With the release of a new speaker from Ultimate Ears, we look back at what started the company, and why it puts so much work into making its speakers something special.
It’s probably not a terrible assumption that most people have wanted to be a rock star when they were younger, some probably still do today, and it’s easy to understand why.
You get to tour the world, playing the music you love, expressing yourself through song, and channeling that expression into songs that people scream at and sing to. Music has long been considered one of the most universal forms of language, so it’s easy to see why a career stemming from this method of communication could be desirable.
Some of us even get close, with teen and adult bands nearly rocking the big time. This journalist’s claim to fame when he was younger was being in a band that played with Skulker, and the lesser known Imbruglia, Laura (we were the Troll Cookies; don’t worry, you’ve never heard of us).
In a way, being in a band is much like making a product. Oh sure, there’s less crowd surfing, fewer people asking you to sign their appendages, and not as much likelihood that you’re going to have groupies follow you around because of the product you make (although fanboys tend to prove us wrong), but it’s a very similar concept.
Once again, you have an idea, and you express this idea in the form of a product, putting it on sale and showing the world just how awesome an idea it is as more people buy it.
Sometimes, though, these worlds come together, clashing and combining in such a way where a product can form based on the experience one has with a music group. It doesn’t occur often, but it can occur, and that’s certainly where Ultimate Ears got its start, the products forming as a result of one of the Van Halen brothers — Drummer Alex Van Halen — trying to solve a conundrum with then-sound engineer Jerry Harvey to make on-stage music monitors provide better sound so they could hear themselves properly.
Back in 1995, when the speakers relaying the sound to the members of Van Halen, all were competing for the heaviest volume on stage, and no one was getting what they needed, when they came up with an idea: why not take the monitors and shrink them down, letting the musicians wear the monitors and hear each instrument clearly.
At that time, the in-ear monitor was born, with Ultimate Ears created as a result of that product, with the IEM — as many call it — really helping to “transform how musicians perform on stage over the years” according to UE’s Senior Vice President, Rory Dooley.
“That’s become more and more important in today’s music industry,” said Dooley. “In 1995, most of the money was made in recording, and now it’s shifted 180 degrees, where most of the money is made in performance.”
According to Dooley, the Ultimate Ears custom in-ear monitor business is still run out of its offices in California, where it serves around 70 percent of the world’s top artists, and it’s partially this reason, this emphasis on the music, that led Logitech to Ultimate Ears.
“We really felt Ultimate Ears had transformed how musicians performed on stage,” said Dooley. “The way consumers consumer music was changing again, and we wanted to participate in this never revolution and really transform how consumers experience music out in the world.”
Part of how that would happen stems from the in-ear monitor business being cut down to consumer grade earphones and headphones, but more than that, there was the speaker. The way we listen to music and the way we take it with us has changed over the years, that’s for sure, with the speaker changing with it.
“We used to go to the music room to listen to music,” said Dooley, “and today, what happens is you can listen to the music where ever, when ever.”
That evolution, that ability to make our music play from any location, made Ultimate Ears think about how it wanted its first speaker, the UE Boom, to look and feel.