Kevin Lee Starts Audio Company
SOL Republic targets youth market with quality sound, durabilityAugust 23, 2011 By Jeff O'Heir
The Little Monster is heading out on his own.
Kevin Lee, who has worked with his father Noel, the Head Monster at Monster Cable, since he was in junior high school, has started a separate company, SOL (Soundtrack of Life) Republic, which will initially focus on selling headphones and will gradually add other audio products to its portfolio.
Lee, who was instrumental in launching and marketing the Beats By Dre headphone line with Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre (Monster formed an engineering and marketing partnership with Beats Electronics in 2008), said the SOL Republic line is not designed to compete against Beats or Monster's own line of headphones, which Lee had also worked on. Instead, they will be priced in the $100 range and targeted solely at the youth market.
Several elements of the SOL Republic lines-two models of on-ear phones (Tracks HD at $129 and Tracks at $99) and two in-ear models (Amps HD at $99 and Amps at $59)-will differentiate them from other headphones that vie for attention in what's becoming a crowded market, Lee said.
The Tracks, for example, were designed for optimal sound, high style and durability, a combination that's usually lacking with most other youth-oriented headphones, Lee said. He wouldn't talk about the engineering aspects of the headphones and earbuds, but said they are designed for pop music and hip-hop, delivering punchy bass and controlled highs, with limited distortion at high volumes.
At first glance, though, the design is what will help set them apart on store shelves and e-commerce sites. The "engines" or earpieces are shiny discs with a clean logo etched into brushed aluminum or metal foil, depending on the model. With a little force, the engines can slide off of the band, allowing the user to customize the headphones with different color bands and chords, which are also detachable.
With the amount of abuse a set of headphones can take, especially when used by kids, Lee said he put extra attention into making sure the Tracks and Amps are ultra durable. Most headphones are designed with several moving parts, which are usually the first thing to wear down or break, Lee said. The only components that move on the Tracks are the engines. The thin headband is made from a proprietary polymer that Lee calls "Flex Tech." In a demonstration, Seth Combs, a company founder and a former online marketing manager at Monster and Beats, bent and twisted the band, which easily popped back to its original shape. Scott Hix, a former executive at Runco and Planar, is also a founder and will serve as president and COO.