Hitech Century speaks to Vlad Grodzinskiy, Senior Product Manager and a member of the team behind the creation of the Klipsch’s first wireless earbuds, the T5 True Wireless.
Exuberant and bouncing around almost like an Energiser bunny, the man behind the creation of Klipsch’s most advanced example of audio engineering available in the open market strikes an interestingly contrasting figure. Rocking a pair of jeans and a dapper long-sleeved crosshatched shirt in light blue with a smartwatch on one hand, he almost seems like the plethora of laid back coffee sipping hipsters festooning cafes from here to Singapore but the moment he shares his passion about all things audio, Vlad Grodzinskiy, the Senior Product Manager for Klipsch becomes a man on fire, a man of passion. A man on a mission to share what is considered good sound to everyone who would – pardon the pun – listen.
At the global launch of the Klipsch T5 True Wireless earbuds, Vlad Grodzinskiy fielded questions and shared more about his role in the creation of their latest wireless wunderkind and what thought processes and challenges went into creating it.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What role did you play in the creation of the Klipsch T5 True Wireless?
I am a Senior Product Manager at Klipsch for half a decade and almost twice in the audio industry. I act as a creator of sorts. I am the person that feels emotion and passion about a product. I help to plan a product from its beginning to its end and to introduce the products that will succeed them as the world and technology gets better and better. In practice as a product manager, I am with the product, in this case the Klipsch T5 True Wireless from ideation to discontinuation which essentially means I pick its most defining features that it will compete and work with the engineering team and technology suppliers to bring this product to fruition in line with our philosophy of never settling for second best.
An example of this is that our prototypes one version before we settled on the final production model were using microUSB ports for charging but we realised that USB Type C is the future and took the time – a month – to ensure that our final retail model used USB Type C ports.
How much does customer feedback input into creating the next generation of Klipsch products?
Customer feedback from a business standpoint is a valuable aspect of our research and development but it is not the end all or be all for how we design products at Klipsch. After all, Klipsch is a kooky brand with its own personality and we tend to design products that we ourselves would want to use. We taken into consideration market research and customer input but we ultimately want to make products that we ourselves would love to use.
Can you define what is the Klipsch signature sound and how the T5 True Wireless earbuds fulfill that vision?
The Klipsch signature sound is what I like to call exciting but flat. What I mean by that is this is based on our Tractrix horn technology which aims to offer the experience of a live music performance. We are a lot more focused on entertainment and getting you moving than we are into analytical, flat sound though flat frequency response is one of our main principles.
How that translates into the sound signature of the Klipsch T5 True Wireless earphones is that the flat frequency response of the built-in drivers that doesn’t over accentuate bass, highs or mids but which still retains its fun characteristics. Fun in this context means an exciting high frequency response, strong bass without bloat or overwhelming features and a smooth, warm midrange.
The T5 True Wireless looks somewhat like a Zippo lighter. Is that intentional?
The fact is that it wasn’t intentional. We originally set out to create something that had excellent tactility much like a fidget spinner. We also wanted it to be simple and easy enough to use with one hand.
It just so happened that the use case of how easy it was that exemplified these qualities was embodied in a Zippo lighter. The efficiency of its design mean that the muscle motions to use one are synonymous with how we want a user of the True Wireless to use, experience and feel the product.
We built it of a die cast zinc alloy that withstands rust and added a robust hinge that – surprise – also works quite well with most Zippo hand manipulation tricks – rated for over 15,000 close/open motions over its lifetime. We also ensured that the earbuds are rated for IPX4 resistance to be sweat resistant too so you can use the T5 True Wireless as a true companion in your daily activities.
What features are you most proud of in the Klipsch T5 True Wireless?
For me it is the comfort and i really define this quality as binary. It is either comfortable for me or it isn’t. If it wasn’t comfortable, it goes in a drawer and if it didn’t sound good I wouldn’t even use it either but the Klipsch T5 fulfills all these features with its patented TrueComfort oval-shaped eartips and the superior sound from its 5.0mm dynamic drivers.
Another feature I am particularly proud about is how we managed to offer 8 hours of battery life per ear bud and also 24 hours of battery life in the charging case itself. This is achieved by working with Qualcomm to implement their True Wireless QCC3026 chipset that has much less battery drain when in use and superior sound quality with Bluetooth 5.0, AAC and aptX codec support.
What challenges did you encounter in the creation of the Klipsch T5 True Wireless? How did you overcome them?
The Klipsch T5 True Wireless is a story that’s three years in the making. It took us three years of planning and countless prototypes because the electronics for the vision we had were not good enough and the fit, especially for an in-ear pair of wireless earbuds with quality audio without compromising comfort was a difficult problem to resolve as at the time we lacked a creative solution to overcoming the bulkiness of a driver, plus the nozzle and ear tip.
All this bulk made it uncomfortable to wear and did not provide leeway for the vast variety of ear canal shapes of our customers out there.
One of our vendor partners gave us the Rosetta stone to resolving this challenge as they brought up an old patent from the telecom industry that resolved our challenges handily by snapping our oval-shaped ear tip directly onto the surface of the nozzle. We then adapted and miniaturised this into the elegant form that the Klipsch T5 True Wireless has now.
What would you think is the best track to demonstrate the audio quality of the T5 True Wireless?
I highly recommend a track by Ahmad Jamal from his album Saturday Morning called One (Ahad). The song makes you tap your feet and has a really great drum solo that accentuates the bass performance and different capabilities of the T5’s bass response as well as a host of live instruments in the composition so that you can truly feel and hear the sound staging and vivid realism of the instruments used.
Where do you think the market is heading for personal listening gear in terms of trends and technology?
Hearables! I think earphones will become an essential accessory much like a smartphone that people will use on a daily basis to enjoy and add another dimension to existing content with quality sound be it an audio book, video or game.
The future may bring personally identifiable audio gear so that advertisers can specifically target user specific content like advertising, marketing and more.