Headphones and Earphones
- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 11 May 2012
With the prevalence of portable music players to the point that you must be from Mars if you don't own one, there is a huge aftermarket for high quality earphones (headphones is the category, with over-the-ear headphones, on-ear-headphones, in-ear headphones, and in-ear earbuds being the specific type of headphone one is referring to). In-ear headphones and in-ear earphones/earbuds are really the same thing. Velodyne, renown manufacturer of subwoofers, not to be left out of this trend, has released a set of in-ear headphones (earphones/earbuds) called the vPulse. They come with a zippered carrier, a large variety of foam tips to fit your ears, an in-line toggle that will operate the volume control and a few other functions on your iPhone and iPod (has to be a late model), but best of all, they sound like Velodyne all the way . . . a.k.a. very, very good
- Design: In-Ear Headphones (Earphones, Earbuds)
- Driver: One (in each earbud) 10mm Titanium, Dynamic
- MFR: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
- Sensitivity: 98.8 dB/1 mw
- Noise Reduction; 15 dB @ 1 kHz
- Nominal Impedance: 16 Ohms
- Cable: 43.5" Flat
- Plug: 1/8" Gold-plated
- Weight: 1 Ounce
- MSRP: $89 USD
- SECRETS Tags: Velodyne, Headphones, Earbuds, Earphones
As you can see from the photo, the tip emerges from the body of the earphone at a slight angle, so as to fit the curvature of your outer ear canal. The vPulse comes with eight different sized ear tips, besides the ones that are on the earphones to begin with. I found these "default" tips to fit very well, but not perfectly. Each earphone is marked with an "L" or "R" for left and right ears.
Along the cable is an in-line toggle and button device that will operate certain functions in your portable music player.
The vPulse are quite attractive in deep metallic blue, but they come in several colors. They are also very well constructed and solid. The flat cable reduces the likelihood that you will have to spend a few minutes untangling the wires when you take them out of the carrying case.
I utilized the vPulse with my iPod, sitting in the dining area of my local grocery store while sipping a hot drink. The 15 dB of external noise reduction (blocks ambient noise from people walking by or talking next to you) was sufficient to maintain my attention on the music. In between tracks I could hear a bit of external noise, but it was low enough that I couldn't hear it when the music was playing.
The quality of the sound from the vPulse was exceptional: clean, clear, detailed, and deep bass without boominess. The tonality could be described as having a lot of "presence", which means a "shelf" in the ~ 3 kHz region, which is shown in the bench test frequency response curve below. Of course, portable music players have a wide variety of EQ curves that you can apply to the sound to suit your tastes, including reduction of high frequencies if you don't like that shelf. Coincidently, many studio microphones also have a shelf in this region to give the sound more presence and recording engineers have favorite microphones that they use to record various instruments.
For the sake of your hearing, I would suggest that you don't crank the volume on this or any other headphone. It is very easy to get high SPL from earphones, and therefore, easy to damage your hearing. If you must play your music loud, at least use the reduced treble EQ setting.
The bench test results are shown below.
At 20 Hz, which strains most subwoofers, there was less than 0.1% THD+N with an output of 90 dB. This is the kind of clean bass that one can only dream about with a subwoofer.
At 1 kHz, distortion was similar to what we see with conventional speakers.
IMD was a very low 0.002%, which is the reason I heard so much detail with the vPulse.
The measured frequency response illustrates the shelf at 3-4 kHz that I mentioned above.
A Rating Scale is shown below, where Five Red Dots = Excellent, Four Red Dots = Good, Three Red Dots = Fair, Two Red Dots = Mediocre, and One Red Dot = Lousy.
There are earphones out there that cost upwards of a kilobuck. For $89, the Velodyne vPulse are a steal.