CES 2013 Show Highlight: Zounds Industries

Zounds Industries is the parent company of the Urbanears, Coloud, Marshall, and Molami brands of fashion headphones. Normally, I wouldn't have too much hope of finding good headphones there, but my parent company (Source Interlink Media) is working on a project and needs cooperation from many of the high-volume headphone makers, so I went to Zounds with another task in mind.

As I meandered around their booth looking at all the candy-colored headphones, I noticed someone from Zounds eyeing me. As I turned to look, Peter Osterman extended his hand in welcome.

"Hi, Mr. Hertsens. I'm quite familiar with your work at InnerFidelity and am very glad you came to visit us here at Zounds."

Woah! Really? It turns out that Peter was hired as the "Audio Designer" at Zounds a couple of years ago to improve the sound quality of their headphones. YAY!!! Now that makes me happy...and is why this post is a show highlight. Similar to the hiring of Tetsuro Uishi as Skullcandy's lead acoustics engineer and investing significantly in improved product acoustics there, Zound's move indicates to me that the market at large is beginning to realize that, while the fashionability of headphones is important to sales, a headphone's fundamental job is to reproduce audio, and doing so well will also improve customer satisfaction and future sales in a fundamental way.

Osterman went on to say that he had read my Marshall Major headphone review last year (in which I said, "I’m reminded of the 3”x5” speaker in the dashboard in my buddy’s 1970 Pinto --- a very peaky mid-range rules them out for my music listening pleasures."), and admitted that he agreed with much of it. He wasn't involved with its development, but when Zounds went on to create the 50th Anniversary edition of the headphone, Osterman redesigned the acoustics to product a better sounding headphone.

"Really?" I said, "Let's have a listen."

Sure enough, the new Marshal Major 50FX is a much better sounding headphone than I remember hearing last year. Much. Man, this gives me hope...and the desire to have a listen to some of the latest Zounds releases.