Rebuff Reality has taken its latest VR accessory, VR Ears, to Kickstarter with the hopes of bringing an enhanced audio solution to all major headsets, including those with sub-par or no integrated audio like PSVR, Quest, and Rift S. In its final week, the project is well past its goal as it closes in on $200,000.

Update (May 15th, 2020): In its last week on Kickstarter, the VR Ears crowdfunding campaign has raised $181,000. While the project has blasted past its $30,000 goal and may well reach around $200,000 by the end, it will likely fall short of the next stretch goal at $250,000.

Still, the overwhelming success of the campaign shows the demand for better audio on headsets which either have sub-par audio solutions (like Rift S and Quest) or those which have no integrated audio at all (like PSVR).

It remains to be seen how well the VR Ears will actually perform in the audio department, but we’ll be looking forward to testing them once they become available.


Update (May 5th, 2020): The VR Ears Kickstarter has reached $155,000, or 518% of its $30,000 goal. Though the project is well funded, the next stretch goal (a 30% discount voucher for a carrying case) is still a fair distance away at $250,000. With 16 days left though, it’s not out of the question that the campaign gets there.


Update (April 27th, 2020): The VR Ears Kickstarter has more than quadrupled its $30,000 goal, now with just over $125,000 pledged by backers of the project, with more than three weeks remaining in the campaign.

The campaign met its first stretch goal at $100,000, unlocking a 30% discount voucher for VR Ears headstrap (which allows the accessory to be used like a regular pair of headphones without a VR headset). The headstrap will cost $30 before discount.


Update (April 22nd, 2020): The VR Ears Kickstarter has more than doubled its $30,000 funding goal right out of the gate. With 28 days remaining of a 30 day campaign, the project is 247% funded with $75,000 pledged and rapidly approaching its first stretch goal at $100,000 (see below update listing all stretch goals).

757 backers have bought into the project so far. The $80 ‘Super Early Bird’ tier has sold out all 500 units. The $90 ‘Early Bird’ tier has sold 218 of 2,000 units. If that tier sells out, this will leave only the uncapped $100 ‘Kickstarter Special’ tier (and above).

See the original article below for more background on VR Ears and the Kickstarter project.


Update (April 21st, 2020): The VR Ears Kickstarter launched today, aiming to bring an ‘off-ear’ headphone accessory to many major VR headsets. The company behind the project, Rebuff Reality, is aiming to raise $30,000. The company has confirmed that the off-ear headphones will support Rift CV1, Rift S, Quest, original Vive (only with DAS), Vive Pro, Vive Cosmos, PSVR, Valve Index, and Pimax headsets which use the rigid head-mount.

Prices for the clip-on audio accessory start at $80 for the first 500 backers, $90 for the next 3,000, and $100 thereafter. Rebuff Reality says that after the Kickstarter the headphones will retail for $150. The company expects the $80 batch to ship starting in November and the $90 and $100 batches expected in December.

The VR Ears headstrap, which allows the headphones to double as a normal pair of headphones without attaching to a VR headset, looks to be available after the Kickstarter as an additional accessory.

Just a few hours after the campaign launched, the VR Ears Kickstarter has already reached 70% of its goal. With 29 days remaining in the campaign, it seems certain to succeed. Rebuff Reality seems confident too, as it has already outlined stretch goals far exceeding the initial $30,000 goal:

  • $100,000 – 30% discount voucher for VR Ears headstrap accessory
  • $250,000 – 30% discount voucher for VR Ears carrying case
  • $500,000 – 30% discount voucher for 5ft charging cable
  • $750,000 – 30% discount voucher for VR Ear boom mic accessory
  • $1,000,000 – All of the above accessories included for free with any Kickstarter purchase of VR Ears

The original article, which explores the audio landscape of VR headsets and the ‘off-ear’ approach to headset audio, continues below.

Original Article (April 17th, 2020): Since the consumer VR industry kicked off in 2016, more and more headsets are heading toward integrated audio solutions. While the original Vive and PSVR launched without any on-board audio (expecting the user to plug in included earbuds, or their own headphones), both have since made moves to rectify that. HTC launched the Vive Deluxe Audio Strap (AKA DAS) which improved the fit of the headset and added on-board audio, while an updated version of PSVR eventually added more convenient earbuds.

The latest headsets from Oculus—the Go, Quest, and Rift S—all have speakers hidden inside their headstraps. While this is convenient because there’s no headphones to get in the way when putting the headset on, all three leave us wishing for better quality and positional audio accuracy, both of which bring big boosts to immersion.

Valve’s Index headset seems to have found an ideal solution; its ‘off-ear’ audio design means the headphones aren’t in the way when putting the headset on, but at the same time they offer excellent audio quality with high volume and great positional accuracy.

SEE ALSO
Index's 'Off-ear' Headphones Are Its Most Surprising Innovation

VR Ears is a third-party audio accessory aiming to emulate the Index off-ear audio design and bring it to pretty much any VR headset out there thanks to a clip-on approach. The company hasn’t said exactly which headsets it will support, but it has teased compatibility with PSVR, Vive DAS, Rift S, Quest, Pimax, and it can even be used as a standard pair of headphones without a VR headset.

Rebuff Reality, the company behind several other VR accessories, is bringing VR Ears to Kickstarter on April 21st, starting at 10AM PT (you local time here). The company hasn’t yet announced how much they hope to raise for the product, or the expected shipping timeline, but that will be made clear when the Kickstarter launches next week.

Despite emulating the off-ear audio design of Index, there’s no telling what kind of quality VR Ears will bring to the table. Valve invested substantial time into developing the headphones for Index—including the use of some novel drivers that VR Ears are unlikely using—so we’ll be interested to see what the final product ends up sounding like.

Either way, VR Ears has the potential to substantially improve both volume and positional audio accuracy over the likes of Go, Quest, and Rift S, thanks to the use of much larger drivers and the ability to position the speakers directly adjacent to the ear.

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  • kuhpunkt

    “it’s ‘off-ear’ audio design”

    *its design

  • The Index ear speakers use BMR drivers developed specifically for the Index headset in conjunction with Tectonic.

    https://skarredghost.com/2019/12/22/how-to-ergonomics-valve-index-audio/

    I wish this Kickstarter and it’s backers the best of luck, good quality audio is incredibly important for Virtual Reality in terms of presence.

    Anything that can improve the audio whilst minimising setup friction is a good thing. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/77155b02e185c861ef8580e56cfab4e67413a34c0b8c731cf3ff88022d2580ea.jpg

  • I’m very curious about them, because I want to see, ehm hear, if they offer the same quality of the Index. The downside is that they have an internal battery and have to be recharged every eight hours if I remember well…

    • Heliosurge

      Curious as well. Though not bothered by something touching the ears. As your index review on the audio points out where off ear is not a good choice for blocking outside noises.

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      • Leon

        Yes I would rather block out noise.

    • Here are the specifications for index and VR ears.

      Index
      – 37.5mm off-ear Balanced Mode Radiators
      -Frequency Response: 40Hz – 24KHz
      -Impedance: 6 Ohms
      -dBSPL: 98.96 at 1cm.

      VR Ears
      -Near-field 40mm speaker drivers
      -Frequency 60Hz – 20,000Hz
      -Impedance: 6 ohms
      -dBSPL: 99db at 1cm.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/89f5b5022f1a9396ae7deeb10e559e43dc4ea8edef10dfdbe734d43e409ba127.jpg

      • Rupert Jung

        Sooo, seems like (both of them) have a problem with low frequencies / bass?

        • BMR speakers are not known for bass, but tectonic and Valve did a great job on the driver considering its size/weight.

          But I will enjoy more bass weight with my Sennheiser or Logitech headphones, I built this extension to clear my wide face gasket

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b1bfe737f13d1618c7f73d2822b63221eb795f795ec1ebe9e50609e8db02e9b2.jpg

          • Mei Ling

            Is there any way of delivering great bass with these sort of floating headphones, or some sort of ear speakers? Or is it not physically possible?

          • I’m not an audio engineer but I understand there are limits to bass response and air volume when using smaller drivers (to hit weight/size target) in “off ear” design.

            Headphone drivers are generally designed to work inside an enclosure with a seal around the ear.

            I found this in valve’s audio deep dive:

            “While we at Valve were working to improve bass extension through DSP using EQ tuning and algorithms like psychoacoustic bass, Tectonic was working to improve the bass mechanically by optimizing the speaker driver itself.”

          • Moe Curley

            Nice work, looks good.

    • Evol Love

      “if they offer the same quality of the Index”

      0% chance of being of same or similar quality.. however I still hold hope they sound decent.

    • Moe Curley

      Hey Tony! I solved both the driver size and the bass response problem with my home build. What do you think?https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b1ee57ffd8a03a23b1270a21e98f5b025be1be377503c61a24a1708be6a68c1b.jpg

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  • Evol Love
  • Neil Chillingworth

    Im curious to see how these perform having developed my own off ear audio solution using standard full range speaker drivers, together with a small battery pack and amplifier circuit.
    The claimed frequency response is especially interesting and I would love to know what drivers they are using. Im currently using some 40mm drivers that can hit these levels at the required distance from the ear but they loose clarity and definition in the high ranges something the index BMR’s excell at.

  • Ace of Spades

    I found a nice pair of VR headphones for 65$, made in chine so kind of overpriced, but they have version for PSVR, and both latest Oculuses

  • Rupert Jung

    Wonder how this solution deals with the existing HRTFs which are constructed from microphones _inside_ the ears of people. With an off-ear solution you would have to replace the HRTFs to keep the accuracy. It doesn’t seem that anyone, neither Devs, Sony or Oculus themselfs, respect that in any way today. They just seem to use one, single, HRTF lookup-table for each and every audio solution.

  • Stephen

    I refuse to buy the index due to 1 main reason…. not selling on amazon…. second is country dependent, forcing people to pay import charges and more from third parties! and could void warranty..

    Luckily decent companies like, “Oculus, Asus, HTC, Samsung” and loads more are selling on AMAZON!. 10/10 real consumer sales…. steam are anti consumer..

  • david vincent

    $100 for this thing o_O
    I just modded my Rift S with a pair of black Koss KSC75, it’s $17 only and it’s equivalent to CV1 headphones, audio quality speaking.

  • Smokey_the_Bear

    Not surprised they past their goal, as a Quest owner I can say, it’s audio is dog shit.

  • Moe Curley

    Nice to see someone else working on BMR’s but they need some serious work on their industrial design and Why so HUGE? OK, I see in Tony’s comment, they have batteries. Not ideal.

  • Ace of Spadеs

    I found something similar that straps on the side for RIFT S and Quest for just 22USD, has soft headphones

  • JakeDunnegan

    Holy crap! They plan on retailing those for $150??? I mean, jeez. Wow, that’s pricey for something so hardware specific (VR headsets).