Next, consider Urbanears new flagship Zinken model (price TBD), which introduces what Urbanears calls a “Turncable”—a design element so clever you’ll wonder why somebody hasn’t thought of it before. Here’s how the Turncable works. The signal cable for the Zinken is detachable, and it’s set up so that one end of the cable is fitted with a 3.5mm mini-plug, while the other end of the cable is fitted with a traditional ¼-inch phone plug. But here’s the cool part: the Zinken earpieces are set up with what is in essence a “socket within a socket,” so that you can plug either end of the Turncable into the Zinken as you see fit. There’s no to need to lug around easy-to-loose adapter plugs; instead, you flip the Turncable around and use whichever end suits your purposes at the moment. Cool, no? One other thing I like about the Zinken is that it is the first large(r)-format Urbanears headphone to feature a beefy two-axis swiveling mechanism for great wearer comfort. Watch this brand closely: these thoughtful Swedes are building popularly priced ‘phones that sound quite good and offer an elusive “something more” that makes them fun to use.
Much has been written about loudspeaker companies beginning to explore the world of headphones and earphones, but here we have a new variation on the theme. Velodyne, a firm whose product line has up to this point centered almost entirely on subwoofers has now decided to take the earphone plunge by introducing its first-ever earphone, called the V-Pulse ($89). The V-Pulse features aluminum driver housings and comparatively large 10mm drivers, and is said to produce “precise, low distortion bass and superb sound quality.” In what may be a nod toward Velodyne’s subwoofer heritage, I couldn’t help but note that the V-Pulse product package bears this simple slogan: “Bring the bass.”
At CES, I had a very interesting meeting with V-MODA founder Val Kolton and with VP of Product Development Ruben Purificacion, through which I got previews of a number of upcoming V-MODA products (and technologies). That’s the good news. The tricky part, however, is that at this point I’m only allowed to speak about a tiny fraction of the goodies I saw (the rest are under press embargo for the time being).
Jumping ahead, then, to a new model I can talk about, let me say that I got a chance to hear pre-production prototypes of V-MODA upcoming M-100 over-the-ear headphone ($299), which should appear around April, 2012. As I have mentioned in at least one previous trade show report, V-MODA builds headphones with two core voicing schemes: M-series models (where the “M” stands for “Modern Audiophile”) offer reasonably neutral, audiophile-friendly tonal balance, while LP-series model (where the “LP” stands for “Live Performance”) offer what might be called DJ or “dance club” voicing that is less neutral than M-series voicing, but that is designed to cut through the high volume levels likely to be encountered on stage or in club settings. Thus, the new M-100 is one of the high-accuracy models, and it features dual-diaphragm, dual-voice coil drivers, and comes complete with V-MODA’s cool new Apple “Siri”-compatible “Speakeasy” signal cables. As of CES, V-MODA was still working out final voicing choices for the M-100, so that I got to hear not just one but two subtly different versions of the new headphone—both of which had merit. I’m look forward to hearing the final production model later this year.
The French audio manufacturer Waterfall Audio is perhaps best known for its relatively large and expensive floorstanding loudspeakers whose cabinets are made of what has become Waterfall’s signature material: glass. But the Waterfall product that I think will most interest Playback readers is a new, compact 2.1-channel system called the HFM 2.1 Multimedia Serio Pack ($1500). The HFM 2.1 channel rig consists of a multipurpose HFM 2.1 subwoofer plus two small Serio satellite speakers, which are framed in—what else?—glass. The HFM 2.1 sub is a multipurpose unit that houses a 120-watt subwoofer amplifier, two 60 Wpc amplifiers that drive the Serio satellites, and an input panel for connections to source components. Those looking for suave-sounding, eye-catching, 2.1-channel all-in-one system might want to consider this one; it looks like nothing else on the market.