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What High-Res Means For Headphones: Q&A With Audeze’s Founder

Despite an extremely crowded headphones market, Audeze has been slowly but busily gaining notice for its unusual and high-end Sine headphones, one of the few models in the industry to use an Apple Lightning cable to connect to an iPhone. With rumors building about an upcoming iPhone that will drop the 3.5mm port, the audio company is well-positioned for consumers who want to switch but are seeking better audio quality than what Bluetooth can currently provide.

In this emailed Q&A with Audeze CEO Sankar Thiagasamudram, TWICE gathered the company founder’s thoughts on the potential switch, the challenges of selling high-end headphones to consumers, and the headphones landscape in general.

TWICE: What is your outlook for the headphones category? We saw a huge explosion of players in the market after the success of Beats, but there seems to be some consolidation occurring.
There will be some consolidation, but the barrier of entry is still quite low with a lot of OEM/ODMs in Asia cobbling together new designs; however, we also see many of these brands’ successes are short-lived. We expect more brands to still enter the space, especially trying to address niche markets. More importantly, we see the high-end premium audio quality segment as having the most long-term growth.

TWICE: What are the challenges of marketing high-end headphones to consumers?
Messaging. With a lot of brands clamoring for attention, the signal-to-noise ratio is quite low. Most brands use terms like “studio quality,” “premium sound,” etc., irrespective of the real sound quality they deliver. Moreover, there are no standardized, easy to understand metrics for people to compare one headphone to another. This leads to confusion.

The other issue is the lack of retail outlets that have demo facilities and trained sales professionals for personal audio products. In general, Audeze products should be demoed for customers to understand the product they’re purchasing.

TWICE: How aware are consumers of high-resolution music? What more needs to be done?
While audiophiles are aware of high-resolution and understand the best way to achieve that high quality sound, the general public is just beginning to learn. They are aware of the term high-resolution, but it seems very few understand or have experienced the sonic advantage.

Because of this, we still have a long way to go. When marketing to the mainstream consumer, the user experience has to be seamless and easy. One way we are addressing this issue is with our Lightning connector for iDevices. This makes it easy for the consumer to access and enjoy hi-res music, with the improvement being clearly audible.

See also: Why The Switch To Lightning Is Coming

TWICE: The Sine headphones are one of the few headphones that connect via Apple’s Lightning connector. What has been the reaction from both retailers and consumers?
The reaction has been incredible and overwhelmingly positive. Both Apple and our retailers have received great customer feedback. We are also seeing a shift in demographics with the customer base trending younger for these new products.

TWICE: Do you see Lightning connectors as the future of headphones? What about wireless?
Both Lightning and wireless will be prevalent. We think the mainstream will go toward wireless, but for the audio-conscious consumer, Lightning will be relevant until the wireless audio quality improves.

We think in the future it will be possible to have both and the user can choose whatever he or she wants based on convenience.

TWICE: What do you think retailers could do to improve their headphone sales?
They could demo our headphones and other high-end audio equipment with the proper training and sources.

TWICE: Last but not least, can you share any plans of yours coming down the pipeline?
Not specifically, but we will have some very exciting “industry first” products for this fall and early 2017.