And then you moved onto headphones?
Yes. From there we started developing the headphones. Then as we were developing those we had some good friends in some some good theaters, particularly around the northeast, and we were going to put some the Packable Wireless System in them. The Capitol Theater was opening in Portchester, NY and we had an opportunity, so we decided to build some bookshelf speakers. And when we started building them and designing them we were like, Wow, we've got another really cool product on our hands that I think would be really great to bring to the marketplace as well. And what was cool was that that did really come from a one-off project that went from the Capitol Theater and is now in Terminal 5 here in New York, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, The Sinclair in Boston, and in Union Transfer in Philly. What's cool about that from our perspective is that we're getting musicians to listen to our speakers. And there's no pressure, we're not asking them to do anything with them. For us to get some independent third-party validation from people who are actually making the music completes the circle.
A lot of the most successful brands have an interesting back story. But you telling me that you had products in all these music halls... it seems like a great back story: Before we reached consumers were already in places where professional musicians were.
And who better to get feedback from? We're getting calls being like, "Bob Dylan listened to your speakers and he liked them." There's something cool about that, right? I think that we've always said we're guys in black t-shirts not white lab coats because it's more about the understanding and the passion and the feeling you get when you're listening to music and the feeling of being at a show. We're not just making up a story. We live that story. To your point, to put it in the places we've spent tons and tons of time having musicians listen to it and validate it before it goes out to consumers and really hits the marketplace. We love it. It's a labor of love for us. Is it difficult to drive to Boston for the weekend to install a pair of speakers in an afternoon and come back? It is. But it's totally worth it because we enjoy doing it.
When I worked at Altec, they had this boombox. It sounded great. Dave did all the engineering for it. We had it in our living room and my wife hadn't said anything to me about it. My last day at Altec, I show up at home and she was like, "Great, get it out of the living room." Because it wasn't that blend of design. What we're doing is furniture-quality level stuff that you'll display proudly in your home. You'll want people to see it. You want to be able to talk about it. If you come into my house you'll see music posters. It's obvious that my wife and I listen to music a ton. Now to have something that we can proudly display in the house from a design perspective that also sounds amazing is a win/win.
"We've always said we're guys in black t-shirts not white lab coats because it's more about the understanding and the passion and the feeling you get when you're listening to music and the feeling of being at a show."
A lot of companies come out and they only have headphones and small speakers. Are the bookshelf speakers your ace in the hole?
I think it's the difference between being a lifestyle company and an audio company. The truth is there's a lot of brands that go over to China, go to a manufacturer, look at a catalog, and say, "Give me that one and slap my logo on it." That's why you see tons and tons of new lifestyle companies coming out with new headphones, earbuds, small portable speakers. But that's not what we're doing. We've designed everything from the ground up. So, yeah, the bookshelf speakers are a reflection of that because we've got real audio engineers who are working on our stuff. We've got really good industrial design guys who are working on our stuff. So, yeah, I think it does set us apart. We're a real audio company that has a real lifestyle element because of our passion for music. The bookshelf speakers are a manifestation of that.
Can you talk about the headphones you guys have?
Around the in-ears, one of the biggest differences is the natural wood casings. It's all FSE certified walnut. It's done with a hand oil finish. And what we found is, we're working with a partner who develops thousand-dollar microphones and we intentionally choose that partner because of their high quality standards. If they can make thousand-dollar microphones they can make $99 headphones. To do that in a way that's different and use natural materials, for us, is a real differentiator in the marketplace. There are tons and tons of ear buds in the market place. There are even a lot that are made of wood, but i don't think there are a lot that are built to the quality standards that we have and that we design to.
It's the same for the over-ear headphones. We had conversations with a lot of people who were like, "Why don't you make the ear cups out of plastic and put a wood coating around it." And it's like, "Well, because that's not a wooden earphone." Then it's just a plastic ear phone with a wood coating.
Were they saying that for financial reasons?
It was financial and it was also an unfamiliarity with working with the materials. A lot of these companies were like—big, big headphone manufacturers that build really well-known brands—"just put wood around it so you can control it." And we were like, no we have standards and we're going to keep those standards. I think where we distinguish ourselves is with the natural sound and the design factor. There's not a lot out there that look like what we've got.