I was walking around CES in January looking for cool products to listen to when a fabulously blinged-out booth caught my attention. Enter A-Audio. The styling of the headphones was eye-catching, but I’ve become a skeptic of sleek-looking products having the sound chops to back up their aesthetics.
I put them on and started scrolling through the iPad. Props to A-Audio for loading their sources with some fairly well-recorded mainstream music, it was a nice change from all of the Audiophile-approved tracks you typically hear at shows. First impressions were quite positive, and I found myself bobbing my head along to the music.
Color me interested. I reached out to the A-Audio team to see if I could get a pair to play with, and they sent me their Legacy model. After spending some time with them in the office and on the streets of San Francisco, I think A-Audio could really be onto something here.
A-Audio’s apparently been doing their research on how to reach their target audience, having sent a pair to Tyll from Innerfidelity to review. He’s got some positive things to say here: http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/ces-2015-aaudio-luxury-headphones
When I asked them if they’d be interested in doing something on Head-Fi, I got a resounding yes. And that’s how I ended up on the phone with Christian Iacovelli, President of A-Audio.
Chatting with: Christian Iacovelli
Thanks for joining us today Christian. So let’s start with a question I’m curious about, why’d you start A-Audio?
My inspiration for the company really came from the frustration I felt with the current headphone marketplace. Beats did something amazing when they set the bar with Beats by Dre. It really helped bring headphones into mainstream media and singlehandedly created the market that exists today. But I feel like there’s room to improve – the consumer nowadays has so many options and is looking for bigger and better things.
Absolutely, the audio industry’s pretty crowded these days, a company really has to offer something unique or outstanding to gain any kind of traction. How do you think A-Audio accomplishes that with the Legacy headphone?
A lot of my style and personality goes into what I do. Audio is a big hobby of mine, but I also work with the automotive and fashion industries, and I draw inspiration from these other passions of mine. I believe in using quality materials – metal, not plastic. Leather and memory foam.
I like all kinds of music, from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Adele. I listen to House, Reggae, and Country. A lot of current headphones on the market do one genre really well, but can’t handle the whole gamut. I wanted to make something that could. I also wanted the headphone to be something that you could use everywhere. Rather than having to buy a pair of IEMs to use at the gym, a pair of noise canceling headphones on the airplane, and something more Hi-Fi when listening at home, the Legacy does all of this in one (bass mode at the gym, ANC mode on the airplane, audio mode at home).
Let’s talk about the sound then, how’d you go about tuning the three different modes?
Our team started off by trying to define what we wanted to do with the headphone. What makes good sound? We sat down and talked with our affiliates about what people wanted to hear.
For Audio/Passive mode: We wanted to create true sound, true reproduction of the music. So we worked with people who knew what they wanted in their music like Emilio Estefan (19-time Grammy award winner) to help us tune the sound to be as close to what the artist intended as possible. We also studied headphones from other manufacturers to see what they did well and not so well.
For Active Noise Canceling: This was a lot of trial and error. Bose has a lot of intellectual property here, and they do it really well. Our goal was to use a combination of passive and active noise canceling to get as close to that bar as possible. We relied heavily on the knowledge of our partner overseas who had significant experience in this field. It took us about a year of fine-tuning before it finally got to a point that we were happy with.
For Bass: A lot of the market has come to love and expect bassy goodness. This mode caters to the consumer desire for a strong thumping bass while still being palatable to the audiophile listener.
We tried to take everything on the list of things that audio consumers want, and to pack them into one headphone at an attractive price point to the consumer who has come to expect more at the price point.
Let’s talk about design. I brought a pair of your headphones back to Massdrop, and our employees were pretty firmly split into two camps. People who thought the aesthetics were drop dead gorgeous, and people who thought they were a bit flashy and not quite to their taste. What are your thoughts on this?
Absolutely. Like you mentioned earlier, there are so many companies in the audio category now. We wanted to stand out, and we started with the Liquid Chrome model – the design is bold and commands attention. It’s a radical look for a confident individual. I expected there to be a lot of polarization, but like everything else, if you’re just one of the same it’s much tougher.
But we also understand that the bling might turn some people off, so we created an understated counterpart, the Phantom Black model in case there are people that like a more discreet look.
What’s really cool is to see fashionable people rocking our products, people like Roberto Cavalli and Tommy Hilfiger.
Gotcha. I have to give A-Audio props on the overall presentation of the product. Everything I’ve gotten my hands on felt well built, and I really like the packaging and accessory choices. Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back.
Thank you, I appreciate it.
Anything you want to say to the folks at Head-Fi?
Although A-Audio is new to the industry, we’re here to stay. We have an in-ear model, an on-ear model, a wired over-ear model, a Bluetooth over-ear model and we’ve got a Bluetooth speaker on the way with much more to come. It won’t just be limited to headphones, look for some really cool stuff from A-Audio in 2015.
Closing Thoughts: On A-Audio
I’m one of the people in the office who doesn’t mind, and actually likes, how the A-Audio headphones look. I’ve taken the Legacy out for a spin several times to test noisy listening conditions, and they really are a head-turner. I’d like to say it’s a positive attention-getter, but you can be the judge of that for yourself.
Comfort is very good. Clamp is just right for a secure fit without any feeling of discomfort, and no pain with glasses on is a huge plus. The earpads are plushy and significantly more breathable than a lot of the other offerings out there. Build quality is very good, it feels like a premium product in the hands and on the head.
Gave a couple albums of various genres a go on these.
T.I. – Paperwork (Deluxe Version)
New National Anthem feat. Skylar Grey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w8JxuXAlzM
Linked Horizon – Bravely Default Concert
Live Concert Mix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nB2kz8VlB4
Taylor Swift – 1989
Shake It Off: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfWlot6h_JM
These are really good for mainstream music. I had a really good time with T.I. and T Swizzle. The songs are fun and engaging without being overly fatiguing to listen to even at higher volumes. Having heard the Linked Horizon concert on everything from HD 800s to UERMs, the Legacy performed acceptably but would not be the first headphone I reach for if I was in the mood for badass orchestral rock. I quite liked the bass mode on the streets, as it provides that lower end thump when things are noisy. My favorite mode is the passive audio mode, but others may hear it differently.
A-Audio’s definitely a brand to watch. Only time will tell if they end up carving out a large market share in the headphone industry, but they’re off to a promising start as sleek design, high build quality, comfortable fit and customizable sound go a long way in my books.
For more info, check them out on their official website: http://a-audio.com/
Edited by HideousPride - 2/16/15 at 10:48am