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This time last year, Armin van Buuren was in Tokyo, getting off the stage at EDC Japan. Things are a little different these days, but though the in-demand DJ and producer may not be touring or traveling right now, he hasn’t exactly been sitting still either.
Van Buuren dropped a new album, A State of Trance 2020, earlier this month, marking the 16th release in his “A State of Trance” series. This week, van Buuren launches his first product offering, with a new pair of wireless headphones designed in conjunction with legendary American audio brand, JBL.
First demoed during CES this past January, the JBL CLUB Series Headphones applies van Buuren’s years of experience behind the boards into a pair of portable headphones designed for both touring musicians and home listeners alike.
The sleek, sophisticated headphones feature a more finely-tuned soundscape, voice-activated settings, and more than 45 hours of playback time. The CLUB ONE headphones also introduce a new JBL technology called “True Adaptive Noise Cancellation,” which monitors environmental background sounds 50,000 times per second to block out unwanted outside noise. Another neat feature: JBL says its noise-cancelling technology also compensates for sound leakage caused by things like hair blowing, glasses shifting, and the way you move, tilt, or shake your head.
JBL says van Buuren spent more than 18 months working with the audio company to develop the headphones, focusing on everything from the inner acoustic settings to the headphone shape and fit. The sleek, matte-black style is also one of van Buuren’s signatures.
Still, this wasn’t just a vanity project for the DJ, who says he “took the science of sound very seriously.”
We caught up with van Buuren from his home in the Netherlands to chat about how he’s been spending his quarantine, his vision for the new headphones, and why being stuck at home could just be the motivation people need to start new projects of their own as well.
How did this partnership with JBL come about?
I’ve always been a big JBL fan given the brand’s legacy and superior sound on stage and in the studio. It was a natural fit for me to become a brand ambassador, and as we developed our relationship, I shared my “ultimate headphone” wish with the JBL team. Since I travel so much for gigs, I wanted headphones that would provide professional sound quality in the studio, something I could use easily use for DJing, and also travel internationally with on long flights.
Basically, I had a bunch of different devices for each scenario and yearned for just one. The engineer and design team met with me and we got to work. They were very responsive to my feedback and requests as we worked tirelessly in the studio to create the JBL CLUB Series, and I’m really excited about how it turned out.
You’ve partnered with a lot of brands in the past; how is this partnership and the product more personal to you?
JBL has an amazing history. They share my passion for music and the engineering behind it. Working directly with the sound engineers and designers during the creation of the CLUB Series made it personal. The team used my feedback along the way to create [the headphones] so I naturally have a personal connection to it. The JBL headphone app even has my sound profile embedded for users to experience how I prefer my EQ levels, which is a huge compliment to me and my involvement in the development process.
You’ve said that these headphones were designed for both professional musicians and “music enthusiasts” alike. What does that mean exactly?
For one, the CLUB Series was inspired to solve the need for a professional-sounding headphone that is great for recording sessions, durable for the stage, and can last 45 hours on a single charge – perfect for long flights. Additionally, the CLUB ONE model is designed with hi-res, certified graphene drivers, which are not readily available in a lifestyle headphone. These drivers utilize graphene, a highly-conductive and rigid material for accurate tuning, which results in great sound.
The CLUB Series can be worn wirelessly but they are also equipped with an audio cable [for DJs and musicians to plug into their sound system] and a microphone for multi-purpose use.
What are some challenges of launching a product while much of the world is under quarantine?
As the global community navigates this unprecedented time, we all have to be safe first and foremost. The original launch plan was created six months ago and is definitely different than today’s, because we had to pivot – and that is okay. While the 45+ hour battery life was intended for long international flights, it also works for long durations at home, and is especially great for musicians working in a home studio environment.
Sure, it’s a bit harder to promote any product right now, but consumers (and music fans) are looking for great headphones to help navigate in the “new norm” while stuck at home. Whether you need a headphone to isolate noise, create with, or simply listen to music with impeccable sound quality, the JBL headphones totally suit the at-home-slash-lockdown situation we’re in.
How have you been spending your quarantine?
I’ve been using this quarantine to spend some more quality time with my family at home in Leiden [in] the Netherlands. I stopped doing any promo and livestreams for the time being as well. For now, I’m just making new music, recording my radio show [“A State of Trance“] and doing this one-off interview with Rolling Stone as an exception.
What advice do you have for fans who may be stressed out or feeling stir crazy right now?
I recommend that they try and focus on doing the things they love. Pick up a new hobby, listen to your favorite artists’ music and get some regular exercise in. I also think it’s important to build some new habits into your daytime schedule. Consistency is key.
What’s on your quarantine playlist?