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Tag Archives: headphones

Nokia Design Contest Winners’ Designs Actually Produced

In 2008, a contest was set before artists and designers. The challenge was to design headphones based on a song title. The contest, entitled the Nokia Music Almighty Headset Competition, has spurred the creation of numerous unique headphones.

A particularly inspired design came from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The headphones, called “The Graveyard Shift,” features zombies, tombstones, werewolves, and other aspects of horror. The adornments flow together seamlessly, creating a very natural and aesthetic feel to the headphones.

Another memorable design is that of G Smith, inspired by Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock.” The sleek silver headphones are a work of art, transforming the wearer into a being reminiscent of a robot.

Another exceptional design comes from R. Kelly’s song “I Believe I Can Fly.” Designed by Rodshakur, the “I’m Flying” headset design evokes images of angels, of the snow-white wings of a dove, or perhaps of the Greek god Hermes. They flash electric blue sparingly along the inside, and golden pipes and trumpets adorn the earpieces. This headset is truly a heavenly creation.

Another two designs were produced, bringing the total number of winners to five. Maria Lecanda created the “Free Willy” headset, inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There.”

Rufige Kru’s “Dark Metal” inspired the final headset. It is called the “CF Flex” headset, created by Mr. G.

Over 8000 designs were submitted over a three-month period. The amount of creativity and ingenuity these entrants have shown is inspiring. Only one headset for each winning design was produced, to be displayed by Nokia, and then to be given to the designer. But numerous people have expressed interest in these headsets, albeit displayed as works of art rather than used for listening. It makes you wonder if there will be more to come for these unique designs.

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5 situations that are WAY better with headphones

  1. Doing the dishes. My internal monologue without headphones: “God, how long have these dishes been sitting here? That food globule doesn’t look like anything I ate recently.” My internal monologue with headphones: “LA LA LA everything is awesome I’m a rock star! Oh look, the dishes are done.”
  2. Exercise. Cardio can be a long, cruel exercise in misery if you have nothing but your thoughts to sustain you. With the right pump-up playlist and a killer pair of earbuds, on the other hand, you might even look forward to feeling like a rockstar on your daily run.
  3. Air travel. Inexplicable delays, intolerable seatmates and long stretches of time away from the internet conspire to make air travel a wretched experience. On the other hand, the right pair of headphones can drown out the crying babies and chatty neighbors with the sweet tones of your favorite soothing songs. Alternatively, a fascinating podcast (such as Radiolab or This American Life) makes a long flight fly by.
  4. Working on menial tasks or busy work. Endless spreadsheets weighing you down? If you’re allowed to listen to music or other audio media at work, just pop in a pair of headphones and let your mind escape to a better place—like a dance floor.
  5. Falling asleep. If you’re like me, falling asleep without any external stimulation feels like a chore. My brain just won’t shut up; trains of thought refuse to be derailed unless I listen to podcasts or TV show dialogue.

 

How do headphones make your life better?

 

-Benevolent Siren

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Noise-Cancelling Headphones: How Do They Work?

Noise-cancellation—a common enough term. We’ve all heard about it, and it seems like a perfect idea. But how do noise-cancellation headphones actually work? They don’t just merely block the sound—that’s what regular headphones do. So how do they do it?

It all comes down to sound waves. The headphones contain microphones that capture the sound waves as they reach your ear, and then electric circuitry generates an “antinoise” signal. This signal is an inverted copy of the original sound wave, which then travel together into your ear. The waves interfere with each other, called destructive interference, and no sound reaches your ear.

So why bother? It seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it? Regular headphones do a pretty good job of blocking the sound. Even if your surroundings are loud, you can just turn your headphones’ volume up, right? Well, yes, of course you can. But when you’re sitting on an airplane, trying to sleep next to the roaring engines, and you have a choice between turning up the volume—greatly—and cancelling the noise entirely, what would you choose?

Personally, I have no need for noise-cancelling headphones. I’m not constantly around loud noises, so normal headphones are enough. But then again, I live in a small town. Perhaps someone in San Francisco, or New York, or Los Angeles would find the occasion to use them much more than I would. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

Another alternative is the happy medium—noise-reducing headphones, like our vPulse In-Ear Headphones, that still block a great amount of ambient noise. They don’t require batteries, are lighter, and, of course, are much less expensive, while retaining very good quality sound. While the noise-cancelling headphones and the regular headphones have their own niches, the noise-reducing headphones are perfect for any occasion.

Then again, next time I’m on an airplane, I think I’ll be yearning for the noise-cancelling earphones all the same.

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Wireless headphones and the “silent disco”

Honestly, when I first came upon this, I thought it was a joke. The term “silent disco” is, in and of itself, a kind of paradox. But it turns out that silent discos are a serious matter for people all over the globe. In fact, the term was added to the Oxford Dictionary Online in February, 2011.

Hold on just a second. What is a silent disco, you ask?

It’s just like clubbing, but with one major difference. Everyone is listening to the music on a pair of wireless headphones. The music is broadcast through an FM transmitter. This would present an odd looking party scene to those sans headphones, appearing as if people were dancing to the sound of nothing. These silent gatherings often feature dueling dj’s competing for listeners, as well as live musical acts.

The concept of the silent disco was born in 2005, as the result of noise restrictions at the Glastonbury Festival in Pilton, Somerset, England. A Dutch company called 433fm coined the term “silent disco” and circumvented noise restrictions by turning the festival into a large-scale wireless headset event. This was their first large-scale event, although they had been developing a plan for hosting a number of the same type of smaller music events across Europe since 2002.

A silent disco stage at the Exit Festival, 2011 in Serbia

The silent disco caught on quickly in The Netherlands with appearances at festivals like De Parade, Lowlands, and Pinkpop. And these days, 433fm takes it on the road to venues like Amsterdam’s Club 8. Each year there’s also a silent disco stage at the Exit festival, an annual summer music festival held in Novi Sad, Serbia.

After sweeping across Europe, the silent disco show is now popular in places like Brazil, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and the United States.

The silent disco is not just for dj’s anymore. Each show is unique and can feature a variety of acts, including; live bands, comedians, rappers, actors, dancers, and video artists.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of the silent disco, be sure to check one out in your area. They seem to be popping up in major cities all across the United States.

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Tips to Properly Care for In-Ear Headphones

Velodyne's vPulse In-ear Headphone

Personal audio products are invaluable to many of us who can’t live without our music. When I run long distances, nothing keeps me more motivated than invigorating songs. I am fortunate that my current set of earbuds have been with me for over a year, so I haven’t experienced much downtime. Time and time again, I hear of friends complaining that their earphones from all price ranges have stopped working, sometimes after only a few months. Some choose to stick with cheaper brands and go through them like crazy, not thinking twice about tossing them out for a new pair. This practice can become expensive over time. It is ideal to keep them in good working order for as long as possible, especially if you splurged on a pricier set.  Here are some tips to keep in mind to give your earphones the best possible chance at a longer life.

The vPulse comes with a handy case to protect your earphones

  • Keep them in a case when not in use. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy, or even specifically for earphones. The goal is to prevent exposure to debris. A roomy pouch or sack that will prevent the cord from getting crimped, caught or tangled is ideal. Avoid stuffing them into your pants pocket, which is very popular, as excessive rubbing and pulling could damage the cord.
  • Treat them gently. It seems the most common method of “caring” for earphones – which I don’t recommend – is to wrap the cord around iPods or other listening devices.  In general, try to avoid tightly wrapping or folding the cord, and unplug it from your listening device. When unplugging the cord, grasp the plug rather than pull on the cord.
  • Replace foam covers from time to time. Some earphones have foam that covers the earbud that is inserted into your ear canal. This material can break down over time and is not meant to last forever. Fortunately, these covers are very inexpensive to replace.
  • Keep them away from water. Submerging your earphones or holding them under running water generally won’t end well. Just sayin’.
  • Keep them clean. Dirt, oils and earwax  may  interfere with listening quality. There are different cleaning methods recommended depending on your specific type of earphone, but a soft cloth with a dab of rubbing alcohol should safely remove any debris from your earbud. If your earbuds come with removable parts, such as a silicone cover, cleaning these occasionally will prevent buildup as well.

If your earphones have stopped working, try cleaning them before you give up on them and move on to another pair. Otherwise, check your warranty information to see if you are eligible for a replacement.

How do you store your earphones when not in use? If you have any other recommendations for general care or tips for prolonging the life of in-ear headphones we’d love to hear them!

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Haute tech: Making a statement with wearable electronics as fashion accessories

The back of this gown literally lights up a room

It’s a crazy world we live in today. I feel that technology is a large part of the craziness, for better and for worse. And in the case of modern electronics, for wondrous and a little weird.

A German-based fashion label called MOON Berlin is the perfect example of this. Founded in 2010, this company has transcended pure entertainment (think the Black Eyed Peas’ performance during the Super bowl Halftime show) and taken wearable electronics directly to the streets. The company philosophy states, “The main idea is to combine light technique with high fashion in a sensitive way.”

Pause.

I’m not really sure what that last part means either. But I digress.

What I find intriguing is the mix of companies working together to create this electro-fashion. This label is working in cooperation with jewelry designer Damir Antolovic, DAAN Designstudio, and Stretchable Circuits. Stretchable Circuits is a company that provides engineering services and project management for flexible and stretchable electronic systems, with a specialty in integration of electronic functions into textiles.

Stretchable electronic systems. That is something to think about.

I’ll admit that I’m a fan of pretty things that sparkle and shine. I am also a firm believer in function over form. There is no reason something functional cannot be pretty, but I don’t think form should ever trump function. If you build something that contains both form and function, you’ve hit on something fantastic.

Enter The Orb. This innovative new design is both a Bluetooth headset and a piece of jewelry. Of course, every new product has its own angle in a niche market. The Orb has its own take on the best way to carry your headset with you when you aren’t using it. This innovative new gadget transforms from a wireless earpiece into a ring with one simple twist. It was developed through a partnership between Hybra Advance Technology Inc. and AbsolutelyNew Inc. They’ve promised to cater to those with petite or stubby fingers with the availability of different ring sizes. There will also be a limited edition designer model featuring decorative gemstones with a bling factor.

Ugg ear muffsUgg may be known primarily for boots, but they are one of the many companies out there getting involved in the headphone industry. They are leveraging their well-established brand to sell “tech-savvy knit earmuffs that feature a port for audio devices.” Of course, these are made of shearling, which is the same material they use for their famous boots.

And for those of you who are into using personal audio products as a fashion statement and also enjoy arts and crafts, it’s your lucky day. Click here for a tutorial on how to make a pair of ear muff headphones, which requires “basic sewing and soldering skills.” This tutorial is narrated by Syuzi Pakhchyan, whose blog, fashioningtech, is devoted solely to the idea of wearable electronics.

As you can see, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination. The common denominator in all of this seems to be the mixing of art with technology. It’s no longer all about the way something sounds to your ears or fits on your body. It’s all about adding innovative technology and taking it to the next level.

In fact, there is an organization in New York City devoted solely to pairing artists and technologists together. The Eyebeam Art & Technology Center offers both education and state-of-the-art tools for digital research and experimentation.

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3 inventions that changed personal audio forever

Velodyne has just thrown its proverbial hat into the arena of personal audio products. The incredible reception to vPulse is exceeding all of our expectations. And as we gear up for some amazing new releases in the near future, our brains are filled with visions of technology that may have seemed like an impossible dream 100 years ago. But we’ve become so accustomed to technology in our daily lives that it sometimes loses its zing. It’s almost impossible to remember life without it.

How did this evolution happen? Pondering the history of personal audio has started some great conversation in the hallways of Velodyne, as well as blissful reminiscing about the good old days.

A set of antique Nathaniel Baldwin headphones

The Invention of headphones

Born in 1878, Nathaniel Baldwin was a natural tinkerer and inventor throughout his life. He was also a devout Mormon and reportedly, grew frustrated when he couldn’t hear Mormon sermons over the noise of the crowds at the vast Salt Lake Tabernacle. Baldwin began experimenting with sound amplification , which led to the invention of the first modern headphones in 1910. Baldwin sold his invention to the U.S. Navy. His headphones were made by hand in his kitchen and, despite the Navy’s suggestion; he never patented his invention because he considered it to be trivial.

It’s not incidental that his imagined headphones were first thought of as a way to block out crowd noise. Workers and soldiers have long used them to mute the din of machines or artillery while receiving one-way orders from someone with a microphone.

Baldwin eventually started the Baldwin Radio Company. He became quite wealthy and used his success to help support the post-manifesto polygamous movement in the 1920s. Many officers in his company were leading polygamists who assisted in creating the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Baldwin himself actually only married once. Sadly, this celebrated genius was bankrupt by 1924 and impoverished when he died in 1961.

That last part had nothing to do with headphones, but I found it interesting.

The first audio cassette player

No way...I was just listening to that song in my car!

The idea for this product came from Masaru Ibuka, the founder of Sony. He challenged Sony engineer Nobutoshi Kihara to come up with a simple, playback-only stereo version of the small Pressman tape recorder. Kihara certainly met that challenge.

The first Walkman model was unveiled on June 22, 1979. Journalists were invited to Yoyogi (a major park in Tokyo) and given a Walkman to wear. They listened to an explanation of the product in stereo while Sony staff members carried out various demonstrations, including a young man and woman listening to a Walkman while riding on a tandem bicycle. Many journalists predicted the product would never take off since it didn’t include a recording device.

In 1986 the name Walkman was included in the Oxford English Dictionary. By 1995, the total production of Walkman units reached 150 million and over 300 different models have been produced.

A single product that changes the course of music, media, and entertainment

On October 23, 2001 Apple publicly announced the introduction of their iPod line. The initial reaction was somewhat hostile because of the $400 price tag, the unconventional scroll wheel, and the lack of Windows compatibility. It was only a few months later that Apple introduced iTunes, the first legal way for the public to download music. It was the perfect companion to the iPod. A decade later, the iPod is a household name along with a small army of other gadgets attached to its legacy.

The iPod was named by Vinnie Chieco, a freelance copywriter who was called by Apple for advice on how to introduce the player to the public. After seeing the prototype, Chieco thought of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the phrase “Open the pod bay door, Hal,” which refers to the white EVA Pods of the Discovery One spaceship. Chieco saw an analogy to the relationship between the spaceship and the smaller independent pods and the relationship between a personal computer and the music player.

At the unveiling of the iPod in California, Steve Jobs told journalists; “No one has found the recipe yet for digital music. And we think not only can we find the recipe, but we think the Apple brand is going to be fantastic, because people trust the Apple brand to get their great digital electronics from…we’re introducing a product today that takes us exactly there, and that product is called iPod.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

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Types of Headphones: An Overview

There are a lot of terms to describe different kinds of headphones: Bluetooth, noise canceling, in-ear, earbuds, earphones, on-ear, over-ear, studio…and sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what each of them really mean. That’s why we’ve assembled a short glossary of terms to help you keep them all straight! Without further ado:

 

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that connects portable devices using short-length radio waves.

Bluetooth headphones are often used with stereo Bluetooth-ready phones & computers. Bluetooth is a relatively short-range transmission method, allowing connection between devices up to about 30 feet apart. Some wireless headphones, however, can transmit longer distances and can be used anywhere in the home or office.

In-Ear or Ear Bud Headphones

The vPulse in-ear headphones from Velodyne are compatible with most iDevices, allowing you to easily switch between calls and music.

In-ear headphones offer great sound in a small, lightweight, and portable package. They are excellent for on-the-go cell phone and music listening.

In-ear headphones (also called in-ear monitors, IEM, earphones, ear canal headphones, ear buds, and canal-phones) are small earphones that fit into and seal the ear canal. In-ear headphones are commonly used by pro performers to monitor sound mixes; this prevents possible feedback from stage monitors and isolates the artist from audience noise.

The Velodyne vPulse in-ear headphones fit snug in the ear canal and thus provide the best isolation and reduction of ambient noise. In-ear headphones help to ensure safe listening levels since they block ambient sounds so thoroughly you won’t have to turn the music up loud just to overcome noisy environments. The vPulse come with a variety of different sizes / types of eartip sleeves; it’s important to experiment to find the tip that works best for you. To get solid bass from in-ear headphones it is CRITICAL that you have a securely tight eartip seal within your ear canal. The Velodyne in-ear headphones, like most in-ear headphones, are efficient enough to work well directly out of an iPod or portable player without necessitating a headphone amp.

About Studio Headphones

Studio headphones fit comfortably over your ear for an immersive listening experience.

Studio headphones are full size headphones which fit completely around the ear for a rich and sensual sound experience.

Full size headphones may be open-back, closed, wireless or noise-canceling types. Generally speaking, full size headphones are the most comfortable to wear for listening around the home or office, but they are often too large for portable use.  Some are easily powered and will reach satisfactory volume and sound quality direct from an iPod/iPhone, computer or portable player without the need for a headphone amp. Studio headphones will typically fit all the way around the ear (circumaural) and work best with home stereo equipment and/or headphone amps. All professional, high-end and audiophile full size headphones should be driven with a dedicated headphone amplifier for best acoustic performance.

What are Closed Headphones?

Closed headphones, aka sealed or closed-back headphones, have an enclosed, non-vented earpiece to most effectively block out ambient noise.  Closed headphones are often used by DJs.

Closed headphones, also known as sealed headphones, have a solid-backed earcup construction preventing noise from leaking into or out of the headphone. Closed headphones block ambient noise and also prevent those nearby from hearing your music. Closed-back designs may be either full size (circumaural) or earpad (supra-aural) types, and all noise canceling headphones are also closed-back.  Audio professionals such as DJs and location recordists – and also portable listeners — will often choose closed headphones. The sound quality of closed cans has continuously improved in recent years and some can now compete directly with the top open-back headphones.

About On-Ear Headphones

Also known as ‘supra-aural’ headphones, on-ear headphones have earpieces that will gently rest on the earlobes.

Earpad — or ‘on-ear’ — headphones are available in open, closed, and noise canceling types, and can vary greatly in size.    On-ear headphones come in both open and closed-back earcup designs.  They usually have a standard over-the-head headband (some fold for compact transport or storage), but earpad headphones can also be behind the neck or clip-on types as well. Closed back or sealed earpad headphones can isolate from some mild ambient noise, but typically not as well as closed-back studio, full size headphones.

The Headset

This Bluetooth headset allows you to talk hands-free.

Headset headphones let you  talk while you listen with a built-in microphone.  Compatible with iPhones & other cell phones, headsets include all types of headphones including Bluetooth, wired, full-size, and earbud style.

Headsets are designed to let you listen AND talk, and are commonly used with cell phones. There are many different types of headsets: wired mono (one earpiece) and stereo (two earpieces) headsets, earpad headsets, in-ear headsets, full size closed headsets, Bluetooth headsets, USB headsets and more. You can also turn any pair of headphones into a headset by adding a headset adapter with a microphone.

Noise Canceling Headphones and How They Work

Noise canceling headphones are designed to insulate you from outside noise by using ‘active’ battery-powered electronics.

Noise canceling headphones use tiny built-in microphones in the earpieces to sense ambient noise around the headphones with an active (battery powered) electronic circuit that amplifies and inverts those signals, then adds them into the music signal to ‘cancel’ the acoustic noise pressure present at the earpieces. Noise canceling headphones are designed primarily to block airline/train cabin noise during travel and usually isolate sound better than a basic closed headphone.

Clip-On or Wing-Style Headphones for Activity

Clip-on headphones, or ear-clip headphones, are designed to stay in place during physical activity.

Clip-on headphones and wing adaptions stay secure on the ear for listening while you are in motion. They are lightweight and compact, and you’ll be able to stay aware of your surroundings while running or walking.  Waterproof styles are available for swimming.  The clip-on style headphones will usually fit under a skateboard or bicycle helmet.

Now that you’re armed with knowledge, you can make an informed decision about which headphone type is perfect for you. Happy listening!

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Bring the Bass: Introducing vPulse in-ear headphones!

We’re thrilled to introduce the new vPulse in-ear headphones from Velodyne! The vPulse is our first product in a new line of high-performance in-ear headphones. The world of portable sound is exciting new territory for us, and we’re confident the vPulse in-ear headphones are the perfect pocket audio system for anywhere you want to take them.

The vPulse in-ear headphone in Velodyne electric blue.

The vPulse in-ear headphones offer high definition sound thanks to the aluminum driver housing and 10 mm driver, which combine to produce precise, low-distortion bass and superb sound quality.

The sleek design significantly reduces outside noise interference, allowing listeners to enjoy music and movies with more clarity and detail.

vPulse in-ear headphones are connected to music and video content via their durable, flat tangle-resistant cable. They also feature a control unit for managing playback, volume, tracks and answering phone calls.

 

The new vPulse by Velodyne is available in both Velodyne electric blue and classic black.

As a thank-you to our online community, we’re excited to offer the vPulse at a discounted rate for pre-order on our web site until December 1st; they will ship around December 10th.

Admin note: This promotion is no longer in effect. Please visit Velodyne.com to learn about current promotions.

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