly good and I hated how uncomfortable they were. Not only did the size of them fatigue my ears but they also wouldn’t stay in properly. I was doing some research on earbuds under $100 for a Father’s Day gift and I came across Velodyne’s vPulse from a CNET article. They sounded exactly what I was looking for.
Because of my lack of experience with earbud headphones you can take this article with a grain of salt. My first impressions when putting them on were “damn, how far do I need to shove these guys in my ears?” My second thought was “where is all of the low end I’ve been reading about?” I decided to look over the manual (yes, crazy I know) to make sure I was doing everything correctly. The vPulse comes with a good selection of adjustable pads to fit your ears and I wanted to make sure I had the right ones installed. The thing inexperienced user might not realize is that you have to have these snug and tight in your ears in order to get the low end you’re looking for. If you decide to just plop them in and they are even the slightest bit loose you will lose an incredible amount of low end information. After reading it over and trying on a few others size pads I realized I indeed had the right size. One size smaller and they weren’t snug enough, causing me to lose all of the low end, and one size larger they wouldn’t stay in. I put them back in my ears and this time I moved them in a bit further. Ah, there was the low end I was missing! It was great to finally hear the earbuds at their full potential but it was still a bit concerning. Being an audio professional I was highly uncomfortable with having the driver that close to my ear drum and the general concept of shoving something that far in my ears.
I queued up some music and the first track was Glassjaw’s “The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports”. The low end was immediately apparent and a monumental difference coming from Apple’s standard set. It wasn’t a flat sound and coming from Velodyne, a pioneer in the subwoofer manufacturing industry, it wasn’t surprising. The low end definitely has some color but depending on what you want to listen to it can be a great thing. While listening I continued to notice the low end slowly escaping me. I then realized that having the slightest bit of earwax in your ear (which they don’t recommend in the manual) will cause the earbuds to slowly slide out of their “sweet spot”. This was slightly annoying because I felt that I had to continually shove the earbuds back in further to get that information I was missing.
The next track on the list I decided to listen to was Daft Punk’s “Da Funk”. If they’re in your ears correctly, electronic music will definitely be one of the genres these earbuds truly shine. The high end of the snare and handclap were sharp and crisp with the low end of the kick being remarkably punchy. I was very pleasantly surprised with how the vPulse sounded on this track.
I decided to check out some hip-hop next. Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop” seemed like a good candidate. Holy wonderful low end. I specifically wanted to hear the low end hit at 50 seconds and was impressed with how well the vPulse reproduced it. Check. Pass. Moving on.
The final track I will talk about is from Jeff Buckley’s album “Grace”, which I consider to be one of the best sounding albums out there. I decided to listen to “Last Goodbye” and wasn’t necessarily underwhelmed, but I wasn’t overly impressed either. I said this earlier but these earbuds won’t shine on every track you play. The dynamics in this song caused me to adjust the volume once because of pain and I relate a lot of that to the high end coloring of the earbuds. Things like Daft Punk’s “Da Funk”, where you have quick, transient high end information that comes and goes quickly can sound incredible but a wailing Buckley can become a little harsh and fatiguing.
In conclusion this experience has shown me that I probably wont be purchasing an earbud type headphone anytime soon. Listening fatigue seems to set in quicker during my experiences and the general concept of placing a driving that far into the ear canal is concerning and could potentially be damaging. In terms of overall audio quality though, I think the Velodyne vPulse sounds great and the low end reproduction is definitely impressive. If presented with the opportunity I would highly recommend them for someone looking to specifically purchase a set of earbuds.
For more information on Velodyne’s vPulse, you can visit their product page here: http://velodyne.com/vpulse-earphones.html
The vPulse in-ear headphones combine a secure fit with outstanding sound quality, making them the ideal choice for music and mobile calls whenever you want, wherever you go. The vPulse in-ear headphones feature precise, low-distortion audio quality due to its 10 mm driver and aluminum housing. Intuitive in-line controls* provide options for volume, music playback and mobile phone calls. The headphone’s combination of advanced design and superior audio quality allow for hours of comfort and an overall incredible listening experience. *In-Line controls are compatible with iPod 3rd generation and newer, iPhone 3Gs, 4, 4s and iPad only.
- Noise reducing in-ear headphones create an all encompassing listening experience
- Unique design made with quality materials ensures longevity
- Multiple sized ear tips allow a consistent and comfortable fit during activities
- A thicker, stronger vPulse cable minimizes those annoying, messy tangles
- vPulse cable features intuitive phone, playback and volume controls
- Frequency Response: 20Hz -20kHz
- Magnet Structure: Rare Earth