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Capturing Portable Audio’s Impact on Urban Culture

Our team recently took a trip to CES and we wanted to really capture the dynamics of San Francisco’s urban culture and share it with the world.  In the video shown below, we romped around with our portable speakers just to demonstrate all of the different places that we could have fun with a little mobile audio device. With all the noise in the city, we figure that you either have to hear it all or be HEARD.  We choose the latter.

Overcoming the urban noise with personal audio

The urban environment is filled with constant noise and interference so it is no wonder that civilians have adopted mobile audio as a means of controlling their audible environment.  In the urban landscape, you can find a multitude of mobile audio users ranging from dancers hustling their moves on the sidewalk to your every day commuter.  It is not uncommon to see people use over-ear noise canceling DJ-headphones in the city.  Introverts and extroverts living amongst each other.  Are the sounds of the city that disturbing?  Or do people just LOVE their music?

Evolution in Hardware

Music is an extension of your personality and fine taste in tunes.  In 2003, Skullcandy pioneered the world of headphones with a focus on bringing an edgy fashion to your cranial real estate.  It took nearly a decade before anyone realized that a similar audio revolution was possible with portable speakers too.  Our first Boombotix speaker was conceived in April of 2009 when the founder, Lief Storer, was rehabilitating a blown knee from a ski accident.  He was riding his bike to and from work and spending a lot of time doing art on Japanese urban vinyl toys.  He loved that music provided a huge boost in energy while riding, but hated the danger that headphones created while riding in traffic.  There were a couple of bike speakers on the market, but nothing looked appealing or sounded very good.

Celebrity licensed headphones

As headphone design progressed, the demand for more artistic headphone variations erupted.   Hardware companies looked to find new ways to make their headphone styles stand out.  Celebrity endorsements became a fundamental element in hardware companies gaining the brand outreach necessary to make a particular headphone style cool. is a website dedicated entirely to celebrity headphone endorsements.  Dr. Dre licensed his name to Beats, Snoop Dogg worked with Skullcandy AND Jawbone (talk about a sellout!), and Lady Gaga worked with Monster.  With all the endorsements, one had to wonder, was anyone actually improving headphone technology?  Or was this just the worlds biggest marketing gimmick to make high margins headphones.

Uniting urban art with technology

Urban vinyl toys have been always something that looked appealing, but were generally reserved for an underground clique of toy collectors.  Lief seized the opportunity to take these toys and engineer true audio function and utility.  Using a Motorola walkie-talkie belt clip and an iHome audio portable speaker, he hacked together a handmade portable speaker in the shape of a skull.  The asymmetrical eyes on the skull became the perfect receptacles for high fidelity mini speaker drivers.  As Lief began using the speaker, he garnished interest from his friends who all saw this as a completely fresh new way to transport tunes.  Over the next year, Boombotix was formed with a goal to enhance the mobile audio experience with innovative hardware and software solutions.

Headphone hardware is still evolving.  Designers are constantly finding ways to integrate better materials and create sub-niches within the space.  Headphones are becoming increasingly specialized in style and function.  As for speakers, the innovations have only just begun.  Keep your eyes peeled as major players including Jawbone, Logitech, and Creative Labs try to get creative and adapt to the new urban mobile market.

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