November 12. 2012 9:00AM - Last modified: November 12. 2012 10:54AM

Koss creates wireless headphones for Wi-Fi music access

Innovations

By Erica Breunlin

  
While John Koss, founder of Milwaukee-based Koss Corporation, introduced the world to personal listening capabilities with stereo headphones in 1958, today his son Michael Koss is introducing personal listening to the Internet.

Michael Koss, chief executive officer and president of the audio accessory manufacturing company, and his Koss Corp. team have developed an innovative headphone technology in which “the revolution’s in the air,” as they put it. The headphones allow listeners to access their favorite music directly from the Internet. Whether in an office, on the street or at home, listeners can tap into their music simply using their headphones so long as they’re able to securely connect to Wi-Fi from their location.  

“Everything can be self-contained, and (the headphones) sound terrific,” Michael said.  

The first step in creating the cutting-edge headphones was a five-year research initiative. Koss Corp. interviewed consumers to learn more about their user experiences with different kinds of headphones.

People often buy multiple pairs of headphones to fulfill different purposes like working out or traveling, Koss said. And they tend to make excuses about why headphones don’t fit them properly. People are interested in customizing their headphones to fit and perform in certain ways, he said.

“We knew that there was a need for people to want to customize them as much as they could and to customize their relationship with their headphones to make them as personal as they could,” Koss said.

Wireless was also key for consumers. Past models of wireless Koss headphones include infrared headphones, radio frequency headphones and Bluetooth headphones.

Infrared headphones, developed in 1976, function with an infrared signal that broadcasts music across an infrared spectrum through the use of a transmitter. The problem with these headphones, however, is that the listener must be in the same room as the transmitter.

Radio frequency headphones, polished in the late 1980s and early 1990s, work similarly to standard radio waves. The user tunes the headphones to a specific frequency and plugs the transmitter into a stereo or iPod to transmit sound.   

But the frequencies available in the spectrum are very limited and are often subject to interference, Koss said.

Bluetooth headphones, released ten years ago, do not always provide users an optimal listening experience because there can be a lot of compression in the sound and signal.

“You don’t get as much quality as you like, and there’s limitations on how far you can be from the source,” Koss said.

With Wi-Fi capabilities, the Striva headphones contain a battery, a Wi-Fi chip the size of a sesame seed and a small microprocessor chip – all of which can fit on the surface of a dime. Users can listen to music through the Internet anywhere Wi-Fi exists without any sort of wires.

“They are incredibly liberating,” Koss said. “You walk around, and it’s so seamless when you get them working.”

The Striva technology also allows listeners to access music without Wi-Fi connections through the use of a contact access point (CAP). The CAP, comparable to the size of a matchbox, can be plugged into any device that has a headphone jack, which creates a Wi-Fi transmitter. When a user leaves the CAP plugged into their device – an iPod, iPhone, MP3 Player or computer for example – they can listen to their device tunes about 350 feet away from the CAP.

After buying a pair of Striva headphones, users set up an account on www.mykoss.com in order to connect their CAP and headphones and arrange their music preferences. The website enables users to organize channels of Internet-powered radio stations, which are then accessible wirelessly via the Striva headphones.

“You’re just in the music,” Koss said. “You just climb inside the music.”

Alex Cappello, a Koss consumer living in Los Angeles, has been listening to music using the Striva Pro headphones since they first hit the marketplace in May.

“I think this is going to be a very significant innovation for the entire audiophile marketplace because this is more than just a really high quality pair of headphones,” Cappello said. “This is a whole new way of listening to your music at no cost anywhere.”

Cappello, chairman and chief executive officer of Cappello Capital Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif., has collected all kinds of headphones from all kinds of manufacturers for nearly 50 years. He said he tunes into his music with the Striva headphones virtually every day no matter if he’s at home or at his office.

He describes the Striva technology as, “revolutionary.”

“This is a phenomenal product, and I think when people eventually learn about Striva this is going to be as big as the iPod or the iPad because this will change the way people think about music and listen to music,” Cappello said.

Koss plans to release a second version of the Striva headphones known as Striva Tap within the next month. While the $450 Striva Pro headphones are full sized, the Tap headphones are small, separate earbuds.

“In the future, there won’t be a real reason to have wires,” Michael said. “The headphones will be a completely independent system because it can have a web server in it.” 

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