Q&A: Dr. Fang Bian, Founder of HiFiMAN Corporation
Dr. Fang Bian, founder of HiFiMAN, says the company is passionate about bringing the ideology of high-performance consumer audio to the personal audio market.
Driven by the mass appeal of the iPad, iPhone and iPod, the headphone category has experienced an unprecedented amount of growth over the past several years.
Looking to offer something better than the standard mass-market retail products, Dr. Fang Bian founded HiFiMAN in 2007 to provide consumers with a choice of high-performance portable music players, headphones and other digital audio devices.
Bian took time to explain to CE Pro how HiFiMAN can help electronics installers and why he prefers to use exotic planar magnetic technologies for his headphones.
HiFiMAN is known in audiophile circles but, it is just starting to get noticed by other consumer groups. Can you explain your business to installers who might not have heard of you?
Head-Direct Corporation was founded in 2005 and it is a designer/manufacturer that specializes in high quality portable audio products, such as headphones, headphone amplifiers and portable music players. We are headquartered in Tianjin China and are very much a global company. Our R&D and manufacturing is located primarily in China with most of our marketing and sales in the United States, Japan and Europe.
With all of the different headphone suppliers, what makes HiFiMAN unique?
Just like our trademark HiFiMAN, all of HiFiMAN employees are passionate about audio. While we design portable audio products, our standard is very much high-end. It is a state of mind. We feel HiFiMAN’s strengths are original ideas, a high-level R&D team and, of course, hard work.
What are HiFiMAN’s strengths and in what areas does the company need to improve?
Most mainstream consumer electronics manufacturers don’t even think about making their products sound better. On the other hand, a lot of hi-fi audio builders are not able to take their costs down to the mainstream consumer market level. We have a strong background of adding high-end audio elements into consumer products. HiFiMAN portable music players are good examples of using high-end audio technology to make the portable music player a typical consumer electronics product.
Why did you decide to implement planar magnetic driver technology into headphones? Why has it been hard to implement in a consumer-grade product?
Most people recognize that the best sounding headphones are electrostatics, however, they are expensive, hard to drive and often have limited output. Planar magnetic captures much of the life-like detail and imaging of electrostatics but are less expensive, more efficient and can play louder.
Much of HiFiMAN’s focus has been on developing this technology to push it to even higher levels. A good example of that is our new HE-400 headphone, a planar magnetic that sells for $399, yet is sensitive enough where it can be driven by an iPod.
Do you have any plans to offer your brick-and-mortar dealers any type of dealer support program that includes support in the areas of merchandising, sales programs and technical support?
This past CES [Consumer Electronics Show] was amazing for HiFiMAN as we had so many dealers approach us to inquire about carrying our line. Our focus is on high-quality specialists who know how to present a high-performance line like HiFiMAN. In 2012, we will be expanding our distribution to select brick-and-mortar retailers as well as top e-tailers and the programs will be developed in concert with them.
What do you anticipate to be HiFiMAN’s greatest challenge in 2012?
Keeping up with the demand [for the HiFiMAN products] and making sure that we continue to maintain the highest level of quality in our products, as well as customer support.
What trends do you see for headphones and portable audio?
Obviously, headphones will continue to be a strong category along with high-res portable music players. We believe that people will realize the quality differences between common compressed music and high-res and once they hear the difference, they will never go back.
What product in your line are you most excited about? What products do have for personal use?
I would have to say two products stand out: The HE-400 planar magnetic headphone and the HM-601 Slim, our new compact lightweight high-res [music] player.
As for what I use for my personal use, as you can imagine, I am always listening to many different products, but I keep coming back to our HE-6 headphones. They need a really good amplifier to get the best performance, but it’s the most accurate and natural sounding headphone HiFiMAN has ever made.
Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
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