Monster CEO rolls out star power at special CES event
To launch its ‘Monster Takeover 2018’ campaign, CEO and founder of Monster Audio Noel Lee was able to call on famous friends old and new at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.
Riding around the conference room stage on a Segway, Lee ran down the details of all the new Monster products with impressive energy, exhorting the room to enthusiastically applaud every announcement like it was a technological revelation, even if it was simply a new pair of wireless earbuds.
George Zhaq, CEO of Honor phones, joined Lee onstage to talk about Monster's new partnership with Honor which will see Monster provide custom audio products for the lifestyle mobile phone brand. This was stressed as a genuine collaboration; not just Monster repackaging and rebadging existing technology for Honor. The Honor 9 Music Set was the first product released, to be followed by the "Honor Purity powered by Monster". Like Monster, Honor targets a young, fashionable crowd.
Another Monster business partnership announced is with Tile, the company behind the tiny Bluetooth object-tracking device. Monster's ClarityHDX headphones will be the world's first headphones with Tile built in to the product, so in theory you might never lose them.
Ravi Adusumilli, VP of business development at Tile, explained how Tile is partnering with lots of different industries to put trackable Tiles into the widest variety of products, such as suitcases, so that "no one ever loses anything again". A user's map on the Tile app shows the last known location of a tracked object and with 15 million Tiles sold, Adusumilli noted that Tile already has the "world's biggest lost and found community". Commenting on the ClarityHDX headphones, Adusumilli said, "[Tile] will be built right into the Monster headphones".
The ClarityHDX headphones will also feature Monster Talk - Monster's new proprietary voice-activation technology, which will also be rolled out to all of the company's Bluetooth speakers and Elements powered by Melody.
Lee claims that Monster Talk is much more focused on music than other digital assistants, such as Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, as it will identify any audio tracks stored on your device, regardless of location or file type, and catalogue them for easy recall and playback. Monster Talk also does not need WiFi, as it is built directly into the headphone or speaker product.
Building on Monster Talk, the new iSport Victory X wireless sports earbuds will feature the "first four-button remote in the industry" (cue more exhortation for the room to whoop and clap), with the fourth button exclusively dedicated to Monster Talk.
Lee went on to discuss the issue of true wireless earbuds, calling it "the most exciting failure of consumer electronics" in recent years, reflecting on how they have too often been bulky, expensive, "not very fashionable" and simply didn't sound good enough. "Do you think Monster would take care of the problem?", Lee shouted to the room, twice.
He then introduced Monster AirLinks - "true wireless redefined". Thre will be two models: one for sport and "one for the fashionistas". Both feature a micro-coil antenna system "for no drop outs". The fitness model will retail at $199; the fashion model at $229. Having handled the earbuds, as they were passed around the audience, they are similar in size and shape to Yevo Labs' Yevo 1 wireless earbuds, albeit with a rounded, palm-sized recharging case (rather than the Yevo 1's rectangular style) and different end-caps for the buds, depending on the style chosen. The fashion model on show here had gold, multi-faceted, jewel-style end caps.
At this point, Lee introduced the first of his famous friends and "brand ambassadors". Female rapper Iggy Azalea is the latest name added to the Monster roster and she will be the company face for AirLinks. Walking out onstage in a dark red dress, Azalea declared, "I love Norm. I saw he had rims all the time and I thought, 'This is my kind of guy!'
"When I met Norm, he said he always liked to test his new equipment with my song 'Fancy'".
"For me as a girl I hate to put on headphones that are bulky or don't look good. I'm super-excited about what we're going to come up with together."
As part of their collaboration, Lee mentioned that, "Iggy and Monster are doing a SuperBowl commercial", which Azalea confirmed, saying, "This commercial is going to really special. We're both underdogs and you're going to see that story in this commercial".
Talking about Monster's product range, in particular its Bluetooth boomboxes, Azalea recalled her childhood in Australia, riding around on her bike with a speaker tied to the front: "Music is missing that communal aspect that we all enjoy together. Noel has recreated the boombox in a way that really works."
As Azalea left the stage, Lee went on to expand on the new additions and upgrades to the Superstar and Monster Blaster range of Bluetooth boomboxes which Azalea had referenced. The Superstar speakers have a 3D audio speaker system, with an additional middle speaker to create a more expansive soundstage. The $100 Little Monster personal speaker was introduced and demo'ed over the PA system. All Superstars have V-Sound technology, so they should sound the same whether positioned vertically or horizontally. Lee was also keen to stress a specific selling point for Monster's outdoor speakers: "We're waterproof and we float!"
Bigging up the MonsterBlaster range - "the boombox reimagined" - Lee pulled up a photo of another famous friend: "Stevie Wonder loves his Monster Blaster", with Wonder pictured walking through a crowd carrying his Monster Master Blaster model on his shoulder in the classic old-school hip-hop way.
The Monster Blaster Black is new, along with the Monster Master Blaster S. There is also a new RaveBox Plus with a five-segment LED and which projects a real laser show so "you can take the rave home". For all of its boomboxes, Monster has created SoftPlay technology to retain deep bass at low volumes.
In keeping with the old-school boombox feel, Lee introduced the
MonsterRapCast - a microphone people can "take to the park with your Blaster, the true meaning of what the boombox was designed for in our culture". At this point, hip-hop/R&B dance trio The Tainerz joined Lee on stage to showcase these products.
Finally, Lee introduced one of his oldest musician friends, Joe Perry of Aerosmith - "Joe and I have been friends for 25 years" - to present the Joe Perry Classic Rock Blaster. Lee recalled how Perry had asked him to create a speaker that was suited to classic rock music, not one tuned more for bass-heavy rap or EDM music, which many Bleutooth speakers are now. "I want it tuned specially for rock music", Lee recounted Perry's request.
"I'm kind of an amateur engineer, I follow that recording scene," Perry said. "Noel and I have been partners in sound for all those years."
Describing how he road-tested his signature gold Blaster, Perry explained, "I listened to some of the old classic recordings, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, rock'n'roll, then all through the 60s, and it all sounds great on this thing.
"We put a bass switch on there to kind of make up for the bass that was sort of lacking on recordings from those days, but it also works out well for modern recordings, too."
As part of the inspiration for creating a signature model Blaster, Perry shared how many other speakers he has gone through on tour: "We bring something on the road, in two weeks all the knobs break off, the speakers go," he laughed. "I've had this one on the road with me for months. I've had this thing so loud it's shaking the [hotel] walls. It's just an amazing boombox."
There will also be a slightly smaller version of the Joe Perry Classic Rock Blaster called the Firecracker, which Perry has already been using in the recording studio. "We had one on the desk and we were using it as a reference, to really hear what it was going to sound like".
All the new Monster products will become available during 2018.