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Tag Archives: headphones

Music Monday – Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Psychedelic Pill, the forcoming release from Neil Young and Crazy Horse

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:

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!

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Velodyne Supports the Community: Music Matters Family Festival

 

The Surf Spot in Pacifica, CA will be holding its first annual Music Matters Family Festival September 23, 2012. 100% of the proceeds will go to Music Matters in Pacifica. MMiP is a new program of the Pacifica Education Foundation that advocates and raises funds to support the instrumental music program for 6th through 8th graders in the Pacifica School District.
 The Surf Spot is hosting performances by The Refugees (Tom Petty Tribute Band), Curt Yagi and The People Standing Behind Me, 5D and Green Room Music. There will be a special guest deejay. Doors open at noon and there is a $5 admission – 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Pacifica’s Music Matters Foundation.We hope you and your families can come out and support children’s music programs, while enjoying the fun  lineup of bands, games, food and drinks! Velodyne has donated a few “swag bags” that Curt Yagi & The People Standing Behind Me will be giving away. You could walk away with a pair of vPulse in-ear headphones that retail at $99!

Good swag for a good cause!

Surf Spot Restaurant. 4627 Coast Highway. http://surfspoteats.com/ For more information on Music Matters in Pacifica visit http://www.musicmattersinpacifica.org/.

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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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