3 Reasons You'd Kill Yourself
with a Lightsaber
Lightsabers are dangerous, poorly
Urinal Videogame Is Controlled
by User's 'Stream'
A new videogame has hit the market, and
free — this video game is controlled
entirely by your urine.
Making Smartphones Smarter
with See-Through Sensors
Your smartphone's display glass could
soon be more
than just a
thanks to new
eling and fall asleep, [the headphones] fall
on the floor and people run them over."
One of the big changes that you'll notice
in the new design is the slightly larger size
of the ear cushion and the type of materials used for manufacture (the company
does not publish the trade name). The new
materials allow a good seal with a slightly
larger, but slimmer, profile than previous
generations so that the cups don't touch
any part of the ear. "There is kind of a bell
curve on ear sizes, and we've tried to take
the majority of people into consideration."
No Power, No Problem
Since the first ANC-series headphones
came off the line, Van Scoy has watched
as competing manufacturers design
noise-canceling headphones that don't
operate without power, mostly because of
the significant drop off in audio quality.
"Many noise-canceling companies will
only provide audio when the headphone is
able to be powered through a battery. If the
battery runs out halfway through the flight
and you're not able to recharge it, you simply cannot use the headphones," he says.
"With our headphones, you can use them
with or without power. Obviously, it is an
active headphone, and in the active mode
is how it has been tuned for optimum
performance. But in that pinch where you
may have an exhausted battery you can
still listen in the off mode … We've always
felt that it is important to have headphones
that work whenever you want."
Active mode audio quality is a delicate
balance, and low frequencies are typically
difficult to tailor to noise-canceling headphones. According to Van Scoy, it's the
toughest part to engineer around.
"There are a number of different ways
that you can minimize [low frequency
losses], but it becomes very tough with
the EQ [the basic shape of the audio
waveform] and the noise-canceling cir-
cuitry that comes into play. We think that
we've done a good job balancing that
Wear & Tear Testing
User testing is primarily internal at the
company, which has a worldwide network
of affiliates that use the headphones in various global settings. "We do a lot of user
testing for audio, comfort, and use — and
we try to look at the harshest travel envi-ronments," says Van Scoy. Japan has a lot
of train travelers with both short and long
commutes. In the U.S., air travel is the primary headphone user group — although
a lot of people also use them while doing
yard work and on mass transit systems in
New York and Los Angeles.
"We don't start the design process until
we're fairly confident with what's on paper,
and as close to being a real product as
possible … with some minor modifica-tions," he adds. The company will even
leave some features untuned during beta
testing just to see if people pick up on the
flaws. They also deploy various ear pad
configurations to gain feedback on fit, comfort, and temperature.
The use and testing of dampening
materials to control low frequencies and
unwanted sound is also a big part of what
sets Audio-Technica apart. "We always set
guidelines, but we wind up spending twice
the time that we've allotted for some of the
testing, because it makes such a big difference in the performance of the headphone.
Once you've identified all of the different
areas that you need to treat, and the foams
you are going to use, it makes a big differ-ence," says Van Scoy.
Even audiophiles have to commend
Audio-Technica for the ANC70. It may not
offer the dynamic range they're used to,
but it's a small sacrifice to make when
shielding you from all that noise, noise,