Bringing life to music – interview with Sol Republic co-founder Seth Combs (video)

21 Mar 2014

Seth Combs, co-founder Sol Republic

Seth Combs is co-founder of Sol Republic, which is focused on shaking up the wearable tech business, beginning with headphones. Formerly part of the team that set up Beats by Dre, Combs says the mission is to “bring life to music.”

Combs started out with Monster Cables and then helped set up Beats by Dre before finally setting up Sol Republic in 2011.

The company has grown rapidly in the US by bringing technically and physically advanced headphones at a price point within reach of most smartphone-toting youth.

Headquartered in San Francisco and with operations in Portland the founding team includes consumer electronics veterans Kevin Lee, Scott Hix and Seth Combs.

The company has developed smart audio headphones as well as a speaker called Deck that employs Motorola wireless technology to allow music lovers to be wire-free.

The headphones incorporate a flexible but tough material made up of what Combs describes as a “flex-tech compound.”

A design for life

Interview with SOL Republic co-founder Seth Combs 

A key component of Sol Republic’s onslaught against brands like Beats by Dre is clever materials and design, allowing consumers to customise the colour and look of their devices.

“Up until we came along most kids couldn’t afford a great sound. The headphones were either very cheap and of poor quality or very expensive and high quality. So our mission from the start has been to bring sound to the masses – headphones shouldn’t cost more than your smartphone.”

The mission is in the name – Sol stands for Soundtrack of Life. “We want people to be able to buy our headphones at a price they can afford, typically around US$99. Our products are aspirational but accessible.”

The strategy is paying off and the company has, according to Combs, within two years become one of the top three brands in headphone technology.

“Our secret weapon is in co-founder Kevin Lee. The key is in the tuning and we’ve come up with our own sound signature. We don’t want you fiddling with the equalisers on your phones – if you can find them – you can create your own sound signature.”

Combs’ big prediction is that in the next two years headphones will no longer need cables. In fact, that future is already here.

“We are leading the charge in this area and we are willing to partner with anyone who has the same vision around music – to make it incredible for everyone.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years