CES 2012: Sonomax’s Eers rebranding comes Straight Outta Compton

LAS VEGAS — With his square glasses, Richard Branson haircut and Quebecois accent, Nick Laperle might not immediately strike someone as the kind of guy who would be intimately familiar with the seminal gangster rap group N.W.A.

But the chief executive of Sonomax Technologies Inc. now counts one of the founding members of N.W.A, Arabian Prince (real name K.R. Nazel), as his creative director and brand ambassador.

For Sonomax, the addition of Arabian Prince to the small Montreal-based headphone maker is the centrepiece of its brand building strategy in North America, as the company looks to take its “Eers” line of custom fit headphones mainstream.

Although the California rapper was skeptical when he first met the Montreal businessman, Mr. Nazel said he decided to join the company after testing out Sonomax’s custom fit headphone system for himself in a San Francisco airport.

“I was blown away,” Mr. Nazel said in an interview at a press event to kick off the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Sunday night.

“I’ve been on stage doing music for the last 30 years, and I’ve got tons of headphones. People give them to me all the time. But when I saw the technology, I said to Nick, man, you’ve got a hit right here.”

In fact, it was Mr. Nazel who suggested the company change the name of the product form “Sculpted Eers” to simply, “Eers.”

“People have short term memories, but everybody has ears,” he said. “Very simple. We just have to tell them how to spell it and show them how it works. We want to take this to the masses … turn it into a global brand, because everyone deserves a great fit and great sounding headphones.”

Of course, Arabian Prince is by no means the first rap star to sign on as the spokesman for a headphone or speaker company. In fact, he’s not even the first member of N.W.A. to do so.

Perhaps the most famous member of N.W.A., Dr. Dre, has lent his name to Monster Cable’s “Beats” brand of headphones for several years now. Rapper 50 Cent will be here in Las Vegas this year at CES pushing his own line of headphones.

At the same CES Unveiled event where Sonomax was showing off its custom fit headphones for bloggers and television crews, Rohan Marley, son of the late Reggae legend Bob Marley, was busy showing off the latest speakers and headphones from the House of Marley.

The “SonoFit” technology behind Sonomax’s custom fit headphones enables people to create earbuds molded to the shape of their inner ear.

A set of Eers headphones — which took home the Innovation Award for the best headphones at this year’s CES — comes with a special kit which allows the user to place the earbuds in their ear, then inject silicone into the earbud, allowing it to harden in the shape of the user’s ear.

Last year, Sonomax began selling its headphones in airports across the United States. In many cases, users could sit at a station and have their headphones custom fitted to their ears while they waited for a flight.

Now, thanks to a deal with The Source in Canada, Mr. Laperle is hoping Canadians will begin picking up their own Eers kits and taking them home to create custom headphones. As well, the company is looking to partner with other headphone manufacturers to incorporate the SonoFit technology into their products.

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