Last week we were lucky enough to find ourselves in the most fascinating of English cities for the release event of Marshall Headphones' latest and most ambitious unit to date, the Monitor. Set in an East London pop-up restaurant, we gathered 'round to learn all about the new unit before forgoing our normal dietary routine in favor of greasy cheeseburgers and seemingly endless amounts of local beer in true rock 'n' roll fashion.
After enjoying a few innocent rounds of classic English brews, we sat down with the president and co-founder of Zound Industries, Konrad Bergström, to learn more about Marshall Headphones and the Monitor along with several other brands and products under the Zound Industries umbrella including Urbanears, MOLAMI and COLOUD. Check out the full conversation below.
What is your background and what were you doing before starting Zound Industries?
Well I used to work in the lifestyle business with a lot of brands such as Quiksilver, Volcom, Airwalk, etc. I was the distributor for Sweden so I helped launch these brands into the Scandinavian market.
How did working with these foreign brands help you learn about Scandinavia's market?
You know it was kind of the best schooling because I really got to see a lot of brands that did make it and a lot of brands that didn't make it, so for me it was learning about what worked and what didn't. The most important thing, of course, was the network I got out of it. Going to meetings, meeting people from all around the world, sharing philosophies, sales strategies, marketing ideas, etc. I also got to see what worked and what didn't on the floor, where the game is really played. Business is done on the shop floor.
How does Zound Industries manage to merge the often opposing worlds of fashion and electronics?
The big dinosaurs of headphones or electronics still look at headphones solely as a functional product. If you search on the web, they are seen as a technical product. What we try to do is be the best in other aspects. Be the best in design, be the best in functionality, but also be the best when it comes to sound.
What we are really working hard on is building these soft values, that if you use our products it says something more than just functionality. You are connecting in some other way. For example, Marshall is rock 'n' roll. Urbanears is more fashion-oriented and quirky and fun. If you look at MOLAMI it’s super high fashion. COLOUD is more about the price, it’s a really nice product at a good price. It’s kind of what Swatch did with watches. When watches were made of hundreds of pieces they took it down to 30 or 40. With COLOUD we tried to keep the nice design but take it down to a lot less pieces; from like 40 pieces down to 20 or 15.
Marshall amps have played such a significant role in both 20th and 21st century music, how did you and your team manage to capture and deliver the brand's legacy to the headphone market?
The most important thing is to make good products that are in line with the brand, that speak the brand. So it’s kind of a win-win situation. With Marshall, they’ve always placed their amps on stage, so you can’t take away their heritage or their credibility. I mean they’ve been there with the best bands all over the word. Maybe rock has gone away in some way but it’s always been there, it’s always been a very strong category, and Marshall has been delivering the best amplifiers out there.
Our mission is to make good headphones and really catch on to their concept and bring that to people. You could say their amplifiers are on stage for the pro musician or the guitarist, but Marshall as a brand means a lot more to people and we want to give those people the feeling of being part of Marshall.
You mean people that aren’t necessarily musicians but are really into music and everything else Marshall represents in music history?
Exactly. There are a lot of people who are really good musicians in the way they listen to and know about music, but they don’t necessarily have the ability to play guitar. For them, they regard Marshall amplifiers as the best guitar amplifiers. So they have a connection to the brand and that is what we want to fulfill.
How is the Monitor different from other Marshall headphones like the Minor and the Major?
When we did the Minor and Major, we really took Marshall's classic looks into account and you can tell they are Marshall products, no question about it. What we found out is that people want to spend more money on the brand, especially on headphones. They want better products, so the Monitor is the best headphones Zound has done and takes the angle of being a professional tool for music lovers.
We wanted to do an over-ear because you can get the best sound and we wanted it to be really good for traveling so it collapses into itself. We also were thinking of what guitarists do with their strings and how they change them manually, so we put in felt allowing users to choose studio vibes or warmer sounds. You put in the filter for warmness and you take it out to hear the highs.
What can we look forward to from Zound Industries, and as an extension, Marshall Headphones in the future?
We just launched the best sounding speaker out there, the Hanwell, in November. It doesn’t have the latest technology because we wanted to keep it more analog and it works even if you don't have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. We wanted to bring a speaker with the best sound because sound doesn’t change as quick as the technology. It’s amazing, if you haven’t heard it you should go to a shop and listen because it will blow your mind.
We’re coming with more speakers because we think Marshall is a very strong brand with credibility and deserves to feed the people that love rock 'n' roll!