Music has become a fundamental part of our lives these days. We listen to it on our commute, while we work, at the gym, at home and even when we're outside tailgating or simply sitting around with friends. Perhaps that's why there are so many headphone styles and an explosion of handheld speakers suddenly on the market. But Grain Audio, a New York-based and Kickstarter-financed brand, is standing out from the pack. Like the indie darling of the speaker world, the smart start-up is getting a reputation for clean, simple aesthetics and a fastidious approach to sound and social responsibility. Creative director, Chris Weir, sheds some light on what's really important when it comes to personal sound and how the Grain Audio team achieved it.
People don't buy audio gear to listen to the gear—they want to listen to the music. The artists spend years and untold sums of money to record their music and they know better than us how it should sound. This is why we engineer all of our products with a flat frequency response and zero distortion at all volumes. We don't juice the low end or push the midrange in any way. We want your recorded music to sound as it should—simple as that.
We believe speakers and headphones are meant to play music, that is all. Anything else is extraneous and takes away from the experience. Our PWS.01 does not double as a speaker phone, it doesn't charge your phone and it doesn't have a flashlight built in to it. It's a speaker, not a gadget. What it does have is bespoke drivers, a solid wood housing and a proprietary isolation system that keeps the speaker from shaking and skipping across the table when the volume goes up. It runs aptX and is AAC compliant to insure a high quality transfer of your music library. We also use a Grammy-winning sound processing suite, to dial in the frequency response and build a broad and immersive soundstage. Features that enhance the quality of the sound and listening experience—these are what we spend our time and money on getting right.
A lot of products on the market are made of plastic and are outfitted with off-the-shelf components because picking parts out of bin is cheaper for the manufacturer. Of course, this approach doesn't necessarily lead to the best setup for generating quality sound. Our IEHP is designed from scratch. The cable set is built to our spec, the magnets in the drivers are designed by us and the acoustical enclosure is sourced, milled and finished to our design completely. What this creates is an optimized condition where all parts are working together and to the best of their ability. This is the only way that we can achieve the kind of sound we're after.
We believe that materials that have an inherently tactile and visual quality are highly desirable. After all, we respond emotionally to objects in our environment; we want them because they make us feel good. This is a big part of why we use solid wood. It's also why we use molded silicone rubber and perforated metal for the grills. All of these materials have a tactile quality that people naturally respond to. Try doing that with molded black plastic.
A well designed object should disappear into everyday life. It should function to its highest potential but won't call attention to itself. Using a product should also be a seamless experience. These are subjective opinions but ones that drive us everyday. If you're not interested in that, there are plenty of audio products available that are tortured into all kinds of random shapes. These will usually have a counterintuitive control scheme and awkward input placement. We believe that this kind of design places shape over sound and ultimately interferes with the purity of the listening experience.