Sunday, July 6, 2014
Is this the right headphone for you?
Great sound from any device in the arena of headphones depends heavily on their quality. It doesn’t matter how great the specs are on your smartphone, or whatever device you using, pedestrian headphones are severely limited. Hearing the nuances of sound, the crisp details, demands a device with the undisputed power to give that to the listener. When music matters, you quickly discover not all headphones are made the same.
Here is where Velodyne’s vFree Blue Tooth Wireless Headphones come into play. Choices are abundant in headphones. From high end to low end, there are numerous options. Brands, visibility and reputation play a role in the subject of headphones. They are one way of distinguishing one model from the next.
The first noticeable stand out feature of the vFree are its looks. Resembling something that would come from a post-modernist school of design, the aesthetics of the unit are clean and minimal. There are no elaborate shapes or over logos to be found here. These headphones seem to almost be proud of their status. The require no other visual information than their appearance to inform you of what they are.
Responsibility for this insistence on the careful configuration of visual elements rests with the President of the company, Marta Thoma Hall. Her background and training in the visual arts served her well during the creation of these headphones. The teardrop shaped vFree stand out from the crowd. It does so in a decidedly laid back manner. Eschewing ornate detail for flowing lines, the impression that they leave you with are calm, sleek and unpretentious.
The buttons that control most commonly used functions, namely turning on the device, are placed on the right side of the headphone. They are not raised, but depressed when in use. On the side, hidden away from view are two small volume buttons one for up, and one for down. Learning to manipulate these controls may take some time to master.
Potential personalization of the vFree come in the available “skins.” Priced at $ 39.99, these add ons provide additional detail to the austere surface of the headphones. They will certainly have appeal to some users. However, even in their basic form, they still look refined.
Finger prints are always an issue. They can be distracting to say the least. I can confirm that on the silver ones I was reviewing, finger prints are not a issue. To note, there are three color choices, silver, white and basic black.
A virtue of the plastic construction of the vFree is light weight. A heavy ungainly headphone is not going to see much action. When you are wearing these devices, it is a fair assumption that you are not going to remove them after a few minutes of use. For long term listening, there are no problems here.
Great looks and comfort are desirable, if not essential, in making a product appealing. With that said, nothing ruins a product faster than weak performance. You can own the smartest looking headphone on the planet, but it is virtually useless if it can’t deliver on the promise of being far above just average it its class.
At a price point of $ 299.00, there is an implied promise of high performance. In this category nothing less will suffice.
On the vitally important feature of sound, there is no denying that the vFree can keep what it proposes to the listener, a great experience.
After literally hours of listening with the device, no matter what style of kind of music I presented it with, the vFree had no problem negotiating extremely broad ranges of music. Be it Hip Hop, Jazz, Experimental, Pop, Adult Contemporary, Punk and whatever hybrid categories in between, there were no problems handling a variety of music. That kind of broad appeal is necessary. To know that your headphones can successfully whatever you are in the mood to hear is reassuring.
On the subject of bass, it logically follows that a company well known for its extremely high end subwoofers are going to have this base covered. As expected, they do.
Rather than simply providing volume and power, the powerful lower tones are not blasted indiscriminately. Bold sound without nuance translates into an appreciable loss of detail. Recklessly applied, the bass can trample the upper register creating a decidedly muddy sound.
One telltale indicator of sound quality is the capability of the device in question to render music as the artist, or producer, intended. The vFree does just that. At one point in listening, I could literally hear the atmospheric space of the walls in the studio. It is very difficult in words to accurately describe that experience. One literally has to listen to the music to really understand the full impact of these headphones.
Wireless Bluetooth sound is usually considered less than ideal. Thanks to advances in technology, the vFree produced excellent sound with this connection. Syncing was a breeze and the range on this device is actually longer that specified, a welcome surprise.
Using the headphone with phone calls was without issues. The built in mic worked well, and the people on the other end of the conversation could hear me with ease.
While posted on the web site that these headphones work with an assortment of Apple products, there were no problems with my Android phone. Versatility in this department is certainly a good thing.
High end headphones are expected to function at high levels with comparable devices. Should you own a smartphone minus state of the art specs, can you also expect superlative sound? In my informal tests with a very old mp3 player and a much lower spec mobile phone, the answer was yes. These older mobile systems were given a new lease on life. Rich sound was emanating from the vFree proving without doubt that headphone quality can turn anything connected to it into something special.
At the proverbial end of the day, the big question is value. Does the vFree merit its price tag? Are you indeed getting a fair balance between cost and performance? This is always the question for any device. It is particularly true of peripherals.
To understand virtues of the vFree, a comparison with other headphones has to be made. For a number of users, the earbuds that accompany their smartphone are good enough. But, the quality is often absent due to value.
Increasingly it is become common, even among expensive handsets, to exclude earbuds. They clearly assuming that this is going to be an extra, and why throw in a cheap set of earbuds than comprise the sound.
If you are a multipurpose mobile phone user, they are excellent replacements for the dedicated mp3 player in the same way that low end point and shoot cameras have been eclipsed by the smartphone. To get the very most out of your mobile phone, a higher end earbud or headphone is a necessity. It is not an option.
There are several factors to consider with a headphone. Appearance, comfort and ease of use are certainly part of the whole equation. At the very top of the list entes sound. The vFree is no stranger to quality.
The overall impression the vFree leaves is positive. Music was rich, detailed and accurate. These headphones do merit entry into the elite class of headphones that can provide the kind of sound one hopes for, but may not get.
You really cannot go wrong with the vFree. It does what it was created to do with flair.
Sound is a critical part of computing. Appreciating and enjoying multimedia content relies on it. The weight of this rests on the type of headphones you use.
Velodyne’s vFree Bluetooth Wireless Headphones were clearly designed with providing a superior experience. The discerning listener was clearly in mind. The big question is are they able to produce rich sound? When you are dealing with a device that costs $ 299.00, the expectation runs high.
With a nearly 30 year history as makers of extremely high end subwoofers, their reputation and brand indicate that they are more than capable of producing high grade products. Evidence of that commitment begins with appearances.
Aesthetics were obviously in mind with the creation of these headphones. Focus on that area is no doubt inspired by Marta Thoma Hall, President of Velodyne. Her experiences as an exhibiting fine artist have impacted the design of the vFree and her vision of it.
Visually the headphones are definitely coached in the ethos of less is indeed more. Eschewing the garish for the cool and serene, the smooth lines are not disturbed by raised buttons. The controls are flush to the surface. Only the raised buttons on the volume controls interrupt the smooth surface. Located on the side of the tear shaped phone, they are easily accessible. Learning to navigate the controls on the right side of the headphone requires a little time to handle.
Good looks are certainly appreciated. Considering that devices like this are worn, how they appear becomes an issue. While I like the “naked” version, one can personalize the look via skins. At $39.99 each one has a selection to pick from. It is certainly one way to differentiate your apparatus from the crop.
Available in black, silver and white, one element I noticed with my silver ones I reviewed was the lack of fingerprints. The smooth surface simply did not allow them to appear. This is always a good attribute.
Smart looks are augmented by comfort. There is no good in having headphones that feel like you are sporting an elaborate show girl headdress. If they are not comfortable, your enjoyment will be seriously impaired. Fortunately the plastic material that the vFree is constructed from is light weight. That permits hours of listening minus being made uncomfortable.
Appearances and options are selling points. However, they all become mute points if the sound is lacking. When it comes to providing deep bass tones, the vFree has absolutely no problem navigation that spectrum of music. In direct opposition to the idea that the bass must dominate to the detriment of higher tones, these headphones have struck an ideal marriage of delicate higher tones and lower ones.
Boasting a booming thunderous sound can create for the listener the sound the artist intended. When applicable that can be effective. But this is not universally true when a more nuanced approach is needed. That is where the vFree proves itself to be agile.
A wide spectrum of music does not stump these headphones. Classical music lost none of its detail. Blues, Rock and Roll, Progressive, Experimental, Jazz even Opera all were handled adroitly. The sound detail was remarkable.
Noted on the Velodyne web site, the vFree is stated as being compatible with the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. But it not confined to that platform. Android is not a problem. What I found intriguing was that my particular smart phone is not top tiere, but that did not prevent great sound from being produced. I was impressed that my humble handset was producing extremely high end sound. This proves that lower end devices can deliver “the goods” when paired with a very good set of headphones.
Bluetooth connectivity was solid. I was able to walk through an average home, walls and all, and I never lost touch with my handset. Pairing to a device was simple and fast.
Phone conversations with the vFree were decent. Callers at the other end of the phone reported no deterioration in sound.
Included with headphones are a 4 foot, 3.5 mm (3/8″) audio bypass cable, a Micro USB charging cable and a carrying pouch. The vFree can be collapsed for easy storage and for travel.
Light weight, comfort and a clean appearance makes for a stylish headphone. At the end of the day everything rests on the quality of sound. Fortunately the vFree does well on all fronts. From aesthetics to overall sound quality, all of the essential ingredients that make for a great headphone are here. If you are searching for a premium high end device, the vFree does not disappoint. No matter what musical style you enjoy, this headphone can deliver the goods. You really cannot go wrong here. Does the vFree justify the cost? Factoring in what category this headphone is part of, this is a pretty good deal.
• Outstanding wireless sound quality utilizing apt-X® coding
• Bluetooth® v2.1 connectivity with >30 foot range
• Optional vFree® skins let you add stylish designs to match your mood & fashion
• Intuitive controls
• High-quality microphone for phone & online video games
• Energy efficient design with exceptional battery life
• Collapsible design for easy storage
• Available in 3 stylish colors: Gloss Black, Gloss White & Gloss Silver
• 4 foot, 3.5 mm (3/8″) audio bypass cable
• Micro USB charging cable
• Carrying pouch
Driver size: 34 mm
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 98 dB/1 kHz/1 mW
Frequency range: 2.4Ghz – 2.4835GHz
Transmission range: Up to 10 m (33’)
Power: Lithium-ion polymer battery, 3.7V/430mAh (rechargeable)
Operating temperature: 0 C – 40 C
Supports Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, A2DP v1.2, AVRCP v1.0, HSP v1.2, HFP v1.6
Supports codecs SBC, AAC, apt-X
100 hours standby
10 hours talk and music
1.5 hours recharge time