Is the world ready for vacuum-tube wireless headphones? | Cult of Mac

Is the world ready for vacuum-tube wireless headphones?


These new cans try to pub back some of the warmth and realism that digital compression takes away.
These new cans try to restore some of the warmth and realism that digital compression takes away.
Photo: Morpho MFG

This post’s headline sounds like a joke, invoking technology used in antique radios, TVs and amplifiers, but the wireless headphones behind it seem entirely serious.

“écoute: the world’s only vacuum tube headphones, designed to compensate for the deficiencies of digital listening,” say the Indiegogo and Kickstarter funding-campaign pages. The French word “écoute” translates to “listen” in English.

écoute vacuum-tube wireless headphones

The écoute wireless headphones in development claim to create a new version of old-school technology to get the warm sound of an analog hi-fi system playing vinyl records. It’s meant to put back some of the warmth and realism digital file compression for wireless transmission takes away.

As you might guess, the headphones don’t pack your granddad’s big ol’ vacuum tubes in them, with their high cost, fragility, massive energy consumption and likelihood of overheating.

New vacuum tube technology

That's not your grandfather's vacuum tube.
That’s not your grandfather’s vacuum tube.
Photo: Morpho MFG

Instead, the cans pack a Korg Nutube P61, “a next-generation dual-triode thermionic valve (vacuum tube) based on vacuum fluorescent display technology,” said Morpho MFG, the company behind the headphones.

Morpho said it designed the signal path to:

  • Fill out the sound and add warmth to digitally compressed music.
  • Add clarity to the midrange where our ears are most sensitive.
  • Reveal more detail in the instrumentation.
  • Make vocals sound more realistic.

The headphones, with an aluminum body and memory-foam ear pads, also include a Realtek ALC4050 32-bit, 384kHz Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), known for a spacious sound stage, and custom 40mm cellulose drivers with a patented motor drive system, the company said.

It also noted active noise cancellation (ANC) and call answering will be features as of a firmware update coming in spring 2024.

Headphones specs:

  • Impedence: 10 Ohms
  • Dynamic range: 100db
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 5.3 supporting apt-X Adaptive, apt-X LL, LDAC, and AAC.
  • Wireless range 10 meters / 33 feet
  • Analog input: 3.5mm
  • Hi-res digital audio input: USB-C
  • Charging: USB-C
  • Battery life: About 20 hours
  • Pairing: Auto pairing memory of up to 2 devices
  • ANC: Firmware update spring 2024
  • Calls: Answering on paired phone via firmware update spring 2024

Price: Starts at $399

Where to preorder/pledge: Indigegogo or Kickstarter


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