AIAIAI’s name might seem like a mouthful to pronounce but it actually sounds just like it looks. The Danish audio manufacturer came onto our radar last year, thanks to their line of headphones, and I’ve been fans ever since I got a pair. They’ve been able to enlist a variety of DJs, producers, labels and more to help with the making of their TMA-1 line of headphones. From Jay-Z’s mix engineer, Young Guru, to Beatport and Fool’s Gold, a wide-ranging cast of professionals have supported the company, and I felt it would be informative to hear from one of their co-founders. Frederik Jørgensen also serves as AIAIAI’s Marketing Director, and took some time to speak with me about the company.
Hi Frederik. Can you tell me a bit about yourself, and your background in the audio industry?
Well, there’s not that much background to speak of. Before we started AIAIAI, we were throwing parties. We had to learn as we went along. I guess you can say that our background lies in the Danish heritage of audio engineering and industrial design.
How did AIAIAI come about, and what was the reason for you and your colleagues having starting it?
It started in an abandoned building, in which we made a creative nest for a lot of artists, designers, musicians, etc. We threw parties in this creative collective and wanted to work with something more substantial that could still embrace all of these creative perspectives. The result was AIAIAI.
If I’m not mistaken, AIAIAI was started around 2006. Have there been any interesting structural or philosophical changes that have happened in the company over its 7-year existence?
We’ve grown up (a little). I guess you could say we’ve gone from being a part of the creative ‘underground’ to being a more serious tech company with a creative edge.
AIAIAI calls itself an “audio design company”. However, most of its products thus far are headphones. Are you guys going to solely focus on headphone products, or are there plans to broaden your product line into other things?
We like some degree of focus, and headphones is so far what we have been inspired to create, but that said, we’ve got a few interesting projects lined up, but whether or not they will actually be realized is too early to say
I notice that your laptop cases, the Z-sleeves, are gone from the online store. Is that product discontinued?
Yes. It went quietly into the night.
I haven’t really seen a lot of advertising being done by AIAIAI, at least not in the States. With so many different headphones brands out there, is there any particular marketing/branding plan that AIAIAI has for breaking through the clutter of competition?
We’re very focused on creating awareness in unconventional ways. We communicate with people who are like us, i.e, bored with traditional advertising, which is why every campaign and social media initiative has to be unique and bullshit-free. We believe in creating something interesting and meaningful, and hopefully that will generate some sort of awareness through that.
I’ve also noticed how you guys put the logo of your headphones on the inside of the ear-cups, instead of on the outside, unlike most other headphone brands. What’s the thought behind that? What if people don’t realize that they’re using your products?
We’re not really big fans of huge flashing logos. We don’t want to ram things down people’s throats. And we come from a design tradition that favours clean lines and minimalism. I guess we can’t hide the fact that we’re Scandinavians. We also like the challenge in the design process – we need to design something that is remarkable enough to stand out without a logo.
Can you tell me a bit about AIAIAI’s “Tracks” model of headphones? Are these meant to be consumer or studio products? Also, how were you able to work with Kitsune to create custom edition with them?
They’re consumer products, and are our throwback to the old school Walkman headphones. Regarding Kitsuné, we’ve been fans of them for a long time and as it turned out Gildas, the label head, liked our products. It all happened organically.
What was the original concept behind AIAIAI’s flagship TMA-1 line of headphones? You seem to have put a lot of effort into that line.
To make the best DJ headphone on the market, using the input of 25 of the world’s best DJs. It’s been an open-ended development process from the beginning, meaning that we wanted to work with the best people from all over the world to make sure we had as much input as possible.
As far as the TMA-1’s go, how and why did AIAIAI end up making so many models? From Beatport to Fool’s Gold, were all these parties involved in the creation process?
Neither was involved in the process of the original TMA-1, but they were all early users. From our point of view, they bring something to the electronic music world which we appreciate, and therefore were interesting for us to work with. Regarding the individual projects we’ve done with these partners, it is always a collaboration, and we come up with the final concepts together.
Your Young Guru line of TMA’s seem to be your most specialized to date. How did your relationship with him come about, and why did you decide to partner with an engineer for this? You already had your TMA-1’s Studio after all.
We’re fans of his work. And saw the partnership as a way of reaching a different, broader and bigger audience without sacrificing the creative edge that we like to have in all our projects. To put it bluntly, we wanted to work with a sound engineer that we admire, and grow without selling out.
How long did it take to develop the Young Guru TMA’s, and what part did Young Guru have in that process?
Way too long. But we’re very thorough and think a product should be perfect before it hits the market. Young Guru was an integral part of tuning the new sound design – which is why it’s called “Engineered by Young Guru”.
Seeing as the Guru Edition was such a specialized headphone, what was the hardest part of creating it?
Guru is a busy man with a lot of projects going on, so his time was scarce. But when we had him, he was great to work with. He’s an extremely talented, smart and inspirational man who gave us a lot of new insight.
Will you guys be looking to reach out to other audio engineers, artists or DJs to collaborate on headphone or audio products?
You won’t have to wait many weeks to get an answer!
You seem to have different models of the TMA-1’s and Tracks, but only one model of the Capital. Why is that?
We actually do have some editions of the Capital – we did a project with Danish skate label, Alis, and have a few ongoing talks for future projects as well.
Whilst your headphones offer up great audio quality, I’ve heard people talk about their durability, such as the material it’s made of. How much emphasis do you guys put on that? Is there a tradeoff between portability, audio quality and material durability?
Some of the most important input we got from DJ’s during the development was regarding durability. All testers agreed that durability was one of the most important things, and we spent a lot of time creating a design with few parts and joints, in order to avoid weak spots. Unfortunately, last year we had a malfunction in our production process which resulted in very weak headbands – one of the worst things that could happen, and very frustrating, because we know how much this affects our users. We have definitely learned from this and have heavily increased our engineering.
Can you tell me about any reactions from the artist and pro audio community for your headphones?
Luckily, we have got a lot of positive response and are very proud that so many professional DJ’s are using our headphones.
What are some of the greatest pieces of feedback that you’ve received from customers for your products, and in what way have you taken it to heart?
Well, there was a woman on our Facebook who appeared to be having a sexual experience over the sound of the Tracks headphones.
Out of all you products, what would you say has been AIAIAI’s best-seller thus far?
TMA-1, no doubt.
What can we expect from AIAIAI in the future? Any new products or projects on the horizon?
During the next 6 months we will present some very interesting completely new concepts for headphones, that we have been working on for 3 years.
That sounds exciting. We’ll be watching to see what you guys put out next. Thanks for talking with me! For my readers, make sure to check out AIAIAI’s Facebook and Twitter for the most recent news about their products.