Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Velodyne’s vPulse In-Ear Headphones

 Do the vPulse In-Ear Headphones deliver the goods?  Read on

The vPulse In-Ear Headphones

Usually earbuds are included in the price of devices that require them.  The key word is usually.  High end mobile phones can ship without them, and an increasing number have stopped including them.  Those that include them are certainly not offering “the best of breed.” 

                To enjoy a fully realized sound, one has to look at a third party.  Velodyne, makers of extremely high end subwoofers, have created the vPulse In-Ear Headphones as their solution to providing high quality sound in a small portable package.

                For those only familiar with the standard issue ear headphones that accompany assorted devices that play music, e.g., mp3 players, smartphones and some ebooks, it could be difficult to conceive that there are profound differences between the various types on the market.

The vPulse container

                The difference between bargain basement earbuds and higher end models available not fully comprehended until you literally do “the taste test.”  Listening is truly believing here.  

                To provide some perspective, I had used the standard issue headphones that came with my high end smart phone for a long time.  I had also used the earbuds that came with my mp3 player.  I thought they were acceptable.   

                When my mp3 player’s ear buds suffered from a severed chord, I decided to replace them with “seriously discounted” ear buds.  At the time, I thought there would be no difference in sound quality.  I swiftly learned that there is a huge difference.

                The sound from my replacement was thin, muffled and simply put, awful.  There was no range and no bass.  What came out was unacceptable by any standard.   Then, when I compared my earbuds that came with my smart phone and mp3 player to the Velodyne offering, the results was nothing short of amazing.

The flat wire, no tangles

                Using the vPulse was a revelation.  The sound was reminiscent of the quality I had with using headphones, rich and fully bodied.  It was hard to believe that in ear headphones were capable of this type of depth of sound.

                10 mm drivers and quality materials are part of the reason why Velodyn’s offering is superior.  However, all of the stats and high end materials mean nothing without great sound.

                To be expected from a company known for its subwoofers, the vPulse delivers rich bass.  Neither overblown nor understated, the sound is pure and certainly not muffled.   

                A serious down side with ear-buds that boast powerful low sounds is that they may cripple middle and higher range ones.  Using poorly made earphones, the base can become so obnoxious that it stampedes everything near it.   

The volume and mic

               This is where the vPulse truly shines. It can handle a broad range of sounds.  The bass is deep, but it does not stomp out the subtlety of other sounds.  This is particularly important when a prominent baseline is featured in music. 

                The reality for listeners is that they enjoy a spectrum of music.  Even if confined to one genre, there are still ranges to be found within a category.  In order for earphones of any kind to be successful, they should be capable of handling a variety of music.   If they can’t, then they should be labeled as such. 

                To see just how capable an in-ear headphone can be is by testing it with a variety of music.  It is the area of music that the vPulse truly excels. 

                Listening to Judy Collins sing “Michael from Mountains,” one could hear the power of the orchestra while at the same time hearing the vocals with clarity.   Old school soul fared exceptionally well.  James Brown’s unique sound communicated potency.  There was a vibrancy and grace that created a rich fully flavored sound.  At no point was the sound muddy.  

The container

                Hip hop, jazz, classical, pop, rock, alternative and nearly every hybrid I could think of, the vPulse was adept at handling whatever category of music it was given.  It is range that is a very good indicator of quality. 

                An interesting point was when using these in-ear headphones with beats equipped systems.  The smartphone I was using featured beats audio. It is an enhancement that boosts the base.  On lesser quality of earbuds, this feature can result in better sound.   That was not the case with the vPulse.   

The beats audio simply muffled the sound.  Higher ranges were truncated.  The nuances of music were drowned out for the sake of booming sound.  When the beats feature was turned off, the result was the vPulse producing rich distinct sound.  Where beats could only offer up volume, the vPulse could provide support for a wide range of sounds without losing lower tones. 

The clean look

                A point that distinguishes quality centric ear headphones from bargain basement ones are the accessories.   Comfort is a crucial ingredient in ear buds.  If they do not fit properly, sound is sacrificed.  If something is not comfortable, the chances are very good it won’t be around for long.  Helping to make their earbuds practical to a broad range of consumers, there are 16 extra buds included.

                Solid construction translates into a longer life span.   Aluminum construction is certainly a positive.  In sharp contrast to my totally plastic ear-buds of days past, the construction of these ear headphones felt solid, not flimsy.   Attention to materials makes a difference.

                Like other higher end ear-buds, the chords that connect are linguini shaped.  This configuration eliminates the annoying problem of twisted wires.  That aggravation is effectively gone.
                Included with this particular package are a cable clip and shoestring carrying pouch.  

                Although designed with Apple products in mind, the In-Line controls are compatible with iPod 3rd generation and newer, iPhone 3Gs, 4, 4s, 5, and iPads only.  With that said, the mic and headphones work with Android smartphones, just the inline controls are not available.  This, for me, is not a deal breaker.


                Good design, solid construction and a nice set of accessories are a given with ear-buds in this category.   What is expected, anticipated and desired is the one essential ingredient that matters most, great sound.  When it comes to that fundamental quality, the vPulse is a graceful performer.  As an upgrade, this is certainly a substantial one.  Even if you are happy with average earphones, there is a huge difference in quality that earphones like this can provide. If you really want to enjoy music, not simply hear it, then the vPluse is a must have.   At $ 99.00 this is a real value, and it represents the best of the breed.