Craig Battin
manages all content at Grand St. Invents things in his spare time.

Jamming with the Grain Audio Team

What happens when you try to make music sound as good out of a speaker as it did in the studio? Read what Mitch and the team at NYC-based Grain Audio had to say about the technology, craftsmanship, and inspirations behind their Packable Wireless System and making quality products that reproduce audio “as the artist intended.”

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Grain Audio places serious emphasis on the use of wood in all of your products. Tell us more about the thinking behind that.

There are many reasons for this, both from a design and audio perspective. First off, a wooden enclosure, like the ones we use in the PWS, absorbs some of the sound waves inside of the PWS so they are not canceling each other out as you would see with a plastic enclosure. This helps with the overall quality of the sound coming out and makes the bass more pronounced, giving it the natural sound we’re looking for. From a design perspective, wood is a truly great material to work with. At Grain Audio, we have a commitment to high quality products using high quality materials, and while other people are creating a commoditized product, we wanted to give someone something of better quality, that they could love for years and years, and truly have a relationship with. Also, the variations in the wood grain itself make each product one-of-a-kind – one that will age with the owner, develop a unique patina, and truly be a reflection of the owner.

When did you decide to go the “small batch” route, i.e., to stop working for the larger sound companies that were pumping out less-than-superior products?

About 18 months ago, two

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of us were working for one of the larger speaker companies and saw how the products were going from something focused on audio, and listening to music, to swiss army knives that had to do everything, including be an alarm clock, a speakerphone, a phone charger, etc, etc. When you do that, you detract from what a speaker is really there to do: play music. We believe that a speaker is an instrument to connect a person to their music, that’s all. Anything that gets in the way of that is superfluous and unnecessary.

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The inclusion of the Waves MaxxAudio technology seems to be a big part of what makes the PWS so incredible. What was your thinking behind selecting that particular technology?

Simply stated, Grain Audio and Waves think alike. Our philosophy when it comes to audio reproduction is “as the artist intended”. Artists and producers spend countless hours getting an album or song to sound just like they want it to. Waves feels the same way and develops technology with that approach in mind. Their software is used in

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lots of mixing boards in studios everywhere. So, what’s going into the recording is now what’s coming out of the PWS.

Tell us more about the Grain manufacturing process. Have you found working with wood to be particularly difficult?

Working with wood has been very rewarding while also presenting a number of obstacles to get through. For example, we want to make sure the PWS doesn’t break when you drop it, meaning the wood has to be reinforced at various impact points to ensure breakage (but don’t go dropping it off a building or anything). Another challenge to overcome is tolerances. When you mold a plastic part you can get a very repeatable piece off the molded tool. With wood, the enclosure has to be hand manufactured to match the plastic tolerance. We have multiple places in our manufacturing process where there is 100% checking of the parts to ensure our customers are getting the product just as we intended it to be. This is not a normal practice in the CE world, but something consistent with our pursuit of a very high-quality product.

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Since we’re talking about audio, which artists are you listening to right this second? Catch any good festivals this summer?

What’s interesting about the team here is that we have really diverse musical tastes. For example, Dave, our VP of Engineering, is a big hip-hop fan and has been listing to a lot of Macklemore, Method Man and some David Guetta. Mitch and Kevin are more along the indie rock/folk lines and have been listening to a lot of Lord Huron, Alabama Shakes, Deer Tick, and of course, My Morning Jacket is always cranking around the office. Mitch hit up the Newport

Folk Festival this year as per annual tradition and discovered some great acts like Houndmouth and The Wheeler Brothers. Chris is loving listing to a lot of bluegrass and acoustic music through the PWS, including Alison Krauss, Brett Dennen, and Gregory Alan Isakov. But when he’s in the mood he’ll crank up some Graveyard or Heartless Bastards and get it going.

Would you crowdfund your next project? Why or why not?

I think the short answer is ‘yes.’ The Kickstarter process, while time consuming and pressure filled, was truly a great one for us. We got to get to know a lot of people who

really like what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and they are all now part of the Grain Audio family. We’re lucky to have such cool people as backers, and they’ve been instrumental in helping get the word out about what we’re doing. We’re grateful for that.

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What has been the most painful experience in bringing your first line of products to market? The most rewarding?

The most painful has definitely been the delays, which have all been in the name of quality and making sure the product is right, not just finished. We have spent so much time getting this right and sometimes that last 5% takes the most time. So while we’re doing it for all the right reasons, the delays have been the biggest challenge. That said, they were all worth it, because the products are coming out exactly as we envisioned, and that’s well worth the pain.

The most rewarding for us has been finding people who feel the same way we do about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. There’s something super cool about having a vision and building a community around that vision that manifests itself in a product people can be proud to own and that we’re very proud to make.

Read more about Grain Audio’s PWS on Grand St. –