Velodyne, a name universally associated with high performance subwoofers, is expanding its product range and applying its knowledge of superb low-end sound quality to the earphone realm. Since it’s founding in 1983 by David Hall, Velodyne Acoustics, Inc. has continually introduced subwoofer designs that aim to push the boundaries of style and engineering.
Drawing from that pedigree, Velodyne looks to rewrite the rules on low-end sound reproduction in an earphone application with their new vPulse earphones ($89). Catering to the desires of modern listeners on the go, the vPulse pairs an in-line control/microphone module with a response curve that favors the low-end of the sound spectrum.
• Aluminum housing and 10mm driver provide low-distortion audio quality.
• In-line microphone/control module provides multifunction control capabilities for both music and phone calls.
• Inbound calls: Incoming calls can either be answered by pressing and releasing the center button or declined by pressing and holding down the center button for two seconds.
• Listening to music on an iPod/iPhone/iPad: Using the in-line control module, users can increase and decrease the volume (pressing +/-), switch between pause and play (press and release the center button once), skip to the next song (press and release the center button twice), scan forward or backward in a song or video, jump to the start of a song or video (press and release the center button three times), and go to the previous song or video (press and release center button three times again).
• In-line controls are compatible with 3rd generation and newer iPods, iPhone 3Gs, 4, 4s and iPad only.
• Included accessories: 8 extra sets of ear tips (4 in black and 4 in grey), shirt clip to hold cable in place, zippered microsuede carrying case.
• Flat, tangle-resistant cable and 90 degree “L” shaped plug.
• Passive noise reduction from the intra-canal design enhances listening experience and reveals more musical detail.
• Pressure-relief system reduces air pressure in your ear providing a more comfortable listening experience.
At first, I was very cautious of the fact that these headphones claimed to “bring the bass” because I had the worst feeling that they would reproduce bass similarly to twin 10” woofers with blown out cones in the trunk of a car…rattled and incoherent. That being said, the vPulse in-ear headphones surprised me by producing solid, balanced low-end notes (especially in the super low-range) and warm mid-bass and mids that complemented the bass end of the spectrum. While it does not perform like a rock star in the upper reaches of the audio spectrum, the vPulse has enough high frequency chops to not leave you disappointed (or worse, disgusted) by a lack of highs.
Tonal balance is bass-friendly, to say the least. There is a bass boost that really helps to drive the super-low frequencies (20-50 Hz) often missed by other headphones with less bass response, as is quite apparent when you play music with a rock-bottom low notes through the vPulse. Velodyne applies their knowledge of low-end sound reproduction well to the vPulse headphones and creates bass that, while powerful, doesn’t sound boomy or unnatural. The mids are just slightly forward in the mix to help balance the transition region between upper midrange and highs. At first, the forwardness of the mids can seem off-putting, but as you listen to the earphones more, you begin to appreciate why their frequency response curve is shaped the way it is, and in the end I think the vPulses are better for it.
Highs on the vPulse ‘phones are definitely somewhat recessed and leave something to be desired if your musical tastes favor prominent upper register female vocalists and detailed cymbal work. But if that’s the case, these earphones are probably not the best choice for you.
In any earphone, the quality of sound is heavily based on the fit of the ear tips and the seal they provide. Very few earphones I’ve listened to hit this mark right on the head. Most ear tips are either too wide (even when the smallest sized option is used) and cause excessive discomfort in a short amount of time, or they are too small (even with the largest sized option is chosen) and therefore don’t seal well in your ear canal. The vPulse is in my experience one of those few earphones that manages to fit snuggly in your ear canal, yet is so comfortable that you can listen for hours on end without getting fatigued. Another added benefit of this excellent fit is that the tone, from a bass, mid, and high perspective, is noticeably cleaner, while unwanted noise is filtered out.