It is increasingly difficult to stand out in the world of portable audio. So many companies offer small Bluetooth speakers and a variety of headphones; to say the market is crowded is an understatement. Grain Audio accomplishes something very few upstart companies are able to do – they stand out, and they make impressive products.
I had a chance to sit down with the company’s president, Mitch Wenger, to talk about his background, the origins of the company, and the way they are positioning their products’ development and distribution.
Grain Audio’s Background:
Mitch has a background in marketing, and he spent a few years working with Altec Lansing. Dave Burke, the sound engineer who does the audio magic worked at Altec Lansing as well. (Small world … I spent time with Dave in the Altec Lansing sound room in Milford, PA a few years ago when I toured the facility.) Chris Weir, the designer, has a background as an architect and furniture maker.
They have brought their skills, experience, passion, and commitment to quality audio to each of their products. For them, creating audio products is, as Mitch put it, a blend of art and science that brings aesthetic and audio together to create a superb experience.” For added interest, the company initially turned to Kickstarter to launch their line through a successful crowd funded project. Thus far, they have launched three products with the forth coming later this spring.
Their small portable Bluetooth speaker is a fine example of their approach. Every aspect of the speaker was carefully conceived and implemented. There’s nothing off the shelf about these speakers, but rather every one of the key components to be in keeping with their vision. When I asked Mitch if he really meant “every” aspect of speakers was custom built he laughed and said, “Well not the screws but I suspect Chris would have been happy if we did those in house too.” This bespoke approach is why, were you to open up one of speakers, you would find this…
Yes the speakers are imprinted with the Grain Audio name, because the company develops and produces them internally.
Grain Audio’s Use of Wood
The striking element across the entire line of products is found in its name – the use of natural wood for the main body of each product. The portable speakers main body is wood, and their gorgeous bookshelf speakers have natural wood cabinets. The earbuds are made from real wooden barrels, and their upcoming over the ear headphones… Well take a look.
Mitch was quick to point out that not only does the use of wood give vibrancy and richness to the music, but because they use natural wood no two products look exactly the same out of the box. Thanks to the natural grain, each speaker will have its own unique qualities. And over time, as oil from fingers creates a deepening patina, no two speakers will age the same way either. Having that unique one-of-a-kind quality in a mass-produced product is indeed rare these days, bit it is something the company has been able to achieve.
And there’s more. Grain Audio is also proud of the fact that they use sustainable wood in their products. Sure, it adds a few dollars to each of the speakers, but as Mitch put it, “When I lay my head down on the pillow each night, I can do so knowing that we’re not stripping away forests to create our products.” That kind of commitment isn’t a marketing ploy, but rather it’s a core philosophical commitment that quickly becomes part of company’s DNA.
Priced for People Who Love Music… And Value
When one looks at the price-point for their initial products, one quickly sees that they aren’t going after the ridiculously high end market, but they certainly aren’t interested in chasing the bottom of the market either. These are premium products, and they carry a premium — yet appropriate — price.
Their portable Bluetooth speaker is under $250. Keep an eye out for our full review.
Their gorgeous wood bookshelf speakers are $799 a pair. I have no doubt they could charge far more and get it.
At under $100, their earbuds are right in the market for premium earbuds.
Their upcoming over the ear headphones actually strike me as being a bit of a bargain. At under $200 for finely tuned, quality crafted, real wood headphones, these are poised to be a huge hit when they are released this coming May.
As for sound, the company tunes their products to be crisp, clean and natural. “I get what is takes to created an album,” Mitch said, “it was recorded the way it was recorded because the musicians wanted it to be that way. I think we have a responsibility to produce something that stays true to their form.”
I walked away from my time with Mitch impressed by the commitment and passion they have to the work they are doing — even as they enter a crowded marketplace. “We want to build great products” he said more than once, and he means it. Keep an eye out for our full reviews of the IEHP in-ear headphones and the PWS Packable Wireless System.