Variable Static Audio (VSA) 3D Printed Headphone Impressions
Aug 1, 2023 at 1:55 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 14

msing539

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Variable Static is a Texas-based startup creating 3D printed headphones. Models vary in pricing from about $100-200+ USD depending on driver configuration, including a 'nearfield' option, and some can be ordered in either open or closed back.

The model I purchased is the Static Oval for $150. This is a prototype/early production model and the final will have changes.

_MG_0633.JPG


Build quality is surprisingly robust despite being a 3D print. The entire thing is very lightweight at 258g (without included cable), roughly the same as an HD600. Clamp is light, though it stays in place with the aid of a suspension strap, which does really well at improving comfort even further. The included pads are nice, plush, and deep enough where my ears don't touch. They use an HM5 pad mount so pad rolling is an option.

_MG_0681.JPG
_MG_0685.JPG


As far as sound, the Static Oval is somewhat dark and warm. I say somewhat because there are some lower treble peaks which add a little sparkle/air. Overall, they sound pretty cohesive and something worth looking into at this price point. The one thing I could use more of is bass, which is rolled off. But it will take some EQ, which I recommend.

VSA-Static-Oval-080123.jpeg


So why would anyone take a shot at these? I think comfort and weight are the standout features. By comparison, a Sundara weighs 372g vs. the 258g here. These can be worn all day without fatigue and they'll disappear on your head. Everything is also modular with only a few Philips screws and no glue. The cups pop right off the yokes without any tools at all. And because they're 3D printed, there's no concern with scratching them.

_MG_0657.JPG


Reddit user u/Armored_Soul has started selling these on his site, www.variablestaticaudio.com and here on Reddit.
 
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Aug 1, 2023 at 2:16 PM Post #2 of 14
Variable Static is a Texas-based startup creating 3D printed headphones. Models vary in pricing from about $100-200+ USD depending on driver configuration, including a 'nearfield' option, and some can be ordered in either open or closed back.

The model I purchased is the Static Oval for $150. This is a prototype/early production model and the final will have changes.

_MG_0633.JPG

Build quality is surprisingly robust despite being a 3D print. The entire thing is very lightweight at 258g (without included cable), roughly the same as an HD600. Clamp is light, though it stays in place with the aid of a suspension strap, which does really well at improving comfort even further. The included pads are nice, plush, and deep enough where my ears don't touch. They use an HM5 pad mount so pad rolling is an option.

_MG_0681.JPG_MG_0685.JPG

As far as sound, the Static Oval is somewhat dark and warm. I say somewhat because there are some lower treble peaks which add a little sparkle/air. Overall, they sound pretty cohesive and something worth looking into at this price point. The one thing I could use more of is bass, which starts to roll off around 120hz. But it will take some EQ, which I recommend.

So why would anyone take a shot at these? I think comfort and weight are the standout features. By comparison, a Sundara weighs 372g vs. the 258g here. These can be worn all day without fatigue and they'll disappear on your head. Everything is also modular with only a few Philips screws and no glue. The cups pop right off the yokes without any tools at all. And because they're 3D printed, there's no concern with scratching them.

_MG_0657.JPG

Reddit user u/Armored_Soul has started selling these on his site, www.variablestaticaudio.com and here on Reddit.
Cool idea. Have you ever tried the Thieaudio Ghosts? Curious if they compare in sound, feel, weight, quality, etc.
 
Aug 1, 2023 at 2:22 PM Post #3 of 14
ETA headphones are also 3D printed but they back up their design with extensive measurements and community tour. I would not trust some reddit user printing stuff on his own. Driver tuning is the key and is a mixture of science and art, and as a result is very hard to get right.
 
Aug 1, 2023 at 2:28 PM Post #4 of 14
ETA headphones are also 3D printed but they back up their design with extensive measurements and community tour. I would not trust some reddit user printing stuff on his own. Driver tuning is the key and is a mixture of science and art, and as a result is very hard to get right.
If the product is really cheap, as in the above, and there are enough good reviews it is tempting. Much like the Thieaudio Ghosts.

I looked at ETA a lot on SBAF, but they really just seem to discuss them as a better HD650/HD600. I had each headphone twice and didn't care for them. Didn't see the point of buying modded headphones of models that I didn't like originally.
 
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Aug 1, 2023 at 2:38 PM Post #5 of 14
I've not tried the Ghosts, unfortunately. He has graphs for the nearfield version--let me see if he has for these Ovals.
 
Aug 1, 2023 at 3:01 PM Post #6 of 14
Here's the graph from the Static Oval using MiniDSP Ears. That Reddit user is on HeadFi, too.

VSA-Static-Oval-080123.jpeg
 
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Aug 1, 2023 at 3:06 PM Post #7 of 14
I mainly post on reddit rather than head-fi, so if you're interested in checking out what I've been doing, feel free to check out my profile!
https://www.reddit.com/user/Armored_Soul

I started designing my own headphones because I wanted to make something actually comfortable. My aim wasn't sound, but comfort. Afterall, actually comfortable headphones aren't that common for some reason. So while the sound quality isn't made to compete with higher end headphones, I made sure to price it accordingly.

Because I wanted to focus on the comfort, I have designed everything, well excluding the earpads, but HM5 earpads are pretty good anyways. It's mainly the headband that most companies fail at designing. Too much clamp and/or stiff, no padding headband. So, my design made sure to fix all that. And of course, since I don't use any glue at all, everything can be easily taken apart to be swapped out and modified to suit your needs when it comes to comfort.
 
Aug 1, 2023 at 3:17 PM Post #8 of 14
I mainly post on reddit rather than head-fi, so if you're interested in checking out what I've been doing, feel free to check out my profile!
https://www.reddit.com/user/Armored_Soul

I started designing my own headphones because I wanted to make something actually comfortable. My aim wasn't sound, but comfort. Afterall, actually comfortable headphones aren't that common for some reason. So while the sound quality isn't made to compete with higher end headphones, I made sure to price it accordingly.

Because I wanted to focus on the comfort, I have designed everything, well excluding the earpads, but HM5 earpads are pretty good anyways. It's mainly the headband that most companies fail at designing. Too much clamp and/or stiff, no padding headband. So, my design made sure to fix all that. And of course, since I don't use any glue at all, everything can be easily taken apart to be swapped out and modified to suit your needs when it comes to comfort.
Comfort is underated. I love my HiFiman and Focal headphones. They are pretty comfortable but...
I recently picked up my cheapest used headphone in years, the ATH-R70X's. More than once I looked on the floor or shelf beside my Lazy-boy after an interruption to put my headphones back on and lo and behold, they were already on. :smile:
The sound didn't blow me away as I thought it was lacking detail on the initial run with them. But due to the Superb comfort, I will give them a few more runs through the rotation.

Comfort really does count. Won't make a crappy headphone good, but it will make you want to keep an open mind.

I hope you do well and I will keep an eye out! :thumbsup:
 
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Aug 15, 2023 at 5:01 PM Post #9 of 14
This is the prototype of the nearfield model from VSA, something like an ear speaker with the driver suspended roughly 2 inches from your ear.

Sound is a little more cohesive than the Static Oval version above and soundstage is also improved. Though I haven't heard a pair in some months, these remind me of the Audio Technica AIR headphones. Open and airy but lacking enough bass for my personal taste.

_MG_0736.JPG


It's my understanding that the final version will look different--these are shots from Armored Soul:

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x4eg04jmakgb1.png


The suspension strap connections are improved here as well. On the Static Oval, the ends are visible--it looks unfinished. On the prototype I have on loan, they're concealed. It seems each iteration improves on the prior, which is commendable. Excited to see what these end up looking like once they're out of prototyping.
 
Aug 15, 2023 at 6:46 PM Post #10 of 14
Here are some pictures comparing the designs:

20230810_204315.JPG

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From left to right: Static Oval, Mk1, Mk2, Mk3, Mk4 Nearfields

Static Oval: This is a more conventional design. I had to get the basics down when designing headphones so this was made. Minor iterations have been made to it already such as adding more venting and making the socket more sturdy. It's designed to be simple and modular and capable of housing most 50mm drivers, and other smaller sized drivers using some adapters such as 45mm, 42mm and 40mm drivers.
Mk1 Nearfield: Was just an experiment to see how a nearfield design would sound. And well, there was a very noticeable improvement in sound quality with the drivers that I have been using.
Mk2 Nearfield: This was a heavily modified Mk1 and was designed to be much more sturdier. It ended up being overly complex and used around 26 screws per earcup. While it succeeded in doing what I wanted to do, it was just way way too complex.
Mk3 Nearfield: This was a complete redesign from the ground up using different modeling techniques. The driver is also located around 10-20cm further away from your ears compared to the Mk1 and Mk2s. Assembly is much much easier and quite a lot was learned when making it. The design was mainly inspired by the Qualia 010.
MK4 Nearfield, AKA Static Satellite: This was designed using the techniques learned from the Mk3s while having the same driver placement as the Mk1 and Mk2s. It only uses 8 screws per earcup now and is much more simple to assemble.

No glue is ever used in any of my designs. Only screws and nuts. All of the same size.

I am constantly testing new things. Such as a fully functioning headset.
 
Aug 16, 2023 at 10:13 AM Post #11 of 14
ETA headphones are also 3D printed but they back up their design with extensive measurements and community tour. I would not trust some reddit user printing stuff on his own. Driver tuning is the key and is a mixture of science and art, and as a result is very hard to get right.
ETA started similar to Armored Soul / VSA. I dont wish to disparage ETA because theyve come along way and matured but in the beginning their operation was not trust worthy from both product value and business ethic standpoint.
 
Feb 22, 2024 at 2:44 AM Post #12 of 14
Driver tuning is the key and is a mixture of science and art, and as a result is very hard to get right.
Yes, the tunning and/of housing design is a skill, and help immensely in presentation/character/size of the sonic image.

Yet unfortunately, no amount of design and tunning is going to elevate the headphones in resolve and realism. In the headphone world, transducer speed = resolve.

For that, it simply has to have a better transducer (driver).
Unfortunately, (unlike a planar driver), the "dynamic driver" design has limitations on:
**magnet strength
**magnet area (voice coil area)
**magnet amount
So my point is that unless there is new innovation in dynamic drivers, they have reached a wall and limitation. That's what I realized 3yr ago and have worked on.

But today's engineering doesn't have new ideas, so they play in same rules given. This is why Focal headphones have longer voice coils for their larger magnets. They stay in the same "design box" that that says magnets can only be in voicecoil range to affect it.

Planars on the other hand, can have the ability of many strips of magnets over the metal traces (voice coil) and have arrays/rows of magnets and even double sided, as they have more physical space to play with, so the planar potential for higher resolve is way easier to achieve.

Anyways the point is, that "getting it right" is like chasing the "next best thing", a "never ending " excersise, and that anything new, like these headphones, is actually a good thing. 🙃
 
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Feb 22, 2024 at 3:42 AM Post #13 of 14
The problem with some 3D printed designs, be it ETA yours or others, to me at least, is that they look home made (which they probably are).

They need finishing touches and design refinements to make them viable commercial products.

Sound is one aspect. Comfort another but neither in isolation or together make a finished product.

I appreciate that this is where costs come in and where small 'cottage industry' manufacturers perhaps struggle when competing against larger scales brands, especially if they want to keep end user prices down. That and small/er scale production. On the other hand there are no middle men on a direct sales platform.

Having said all this, there are some high cost headphones that look like they should cost a fraction 🙂.

I think it would be prudent to invest in some market research on how much punters are to be prepared to pay and a design/marketing specialist if it is ever to be more than a hobby.

Only big boys like a Sennheiser can get away with selling a $600 dollar phone in a 50 cent carton box.
 
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Feb 24, 2024 at 8:16 PM Post #14 of 14
The problem with some 3D printed designs, be it ETA yours or others, to me at least, is that they look home made (which they probably are).

They need finishing touches and design refinements to make them viable commercial products.

Sound is one aspect. Comfort another but neither in isolation or together make a finished product.

I appreciate that this is where costs come in and where small 'cottage industry' manufacturers perhaps struggle when competing against larger scales brands, especially if they want to keep end user prices down. That and small/er scale production. On the other hand there are no middle men on a direct sales platform.

Having said all this, there are some high cost headphones that look like they should cost a fraction 🙂.

I think it would be prudent to invest in some market research on how much punters are to be prepared to pay and a design/marketing specialist if it is ever to be more than a hobby.

Only big boys like a Sennheiser can get away with selling a $600 dollar phone in a 50 cent carton box.
I persoanlly find 3d printing to be an ok form of manufacturing if it's done in a way that isn't overdone and very obviously 3d printed. If printing lines were hidden, and smoothened, you basically have something that will go over someone's head as a 3d printed product.

ETA do it pretty well and are getting better each time with their strange designs. They do get customers either way because they sound good haha.
 

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