by Ace of Bass on November 8, 2012
Within the last year, Velodyne Acoustics, Inc. has reinvented itself after nearly 30 years in the audio business where the company has been recognized for creating and manufacturing some of the best subwoofers in the world. Just diving into the headphone business early this year, after investing decades of audio expertise honed by CEO and Founder David Hall, it is evident that the new products show a different side of the company. The headphone designs are modern, artistic and unlike any other headphones on the market. Designed and crafted by Marta Hall, a recognized public artist, these headphones are an extension of her passion for the arts and music. Coupled with David’s technology, the headphones not only look beautiful, but the sound is unrivaled. Recently Velodyne has forged a special relationship with Ashanti Floyd, a.k.a, The Mad Violinist. During a stunning performance at a Velodyne party in New York last June after the CEA Line Shows, President Marta Hall realized there was something special about this musician. After spending some time getting to know Ashanti it became readily apparent that his values and passion for music were very in line with the values and objectives of the company. It is quite fitting that Velodyne has chosen Ashanti, a 5-time Grammy nominated artist, to be an ambassador for Velodyne headphones. Velodyne will be releasing two new models this month, the vFree wireless on ear headphone and the vTrue studio headphone.
How did you get your start in music? Were you classically trained or self-taught? I started playing the violin when I was three years old after strong encouragement from my mother, she is an incredible musician. She had been playing for many years and is a true inspiration to me. She was very adamant that I learn and focus on classical during my development, I even traveled to Europe to perform in Classical music competitions. I also had a strong focus on gospel music when I was younger, playing alongside my father in our local Tallahassee church. I have played in advanced string placement with both The Turtle Island and Pacifica String Quartet’s. I was very fortunate to study under the renowned composer and conductor, Michael Kamen at Luzerne in New York.
Originally, I planned on auditioning on viola at Juilliard School for Performing Arts, but chose to focus on attending Berklee College of Music as a contemporary violinist. I began to change my focus musically while at Berklee when I noticed a shift in the appreciation towards “real” music. I do like a lot of musical genres, but I realize how important it is that our youth understands and appreciates music that involves real instruments. I became passionate about discovering my own craft on a deeper level when I really found the similarities in different genres including Pop, Hip Hop, R&B, Jazz and Alternative Music. I really became inspired to do something very different when I began touring with Lupe Fiasco.
Tell me about your band. In 2009, after leaving Yelawolf, myself and guitarist Matt Barrett formed The Symphony Crack Orchestra to create a different, innovative style of music. Together, we have co-produced and performed on albums that in the last two years received a combined eight Grammy nominations. You will hear us on Lupe Fiasco’s “The Show Goes On,” which received three nominations. Other Grammy nominations were received for Nicki Minaj’s “I’m the Best,” and Fantasia Barinno’s album Back To Me.
In 2011, Symphony Crack released our ﬁrst album, The Addiction, and soon became an album we knew would be the platform to where we are today. The names, Symphony Crack and Addiction, are indicative of the inﬂuences and love for music that brought all of us together. As a group, we bring a lot of passion into the creation and performance of our music, we want our fans to have a unique musical experience unlike anything they have ever witnessed.
What is your background in working with music and youth? What spurred your interest in working with children and music in education? I have always known how important it is to teach youth music, whether it’s an instrument, sheet music, theory, or even composition. My mother has always taught strings and I was able to witness all the good she did through that. Also, all of my siblings play an instrument and are very talented. Our schools need to put a stronger focus on musical programs, that is one of the reasons why I’m so supportive of Velodyne as they have recently become so involved in VH1’s Save the Music Foundation. To this day, I still go back to Florida to help teach at my mom’s String School.
What advice would you have for the youth of today that is interested in music or even your younger self? The best advice I can give people who are learning to do anything musically is to NEVER give up. I struggled with this when I was younger when people used to make fun of me playing the violin. I love what I do and it is part of who I am. If it’s something you love, your soul and passion will pour into your learnings and eventually show you your own greatness. Just don’t. give. up. period.
by Summer Muse on October 25, 2012
A few months ago, I wrote an article about Peter Gabriel’s Back to Front tour and the 25th anniversary of his groundbreaking album So. On October 6, Gabriel performed at the Hollywood Bowl, where I sat in section L2, completely dumbstruck. At 62 years of age, he’s still got it. Not quite like he had it when he was in his 20s, 30s, and even 40s, but rather in a more subdued manner. Maybe he wasn’t rolling around the stage in a hamster ball, or prancing about the stage as a flower, but he was skipping, running around, and even dancing, which is a real feat considering he kept his voice unwavering throughout the performance.
Gabriel performed the concert in three stages. The first, he said, was to be as if they were rehearsing, and experimenting with new sounds. True to his word, the lights throughout the arena remained on, and he sat before the piano. A hush spread throughout the packed arena. Gabriel began to play, singing a beautiful little song, that is, as of now, still unfinished. As he finished, the crowd was getting excited for what he had in store for them. In this rehearsal stage, he (and of course the magnificent Tony Levin, Manu Katché, David Rhodes, David Sancious, Jennie Abrahamson, and Linnea Olsson) played “Come Talk To Me,” “Shock the Monkey,” and “Family Snapshot.” They were not played like the studio versions. Rather, he jazzed them up, making them into completely new acoustic versions of these songs.
Stage two was to be the second course, before the dessert, namely So in its entirety. At this point, the crowd was on its feet, so ready to sing our hearts out. Peter Gabriel performed powerful electronic versions of several of Gabriel’s classic songs, starting with “Digging in the Dirt,” “Secret World,” and “The Family and the Fishing Net,” and finishing with “No Self Control,” “Solsbury Hill,” and “Washing of the Water.” At this point, the concert became a show, with spectacular lights moving about the stage like great living creatures, amazing cinematography displayed on massive screens spaced throughout the arena, and Gabriel and the band executing some synchronized dance moves. For “Solsbury Hill,” Gabriel began skipping about the stage, involving the audience in his obvious joy, and eventually leading the rest of the band around the stage in a happy, skipping procession. The second stage concluded with an extremely powerful and beautiful rendition of “Washing of the Water,” one that literally brought tears to my eyes.
And for stage three, Peter softly announced that dessert had finally arrived. A thrum of anticipation swept throughout the crowd as we waited, breathless, for him to begin. Everything began to glow red, marking the beginning of the opening track from So, “Red Rain.” For “Sledgehammer,” the audience leapt to its feet once again, singing uproariously. At the conclusion, Abrahamson joined Gabriel in the forefront as they began to sing “Don’t Give Up.” The crowd grew silent, everyone holding their breath in anticipation. The haunting lyrics resonated throughout the Bowl, sounding inspirational at the same time.
Next thing I knew, I was hearing “That Voice Again.” The people all around me became friends, comrades, and we all sang in unison, remembering the first time we heard that voice. Then we watched Peter sink to his knees, slowly falling backwards until he lay flat on his back, staring up into the lights. The first notes of “Mercy Street” rose up from the stage, evoking images of water, rowing a boat, and family. I looked over at my father, tears welling up in his eyes as he sang along to the lyrics, “…in your daddy’s arms…” His obvious joy at all the memories the song brought back made me so thankful to Peter Gabriel for giving such a gift. Truly, only Peter could sing an entire song lying on the ground and make it a work of pure art. From there, the tone changed dramatically as he transitioned into the satirical “Big Time.” The audience laughed and sang, chanting the last 17 ‘big’s enthusiastically. Then came the dark “We Do What We’re Told,” referring to the Milgrim 37 social experiment. The lights turned red, and Peter sang with such regret and anger as to invoke the same feelings in us. He transitioned into the strange and whimsical “This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds),” and finally to the iconic “In Your Eyes.”
Before he began, however, a surprise was waiting in the wings. A man, dressed in black, wearing a baseball cap, ran out onto the stage and handed Peter a large bulky object. Peter announced gleefully, “Mr. John Cusack!” whereupon the man gave a bow and the crowd erupted in tumultuous cheering as Peter raised the boombox above his head, grinning wildly at the reaction. After the song concluded, the members left the stage one by one. We all kept cheering, eager for the encore. It came, as promised, beginning with “The Tower That Ate People.” And, for the final song, Peter sang his eulogy to Steven Biko. As each band member left the stage, we sat, enraptured, chanting the last echoes of that haunting song as Manu Katché kept the beat going. We left in a daze, without that feeling of bereavement we’re usually left with after an amazing concert. It was the perfect ending to a perfect night.
There’s nothing better than going to see your favorite artist in concert. It might be better even than listening to their studio versions with your vFree, which is saying something!
Here’s John Cusack handing Peter Gabriel the boombox:
And here’s a look at some of Peter’s elaborate costumes from his Genesis days:
Finally, here he is in one of his complex creations—a human hamster ball:
by Penny Lane on October 24, 2012
Recently I posted on the blog about having my in-ear headphones on non-stop, getting psyched for the Bridge School Benefit Concert last weekend in Mountain View, CA at Shoreline. It was definitely an amazing night! The sense of community coming together for a good cause - to benefit The Bridge School - was definitely in the air. Some of the artists I had seen prior to this show, but for most it was the first time I had ever seen them perform live.
The highlight of the evening was without a doubt, Jack White. His all-female band Saturday night brought the house down. Guns N’ Roses was a little strange, maybe out of place, as the performance would have been fine but the F-bombs Axl dropped several times in front of the students and their parents were a little jarring. The shocker of the evening was Eddie Vedder who was not on the bill but came on to do a couple of songs before GNR came on. I would have very much welcomed a full set from him! I enjoyed Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Foster the People, and Ray LaMontagne, all artists whom I have seen before. Steve Martin was really funny and entertaining with the Steep Canyon Rangers. Gary Clark Jr., Lucinda Williams, Sara McLachlan and k.d. lang all put on a great show for everyone.
Every year it’s a different lineup, but always acoustic and always a good time. For the last few days, I have constantly had my headphones in, listening to some favorites but also getting acquainted with Gary Clark Jr., whose set I really liked. Here are some great images from Velodyne friend Jay Blakesberg who was there to document the 2-day concert.
Hope to see you there next year!
by Penny Lane on October 15, 2012
It’s Music Monday – What are you listening to? Sitting at my desk working, I’ve had my vPulse headphones in and buzzing along to Jack White, Foster the People, The Flaming Lips. Usually my musical choices are chosen on a whim but not this time. I’m getting very excited for The Bridge School Benefit concert next weekend!
You may not know that Neil Young, iconic singer-songwriter who has a career spanning over 40 years and – count ‘em – TWO inductions into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame has two sons with cerebral palsy. In 1986, Neil and his wife Pegi helped start The Bridge School, which specializes in educating children with severe speech, communication and physical impairments. Twenty-six years ago, the first Bridge School Benefit Concert was held, with performers including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Nils Lofgren, Don Henley, Tom Petty, Robin Williams, and Bruce Springsteen raising the funds necessary to open the school in 1987. Every year since, with the exception of the year the school opened, a benefit concert has been held with a performance by Neil Young – with the full line-up playing acoustic instruments.
This year, the concert is the weekend of October 20-21, 2012. Here are the artists scheduled to perform:
- Neil Young & Crazy Horse
- Jack White
- Guns N’ Roses
- The Flaming Lips
- Sarah McLachlan
- Foster the People
- Lucinda Williams
- Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers
- k.d. lang
- Gary Clark, Jr.
- Ray LaMontagne
As always, this line-up is impressive and the night will likely be legendary. I couldn’t be more excited to attend a killer concert while contributing to a great cause. Enjoy this video of “Ramada Inn” by Neil Young with Crazy Horse; it’s got that raw, unmistakeable, rockin’ signature Neil Young sound I have grown up with and respected my entire life. Enjoy the rest of your Music Monday!
by Penny Lane on September 19, 2012
by Summer Muse on August 23, 2012
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.
by TheBenevolentSiren on July 4, 2012
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
by Summer Muse on June 13, 2012
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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My name is AudiOdysseus. Admittedly, I would never describe myself as a hero of any kind and I tend to get seasick in open water. But I love adventure. There is nothing I appreciate more than exploring new territories and gathering information about the world around me. Those are also the types of posts you can expect from me. I’ll be writing mostly about new gadgets, emerging trends, and my work-related travels to other lands.
I'm passionate about music, a lover of pop-culture, a runner with a mad sweet tooth and an addiction to coffee. Read my musings about life, movie soundtracks and live concerts. If you see me on the freeway I am most likely singing very loudly in my car. Honk and say hi!
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Ace of Bass
Born and bred in the Silicon Valley, I have an innate passion for all things technology. I'll post about home theater, quality sound, apps and much more. If I bump into you, its probably because I'm looking at my iPhone. Sorry!
Owner of vPulse and vFree and curious for the ventures of Velodyne Acoustics, I will be exploring our headphones and what we do next. Stay tuned as I share what I find.
Born and raised in Silicon Valley, I am a student at San Jose State University and Marketing intern at Velodyne Acoustics. I am an avid San Jose Sharks hockey fan and San Francisco 49ers football fan. When I'm not watching sports, I'm listening to music and thinking deep thoughts about sound.