Review: Velodyne vPulse

Subwoofer specialist company Velodyne surprised everyone when it entered the headphone business last year. But while you might expect Velodyne’s headphones to incorporate ginormous drivers, passive radiators, high-powered digital amps, and the like, the vPulse is pretty ordinary-looking.

Like a lot of IEMs, the vPulse comes with a little black zippered carrying case. Like a lot of IEMs, it has an Apple-compatible inline volume control and microphone. Like a lot of IEMs, it comes with silicon tips in various sizes (four, to be specific). The sole distinctive physical characteristic is the cable, which combines a flat profile with a slick finish to make the vPulse nearly tangle-proof.

But the sound is undeniably distinctive. The vPulse is definitely bass-heavy, but it doesn’t have the bloated, boomy, dull sound that most such headphones produce. Somehow the midrange and treble don’t suffer the psychoacoustical masking that a bass-heavy balance usually causes.

The vPulse’s powerful bass brought new life to many tunes — especially Rush’s “Red Barchetta,” where it gave much-needed kick to Neil Peart’s wimpy drum sound. Even though the bass has a somewhat fat, soft sound, it adds extra groove to bottom-driven tunes like the English Beat’s “Rough Rider.” The vPulse is also one of the best hip-hop headphones I’ve heard; it pumped out the deep bass line in Tyga’s “In This Thang” without in any way obscuring (or enhancing) the vocal and percussion. Lauren liked the vPulse, too, but Greg dissented, complaining that the bass wasn’t defined enough and that it tended to bury the mids.

No doubt about it, the vPulse is the IEM for bass freaks. The coolest thing about it, though, is that it’s a headphone that sounds great with hip-hop and rock but still sounds good when you put on a Sonny Rollins or Joni Mitchell tune.

Test Bench

The vPulse’s frequency response shows major bass boost, offset with a strong boost at 4.3 kHz and a milder one at 8.2 kHz. Increasing output impedance to 75 ohms has the effect of boosting bass by about 2 dB at 20 Hz. Isolation is typical for an IEM. Distortion at 100 dBA is typically less than 0.5% but rises to 1% at some frequencies. Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 1-watt signal at the rated 16 ohms impedance is 98.3 dB.