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Alpine Electronics Moves Into Headphones

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. — Alpine Electronics officially expanded beyond the car electronics space last week with the unveiling of its first headphones, an over-ear Bluetooth model with diamond-shaped ear cups.

The headphones, which are accompanied by a customizable iPhone app, feature 40mm drivers, 24-bit stereo audio analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog converter, Bluetooth Low Energy, and a rechargeable lithium- ion battery with a 10-hour life. The included Alpine Level Play app filters a user’s music library into “energy” levels and provides adjustable playlists based on those levels — for example, a high-energy playlist for gym workouts.

The headphones will come in white or black on Oct. 17 in Apple Stores at a $299 suggested retail. The company said it will use Apple Stores to launch the product but plans to have an Android-capable version early next year.

TWICE peppered Tom Yamasaki, president of the Alpine Electronics of Silicon Valley division, with questions via email last week regarding the manufacturer’s motivations and plans for the new product category.

TWICE: Why the decision to branch out beyond the car electronics category?

Yamasaki: Increasingly, mobile devices and Cloud content significantly impact the car electronics category. In addition, cars are not as central to lifestyle as previous generations. This “branching out” is the first step to connect with new customers and to connect with people beyond the car and into lifestyle.

TWICE: Headphones is a very crowded category. What motivated you to enter this particular space?

Yamasaki: For everyone currently in this space, we agree that it is crowded. If we consider those headphones that are attempting to deliver a listening experience, we believe there are a unique opportunity to evolve this category-blending app, content and services, and great hardware. Our headphones are an initial step. You will soon see a version of our Level Play application adapted for in-vehicle application in our connected head units.

TWICE: How do you plan to stand out from the competition?

Yamasaki: [Our proprietary] TKR3 Immersion Technology to feel the music. Next, we think the tuned 40mm drivers along with amplifiers and digital signal processors all combine for amazing sound. Finally, the Level Play app allows the user to v i s u a l i z e their music in a different manner. All these elements combine to create a unique listening experience.

TWICE: What kind of marketing plans will accompany the new headphones?

Yamasaki: We are utilizing nontraditional marketing tactics to promote these headphones, and will gradually increase as they expand into the market.

TWICE: Why the decision to package the headphones with an app?

Yamasaki: Again, we wanted to create a new way to visualize playback — one free from selecting artist or genre. Simply, I want hard-hitting music, or I want to just mellow-soft music. It was our attempt at creating a listening experience

TWICE: Any plans down the road for an in-ear model?

Yamasaki: Yes, in the future roadmap, we have plans for an active lifestyle in-ear model.