Finally – electronics designed for women, by women. This week, Koss unveiled its new female-focused headphone line co-designed by five-time Olympian and fitness guru Dara Torres. Torres hosted a spin class for members of the media at Elite Sports Club Mequon (11616 N. Port Washington Rd.) on Wednesday to launch the product and a meet-and-greet open to the public.
Koss designers enlisted Torres’ expertise to create the smaller, in-ear buds that are sweat resistant and meant to stay in place during any activity. A busy mom, author and model, Torres wanted to create a product that could keep up with her active lifestyle. I had the chance converse with her via email about this project.
JK: Why did you want to partner with Koss on this project?
DT: Music has always been a huge part of my life. I listen to music each and every day both while working out and at home. I’ve always wanted to be associated with products that share my overall values. When I learned Koss was looking to launch a headphone product line geared towards women to be used primarily in the fitness industry, I knew it was the perfect fit.
JK: What surprised you most about the process?
DT: I am really impressed with the amount of detail the Koss design and engineering team puts into every aspect of the product. It was such a blast to be able to meet with the Koss design team in early 2012 to begin talking about what headphones should mean to women. I never knew how much design details went into making the headphones. They are obsessed with fit, which I’ve learned is critical to achieving the best sound possible. It was really cool to see the level of dedication that was put into the design process – I think it really shows in the final product. To be a part of the process from design to now bringing them to life, it’s been great.
JK: What is your pet peeve about workout gadgets/technology?
DT: My biggest pet peeve is that women are totally ignored. Until now, companies would just color existing products pink and call them women’s products. This is the major reason why I am so excited about the Fit Series. Along with the women on Koss’ design team, we came up with solutions to problems all women have with headphones. First, they are too big – so we designed FitBuds, which are 33% smaller than any earbud Koss makes. Second, they never stay in – the FitClips solve that problem with the Flex Fit design that cradles the ear.
JK: What tunes do you listen to during a workout to keep you going full speed?
DT: I like a lot of different music, but some of the regular features on my playlist include You Can't Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones, Who Are You by The Who, Summer Love by Justin Timberlake and Immigrant Song by Led Zepplin.
JK: What is your favorite way to stay in shape aside from swimming?
DT: I do a lot of different workouts, but I really love spin. I am an instructor and take classes several times a week, so that’s why I wanted to do a spin class as part of the product launch here in Milwaukee.
JK: Of all of the amazing opportunities and accomplishments you've had, what has been the most gratifying? Most challenging?
DT: Great question. I’ve been very fortunate to attend five different Olympics, win 12 medals, meet people from around the world. But by far the most gratifying is being a mom and seeing your kids grow. It’s a challenge unlike any other. It’s also probably the most challenging too, but I’d take it any day.
JK: Have you ever been to Milwaukee before? What has been your impression?
DT: Milwaukee is great. I was here last fall, to meet the Koss team and begin the design process. I visited students at Nicolet High School. Milwaukee seems like a very up-and-coming city. I hope to be back often.
JK: Have you fully retired from competition?
DT: As of right now, yes. I still swim, and I’ll never say never, but right now I’m focused on being a mom and talking with people across the country about the importance of fitness.
Though I couldn’t make it to the spin class, Koss offered me the opportunity to test out both new products. Let me start by saying, I am not only a huge fan of their clever billboard ads on I-43, but I also wear a sleek set of Koss DJ headphones.
So I was a tiny bit disappointed when I couldn’t get the FitBuds to stay in my ears – completely sedentary and much less while I was running. Although the FitBuds come with three different size cushions for a custom fit, the cushions were hard to change up and even when I pushed them into my ear so hard it hurt, they still wouldn’t stay.
I moved on to the FitClips. The in-ear bud stayed put this time with the help of a clip that nestled softly behind my ear. Both jogging and at full speed these stayed put, blocked out outside noise and provided excellent sound quality. I loved the bright colors and the soft pliable feel of both phones, but I would likely only use the FitClips for working out. In fact, because they are so small and lightweight, they just became my new go-to pair for travel too.
Did you know that Koss’ worldwide headquarters have been right here in Milwaukee since 1959 and made the world's first Stereophones? Koss FitClips and FitBuds are now available at Koss.com and Wal-Mart Stores throughout the U.S. Check out the Koss Facebook page for giveaways and information on the “Fit For Life” program – an online community to share how music inspires your fit lifestyle. You can even ask Dara Torres you own questions.
Follow me on Twitter as @jkashou and search #GirlAboutTown to stay on top of what’s happening in Milwaukee.