Join 3,362 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


It's a one-atom thick layer of graphite with remarkable properties.
March 13, 2013 7:05 PM   Subscribe

"Berkeley creates the first graphene earphones, and (unsurprisingly) they’re awesome." Since it was isolated by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at the University of Manchester in 2003, graphene has become something of a scientific darling. So, what to do with the "wonder stuff"? Why not make headphones? Turns out, graphene is great for the job: "Graphene has extremely low mass density and high mechanical strength, key qualities for efficient wide-frequency-response electrostatic audio speaker design."
posted by ocherdraco (38 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Koss Porta-Pro's. $50. Lifetime warranty. Look weird up close but not at a distance, and you can hear stuff going on around you, without broadcasting out loud what you're listening to, which you need in an office setting. The tinnest ear can hear how good they are over the stock cans and buds. You will start fantasizing about setting up a kick-starter to make a decent boom mike that screws into the accessory port. You will start planning cyan-and-silver-and-black woven cord wrapper projects so you will never have to have them sent in to fix a busted wire (after eight years of steady abuse) again. You will research exotic forms of carbon to create earpads that don't stretch or crumble like the stock pads (that are, again, covered under a lifetime warranty.)

Graphene's cool, I guess.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:33 PM on March 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


Their testing setup is very very preliminary:
To quantitatively characterize the speaker, the frequency response curve is measured from 20 Hz to 20 kHz and compared to a commercial earphone of similar size Sennheiser® MX-400). The sound card in a laptop computer (SoundMAX® Integrated Digital HD Audio) is used to generate equal-amplitude sine waves, and a commercial condenser microphone (SONY® ICD-SX700) is used to measure the sound pressure level (SPL) at different frequencies. The software is Room EQ Wizard. (p. 8)

I'm also not sure how expensive the process would be: Multilayer graphene is synthesized on 25-μm-thick nickel foil in a CVD furnace at 1000ºC (p. 6)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:36 PM on March 13, 2013


Just wait till you upgrade to Grado's, Slap*Happy. My portapros are nice for the cubicle but at home it's all about Grado SR80s
posted by Doleful Creature at 7:56 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Got Grados. Tooo biiiig. The plug is obnoxious, can't socket it into an iPad with a case. Cheap, really cheap plastics. Sound is not appreciably better... Koss wins when it comes to bass, Grados are better for vocals, Sennheiser closed folders are better for all-around. I'd put the Porta Pros and Sennheiser PX and Grado 80's all on the same plane, in terms of sound... but the Grados are too big and open, so they sound loud to people in the office and look funny, and the Sennheiser folders are too fragile, so Koss Porta Pros win.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:05 PM on March 13, 2013


So I uh, completely agree with that and am a little unnerved that we seem to have the exact same headphone inventory. I find the Grado's only really do better with some extra juice in the signal.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:10 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


There certainly are good headphones available on the market at the moment, I guess researchers should just give up.
posted by onya at 8:16 PM on March 13, 2013 [18 favorites]


Maybe they should research something that isn't headphones? Beats by Dr. Dretm will outsell them a zillion-to-one no matter how mumbled and tinny the "Beatstm" sound is. There's only the one cord off the one side, and it's red, you see... and it's endorsed by the guy who discovered Emminem and Ice Cube...

Let's admit it kids, your cans can only be as good as the studio gear recording the stuff you listen to. Come up with a mic that outperforms a Neuman for the cost of a Shure, and invent a system that can encode it to a lossless file, on the fly, and then those researchers might be onto something with their novel forms of carbon.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:28 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am compelled to defend the honour of Koss KSC75's, they are also great. Like portapros without looking like they've been snapped off C3PO.
posted by smoke at 8:34 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Graphene has been in the news today, for something else, too.
posted by smoke at 8:42 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm convinced the whole point of Beats by Dre is that they are intended as conspicuous consumption signals now that having a smart phone or iPod means squat. Everybody knows they are not that good so you are showing that you can toss bills around on stuff that isn't even that good. It's like burning money.
posted by srboisvert at 8:43 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


*loquacious beats all the headphone nerds up with a 20 year old pair of Technics DH-1200s and steals their better-sounding headphones*

Yeah, Beats are ass. For the price of a pair of Beats you can choose between dozens of much nicer sounding headphones, but they don't look like a collectible toy costume accessory from a Gorillaz cartoon.

Besides the Grados and ATH-50s and such there's also newer offerings like the weirdly retro looking, all rubber AIAIAI TMA-1s which sound fucking phenomenal for about $200 and a small earcup. Don't let the "DJ headphone" description scare you. Those things are cleaner and drier than silk sheets.
posted by loquacious at 8:51 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beats suck, we just did that.
posted by onya at 8:55 PM on March 13, 2013


Cheap iPod china knockoffs. Because I'll lose 'em or break 'em anyway, and any headphone is so much better than no headphone it really doesn't matter.
posted by cccorlew at 8:55 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


it actually doesn't look like the graphene headphones were much better, except at the very high frequencies, unless you notice that it's a logarithmic plot, which the author doesn't mention.

and no attributions for these figures? so weak

http://www.extremetech.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/frequency-response-graphene-earphone-vs-sennheiser-640x548.jpg
posted by serif at 9:05 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those things are cleaner and drier than silk sheets.

You and I, it would seem, have had different experience with silk sheets.
posted by pleurodirous at 9:24 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm still in love with my MDR-7506s that I have had for a number of years. Not sure if I have a good ear or not, but they seem crisp at all ranges and I can listen to them for hours, especially after I had to replace the pads and picked up some of those velour jobbies. It's like comfortable slippers for my ears.
posted by tripping daisy at 9:26 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


A good bit of the non-flatness could be due to the microphone, though; it's not some high-end measurement microphone, it's just the integrated microphone of a portable voice recorder. As for the log plotting of the frequencies, it's pretty standard for audio, since it does map relatively well to our hearing.

They also don't indicate what kind of smoothing they're using, which is another Capital Sin of specmanship.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:27 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


No no guys. If you want anything resembling true audio fidelity, you all need to run screaming out of your houses to the nearest Amazon.com distribution center, slip in screaming and under cover of night, and larceny yourselves a set of BestDealUSA Blue Rabbit 3.5mm Earphone Clip Style In-ear Headphones For iPhone iPad Mp3 Mp4. We're talking frequency response. We'are talking ohms. We're talking form factors. I'm serious. Why buy a single pair of Koss Porta-Pros when you could literally purchase TEN of these. That's TWENTY individual earbuds. The Amazon rating speaks for itself. You know what you get when you multiply an Amazon customer rating of 2.2 stars? TWO HUNDRED TWENTY TWO STARS, AT LEAST twice as good as those crummy Koss headphones. You may commence to your screaming and running.
posted by The White Hat at 9:29 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


As for headphones, the only ones I can tolerate are Texas headphones, like the guy in the bottom picture here.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:33 PM on March 13, 2013


The point of the article isn't really that they made some super-duper headphones. The MX-400 they're compared to are really cheap stuff, and as I've said their measurement rig is pretty ghetto. It's that two guys messing around in the lab were able to make decent-sounding headphones without trying too hard (whereas conventional headphones are the result of a large amount of development).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:40 PM on March 13, 2013


I don't think anyone should have headphones.
posted by serif at 10:04 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If that graphene-based speaker can make my guitar amp less heavy, I'm in.
posted by awfurby at 11:23 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Arguing over the best earbud style headphones is like deciding the best sounding clock radio.

Give me gigantic over-the-ear Sennheisers or stick me in a room with a pair if Klipschorns,please.

Barring that, a dozen pairs of 99 cent earbuds should last me til the end of the year, thanks.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:38 PM on March 13, 2013


It's that two guys messing around in the lab were able to make decent-sounding headphones without trying too hard

Yeah, well and more then that this isn't so much about "oh this technology renders all prior earbuds obsolete" but rather simply doing some science and finding out about the electrostatic properties of earbuds.

And it could be that this technology might make really cheap earbuds sound as good as really high-end systems in the future. I mean graphine is really easy to make.
posted by delmoi at 3:37 AM on March 14, 2013


ShutterBun: "Arguing over the best earbud style headphones is like deciding the best sounding clock radio.

Give me gigantic over-the-ear Sennheisers or stick me in a room with a pair if Klipschorns,please.
"

I'm still trying to find a set of over-the-ear phones that don't press my ears into the rests from my glasses, causing pain after a while.
posted by Karmakaze at 5:47 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


it's a logarithmic plot

the most nefarious kind
posted by echocollate at 5:47 AM on March 14, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have to step up for my Audeze LCD-2—they sound amazing combined with a proper amplifier. Easily the best sound I've had the pleasure of experiencing.

The great thing about headphones is that even high-end gear is fairly reasonable priced, so it is possible to experience good sound without a considerable budget.

During winter I use Beyerdynamics DT770 with an Epiphany EPH-O2 amp—it's bulky, but it keeps my ears warm and sounds great.

Friends do not let friends use earbuds—at least let them listen to what they are missing.
posted by bouvin at 8:02 AM on March 14, 2013


That's a hugely uneven frequency response.
posted by eatyourlunch at 10:10 AM on March 14, 2013


That's a hugely uneven frequency response.
Well, you should be able to adjust that electronically, right?
posted by delmoi at 10:30 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Arguing over the best earbud style headphones is like deciding the best sounding clock radio.


There are some exceptions. They are out of my price range, but I had a set of OK2's (back when they were less expensive) and they sounded really good.
posted by rtimmel at 10:36 AM on March 14, 2013


I've used a pair of open back AKG's for close to 4 years now at work, wearing them for about 6-13 hours a day. They are unbelievably comfortable, and the sound isn't fatiguing. I've used Grados/Sennheisers in the past, and the sound has been just as good, but for sheer comfort the AKG's are the best. Bonus - they are very large and you will somewhat resemble a Cyberman when wearing them.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:25 PM on March 14, 2013


I'll have to try a pair out, once graphene costs less than a million dollars an ounce.
posted by Twang at 3:52 PM on March 14, 2013


Those two frequency response graphs are seriously not even close.

Of course, with no scale on the "level" (db) axis, it's hard to tell what's actually happening, but it sure looks like the graphene starts a relatively steady drop-off starting at about 400 Hz - that's a long damn way from "flat" frequency response.

And seriously, no scale on the db?? What the hell kind of graph is that?? A Bullshit Graph, says I.

And this sentence in the last paragraph or the ExtremeTech article: "In all likelihood, following some more research, graphene will go on to become the material of choice for studio speakers " is just snort-inducingly clueless about the design, construction, and marketing of "studio" speakers.

Nice try, ExremeTech WriterGuy, but no.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:28 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wasn't the catch with electrostatic speakers, (which use Mylar rubbed with graphite instead of graphene sheets,) that it required high voltage transformers, and electrified grids, and the toddlers could stick their fingers and paper clips and stuff in and get an electric shock? So they lost out on wife approval?
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:14 PM on March 14, 2013


All the hot new tennis rackets are graphene as well, interesting indeed. Until I heard about graphene in other settings I assumed it was just more tennis racket woo.
posted by Cosine at 7:19 PM on March 15, 2013



I'll have to try a pair out, once graphene costs less than a million dollars an ounce.
It's a single layer of atoms thick. One ounce is 36,385 square meters.
posted by delmoi at 9:00 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "

I'll have to try a pair out, once graphene costs less than a million dollars an ounce.
It's a single layer of atoms thick. One ounce is 36,385 square meters
"

Or, to put it differently, one gram of graphene would cover a quarter of a football field.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:11 PM on March 17, 2013


Well, you should be able to adjust that electronically, right?

Probably not. You can do some adjustment, but when it's that uneven, trying to put more power at the frequencies where it's weak would probably just make it overheat or make the diaphragm hit the stops. Trying to attenuate where it's strong would kill your sensitivity.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:52 AM on March 18, 2013


« Older I feel creatively emboldened to personally say so...  |  I walked into the kitchen and ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments