Just saw the tweet that said Val is the Steve Jobs of the headphone world. If only she knew about Head-Fi.
Steve Jobs - Maniacal control freak who never let input from focus groups or his engineers (all-glass body is too fragile, metal band around phone will interfere with internal antenna) alter his view of form over function or vice versa. Steve controlled every aspect of design, down to the type of silicon used in his products. Whatever Steve wanted, Steve got.
Val Kolton - Not only open to suggestions from his engineers, but open to suggestions and feedback from the audio community and his fan base. Participates extensively on the Head-Fi forums keeping the community updated on nearly every detail of the production process while actively seeking advice on his upcoming products in the months (and weeks) leading up to the product's release.
The only commonality I find between you two are you are both extremely hardworking, visionary geniuses who, through your uncompromising ideals toward product design, create justified fanboyism based solely on the quality of the products you produce.
I guess that tweeter was half-right.
I have to admit when I first met Val last year, I had good impressions and I was running around telling my friends that he was like the Steve Jobs of headphones too (makes me curious whose tweet you came across now!!). However the perspective I was coming from is this new style of business where the top CEOs/Founders of decent corporations are reachable by their end customers. A far cry from the older business style where the CEOs were untouchable.
Although Jobs has his own autocratic style of running Apple, I think the term "control" should probably be defined a little better. I'm sure Steve didn't investigate and analyse everything himself personally, and get his lieutenants to do so, but he was the final man to ok and choose their findings.
Val is definitely more in touch with his end customers, not just on a daily basis, but some times many times a day and this approach has worked very well from him. Even the other big corporations are learning from him.
In last month's Fujiya Avic Spring Festival, we had a huge & very established Japanese corporation invite us head-fiers to their studio. They talked to us, showed us some of their offerings, asked for feedback, etc. Now this is VERY surprising for such a large corporation to start focusing on end customers where previously they would get some famous celebrity to review/comment on their products and the results of that review gets marketed through magazines, TV programs, etc.
I'd personally still think Steve and Val are similar in that they have changed business marketing strategy setting a lead to other corporations and businesses to change their tactics.