Andew Doerr at the piano

Beyond the Specs: Reference Headphones

When we say Klipsch is all about live music, we mean it.

Andrew Doerr, a Klipsch development engineer in acoustics, grew up playing piano, which created the foundation for his near-obsession with sound design.

After 17 years of piano lessons and numerous recitals, plays, etc., Doerr was ready to turn his love for music into a profession and furthered his education at Purdue University where he was heavily involved in sound design and engineering for the university’s theater productions.

Since coming to Klipsch, Doerr’s passion for both the piano and great sound hasn’t wavered. In fact, Doerr himself crafted the music for the embedded video.

Without further adieu, let’s go “Beyond the Specs” with Andrew.

Q: What do you do in layman’s terms for Klipsch?

Andrew Doerr: The best way I can describe it is that I take the product concept from the development team and make it sound good.

Q: How did you end up working in sound engineering?

AD: My interest in acoustics stemmed from my love for music when I was growing up. I was big into piano. I liked playing around and took a lot of piano lessons when I was a kid. From those experiences, I developed a love for music and sound. After my experiences in college, I found my way to Klipsch.

Q: When and why did you decide to work at Klipsch?

AD: I started working at Klipsch two years ago soon after college. I went to school at Purdue University, which is only around 50 miles north of Klipsch HQ. I had always been interested in working at Klipsch, maybe because of the speakers my dad had or just knowing a couple people that worked here. Klipsch just had a strong reputation.

Q: How does your piano playing aid you in designing headphone acoustics?

AD: Headphone acoustics are somewhat different from loudspeakers because, if done correctly, it sounds like the music is in your head. When you are sitting at a piano and get lost in the music, it feels kind of like the music is directly in your head. Combined with the art of composing music, the whole thing is really a neat experience. Taking that experience from playing the piano on stage and being a part of that music has helped me dial in a very specific Klipsch sound for headphones.

Q: What makes a Klipsch product sound like a Klipsch product?

AD: Klipsch’s core principles of acoustics are posted all over the office. They are flat frequency response, controlled directivity, low distortion and high efficiency. These four principles apply to headphones as well as loudspeakers. Our headphones may not be exactly flat because they are tuned exactly for your ear, and they are going to sound very natural.

As for controlled directivity...well, you place them right in your ears! We only use the best drivers and balanced armatures, which have very low distortion. Our headphones are highly efficient as they run off your phone. They also offer a great seal and therefore are very loud and effective at shutting out the outside world.

Q: What does “Reference” mean to you?

AD: Reference is one of those iconic words that a company has that signifies a threshold of quality or premiere products. Reference at Klipsch has always been a tier that represents the gold standard of sound. That carries over into headphones. If you really want to move into a better sound – a sound that is more natural and fulfilling – you need to move into Reference.

Q: Whom did you design the acoustics of the Reference headphones for?

AD: I wanted to design the Reference R6 in-ear headphones for anyone at any age to enjoy. It became evident that I achieved this when I was home for the holidays and tested them with my 19-year-old sister, who was dying for a new pair of headphones, and my grandma, who is over the age of 80 and also wanted a new pair of headphones. Both found the R6 to be exactly what they wanted and said the headphones sounded fantastic.

Q: What makes Klipsch Reference headphones special?

AD: I think Reference headphones have a unique dynamic because we can honestly say that they are the best in the category. That includes the R6 headphones. At $80, I honestly dare you to find a better in-ear headphone. We feel that we easily stack up at any price point against our competitors.

Q: Why do Klipsch oval ear tips make a difference?

AD: When we started developing headphones (before I was here), we did some research with our friends at Indiana University. Through that research, we discovered ear canals are oval, not round, as you may be led to believe. So that is how we designed these ear tips – they’re oval. The oval shape allows you to get a great seal. When you get a better seal, you get better bass and it isolates the outside noise better, which makes it a more efficient product. The oval ear tips, along with the oval housing of the R6 is what allows these headphones to deliver an outstanding fit and acoustic performance.

Q: How do the Reference R6 headphones improve upon the ultra successful S4 series?

AD: The R6 is a neat design because we wanted to make the refresh of the S4 smaller, sound better and fit better. We achieved all three of those things. We managed to find a smaller driver and, through several patent pending acoustic designs, we created a headphone, which honestly has more bass and sounds better than the S4. The fit was something we worked on tirelessly. The earphone itself is an oval, so it fits better. The oval housing allows for a better seal. This combined with our oval ear tips make the R6 one of the best fitting earphones you’ll ever have for 80 bucks.

Q: What does it feel like knowing that you might have some patents credited to your name?

AD: I wondered as a kid what it would be like to design something or get a patent. I always thought it would be cool to invent something. Honestly, I never thought that would actually happen. It is an incredible feeling to know that I have contributed to the headphone acoustic space and possibly have a couple patents. The pending patents themselves are on the R6 headphones. They are associated with two of the most important parts, which are the acoustic driver solution as well as the fit.

Q: What’s it like walking into a store and seeing a product you designed on the shelves?

AD: It’s something else to walk into a big box store and see your products on the shelf. It feels similar to the experiences I had in high school where I was alone on stage playing music I wrote in front of a thousand people In that way, the experiences really are quite similar. The R6i is my design and it sounds incredible, but it’s also selling well and scoring great reviews.

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