Boom goes the Bass (on a budget) – The Velodyne vPulse In Ear Headphone

Velodyne vPulse Headphones

Velodyne is usually known for their work in subwoofers.  They are currently expanding their product line into the personal audio market with the introduction of an in-ear headphone called the vPulse ($89).  With an aptly phased tagline of “Bring on the Bass” these entry-level IEMs offer a new twist on bass presentation that I haven’t heard with many other headphones.

I have always had some issues with non-custom IEMs.  Fit and comfort always seems to be such a hurdle for me to overcome.  Maybe it’s because I have giant caverns for ear canals, or I just an overly sensitive head.   Either way, getting a proper seal is paramount for proper tonal balance, especially when it comes to bass.  Good bass presentation can live or die against a proper seal with your ear.  With custom IEMs this is never an issue, but can be an area of concern when it comes to universal fit headphones.  I have even started to see some online offerings to take your favorite universals and convert them to customs!  All this being said, I was very happy to find a silicone ear adapter that was a full size larger than I had ever seen before included among the vPulse accessories.  The vP comes with a solid section of adapters for your listening pleasure, as we all know that one size does not fit all when it comes to your ears.  Velodyne also includes a headphone clip to attach the cord to your shirt.  This helps reduce cable noise and prevents the headphones from getting pulled from your ears unexpectantly, which can be a harrowing experience for your tender ear canals.  I am a big fan of these clips, especially when it comes to mobility and working out.  The cord has a flat, wider design than your typical headphone cord.  This makes it a bit more rigid to the touch, but I didn’t notice any negative outcomes as a result of this.  The headphone adapter connection is of the right angle variety. Volume, pause/play controls and a mic are located on the cable as well, allowing you to answer phone calls if you so desire.

Velodyne vPulse IEM Headphones

The Style

I am starting to notice a design change with the latest crop of headphones that are coming to market.  Many of them are starting to deviate from the black and grey industrial inspiration that so many of the top audiophile headphones have showcased in the past.  More and more we are starting to see flashes of color accompanied by a more contemporary design, no doubt inspired in some way by the success of Apple and Beats expanding color options.  I can still remember a time when the iPod was only available in white.  The vPulse I reviewed was mostly silver at its base with blue brushed aluminum and chrome highlights on the part of the headphone that sticks out of your ear.  I found the styling quite pleasing and not overly flashy, a nice compromise.

The Sound

I can say with the utmost of confidence that these headphones are for bass lovers.  If you are interested in a highly neutral sound, there are other options available.   Compared to other entries in the sub $100 price range, I do notice several steps in the right direction with these IEMs.  They are happily bass forward, but do not cover up the mids nearly as much as many of the other headphones in this arena.  The sub $100 earphone category can suffer from so many different maladies, poor clarity, bad tonal balance, no bass, bad bass etc.  These headphones do much better than most in this price range.  The offer decent clarity and manage to do a fair job of avoiding the common “hollowed out” sound that many bass-friendly IEM seem prone to.  One of my first pair of IEMs had such horrible mids that they made the vocals feel like they were miles away from the rest of the mix.  While they do a decent job for the price, I did notice room for improvement when compared to a pair of JH16s ($1,149).  Both clarity and soundstage faired better when compared to this headphone more than 12x it’s (price) elder.  Both of these attributes help project a feeling of sound that is outside of your head rather than inside.

Velodyne vPulse IEM Headphones

The Bass

The bass on these IEMs is truly unique to pretty much any other headphone I have heard.  I have heard some headsets with bass emphasis that sounds akin to sitting on the subwoofer of a 5.1 surround mix.  Not my cup of tea, but that is one way to emphasize bass.  These ‘phones are not that extreme, but they did have a low end thump that set them apart from almost all other bass presentations.  And by “low end” I mean deep, low, almost artificial thump-in-your-chest kind of bass.  While some extenuated bass shows itself most in bass guitar sounds, some sound most influential around the bass drum.  The vPulse bass is found most in neither of these realms.  It seems to live and breathe even lower than that, which is a nice trick.  Bass on these headphones “thump” like few others do, and I assume that is exactly what Velodyne was going for when they designed these tiny bass wonders.

If you like:

1. IEMs

2. Deep bass

3. Headphones that cost $100 or less

then the Velodyne vPulse headphones should be set squarely between your consumer sights.  There are superior headphones out there, but none that currently meet these three requirements quite as well.

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