Who Needs Headphones Specifically Designed For Watching Porn?

No one.

|
04 July 2014, 6:00am

Taiwan is a fairly filth-friendly island. Unlike on more conservative mainland China, it’s not uncommon to be able to buy dildos openly at night markets there, and earlier this year the region’s first sex-themed restaurant, Funny Sex, opened in Kaohsiung.

With the place being a hotbed of the electrics industry too, it’s little surprise that the Taiwanese are often a few steps ahead of the pack in the sex toy stakes. Still, when I heard that a Taiwanese company called LovePalz recently came up with earphones designed to enhance the experience of watching porn, I did wonder why.

Who would spend $39 [£22] on a pair of headphones for use purely whilst watching a bluey? And does the disconcerting hardcore porn connoisseur really care about audio quality when he or she is watching Schindler’s Fist or Anal-ize This?

After ordering a press sample, I spoke to Oni Chen, platform director of the product. “Our headphones are tuned to focus on the sound of human voices,” he said. “For example if you like jazz music you’ll have headphones tuned for jazz.”

The LovePalz marketing blurb claims the product makes female voices, “More pleasing and less sharp and male voices fuller and rounder.” Chen said he employed a crack team of testers who gave guidance about what they were after in their porno sounds, then tuned accordingly.

To be fair, the product was designed for couples’ Skype sex sessions as well as pimply teenagers watching video grot in their bedrooms with the curtains drawn. But either way, isn’t this just pointlessly fine-tuning an aspect of porn that is always going to be a distant second to the visual element?

“Most people don’t normally pay attention to the sound,” said Chen. “It’s just there happening naturally. But if you turn the sound to mute it’s weird. And we found that if we improved the sound quality people said, ‘That’s different’. Also, I personally don’t use earphones when watching porn, but some people need to if they share a flat with their family.”

When the earphones arrived, I couldn’t help thinking they could have made the packaging a bit sexier. At least have them in a velvety box with the two gender logos on them or something. But the proof is in the pudding, so I loaded up RedTube and compared and contrasted the sound quality between my common or garden earbuds and my new Ladobi.

The results were unspectacular. The vocals did sound a touch sharper than those fed through the normal earbuds, but it didn’t feel like an effect I couldn’t have achieved with a few tweaks of my laptop audio settings. Plus, the difference could have been the result of placebo. But to be sure I wasn’t somehow missing out on the most sexually revolutionary product since the curry flavoured condom I enlisted three volunteers – one more guy and two girls – to test them too.

Anonymous Girl Tester one:

How were the porno headphones compared to the normal ones?
The difference was so slight I could barely notice it. I’d just come home from yoga, so I watched a video named Petite Yoga Cutie Gets The Fuck Of Her Life, and after replaying a couple of times I realised the porn headphones brought out the subtler, whispering notes in the audio. The ‘breathiness’ of the heavy breathing became more perceptible and less grunt-like.

They supposedly make female vocals, “more pleasing and less sharp and male voices fuller and rounder.” Was that the case?
The guy had a silent role, or was a very well endowed mute, so I can’t really speak for the "roundness and fullness" of his voice. The girl gave giggly dirty chat and lots of "sexy" howling, shrieking and at one point whinnying, oddly. I didn’t think her voice was made more pleasing. I couldn’t pick up a noticeable difference when it came to the screaming, for example, which for a female voyeur is often the most uncomfortable part given the rape-y connotations.

Is sound important in porn?
Yes! It’s up there with narrative and plot. If the sound is poor quality, or equally if the plotline stinks, then it’s an irritation that distracts from the overall enjoyment of film, which should culminate in a warm fuzzy relaxed feeling. As for the actual sounds that are made – guttural moaning, timid squeaky "instructions" – this is a fundamental ingredient that decides whether a movie will live or die. As a woman, I’m not a big fan of all the screamy stuff. It sounds fake because it is, and therefore undermines the whole fantasy element. Also sometimes it sounds like the women are being hurt which is not cool for obvious reasons.

Do you watch much porn? Would you be tempted to use these headphones again?
I have watched it in the past but don’t use it on a regular basis. I would not use the phones again.

Anonymous Male Tester One

How were the porno headphones compared to the normal ones?
I watched Prison Bad Girls 2 – Drop The Soap, and found using the headphones a decisively unsexy experience. The near-luminous yellow of the buds was unattractive, and the fact that there is a mic attachment seems to indicate they were just repurposed headphones from a mobile phone. Their banality left me pretty frigid.

Did they make female sounds, “more pleasing and less sharp and male voices fuller and rounder”?
For starters, if you’re watching porn with sharp female shrieks you’re probably watching the wrong stuff (though different strokes and all that). But I can’t say the porno ‘phones enhanced my viewing pleasure. They sounded slightly louder, but that’s about it and that came with the issue of increased background fuzz.

Is sound important in porn?
No-one likes cold, silent sex and watching porn on mute is similarly unsatisfying. The various moans of pleasure and grunts of exertion are part of the experience of sex and a very arousing aspect of it. Of course, you want that replicated in your pornography.

Would you be tempted to use them again?
I can’t say I’d be tempted. Sure, using headphones means my flatmate can’t listen in on what I’m watching, which is a bonus, but the sound quality isn’t that good and they’re not especially comfortable. Also, the short cord means they’re only good for watching something on your computer. If you’ve got a DVD you want to watch, your face is going to be right up next to the screen.

They cost $39. Good value?
$39 doesn’t mean you’re being supremely shafted – unlike one of the actors in the film I watched – but it’s a bit much for some headphones that aren’t of great quality. You can go on Amazon and get a half-decent pair of Sennheiser headphones for less, so why bother with these?

How would you improve them?
I’d make the design more appealing; make them look less like something you’d see in motorway service station or that’s fallen out a Christmas cracker.

Anonymous Female Tester Two

What video did you watch, and how were the porno headphones compared to the normal ones?
Though Homy MILFs Artistic Facial [sic] promised rich rewards, I was attracted to the superior production values and artful cinematography of a company called Nubile Films, and went for their Passionate Fuck With Redhead. The headphones did a better job at blocking out external noise than my Apple-made buds. Overall the LovePalz headphones were less tinny.

Did they make female vocals, “more pleasing and less sharp and male voices fuller and rounder”?
It felt a bit like there was a woman just behind me, rasping and grunting into my neck. On screen the white stucco balcony and terracotta vase suggested a Magaluf villa, so I liked to imagine the couple were enjoying a sweet holiday fling. As the acoustic guitar soared over the opening credits (“starring Kattie Gold”) I regretted having headphones at all. As Kattie slipped off Sergio’s pants and started giving him a blowjob the music was replaced by moans, a frenetic flesh-on-flesh slapping and squeaks from the pouf they were performing on (first doggy, then all sorts).

Is sound important in porn?
My video eschewed dialogue. It was a bit National Geographic. I wasn’t after a sonnet but a line or two of sexy chat would have created a richer soundscape.

As it turns out LovePalz porno headphones are not going to revolutionise the act of cracking one off, and will likely remain a curiosity of Asia’s pleasingly bonkers sex appliance industry. The Beats By Dre boardroom committee members can exhale a collective sigh of relief for now.

More VICE
Vice Channels