Velodyne has been around for many years in the home audio business, specifically, providing the best bass reproduction possible. But these are mobile times. People are spending less time indoors in front of a TV and more time on the go. In that trek outside of the house, people often bring music with them to pass the time and set the tone for the day. That’s where headphones come in, and that’s exactly where Velodyne is now venturing.
Today we’re looking at the company’s flagship vTrue headphones that while large (by headphone standards), is still far more mobile than strapping an 18-inch subwoofer to your head.
Design & Build Quality
Upon first opening the box it’s apparent that design and attention to packaging quality is in the minds of those at Velodyne. While it isn’t the nicest packaging we’ve ever come across, it is a step above the average temporary container. But the real magic is what’s inside – and wow.
Velodyne has styled and built the vTrue to not only sound like a flagship product but look, feel and even smell like a premium pair of headphones. The aluminum ear cups provide a nice minimalist yet modern look while the real leather that coats the headband brings a more upscale look, not to mention the (good) smell we previously mentioned.
After 15-20 hours of use, we can say that the vTrue are one of the most comfortable pair of over-the-ear headphones we’ve tested in a long time. Even after 5 hours of continuous listening, neither are ears nor the top of our head where the headband rests were sore or aching for reprieve.
Comfort and a pretty face are always welcome additions to headphones. But like we’ve said many time before, if the manufacturer could only focus on one aspect, we’d hope that those two features would take the backseat and that audio quality would consume their time and resources. With the vTrue, it’s clear Velodyne wasn’t out to just make another Beats-like headphone with an over-inflated price tag and so-so audio quality. Simply put, the vTrue deliver.
We tested the vTrues with various sources including an iPhone 5, Nexus 4, Galaxy Note 10.1 and directly to a PC via a higher end Creative sound card. While the mobile devices are certainly capable of driving these 50mm cans, they open up and really come alive when some more powerful hardware is put behind them. So, for truly mobile people, they might want to consider that sound quality just isn’t quite optimal.
Highs are the vTrue are on the softer side. They’re not overly loud or harsh, and certainly no near sibilant (which is a good thing). But sometimes we found ourselves wanting just a bit more. (This was true on mobile and desktop PC listening). Mid-range leans towards warm but isn’t overpowering. Meanwhile, bass is where it’s really at. That said, we were surprised with how it was presented. When we read up on the vTrues beforehand and saw what others thought of them, we were expecting something boomy and too focused on bass. But that wasn’t the case. While bass response is certainly well rounded and capable of reach very low into the two digit Hz range, it was overpowering the mid-bass or mid-range at all (which happens all too often with overly bassy headphones). In bass heavy music such as Bassnectar’s Va Va Voom, there’s no denying the power the 50mm drivers of the vTrue contain. But on the flip side, listening to something that isn’t bass heavy such as Trippin’ Billies by Dave Matthews Band shows that when needed, the bass on the vTrue can be more reserved and inline with what the music *should* should like. That said, more complex and less bass heavy music also highlights what we said earlier about the high end – that it is a tad soft, rolled off and lacking some separation.
At $399 the vTrue sit right in the middle of a hotbed of activity. There are a ton of headphone options to choose from in the ~$200-$500 over-the-ear segment, so Velodyne really needed to do something special to catch everyone’s attention. Just from looking at the headphones themselves, I’d say Velodyne handedly excelled “catching attention” with the design of the vTrue. They’re works of art, really. And once you move past gazing to listening, the vTrues don’t disappoint either, provided you aren’t looking for a forward, highly accurate high end, which is admittedly their weak point. Still, for most types of music (especially grungier rock/metal and bassier music), the vTrue are a great option without being too bassy.