Danny Aronson, CEO and co-founder, Even headphonesBased on a unique hearing test, his products provide 'glasses for your ears'
“If you think about every headphone you’ve ever tried, the assumption is that you have perfect hearing across all frequency ranges, your hearing is completely symmetrical, and it miraculously never changes,” says this week’s podcast guest, Danny Aronson. “I found that to be untrue,” he says, which was the germ of his business idea. Aronson is the co-founder of Even, a Brooklyn-based headphone manufacturing company that aims to individualize sound. Based on a 90-sec., self-administered hearing test that checks a user’s sensitivity to various frequencies in each ear, Even’s headphones are tuned to personalized settings.
Aronson is a classically trained composer with a degree in music from Tel Aviv University. He plays flute, piano and guitar, and has written and produced music for theater and ballet. Before starting Even in 2013, he spent two decades as a partner at Israel’s largest post-production sound studio, working on thousands of radio spots, TV ads, and feature films. “A headphone is a tool of work for me,” he says, “and I’ve tried just about everything out there on the market.”
The company started with a call from a friend looking for advice. “Ofer, my cofounder, gave me a call when I was still in Israel and said, ‘I’m going to Best Buy to buy a pair of headphones, what should I buy?’ And I said, ‘It doesn’t really matter because they’re basically all the same. It’s a lot of over-hyped, over-priced stuff. I don’t understand why headphones aren’t like glasses.’ It’s still the tagline. We spent a lot of time with music-mastering engineers and audiologists to build this test. And once we did that and tried it for ourselves, we really felt this was a good enough idea to pursue and really dive into.”
The concept caught on quickly, with the company’s first batch of earbuds, priced at $99, selling out within 48 hours. Then came headphones, currently the models H2 and H3 (both priced at $149), which were named by Popular Science in 2017 among the top tech innovations of the year. While Even is run from New York City, the headphones are made in Shenzhen, China. “We have our own dedicated space there and manufacture everything ourselves in China,” he says. “We do lean manufacturing, which means we don’t do 50,000 headphones at a time. We do 5,000 at a time. We don’t have a lot of inventory to manage.”
Here in Brooklyn, Aronson has somewhat unusual hiring criteria–he looks for musicians in prospective employees. “I started out as a musician. I started playing flute when I was very young and I just drowned into it. I just completely lost interest in everything else and spent many, many hours a day practicing,” he recalls. “This combination of very intense physical work and creativity I found very appealing. That’s why we love to work with musicians. Eighty percent of the people who work at Even are musicians because it’s exactly that combination of people who have self-discipline–because you have to have that if you’re a professional musician–but with creativity.”
Finding a musician in search of a day job can’t be too hard in this city, but that’s not why Aronson moved here. New York was somewhat of a compromise–Aronson was based in Israel while his cofounder was in San Francisco. “It was clear to me that Brooklyn was the place. It’s the New York of New York.” He had a prior relationship with the city as well. “My wife’s family is from New York, not from Brooklyn but from Yonkers. It was a lifelong dream of mine to move here and Brooklyn just felt like home immediately. It amazes me how quickly we–I came here with my three kids–how quickly we felt at home and were embraced by the neighborhood we’re in.”–By Kora Feder