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How Blue used its microphone know-how to design headphones

Before then, the company had years of experience crafting professional-grade studio mics that became the go-to options for producers and engineers. In 2014, the company decided to tackle headphones with Mo-Fi -- a wired model with a unique hinged design and a built-in audiophile-grade amplifier. Blue's USB microphones have been a podcasting staple since the Snowball was introduced in the mid 2000s. It's a reputation that Blue maintains to this day.Then, at CES this week, Blue took the wraps off three new models: the planar magnetic Ella; Mo-Fi's successor, Sadie; and the wireless Satellite. Soon after, I sat down with CEO John Maier to find out how the company put its microphone expertise to use in a range of headphones.



Unless you have a recording habit, the name Blue may be somewhat unfamiliar to you. The company was founded in the mid-'90s as an outfit that refurbished pro-level studio mics. Around 2000, it decided it was time to make its own products, so it introduced the $1,000 Bottle microphone that's still around today. In the years that followed, Blue continually moved toward more accessible, consumer-friendly products. It started with a more affordable pro mic, the Blueberry, before using a similar setup to what's in the 8 Ball condenser unit for the extremely popular $50 Snowball USB model.

How does a company that's focused on collecting sound decide to move into beaming it out to your ears? As Blue tells it, the transition was natural. "We definitely knew the world didn't need another headphone, especially after Beats had done an amazing job creating a whole new segment," Maier told Engadget. "Everyone else in the world tried to copy them and come into that market."

 

The company decided to stay on the bench for a while until it could develop something unique. "We knew that the technology is basically the same; it's just going in the opposite direction from an audio standpoint," Maier said. "We knew that we could offer some novel ideas, both in design and taking some of our pro audio know-how and bringing it to a larger audience." Maier said that as the quality of streaming music started to improve over what we all listened to in the age of the MP3, there was a need for new headphones that offered better sound to match.

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