The Dilemma: We are audio design and manufacturing engineers, we like building nice sounding, reliable products and are perplexed when we see products that aren't. Take "earbuds" for example, this product seems poorly executed. There is no reason that a set of earbuds can't be designed to sound good, be durable, look nice, and be reasonably priced. This is just good engineering. Today, this doesn't seem to be the case with the earbud market fragmenting into two rather odd categories:
1) Throwaway Earbuds - The inexpensive, blister-packed kind you see everywhere. These delicate, all-plastic affairs deliver mediocre-to-average sound quality, and because they break so often, are considered “disposable electronics”. This results in millions of pairs being discarded every week.
2) Premium Earbuds - These are often branded by recognizable audio companies and carry premium price tags. They usually offer quality construction and good sound, but still can be damaged during active use. This resulting in the product category being small in terms of sales volume; after all, who wants to replace $50-$150 earbuds every few months?
Conclusion: Even though premium earbuds exist as an option, the marketplace has driven "reasonably-priced" earbuds into a low-performance, disposable product. The reason for this? We believe it's due to the fact that earbuds, in general, break often and you can't repair them. It's basic economics at work: people are less likely to invest in high quality, high performance products if they have to throw them away constantly.
Our Solution: Lets be smart about this. There are several facets to the best solution, it’s not as simple as "just make them more rugged”. This is what we suggest:
1) Modular Design – by separating the product into components, if problems occur, damaged parts can be replaced. No more “disposing” the whole set because of small issues.
2) Strengthen Known Failure Points – for example, earbuds usually break where the cord meets the earbud housing. Strengthen this location and other known failure points. Then test to make sure the solution works.
3) Assume Customers Want High Fidelity – some say that today's mobile device listeners don’t require high quality audio. We do not agree. Earbuds should offer audiophile quality because we think everyone enjoys fine audio.
4) Sell Direct - consumers always get a better value if manufacturers sell direct. This eliminates the dealer profit step and generally saves the consumer some 30-50%. This can be a substantial advantage alone.
IRONBUDS - Accordingly, we propose IRONBUDS, a modular earbud system that we want to build with your help. Here's our feature list:
Excellent Sound – Audiophile-quality components throughout
Durability – Several levels of cable integrity and strength available
Easy Repair – Being modular systems, simply swap out the damaged component
Upgradeability – Want something different? Just add the parts you want
Affordability – Absolutely, how about $21 to $47
Green Sensibility - The concept greatly reduces electronic waste
Can we make it happen? Yes, we are manufacturing and design guys with a few decades of experience. This is quite within our skill set. We have already arranged for manufacturing and assembly. We are also collecting your input on many of the options so please feel free to contact us with requests!
Pledge Levels: We suggest three different pledge levels that you can participate at. These kits may expand slightly as suggestions roll in but we believe the current feature sets achieve the goals that most everyone wants. By the way, we can assure you that you will be quite satisfied with your pledge. If after you receive your kit, it doesn't meet your expectations, send it back and we will refund your pledge amount.
STANDARD IRONBUDS KIT - (details here)
DELUXE IRONBUDS KIT - (details here)
AUDIOPHILE IRONBUDS KIT - (details here)
IPHONE/ANDROID IRONBUDS KIT - (details here)
What happens after this Kickstarter Project is over? This is the last step in our solution: Sell Direct. We are working on a website, ACOUSTICFORGE.COM (please bear with us, this is not 100% completed yet) that will allow you to interface directly with the company. This will be a place where you can get spare parts, post opinions, make suggestions, etc., not just a site to “buy stuff”. This site will be for you.
Why such an immersive approach to a product as common as earbuds? Well, we think this is a great business model. Lets tackle earbuds first and change this product category intelligently. With your collaboration, we believe we can make products that we all want, not just want the mass market dictates.
But we need your help! By pledging to this Kickstarter Project you become part of the process but the real magic occurs if we can get a lot of people on board. Please spread the word too! This is a golden opportunity to drive the "forced medocrity" of this product category into what we want. Let others know!
Peace - the folks at Think Young Design
(Thomas Young:) Well, I always thought that the sound quality from my own earbuds were pretty marginal but an episode with my son occurred. A few months ago I discovered that he had a tangled heap of broken earbuds in his room (http://www.legendarytime.com/kickstarter/broken_buds.jpg) and realized this had accumulated over just a few months. As an engineer, this made no sense at all. A waste of money and more electronic waste to dispose of. There must be a better way.
Because we know manufacturing and we know audio.
Thomas Young, the founder of Think Young Design, has several decades of experience in audio engineering. He has a BSEE degree from the University of New Hampshire and was an engineer for Henry Kloss, one of the world’s most respected audio equipment designers ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Kloss ). A prolific writer, Mr. Young also hosted a monthly column for Home Theater Magazine and was a frequent contributor to magazines such as Stereo Review, Electronic House and Sound and Vision.
As a self-described "design critic" he absolutely abhors products that are poorly designed. "Good engineers design good products, there is no excuse for poor designs."
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