Audeze, founded in 2008, is a renowned audio company known for revolutionising headphone technology. Their commitment to exceptional sound quality and innovative designs has earned them a stellar reputation among audiophiles and professionals. As part of our recent partnership, we spoke to Chris Berens, head of Artist Relations at Audeze, about his background, the company's history and what sets their products apart from the competition.
To begin with can you tell us a little about your background - where did your career start and how did you first become interested in the world of audio gear?
I've been a music lover all my life. I grew up with an audiophile dad who also played trumpet, and my mom was a drummer in the jazz and marching bands in high school and college. As a kid I recall wanting to play guitar and drums at a very young age, then in my early teens when hiphop broke I got a couple turntables and a Radio Shack mixer and started to record things to my boombox (mostly noisy crap, a habit that still continues to this day haha). I remember in my late teens my dad handed me down some lovely hifi speakers (Vandersteen IIcs, my first floor standers with big woofers), which I thought would make a way better bass amp than my little Ampeg.... I played about 3 notes before the speakers blew out and that was my first real exposure to the differences between home hifi and pro audio gear!
Fast forward to college, and the art school I attended (San Francisco Art Institute, RIP) had a film program with a sound class, which I took advantage of to make more dodgy recordings in higher fidelity with some of my friends. Several bands, production gigs and "dad jobs" later, I started at Audeze in 2016, running the customer support department, which turned into full-time artist relations in 2020 as I'd started to build relationships with some of the artists that constantly seemed to be contacting us. Since then I've been very fortunate to visit some truly amazing studios, hang with wonderful creative people, and be somewhat involved in the product development side providing feedback from those adventures.
What inspired the founding of the company?
Audeze's founders were four guys: Sankar and Dr. C, both still with the company and very active, plus two guys no longer actively involved named Alex and Pete. Sankar came from the high end movie camera and code-writing worlds and is currently our CEO, Dr C is our CTO and is THE preeminent planar magnetic driver expert in the world, Alex was connected to the music/production industries and was instrumental in seeding our original headphones to the pro community, and Pete was responsible for the original flexible circuit material we started using for diaphragm film (and he still runs that same company). Basically, they started by looking at ways to make big planar speaker arrays for public address – one of which still lives in our facility – and then shifted to headphones when they discovered that the film made a nearly ideal single-driver for headphones. After many prototypes (and at least twice as many beers), the first pairs of LCD-2s were brought to an audio show called Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in 2009, where they were hugely successful. From there we just kept pushing to make things better, and we still do.
A little story about how the company name came about: Audeze was started in 2008 in a garage in Southern California, when the four founders wanted to pursue a “journey through audio.” On the wall of the garage was a 2001: a Space Odyssey movie poster, which became the inspiration for how Audeze was named: changing the spelling to reference AUDio, and the EZE part was probably suggested by the beer! So we say Ah-deh-Zee, but you can pronounce it however you want, as long as you use the cans. ;-)
What do you believe sets you apart from other companies offering similar products?
Absolutely without a doubt: our unique technology! There are other companies making planar magnetic headphones out there of course, but none of them do things like we do. First off, we use some of the thinnest film in the industry to make our diaphragms (either 1.8 or 0.5 microns, thinner than a blood cell!), which makes for very fast transient response and very low distortion. On top of that, we have several patents on the way we make our drivers, including: Fluxor magnets which focus a huge amount of magnetic power on the diaphragms for greater control over movement; Fazor elements which help maintain phase coherency, imaging accuracy, and increased treble extension; and Uniforce voice coils that equalize the magnetic force on the diaphragm for even lower distortion. I could go on with other stuff (not even mentioning our electrostatic innovations yet, but see below). Anyone interested in this nerdy stuff should check out our fun and informative tech articles:https://www.audeze.com/blogs/technology-and-innovation
Which models are you most proud of to date and why?
I'll pick three for pro audio:
The ground-breaking LCD-X https://www.audeze.com/products/lcd-x which was the first model that made mix engineers say "I can mix on headphones!”
The next-generation LCD-5 https://www.audeze.com/products/lcd-5 that shone a new light on inner details and brought comfort to a new level.
The amazing CRBN electrostatic https://www.audeze.com/products/crbnwhich I lovingly call our "mastering headphone" because people like Tony Cousins, Bob Ludwig and Bob Katz have come to rely on them. (BTW, these are also my personal favorite cans, I listen to them daily.)
Do you have any dreams to expand to other ranges of products; monitors, microphones etc that you can talk about?
Our engineering team occupies the entire upper floor of our building, and we spend millions of dollars developing new products every year, so there's always something in the works! Being able to talk about new stuff is a different story, but they've definitely been exploring microphone technology for several years, and Dr. C has his own speaker company called Dragonfire Acoustics. We have some new gaming stuff in the works, and they're constantly looking for ways to improve, so some sort of new flagship is inevitable (but hold your horses, nothing is coming soon haha!).
And finally, what are your top 3 albums of all time?
Oh man, I can only pick three? In no particular order, three albums that always make me cry, and subject to change as soon as I hit send:
Miles Davis "In a Silent Way"
Kate Bush "Hounds of Love" (not related to Stranger Things, I've been loving this record since 1989)
Fleet Foxes "Helplessness Blues”
A big thank you to Chris for taking the time to speak to us on behalf of Audeze. It was a pleasure learning about his journey in the audio gear industry and gaining insights into the founding of Audeze. We are thrilled to be in partnership with such an esteemed and forward-thinking company. The addition of their exceptional headphones to our monitoring options elevates our capabilities and promises enhanced audio experiences for our members and clients!
At Ten87 Studios we offer long term studio hire and day hire music studios. Each recording studio is acoustically treated and sound proofed to optimise any type of audio recording and music production. We are home to a large community of musicians, producers, engineers and audio professionals working in the music industry. Our main day hire studio is a world class tracking facility equipped with the best in recording studio gear, instruments, outboard and backline. We're based in Seven Sisters, Tottenham with easy transport links to the city centre - ideal for anyone looking for a London recording studio.