An out-of the-gate success, Vers Audio has come onto the market at a time when docks are a dime a dozen, and sound quality is subverted by cheap manufacturing processes. A company that takes true sustainability seriously even when they can't, Vers is going beyond sustainability to giving back more than they take. Today we speak with founder and partner, David Laituri…
Unplggd- How did you get started with this? Why even try with so much competition already in full stride?
David- We basically said "Pretend today is the day compact audio was invented." We didn't want to follow or even consider other companies to be competition.
The iPod has basically dematerialized the whole audio industry so now there is no more "big thing" in the living room- we have the ability to reinvent the whole process.
Sound quality has really suffered from companies using so much plastic in their speakers. Sure, it's easy to manufacture, but the sound is tinny. You might be able to blame this on mp3's lowering the bar in terms of quality, but that is changing.
Unplggd- So have you improved sound quality? What kind of drivers have you used?
David- Actually, we developed the speakers ourselves- we have some good friends in Hong Kong who are speaker developers and these were put together especially for us. Another distinguishing factor for Vers. Other companies will pick some speaker out of a catalog and build their cabinet around it using equalization to make up for the fact that there is no bass or hollow midrange.
We wanted to create a real handmade speaker and to do that, everything had to be built from the ground up.
Unplggd- So that is how you arrived at a pure sound?
David- That is how we arrived at our sound. For centuries people have listened to music created by and within wood structures. You can't count on a universal experience that everyone will like. People love a warm sound, though, and that is what we have striven to create. Our cabinets are 9mm thick and to do that, we have to do a lot of hand labor that other companies will not get anywhere near for fear of eating up their marketing margins.
It takes seven days to make one of our units, you can't make it any faster- we've tried!
David- If you look at how the market is behaving, it's like watching a group of 5 yr olds playing soccer. They all do the same thing: swarm around the ball. No one gets into position and nothing new happens. We are happy with the niche we exist within. It may not be the biggest money maker in the market, but Vers does things well.
I remember a meeting in which we were discussing pretty much everything and trying to cut down on materials. I said "Instead of using a twist tie to tie down the power cord in the box, can we just tie it to itself?" We did it and have saved literally miles of twist ties because of it.
Unplggd- So you're a green company?
David- We don't like to use that term but we do everything we can to be a sustainable company. We use bamboo in our veneers for the cabinet, we use a class D amplifier which uses full power only when there is music present, we use incoming materials to the factory as the paper pulp support inside our shipping boxes. We also adhere to or exceed the most stringent manufacturing standards around the world. We use sustainably harvested woods wherever possible and when we can't get a certification, as we sometimes can't in China, we set up a plant-a-tree option so that we offset any usage of wood around the world.
You have to understand, we could insure that every piece of wood used was from a sustainable source if we wanted to only buy certified materials from the US, but then all of that would have to be shipped overseas. The materials are just too far away from the factories for their use to be sustainable. The costs and environmental impact of all of that transportation simply do not add up. What we do is partner with programs like The Arbor Day Foundation, The US Forestry Service and about 25 other programs to offset any unkowns overseas. In fact, for every tree we cut down, we plant 100- how is that for sustainable? Because of our company, there are more trees on the planet than before. That really sounds like the ideal business model to us.
An upcoming line of iPod and iPhone cases from Vers Audio, in cherry, walnut and bamboo.
Unplggd- I understand you can plant a tree at checkout when you buy a Vers system.
David- We were really happy to set that up. $1 extra and now there is a tree planted by one of our programs.
Unplggd- What else would you like people to know about your company?
David- I don't think people realize that when they contact us, that there are only myself and my partner on the other end of the line. We handle all consumer relations and that interaction is really what drives our product development. So this is really a customer driven company.
Unplggd- Wow, a lot of work!
David- We love it.
Unplggd- Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, David.
David- Thank you!
Check out the complete line of Vers Audio systems and products at their website.