If you’ve ever listened to music through hi-fi audio equipment, you can attest that it’s clearer, louder, and richer-sounding with a superior bass – basically, it feels like candy and rainbows in your ears.
However, this rewarding auditory experience is unfortunately expensive, too large to be portable, and not readily available to the average music listener.
Our smartphones and other portable music devices are great at storing thousands of songs, but have sacrificed audio quality by using cheap, inadequate headphone outputs.
This means most people are missing out on great sound, and they don’t even know it!
Who better to solve this than two DJs?
Now for the first time you can conveniently enjoy high end sound on your smartphone, MP3 player, tablet, laptop or PC thanks to Joe Chehade and Bart Kowalski, two DJs from Adelaide, both 28 years old, who built a hardware start-up about two years go.
DJs turned entrepreneurs: Joe Chehade (L) and Bart Kowalski (R)
They have developed the Uamp – a tiny headphone amplifier that easily fits in the coin pocket of your jeans and works with all your music devices.
“I love my hi-end audio setup; the sound is just so pure and clean,” Bart revealed, about their motivation. “But then listening to music on my phone was a real let down. That’s why we created Uamp, so great sound isn’t restricted to the living room.”
That’s where Uamp comes in, providing the same high quality sound for a fraction of the price and size of standard amplifiers. “We want to make premium sound accessible to everyone, on any device,” Joe declared.
How exactly does the Uamp work?
Warning: reading any further might turn you into a sonics nerd
Headphone amplification is more common in the high-end audio industry. It works by having a very low output impedance (10 times better than a typical phone), much higher range and better performance under load.
This means that the output is less affected by the changing load that is your headphones. Basically, this results in your phone or laptop performing at its best, while the Uamp does all the hard work with your headphones.
Good quality headphones benefit the most from dedicated amplification, as they can be quite difficult to drive. Not to mention higher impedance or lower sensitivity headphones won’t reach acceptable volume levels without amplification.
What features is the Uamp packing?
Uamp has a beautiful aluminium design, measures only 43 x 43 x 9mm and weighs just 26 grams so it can fit perfectly into the coin pocket of your jeans, allowing you to take it with you whilst walking, jogging, cycling, or travelling on the bus, train or plane.
Throw in its 10 hour rechargeable battery and you can have high quality sound wherever you are.
It has five times the power of the amp in an iPhone, works with just about any headphone on the market and can be plugged into any device with a 3.5mm headphone output.
Uamp which is available for US$50 on Kickstarter comes with five EQ presets (Bass Boost, Bass Boost 2, Treble, Streaming and Flat) as well as a custom EQ setting that you can adjust yourself.
The Streaming EQ preset is specifically designed to enhance the sound of music streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Youtube, iTunes Radio, iHeart Radio and many more.
How can you build the next Uamp?
On what he has learnt about building a start-up and a new product from his journey so far with UAMP, Joe told Anthill, “Everything boils down to one thing, build something people want. It may seem like basic advice but most people including ourselves ignored this lesson.”
“Test your assumptions, build a product and get it out into the world as soon as you can, users will tell you if they want it,” he explained. “This has been our biggest challenge to date; we learnt how to do it by failing at it a few times.”
“If you have an idea or new product, build a prototype and tell people about it,” Joe added. “What you think your customers want and what they actually want are often very different things.”
“So speak to customers, and ask them as many questions as you can. And never stop doing this.”