Antonio Meze, Founder of Meze Audio tells us about their high-end headphones.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Antonio Meze: Thankfully, we’re all doing alright. Family, friends, colleagues. And I see this last year as a chance to reevaluate life, work, relationships. So, there was some good in the bad. It brought new perspectives. I think there was a lot of learning coming out of this lockdown.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Meze Audio.
Antonio Meze: I worked as a product designer in different countries, spending lots of time traveling, listening to music, and trying what the headphone industry had to offer. My passion for music and good audio had me looking for a pair of headphones that I could relate to in the same way I felt connected to my Fender Stratocaster guitar, one that I could connect with emotionally.
Headphones are very personal. When done right, you can get complete sensory experiences through them, a universe in your head, so I think the way they function or look, or sound should bring that to life. So, in the beginning, it was all about me wanting to build a pair of headphones that was truly special. I didn’t have this big dream of becoming a headphone brand; I only wanted to make something that would inspire people in the right way. To take my vision from idea to reality without the compromises that are usually made when products come to life, compromises I was very familiar with since I was working as a product designer beforehand.
I officially started in 2011, and after years of DIY, research, development, and experimentation, we launched the 99 Classics in 2015, which managed to gain the appreciation of the audiophile community almost immediately. It was the breakthrough that put our name on the map of high-end audio.
To this day, our business philosophy is unchanged. We have a ‘no compromise’ approach to audio product development that ensures our products are nothing like anything else in the industry.
How does Meze Audio innovate?
Antonio Meze: When I first started experimenting with headphones, I would take existing products and spare parts and play around with them, modify them, turning them into something else. Now, we’re on a constant quest for innovation, from design to technology.
Our flagship headphone, Empyrean, is one of the most innovative planar magnetic headphones in the world, receiving major recognition even 2 years after its launch. We made Empyrean from pure passion and curiosity, allowing ourselves to take risks and experiment searching for the perfect sound, perfect comfort, and that very special something to make it apart. The design is our tribute to sophistication and art nouveau.
Together with Rinaro, a progressive audio company that has been at the forefront of planar magnetic development since the ’80s, we’ve created a new standard for premium audio, the resulting technology being one of the lightest and most advanced planar magnetic drivers on the market. We pushed and refined industry standards, achieving a true game-changer for audiophiles.
We always challenge ourselves to explore and experiment; it’s all about trial and error. We can allow ourselves the time to do this because we are not a high-volume manufacturer. We are more like a high-end technical design studio.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances? Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned? Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Antonio Meze: It’s been a hard year, but I’m happy to say we managed to adapt business-wise and keep our entire team with us without having to access any measures of support offered by the government. We definitely noticed a growing interest in our brand, which I think is driven by the fact that many people who now work remotely are looking into premium audio devices that could recreate the feeling of a live experience in their own homes since most of the events were canceled.
All in all, 2020 was a year of growth for our brand despite the fact that we didn’t introduce any new products.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Antonio Meze: The thing that the pandemic has us missing the most is definitely the face-to-face interaction with the audiophile community. Tradeshows play a huge part in keeping us connected to the people who appreciate our brand. So when live events got canceled, we started looking into different ways of keeping in touch with the industry, mainly on digital platforms.
We speak many different languages in the audiophile community, yet the language of music seems to bring us all together, so that’s what we focused on, sharing our love for music and good audio with all of our fans as a way of coping with the rapid changes that took place around us.
The relationship we have with our customers is something we take great pride in, so the pandemic didn’t really change much here. We just continued to be ourselves and do more of what people appreciate of us, which is treating each one of them as a close friend.
Your final thoughts?
Antonio Meze: Music has always brought people together in more ways than one, and it’s something that keeps us united even now. I want people to know that we stand resilient during these unusual times. We continue to work on new and exciting projects that will hopefully spark some joy among audio lovers. And, of course, we can’t wait to be able to show them off live.
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