Fashion / Technology
How smart can our headphones become?
We speak to Swedish and Danish companies Urbanista och AIAIAI about how new technology helps to move boundaries.
1 Feb 2021

Urbanista’s CEO Anders Andreen saw a record year of revenue growth for the brand in 2019, with numbers up 70% on those of 2018, bolstered by more than 500,000 sales of its true wireless headphones. Last year, the brand faced new, unexpected challenges, causing a reduced revenue.

— But challenges also force you to become better, establish stronger brand and marketing and we grew our online revenue dramatically, he shares.

Miami is the newest addition to the brand’s active noise cancelling headphone line-up as part of the ”Designed for Life in Motion” portfolio.

— We combine a comfortable fit and clear, isolated sound with simplicity and reliability, allowing listeners to either completely block out the outside world or hear their surroundings without interruption to their listening experience. Retailing at €149, it offers 50 hours of playtime and up to 40 hours with Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) mode on.

What kind of technology do you use in it?

— It’s equipped with Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation, using microphones inside and outside the earcups to pick up surrounding noise and then tell the speakers to delete them with inverted sound waves that neutralize the noise before it hits your ears. Perfect for flights, commutes, or loud (home) offices. But sometimes you want to hear the surrounding, especially voices, and then you can use the Ambient Sound Mode, which is actually amplifying the sounds around you. Miami is also equipped with a sensor to notice when you take the headphones off your head and then pause your music or video, says Andreen.

Frederik Jørgensen is the co-founder of premium headphones company AIAIAI. Previously targeting mainly music professionals, who obviously demand the highest standards in the most vigorous environments, their latest launch TMA-2-HD (also the top picture) also focuses on discerning music consumers.

— Except for the professional sound, we offer highly comfortable and light materials for long sessions. They’re designed to last and extend the lifetime of your product. The headphone is modular, so you can upgrade it as your technology needs evolve. By carefully selecting optimal materials with low environmental impact, we make our products responsibly, he tells.

What special technology have you used in it?

— The speaker unit contains a diaphragm that is precision-grown from NAC Audio bio-cellulose. That makes it stiffer, lighter, and stronger than regular PET speaker units and allowing the sound-producing diaphragm to vibrate without the levels of distortion found in other speakers. Each of these qualities results in more accurate and detailed sound from the speaker with the ability to retain clarity of sound at high volumes.

What big trends do you see for headphones?

— Well, we believe a more responsible approach to products is going to be a bigger part of the industry. We still believe modularity is such a strong design principle as one of the most sustainable things we can all do, to keep the items we buy for a long time and limit the ”buy, and throw away” culture. Also, we see everything still becoming more wireless, and especially in the music maker industry. This is probably something that will grow in the coming years, says Jørgensen.

— The audio industry is developing faster than ever before and the coming years will be very exciting. The headphones are getting more intelligent and true wireless earbuds are getting smaller and packed with features. As headphones have become an item you don’t leave home without, the brand and style continue to be important. But also the user experience and how all the new features are enhancing your daily life. Tech simply needs to be designed for a life in motion, says Urbanista’s Andreen.

What big technologies do you see coming for the industry? What’s the next big thing?

— In our primary industry — the music makers — I think we are going to see more versatile products. Music-making is a growing interest and the way people can create music has changed a lot during the last years. People are making music everywhere; in the park, when commuting, at home, with friends, and so, so they need a versatile and flexible product that can adapt to these changes, says Jørgensen.

— Mobile phones evolved at an insane pace during the first 15 years of this century, going from devices to call with, into the center of your daily life. But the pace has slowed down a bit. Meanwhile, more solutions and benefits have moved into other devices, for example watches, trackers, and headphones. This will continue and we’ll use our headphones for far more than we do today. We’ll simply be comfortable to leave the phone at home when we go for a run or evening event, says Andreen, adding,

— I also think technology has to become more sustainable. We all have to find ways to have less impact on the environment. The positive thing is that most companies start to react and, more importantly, a lot of consumers drive the demand. I’m sure we’ll see a shift in the coming years.