Even without sampling them, people from fifty countries have opted to pre-order the Sonic Lamb headphones on Indiegogo. That's what one of the impossibly young founders, Navajith Karkera, of the Indian startup that created and is selling the headphones told Fortune India. Rapture Innovation seems to have somewhat serendipitously stumbled upon the idea of creating the Sonic Lamb headphones when working on audio aids that use skin and bone conduction to convey sound. Sound quality from headphones is very subjectively experienced, but likes their music to have quite a kick to it, Sonic Lamb is worth exploring.

But it’s interesting that so many bought these headphones based on a video that showed users listening on them. Karkera says that the frequency response charts they posted also helped. These interesting over-ears headphones dispense with noise cancellation and other smart bells and whistles to focus on sound that can be 'felt' and not just heard. Mind you, they're at a very early stage yet and like all products, should evolve over time. 

The Sonic Lamb headphones are packaged in a big sustainable material brown box. Inside there's the typical headphones case. What you get is the headset, USB cable, and an external additional boom microphone that clarifies the voice for calls and recording. You'll notice immediately that the padding on the ear-cups is soft and plush but also looks like it could possibly fray or tear. Rapture Innovation promises they will have replacements ear pads up on their website for purchase. Luckily, these are user-replaceable and really just have to be pushed into slots on the ear-cups. According to Sonic Lamb, they've done their best to make sure the ear-cups don't get too warm - more than ever important in places like India, where it can get hot and humid. They do get slightly warm, in fact, and there's no mistaking the relief on taking them off, but, such is the case with most headphones.

Comfort-wise, the Sonic Lamb are a mixed bag at the moment. But again, most headphones are just that. They look quite straightforward and no-fuss, but miss out on being articulate enough to fold inwards. No matter. One can feel the presence of the headband pressing down, despite cushioning. Perhaps the biggest design related issue is the buttons for power, play, navigate, pair etc. These sit far back on the right ear-cup and are very plasticky and inset, so it takes quite some time for muscle memory to form on where to find them quickly and how much to press down.                                                             

Hybrid driver

What makes the Sonic Lamb sound different are the patented hybrid drivers used to deliver high fidelity and immersive sound akin to live music or on a HiFi system. These are 40mm Dynamic 27mm Impulse. Sonic Lamb is tested and tuned in Denmark at Sound Hub (used by Bang & Olufsen). But ultimately it is designed and manufactured in India. It's based on the concept that sound is not just auditory, but also a physical experience in which one doesn't just hear but also feel sound through our body which is mainly bass. Hi-fi systems, as we know, use a subwoofer to reproduce this sound that adds to life-like and immersive sound. However, headphones aren't able to match the technology to reproduce this physical aspect. Sonic Lamb tries to emulate a subwoofer to add a brand new dimension to personal audio experience.

The startup believes Sonic Lamb is technically and ideologically different from conventional headphones that produce sound waves through air in each ear cup. Rather, it combines traditional sound wave transmission for mid and high frequencies (vocals and instruments) with a proprietary impulse driver for low frequency that translates audio signals into mechanical impulse.These impulses are transferred from the specially designed ear pads, called Wooferpads. It achieves a wide frequency range with combination of air, bone, and skin conduction. 

Feeling the music

On the right ear-cup and easily within reach is a dial button that can be stopped at four positions to get different sound modes or presets. The first is 'Hear' and it’s the most balanced and clear of the lot with the subwoofer softened. It's the right mode for speech, podcasts, instrumental music, classical and calls. The next level is 'Feel' which steps up the bass a little for more full-blooded sound. Blues, jazz, vocals, guitar music, etc sound good with this mode. Next is the 'Immerse' mode which has the subwoofer being very present and delivering strong bass. Electronic music, trance, hip hop, rock, rap and so on would fit this mode, if the listener is a bass-head. Finally there’s the 'Beast' mode meant for gaming and movies. Most headphones have equalisers and allow users to create presets, but these are just a reach away and it’s easy enough to change the mode for a track on the fly. 

The Sonic Lamb headphones sound very good and have great clarity rubbing shoulders with a punch bass. But the Immerse and Beast modes can definitely get overwhelming with the strength of the low frequencies, specially at a high volume. It can be exciting for short intervals while watching a film and feeling the sound the way the makers intend, but for long music sessions with that much bass, it can get fatiguing. Luckily one can just step it down with a touch.

The Sonic Lamb headphones use the Bluetooth 5.1 Apt-X Adaptive codec. Multipoint connectivity is supported. They have a 1400mAh battery that lasts 24 hours of continuous playing but that amount depends on which mode one uses. In our testing, the initial charge didn’t run out over some days of listening for medium length sessions.

There's meant to be a companion app with these headphones but for now, it doesn’t seem to be ready. 

Although still a work in progress, at ₹15,999 (later to be ₹19,999) the Sonic Lamb headphones are astonishingly good for the price. And it’s no less impressive that they’re made in India. 

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