When gaming headphones were first introduced, we definitely went through a couple of pairs trying to find the perfect set. Obviously, sound was of the utmost importance but we couldn’t get over faulty durability and style. Now, thanks to EA SPORTS and Monster, we’ve finally found a pair that’s matched our expectations in quality, performance and design.
The MVP Carbon headphone has been in the works for several years and recently made its debut at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Seeing how EA and Monster are two of the best in their respective fields, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet with Chris Erb (EA SPORTS VP of Brand Marketing), Noel Lee (Founder/CEO of Monster), and Elbert Lee (Monster’s Sr. Product Manager) to discuss their highly anticipated, game-changing collaboration.
Interview by Justin Korkidis (@Say_WordYo)
Can you tell us about the recent partnership between EA SPORTS and Monster, and how the MVP Carbon came about?
Chris Erb: The video game industry has seen a lot of changes over the years and it's really about the shift into social and mobile gaming. So we wondered how we could expand the brand and make gaming better for people through some of the mobile platforms.
Elbert Lee: We've seen a lot of licensing deals with gaming companies and headset manufacturers. There's always an existing headphone, and they take a game title and brand that headset with whatever the game title is. What we do with music is go into the artist's studio and find out what they want to hear, with EA, we said let's go back to the development side and see what those sound engineers expect their gamers to hear.
You see a lot of gaming products out there with a logo that's been slapped on but we wanted more of an ownership space where we could work together to build something great. - Chris Erb
Chris Erb: You see a lot of gaming products out there with a logo that's been slapped on but we wanted more of an ownership space where we could work together to build something great. So, that sparked the conversation with Noel, the founder of Monster, of what is considered a great headset. We connected our audio engineers with Monster's crew to figure out the technical aspect of the high quality sound and how we'd differentiate ourselves from what’s available on the market.
Noel Lee: With EA, it's been an incredible partnership. We've held back going into gaming before because the technology part doesn't come easy, especially when you're trying to design the best. With EA, it's about the top athletes. What I love about athletes is when they're not playing; they're in the game. When I listen to what gamers want and I look at what's out there, I see a lot of opportunity.
How long did it take for the MVP Carbon to get developed?
Chris Erb: I started talking to Monster about two-three years ago about introducing something really different to the market.
Elbert Lee: Before we even got into deals or agreements, we had to see what was authentic for EA, and where they want to go with their brand and customers as they shift into mobile. It's a fast-changing world when it comes to gaming. For Monster, it was how do we get into the gaming space and not do what everyone has already done. The design of the headphone, phonetics of the headphone, comfortability and mechanicals of the headphone, they all have aligned.
Christ Erb: It was a new experience for us to play around with colors and experiment with the look and feel. The original sketches were boxy. We also wanted the ear cups to be rounder to represent our logo so that sort-of redesign totaled about six or seven prototypes.
What are the most important functions that we need to know about?
Chris Erb: First off, the audio is awesome. That's the most important detail. It sounds right whether you're playing games, or listening to music. Secondly, pillow soft earpieces and comfort to match the great sound.
Elbert Lee: Pure Monster sound for gaming. Sound is the #1 reason why you'd want to buy a headset or headphone and not use your existing white ear buds or TV speakers. And, that's what we're known for. A lot of the gaming headphone companies can make a decent sounding headset but at the same time that's not what they've built their heritage on.
Today, a gaming experience is a combination of music and sound effects. This audio must be great for sound, have great articulation, great clarity, and have great dynamics to make you feel in the game, but it also has to be great for music. Most of the gaming headsets out there, when you play music on it, it sounds horrible. That's not acceptable for Monster and that's not acceptable for EA SPORTS. - Noel Lee
Noel Lee: Today, a gaming experience is a combination of music and sound effects. This audio must be great for sound, have great articulation, great clarity, and have great dynamics to make you feel in the game, but it also has to be great for music. Most of the gaming headsets out there, when you play music on it, it sounds horrible. That's not acceptable for Monster and that's not acceptable for EA Sports.
Elbert Lee: It had to be best in class. From a quality standpoint we've always did this with our cables and connectors so it always had to be a first-rate build headphone from the ground up.
Chris Erb: Truthfully, gamers are rough on products and other headsets break often so we had to consider the flexibility of our design. You're going to spend money on this product so we wanted to make sure they were durable. The microphone is something I'm really proud of. Whether your right or left handed you can move the mic and move the cord to the gamers’ preference, and toggle between smartphone and gaming headpiece modes.
Elbert Lee: You can flex the hell out of that headband. This actually served two purposes, too. The ultra flexibility allowed us to tweak the clamping force so no matter who you put it on it won't fatigue their ears. We put memory cushion inside the ear cushions, which is pretty comfortable. And again, durability was king.
The functionality sounds really appealing.
Chris Erb: This product is targeted for gamers but it's really a lifestyle headset.
Noel Lee: We believe that it should be one headphone. So you rock that in comfort and have the ability to wear it for a long time. If you're wearing it for gaming why shouldn't you wear that for music? So it's kind-of like two headsets in one.
Chris Erb: Also, there's total multi-platform usage. We didn't build a headset for an X-Box or Playstation, we built a headset that could be used with everything. You can be on the sofa gaming, and go and plug it into your iPod and hit the road.
Awesome. So, what's the next phase?
Noel Lee: We have this concept called Ménage à trois. It takes three (components) to market any consumer electronics product: 1) It has to be fashionable and look good. 2) It has to have influential brand ambassadors. 3) Technology, you've got to have the goods. It has to be real and have a clear advantage. Both in sound, performance, comfort. Combine those three and you have a fusion reaction. It's like nuclear.
Finally, when can we expect a release?
Chris Erb: Look for it towards the end of February, early March. You'll find them at GameStop for sure, and soon after that they'll be available in more stores.
Elbert Lee: Game Stop is the first national retailer. This is the first hardware that they've ever actually took pre-orders for!