Sunday, July 6, 2014

Velodyne’s vFree Bluetooth Wireless Headphones

Is this the right headphone for you?

Important Links for more information for another take on the vFree

Velodyne  Sales Information

The vFree
                Great sound from any device in the arena of headphones depends heavily on their quality.  It doesn’t matter how great the specs are on your smartphone, or whatever device you using, pedestrian headphones are severely limited.  Hearing the nuances of sound, the crisp details, demands a device with the undisputed power to give that to the listener.  When music matters, you quickly discover not all headphones are made the same.

                Here is where Velodyne’s vFree Blue Tooth Wireless Headphones come into play.  Choices are abundant in headphones.  From high end to low end, there are numerous options.  Brands, visibility and reputation play a role in the subject of headphones.  They are one way of distinguishing one model from the next.

                The first noticeable stand out feature of the vFree are its looks.  Resembling something that would come from a post-modernist school of design, the aesthetics of the unit are clean and minimal.  There are no elaborate shapes or over logos to be found here.  These headphones seem to almost be proud of their status. The require no other visual information than their appearance to inform you of what they are.

Another side of the vFree

                Responsibility for this insistence on the careful configuration of visual elements rests with the President of the company, Marta Thoma Hall.  Her background and training in the visual arts served her well during the creation of these headphones.  The teardrop shaped vFree stand out from the crowd. It does so in a decidedly laid back manner.  Eschewing ornate detail for flowing lines, the impression that they leave you with are calm, sleek and unpretentious.

                The buttons that control most commonly used functions, namely turning on the device, are placed on the right side of the headphone.  They are not raised, but depressed when in use.  On the side, hidden away from view are two small volume buttons one for up, and one for down.  Learning to manipulate these controls may take some time to master.

In the folded state for easy storage

                Potential personalization of the vFree come in the available “skins.”  Priced at $ 39.99, these add ons provide additional detail to the austere surface of the headphones.  They will certainly have appeal to some users.  However, even in their basic form, they still look refined.

                Finger prints are always an issue. They can be distracting to say the least.  I can confirm that on the silver ones I was reviewing, finger prints are not a issue.  To note, there are three color choices, silver, white and basic black.

                A virtue of the plastic construction of the vFree is light weight.  A heavy ungainly headphone is not going to see much action. When you are wearing these devices, it is a fair assumption that you are not going to remove them after a few minutes of use.  For long term listening, there are no problems here.
                Great looks and comfort are desirable, if not essential, in making a product appealing.  With that said, nothing ruins a product faster than weak performance.  You can own the smartest looking headphone on the planet, but it is virtually useless if it can’t deliver on the promise of being far above just average it its class.

The facing view

                At a price point of $ 299.00, there is an implied promise of high performance.  In this category nothing less will suffice. 
                On the vitally important feature of sound, there is no denying that the vFree can keep what it proposes to the listener, a great experience.   

                After literally hours of listening with the device, no matter what style of kind of music I presented it with, the vFree had no problem negotiating extremely broad ranges of music.   Be it Hip Hop, Jazz, Experimental, Pop, Adult Contemporary, Punk and whatever hybrid categories in between, there were no problems handling a variety of music.  That kind of broad appeal is necessary.  To know that your headphones can successfully whatever you are in the mood to hear is reassuring.

                On the subject of bass, it logically follows that a company well known for its extremely high end subwoofers are going to have this base covered.  As expected, they do.

                Rather than simply providing volume and power, the powerful lower tones are not blasted indiscriminately.  Bold sound without nuance translates into an appreciable loss of detail.  Recklessly applied, the bass can trample the upper register creating a decidedly muddy sound. 


                One telltale indicator of sound quality is the capability of the device in question to render music as the artist, or producer, intended.  The vFree does just that.  At one point in listening, I could literally hear the atmospheric space of the walls in the studio. It is very difficult in words to accurately describe that experience.  One literally has to listen to the music to really understand the full impact of these headphones. 

                Wireless Bluetooth sound is usually considered less than ideal.  Thanks to advances in technology, the vFree produced excellent sound with this connection.  Syncing was a breeze and the range on this device is actually longer that specified, a welcome surprise.

                Using the headphone with phone calls was without issues.  The built in mic worked well, and the people on the other end of the conversation could hear me with ease.  

                While posted on the web site that these headphones work with an assortment of Apple products, there were no problems with my Android phone.  Versatility in this department is certainly a good thing.

                High end headphones are expected to function at high levels with comparable devices.  Should you own a smartphone minus state of the art specs, can you also expect superlative sound?  In my informal tests with a very old mp3 player and a much lower spec mobile phone, the answer was yes.  These older mobile systems were given a new lease on life.  Rich sound was emanating from the vFree proving without doubt that headphone quality can turn anything connected to it into something special.

                At the proverbial end of the day, the big question is value.  Does the vFree merit its price tag?  Are you indeed getting a fair balance between cost and performance?   This is always the question for any device.  It is particularly true of peripherals. 

                To understand virtues of the vFree, a comparison with other headphones has to be made.  For a number of users, the earbuds that accompany their smartphone are good enough.  But, the quality is often absent due to value.  Increasingly it is become common, even among expensive handsets, to exclude earbuds.  They clearly assuming that this is going to be an extra, and why throw in a cheap set of earbuds than comprise the sound.

Able to connect via Bluetooth, they can also be connected via wire.

                If you are a multipurpose mobile phone user, they are excellent replacements for the dedicated mp3 player in the same way that low end point and shoot cameras have been eclipsed by the smartphone.  To get the very most out of your mobile phone, a higher end earbud or headphone is a necessity. It is not an option.

                There are several factors to consider with a headphone.  Appearance, comfort and ease of use are certainly part of the whole equation.  At the very top of the list entes sound.  The vFree is no stranger to quality.

                The overall impression the vFree leaves is positive.  Music was rich, detailed and accurate.  These headphones do merit entry into the elite class of headphones that can provide the kind of sound one hopes for, but may not get.

                You really cannot go wrong with the vFree. It does what it was created to do with flair.  

• Outstanding wireless sound quality utilizing apt-X® coding
• Bluetooth® v2.1 connectivity with >30 foot range
• Optional vFree® skins let you add stylish designs to match your mood & fashion
• Intuitive controls
• High-quality microphone for phone & online video games
• Energy efficient design with exceptional battery life
• Collapsible design for easy storage
• Available in 3 stylish colors: Gloss Black, Gloss White & Gloss Silver

• 4 foot, 3.5 mm (3/8") audio bypass cable
• Micro USB charging cable
• Carrying pouch

Driver size: 34 mm
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 98 dB/1 kHz/1 mW
Impedance: 32Ω
Frequency range: 2.4Ghz – 2.4835GHz
Transmission range: Up to 10 m (33’)
Power: Lithium-ion polymer battery, 3.7V/430mAh (rechargeable)
Operating temperature: 0 C – 40 C
Supports Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, A2DP v1.2, AVRCP v1.0, HSP v1.2, HFP v1.6
Supports codecs SBC, AAC, apt-X

Battery Specifications:
100 hours standby
10 hours talk and music
1.5 hours recharge time