Peripheral manufacturer Vivitouch will launch a new line of headphones later this year that cover the entire ear and vibrate the surrounding skin, a sensation similar to sticking your entire head into a subwoofer.
The new set of headphones have been designed to "ramp up" sound without gamers having to crank up the volume, Vivitouch's Dirk Schapeler told Polygon. They won't have to blast their ears with sound in order to get a deeply-felt audio experience. Through tiny vibrating motors set in the cups of the headphones, gamers can enjoy a bass line they will feel "all the way down in their stomach," Schapeler said.
The universally-compatible headset line uses these motors, made from electroactive polymers (molecules that change in size and shape when they come in contact with electricity), to gently move the skin around the ear, transmitting the deepest frequencies directly into the eardrum from all angles.
"It feels like being inside of a movie theater or club," Schapeler said. "You can actually feel the sound."
Volume and "subwoofers" on the headphones are adjusted via buttons on the side of the headset's right cup. When activated, the sound from the headphones makes the ear feel tingly; but the sound quality is noticeably improved. The actual vibration movement is subtle, until the on-screen action turns to explosions — then it's more noticeable, but not enough to be uncomfortable.
"Normally you would sacrifice audio quality to really feel the beat," Schapeler said. "With this technology, you don't have to."
We listened to a clip from Battlefield 3 using these headphones. Gunshots and explosions really rattle your ribcage — but not your ears. The vibrations are barely noticeable as the sound becomes completely immersive. Even with the volume turned all the way up, it didn't put stress on the eardrum.
Vivitouch uses this same vibration technology in its smartphone accessories and for the rumble feature on its controllers. The new headphone line includes three different versions: a standard headset, one with built-in noise cancellation and one with extra volume controls specifically designed for listening to music. The company is currently putting the finishing touches on the line, which will launch this holiday season for between $200 and $400, depending on the model.