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Headphones Category Buzzes In The Spring

5/21/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
NEW YORK — The headphones category was alive and buzzing in May, with near-daily product introductions and announcements. TWICE has rounded up some of the most recent news, which includes noise-canceling models and new athlete partnerships.

Soul Electronics announced a branding partnership with track and field Olympian Usain Bolt.

Soul will manufacture a line of Bolt headphones that will become available this summer. Details were scarce, but they will reportedly include a Bluetooth ear bud model with removable safety hooks, and a version of Soul’s SL300 headphones that “pays a stylish homage to the athlete’s home, Jamaica,” the company said in a statement.

Bolt will also represent the Soul brand at various events this year, including in the company’s “Soul of Greatness” video series.

Also forming bonds with an Olympian is Monster, who added sprinter Carol Rodriguez to its Get Fit Now campaign and as an iSport headphones spokesperson. Get Fit Now is billed as an initiative to help inspire physical activity while espousing the benefits of Monster’s iSport headphones, according to the company.

V-Moda, meanwhile, stepped outside the headphones box with the introduction of high-quality earplugs, designed for those who are subject to unsafe noise levels, such as DJs.

The Faders VIP earplugs are part of company founder and CEO Val Kolton’s commitment to protecting its consumers’ hearing. Kolton spoke with TWICE about this mission during International CES in January, saying that V-Moda’s competitors like to artificially spike their highs on the frequency response curve, which can contribute to hearing loss. To prevent this, V-Moda keeps the response curve in their headphones completely flat, which Kolton said is “something the whole audio industry should follow.”

The Faders VIP, which are part of the Ear Armor hearing-protection line, evenly reduce harmful noise levels by 12dB across the frequency spectrum, V-Moda said. They come with four sizes of “medical-grade fittings” as well as a detachable cord and a carrying case. They come in three colors for $20.

Also in the hearing-protection camp are SafeSoundProducts, which is using the Kickstarter project-funding website to launch its Airbudz ear bud attachments. Designed to let ambient noise penetrate, Airbudz are geared toward runners, children or anyone who doesn’t want to be completely enveloped in his music, such as someone walking to a car late at night.

The Airbudz have air channels built into the ear buds that are designed to let users hear distortion-free music and ambient noise. The company said they can be used with about 70 percent of ear buds on the market.

Each package comes with nine Airbudz in three sizes. The following color combos are offered: Monochrome, Jewel Tones, Patriotic, Primary Colors, Rastafari, Glow in the Dark and Neon.

Currently, consumers can pledge on Kickstarter to help propel the Airbudz to launch. Pledges as low a $1 are accepted, but those who pledge $10 receive one of the first sets of Airbudz and a carrying case exclusive. A pledge of $20 adds on a pair of headphones, although SafeSounds declined to provide any details on them, and it was unclear who would be manufacturing them. According to the Kickstarter site, the project would get on the ground if the $22,000 goal was reached; at press time, it had achieved $2,678.

Harman International Industries added another musician to its line of Artist-series headphones: country star Tim McGraw.

The headphones will come in on-ear and in-ear models. The on-ear version, model TMG81, feature 40mm drivers, ear cups with semi-open backs, and a frequency range of 18Hz to 24kHz. They can fold flat for travel and will retail for a suggested $129. Black and white versions are available.

The TMG21 in-ear headphones ($49.95) have 9mm drivers, a frequency range of 13Hz to 23kHz, and a closed-back design that is meant to minimize leaking, according to the company. A carrying pouch and three sets of silicone tips are included. They also come in black or white.

McGraw will also join Harman’s Hear the Truth campaign, which includes Paul Mc- Cartney and Maroon 5. JBL is an official sponsor of McGraw’s upcoming tour.

Phiaton took the wraps off a pair of Bluetooth 3.0 earphones that can be used as wired or wireless.

Model PS 210 BTNC features the company’s second-generation Everplay-X technology, which lets users plug the headphones into a 3.5mm output and continue listening if the battery runs out. They have 14.3mm drivers.

Call time is listed at 12 hours, music time at 14 hours and standby time at 250 hours.

The earphones also feature the company’s Echo-Off active noise-cancellation technology. An in-line mic and controls “dongle” can clip to a user’s clothes.

As with some of Phiaton’s other earphones, the PS 210 BTNC feature the company’s signature “half in-ear” design, which is meant to enhance sound quality.

A neck strap is included with the earphones. They will be available in June for a $159 suggested retail.
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