The Danish premium audio maker makes Silicon Valley’s premier retail destination its first U.S. physical presence[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ibratone, the Danish maker of premium audio products, is opening its first U.S. store and introducing its award-winning speakers and headphones to shoppers to the Bay Area. The company has chosen to make its first physical presence at Santana Row, San Jose’s and Silicon Valley’s premier retail destination. We wanted to learn more about the company’s motivations for this location and the timing of its launch. Here we speak with Libratone’s president Mike Culver who has all the details!
Tell us about Libratone, how was it founded, and what are the organization’s founding principles?
Libratone was founded in 2009 in Copenhagen by sound and design engineers hailing from the likes of Bang & Olufsen and Bower & Wilkins. Libratone is one of the first audio companies to consider the aesthetics of wireless speakers and headphones, which goes back to its Danish roots. Copenhagen, along with London and New York City, is regarded as one of the world’s great design centers.
Libratone, with wireless speakers and headphones designed to “liberate” your music, focuses on three key elements:
- Flexibility. Music lovers can take their music with them wherever they go or use a Libratone speaker or headphone in a way that adapts to their lifestyle.
- Premium sound quality. Denmark is also famous for its legacy of acoustic engineering, both in the companies it has produced and in research.
- The Scandinavian design aesthetic, marked by a minimalist yet modern design. Unlike more sterile-feeling and looking audio products, Libratone’s are vibrantly colored, have smart design accents, and mesh covers to make them stand out. They are designed to look good, something you might want to put in the center of a table rather tuck away on some shelf.
How long has the company operated in the United States? What are its offerings and how does it reach its customers?
Libratone is available online on its site www.libratone.com and via Amazon. The store opening in Santana Row is its first in the U.S., but Libratone has been online in the U.S. since 2015.
Libratone offers wireless speakers and headphones, including:
- ZIPP and ZIPP MINI – ZIPP has the premium sound and multi-room capabilities of WiFi speakers, but also adds the convenience of Bluetooth, wrapped into a modern design. The ZIPP is Libratone’s flagship speaker. The ZIPP MINI is a more portable, smaller version with the same suite of features.
- ONE CLICK – Highly adaptable Bluetooth speaker with innovative design, 360-degree sound and numerous features.
- TOO – Super portable Bluetooth speaker, also with 360-degree sound and numerous features.
- Q Adapt In-Ear earbuds with Lighting connector – Powered by your iPhone’s Lightning connector – there’s no need for a headphone jack – these earbuds feature CityMix, with four levels of adjustable noise cancellation.
- Q Adapt On-Ear wireless Bluetooth headphones – Connect your Libratone headphones wirelessly via Bluetooth, without needing a recharge for up to 25 hours, or plug your headphones directly into your device through the 3.5mm headphone jack. Also with CityMix and its four levels of adjustable noise cancellation.
Is the United States from a retail perspective a totally different kind of animal, or is the company able to draw from experiences across the globe?
We’ve learned a lot from sales abroad, both in our own stores and in other retail spaces in Europe and Asia that offer Libratone audio products. If there is anything that carries over, it is that we wanted to have a retail space that truly reflects company’s core values of boldness, honesty and simplicity that is warm, and even playful. The store gives consumers that hands-on experience, to really engage with our wireless audio, in an inviting space that reflects our commitment to set sound free, to be enjoyed anywhere you are, whether you’re at home or on the go. We set sound free by designing products that let you effortlessly create soundspaces anywhere – around you, on you or with you.
Why did the company decide to open its first location in Silicon Valley? Is that symbolic in any way?
We wanted to open a store in the U.S. in a location that made a statement, and Santana Row is one of the premiere shopping complexes in the country. It is among the nation’s shopping centers with most foot traffic of any in the country. And it features some of the world’s top brands.
Of course, it does not hurt that Santana Row is in Silicon Valley. Considering that we have sold our speakers and headphones online, it seemed obvious to open our first brick-and-mortar store in a region that has played so pivotal a role in the emergence and adoption of online shopping by consumers. Also, Libratone’s speakers and headphones are so much about the experience – there’s a very visual and tactile experience involving the speakers and headphones that is best experienced first-hand. For example, you can “hush” the ZIPP speaker by placing your hand over the interface. Or you can feel the texture of the mesh covering of the TOO or the Q Adapt On-Ear headphones. And, of course, there’s the premium audio quality, which is best appreciated in real life.
How did the company approach creating its retail space? Given where e-commerce is heading today and how some large-scale retailers seem to be catching more and more online retail spending, what guiding principles did Libratone apply as it looked to create this space?
It goes back to what I was saying earlier – so much of the Libratone user experience involves just about all the senses. Obviously, hearing the difference in audio quality is key, but the tactile and the visual are important, and you just don’t get that through online shopping.
In designing the store, we’ve followed the lead of the designers of our speakers and headphones by maintaining the Scandinavian design aesthetic. It’s about elegance, clean lines, minimalism. Think mid-century furniture. Speaking of which, that theme is reinforced by the store’s furnishings, which are by high-end Danish contemporary furniture maker BoConcept.
Is there anything unique about the company’s logistics network that is integrated within that storefront, and how do you expect that it will shape the experience of the customer?
The Danish word hygge (pronounced HOO-ga) is a state of coziness, a warm atmosphere where you enjoy the good things in life. Both in its products and now it its store, Libratone aims to capture that culture-defining Danish mindset by offering a warmer, more welcoming version of the Apple Store. We will have all our wireless speakers and headphones in stock, but not on display in some cookie-cutter retail space for consumer electronics. Whether it’s the specific listening areas around the store, the beautiful yet minimalist furniture from BoConcept, or a tree decorated with all four colors of the ONE CLICK Bluetooth speaker dangling from its branches, the new Libratone store is designed to stand out in a way that truly echoes the spirit of the brand.
Are you looking at this location as a template for other retail locations across the United States? Where would those other locations possibly be?
We are open to having additional locations, in other parts of the country, and are looking at possible candidates – but one store at a time!
If you could accomplish three (or one, or two, or four…) things with this launch, what would those be?
Libratone has done well in the wireless audio market, but it’s a crowded field with a lot of noise. Having a store in such a prestigious shopping center is wonderful means for us to educate the public about the flexibility, stylishness and great sound of our wireless audio products.
At the risk of being self-serving, people often fall in love with a Libratone product when they finally have the opportunity to really engage with the earbuds, headphones, or one of the speakers. They’re enticing to look at. They’re something you want to touch. And as soon as they hear their favorite Spotify playlist or take in the sound quality, they’re usually won over.
Are there any questions that we’re not asking that we should be asking?
Absolutely. You might start with the name of the company. Libratone has always been about setting sound free or liberating your music, and it does so with SoundSpaces.
Libratone enables music lovers to create SoundSpaces around them with a single wireless ZIPP speaker, which fills a room with balanced, rich sound, or with two or more for a multi-room solution. This allows anyone to fill the home and provide sound wherever they’re placed. Listeners can also make SoundSpaces on them with Libratone’s Q Adapt’s headphones and earphones, which feature four levels of adjustable noise cancellation, so you let in only the external sounds that matter. And finally, you can bring your SoundSpaces with you, wherever you go, via Libratone’s ONE CLICK or TOO portable Bluetooth speakers for rich, powerful sound.