Q&A: An Interview with Forte Founders Scott Chen and Travis Blane.
SHANNON BECKER: Tell us about your company.
SCOTT CHEN: The research for our audio products originated as conservation research to extract the sound of a bullfrog from a noisy recording of the surrounding forest mountain and waterfall. Dr. Jianping Pan developed a signal processing method to be able to extract the clear and uncontaminated sounds of the frog. He was even able to identify from the sound that there were two frogs, one large and one small. Unfortunately, we cannot reveal the details of the research method. Dr. Pan’s research depended solely on fundamental physics and math to extract the authentic sound of a tree frog, but while talking to our founding engineer, they quickly discovered that this research is also the perfect solution to a critical issue that headphones companies are desperately trying to solve.
Our lead engineer worked in the consumer electronic industries for 30 years, and he brought the cutting-edge technology to us while some of us were still engineering students and before we started the company. We brought our love for music and turned that into the passion to bring the best audio product to our fans.
So really, it all started about one and a half years ago, with the breakthrough research that created our Harmonic Interference Free (HIF) Technology. We saw the potential of this innovation to create the audio product of our dreams—headphones that deliver amazing sound quality without the hefty price tag—and started designing our first product that implements the HIF Technology. At the beginning of 2014, with the completion of our first product line, Impact, we officially launched Forte Audio.
We named our company Forte because we aspire to be the strong driving force of a revolution that demand affordable, high quality products in the headphone industry. This is a quest, and we have only just begun on this journey!
TRAVIS BLANE: Forte is really just in the beginning stages and is currently based in southern California. Currently, 10 of us work for Forte, but some of us work from Los Angeles and some of us work from San Diego. SHANNON: Who are the founders and what are your roles and educational or professional background?
TRAVIS: Forte has three main founders. Scott Chen leads our manufacturing process, Angela Lai is head of creative design, and I am in charge of branding, sales, and marketing.
SCOTT: The core founders and members of Forte coincidentally all have an educational background in science or engineering, and some of us have been engineers for a few decades.
SHANNON: What makes Forte different?
SCOTT: Music is a beautiful thing that goes beyond any languages and boundaries. To experience the best of it, an audio product with supreme sound quality is essential.
We believe that superior audio quality should not be a reserved or locked away luxury. Forte is centered on this mission to make high-quality headphones available to everyone.
SHANNON: Describe the new harmonic interference technology that your company uses?
SCOTT: Harmonic Interference Free (HIF) Technology was the result of some very cutting edge signal process research. Harmonic interference is the natural interference that occurs between sound waves of different frequencies, and audio tracks
without interference processing will sound fuzzy and muddy. HIF Technology uses physics principles and calculations to reduce the harmonic interference between audio tracks.
As a result, the audio produced by our headphones are a lot more crisp and clear. Instead of approaching the issue by employing costly materials or multiple drivers, we went on a completely different route and attacked the interference from the root with a scientific and efficient solution, and ultimately avoiding putting the cost burden on the consumers.
Originally, the research was conducted to extract the sound of a forest frog from all other surrounding noises in a recording. Imagine all the work put into extracting that quack from the sounds of the wind, of a nearby waterfall, and the rustling of the bushes. That’s the power of HIF Technology.
SHANNON: Tell us about the headphones you have designed.
SCOTT: Currently, we have two lines of headphones: Forte Impact and Forte Life. Forte Impact, our first line of the Forte headphones, is a bass-enhanced model that’s our signature powerhouse. It has a strong boost in bass and an extraordinary soundstage, giving you the impact you want from your rock, hip hop, and bass heavy music.
Forte Life, our newest model, is designed to be versatile and fit into your daily life and musical needs. The sound profile is well balanced between all frequencies with a slight kick in the bass, making it your ideal companion if you listen to a variety of different music genres. It also comes in both metallic colors
and bright colors to cater to our fan’s stylistic needs.
TRAVIS: We make the only high-performance headphones you can buy at this price point ($40 to $70). You have to be different, especially considering all the competition that offer similar products to one another and battle it by offering sharp marketing.
We give people the best audio quality headphones at the best price point period. Just wait for when we release our over-ear prototypes. They will blow away your Beats, Bose, Skullcandy, and Sennheiser.
SHANNON: Were there any challenges involved with the product design?
SCOTT: The biggest challenge is to keep the price low for all the music lovers out there but not sacrificing the quality. Thanks to HIF Technology, we are able to effectively achieve clean and crisp sound without adding costly components, and create headphones with a big ticket audio quality but not a big price tag.
SHANNON: Why did you choose the Kickstarter route to fund it?
SCOTT: The Kickstarter community embraces new ideas and concepts, it demands high-quality products, and it is very supportive of innovations. We chose to run our campaign on Kickstarter because our mission is in line with the Kickstarter spirit, and we believe these headphones that we put so much effort in creating will not let the community down.
Along the way, we have been very humbled by all the support and invaluable feedbacks we have received. The success has reassured us the demand for great sound quality at an affordable price is indeed high, and our effort to make our goal a reality is valid and recognized. The Kickstarter community has helped us take the most important first step of our quest to rediscover sound, and we couldn’t be more grateful!
SHANNON: Has the product started shipping yet, and what kind of response has it received?
SCOTT: Forte Life, which was launched on Kickstarter, started shipping at the end of October 2014. We are very proud of these headphones. We love them, and we are confident our backers will love them too!
With Forte Impact, we have received many positive feedbacks and reviews from professional DJs and Tech bloggers (such as Geoff Morrison from Forbes)! These reviews have helped us improve our products to provide the best to the world!
SHANNON: What’s next for Forte?
SCOTT: We are on a quest to make more genre specific models to fit individual musical tastes! Our eventual goal is to create a complete lineup that seamlessly caters to all your diverse needs and promises a perfect listening experience. We are currently working on a model for acoustic and classic tracks. I can’t say much about it now yet, but I’ll say this without spoiling the surprise it’s beautiful in looks and sound!