Mo-Fi by Blue Microphones

Blue Microphones has a well-earned reputation in the music industry for producing some of the highest quality recording devices around, and being cherished by top musicians and recording engineers. They also have a well-earned disdain for following the crowd; its in their DNA to never produce me-too products. The perfect fit for AWOL Company.

Blue came to AWOL with a challenge: to break out of the pack of generic and commodity headphones with something that would truly shake up the industry. Their first headphone offering would be targeted towards audiophiles and recording artists, and especially to people who fanatically love music.  They had an idea of embedding a high-quality amplifier into the headphone, so that the lo-fi digital files we all listen to daily on our digital devices regain the hi-fi nuance, power, and depth that the recording artists intended. This became the foundation of Mo-Fi’s unique value proposition from which AWOL would build a game-changing headphone.

Our first step was to audit the competitive landscape. We saw a category dominated by a poorly-regarded/brilliantly marketed headphone (Beats), and a then a pack of other also-rans who were trying to out-compete each other on confusing audio specs and ever-landish color and material ornamentation. We wanted no part of this battle. Mo-Fi would be fundamentally different, not just cosmetically altered. Our first step down a new path: we closed our eyes. We picked up each headphone. We held them, wore them, shook them. From this perspective, they all seemed cheap, fragile, toy-like, and non-professional (even models costing upwards of $1000).

But after conducting an audit of their brand and products, we realized that Blue doesn’t do cheap and toy-like: they build instruments that withstand the rigors of professional use, and last a lifetime. Older microphones are coveted just as much as new ones. This was our first realization down a new path: we wouldn’t be working on a headphone, we would be building an instrument. Instruments are precision tools, perfectly crafted, robust, and have a consistent value over time. What would an instrument that happened to live on your head be like? How would it move, flex, and cradle the many head shapes in the world? How do we prioritize how it feels, as much as how it looks?

Since nothing with this approach had every been conceived in the headphone category, we first drew inspiration from other instruments, machines, and mechanisms. The four-bar linkages of racing suspensions immediately captured our imaginations, and fueled a round of prototypes that proved this method could be used to provide the opening, closing, and variable sizing that headphones require.

Subsequent phases explored the aesthetics of what this unique structure would look like when informed by the Blue brand aesthetic. Sketch concepts refined into detailed CAD models, and rapid prototypes to ensure our team was on the right track. Moving through the development process, our team supported the creation of Mo-Fi through CAD revisions, CMF support, and prototype review.

Debuting in the Fall of 2014, Mo-Fi launched to incredible acclaim. Seasoned audiophiles put Mo-Fi through its paces, and many lauded it as the best sounding, best fitting, most perfect headphone ever to be made. Other than the fact that we consider it an instrument, we couldn’t agree more.

Team members: Andy Logan, Chris Clark