I like headphones, but headphones rarely love me back.
Most headbands rarely fit well; usually within about fifteen minutes I start to feel uncomfortable pressure at some spot on my (admittedly lumpy) head. The same is true for most ear pads; I can't seem to help but fiddle with their position. And I'm the king of accidentally getting the cord tangled up.
In short, most headphones make me act like a kid wearing a necktie for the first time.
Then there's the sound. I'm far from an audiophile, but I can tell the difference between great sound and mediocre sound. And then there's the "earphone fatigue," that quasi-headache/over-caffeinated feeling you get when the sound of most headphones begins to grate on your ears and your nerves. (That's especially true for all those over-modulated and under-produced podcasts -- the content may be great, but with the wrong headphones, the sound quality wears you out.)
So yeah. Headphones rarely love me back.
Except these: Double Zero, a new brand of high-definition, over-the-ear headphones. They fit great. They're lightweight yet solidly made. They sound great, especially with heavy metal or what you think of as "classic rock," but someone my age calls "good music."
There's no headphone fatigue; on a long flight I listened to the first five Zeppelin albums back to back -- I lost a bet -- and while Robert Plant's voice did start to wear on me, the headphones never did.
They even slip easily into their shock-resistant case, unlike many headphone/case combinations that are like putting together a three-dimensional puzzle.
And at $199, the price is right; I have a pair of $450 headphones that don't sound and fit as well as these.
In fact, I like my Double Zero headphones so much I asked to speak with the guy who designed them. It turns out he's not the headphone version of Jony Ive, though.
Double Zero headphones are designed by Zedd, the multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning artist, DJ, and producer.
Yep. This guy.
Not only does he have the #1 song on the iTunes Chart, he was nice enough to take my call.
Everything starts with "why?" So why headphones?
"Headphones are something I use a lot, obviously, but I wasn't planning on making them," he said. "I was in Japan and some friends showed me Transformers headphones they had created. They were more toy than headphone since the point was to be able to transform them into toys. But I thought they sounded incredible, and wanted to use them as the basis for a good-looking headphone."
So where did you start?
"We started with a mood board," he said. "I wanted to create a slick, sexy, timeless look. As for the sound, we used the headphones that I thought sounded great as the basis. The process was more changing parts and design to get the sound right, than starting from scratch."
You make that sound easy... but I'm sure it was anything but.
"I didn't know how to tune headphones," he said, "and I was surprised to find that it is a very analog process: changing shapes, filling holes with different types of materials, tweaking and testing and tweaking... I sat and listened to my own songs for hours and hours until I found the sound that was closest to how I know my music should sound."
But still: Why headphones, when the headphone space is already crowded?
"We talked about that a lot," he said. "I think when you create something great, there's always room. Headphones are something I need, millions of other people need... and it's fun to carry my own product around." (Laughs.)
"I didn't decide I wanted to make headphones, and then start searching for someone to work with. This project started because I was shocked by how good those headphones sounded."
Many entrepreneurs create something new because they're intrigued by the process.
"I've never created anything physical, other than merchandise, which is very simple," he said. "There were so many things to think about, especially making physical product you're really specific about. I'm super specific about every single detail of my music -- I can tune a snare until it's perfectly tuned, faded to the perfect length... but when you work on headphones there are so many small details that impact other details. For example, you can plug the cable into the left or the right headphone, which is great... but just having that little hole in the ear pad you're not plugged into can change the sound in that ear. There's a tiny difference, but it's there, and it matters.
"I didn't know all those little things," he said, "and it was fascinating. I would never have learned any of this if I hadn't decided to give making headphones a try."
And that's why entrepreneurs are the coolest people. An entrepreneur doesn't just see a problem and complain. An entrepreneur doesn't see an opportunity and wonder why someone doesn't seize it. An entrepreneur doesn't just pick up a toy and idly think, "Hmm. I can do something cool with this."
An entrepreneur thinks, "Hmm. I will do something with this."
And then an entrepreneur actually does.
And sometimes, the end result is great.