10th Anniversary Interview with Leadership: Mark

10th Anniversary Interview with Leadership: Mark

TWT Audio

As we continue our leadership interview series, we sit down with our Research and Development Director to explore our leadership team's experiences, challenges, and lessons learned. Most importantly, we'll continue exploring TWT Audio's future vision.

Tune in for this interesting interview with the team lead who continues to innovate, pay meticulous attention to detail, and deliver premium audio at safe listening levels to all our listeners. We’ll start from the beginning. 

Graphic containing question number one to Mark at TWT Audio

1. How did your passion for audio/product engineering develop, and what led you to pursue a career in this field?

"It's a long, long story… I started out with a love of music and audio, listening to rock and roll AM radio in the middle of the night in the 60s because back then, all of the radio stations' power/volume increased after dark. I listened, I imitated, I played in bands, built equipment, and toured. I was obsessed. I got my first job in a recording studio at 19 years of age, and by 21, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a recording engineer on albums by Elton John, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and a few more along the way…I was beyond blessed. Along the way, I started to build recording studios for myself and design and oversee construction of studios for friends and clients. That process of learning what worked with acoustics in a recording studio related to audio and acoustics in many different situations. I ended up building mixing stages for theatrical, animation, and short-form television productions that also encouraged my belief in my theories about acoustics and audio. When my friend and now business partner Mike Guerena, the CEO of TWT Audio, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in designing some proprietary headphones and headsets for then ThinkWrite Technologies, I acknowledged that I had never done anything on that scale, but I embraced the challenge. We agreed that the difference between a large control room for a recording studio and a pair of headphones was just the size of the acoustic chamber; it turned out to be true…it has been an awesome journey, and we continue to progress 'outside of the box,' each day." 

Graphic containing question number two to Mark at TWT Audio

2. How do you approach the challenge of discussing or explaining complex audio design and theory to educators without technical backgrounds?

"I try to always treat people the way that I would like to be treated. If the situation was reversed, speak to me in terms that I can understand. I can talk for hours about frequency response, phase, comb filtering, porting, etc… but that doesn’t help the educator. What they need to understand is that we work to create a product that not only sounds good, but is also focused on protecting the students' hearing by adjusting the audio response. We know that our users come in all shapes and sizes, so we make sure during R&D that we try our products on a very diverse group of users to make sure everyone likes how it fits, how it feels, and that it's comfortable. Then we stress-test the products until they fail, then make them better. That is what an educator needs to understand and feel comfortable with."

Graphic containing question number three to Mark at TWT Audio

3. In the realm of education technology, how do you balance the students' needs with the technical requirements of engineering a product to be effective and intuitive for educators?

"We try not to compromise. We never say, ‘We’re just building this for education.’ We set the bar high. Our educational audio products need to meet ‘world standards.’ Our proprietary designs for education are designed from day one. Knowing our end user, we want them to enjoy wearing our products. This means that we design using an ‘out of the box’ approach to capture the voice in its purest form, an immersive audio curve with comfort features that make these headphones feel like they are not there…transparent, not invasive, and uncomfortable. Care about your users; our users are students."

Graphic containing question number four to Mark at TWT Audio

4. Given the diversity in educational settings, how do you ensure that your products are adaptable and scalable to meet different schools and districts' varying infrastructure and technological capabilities?

"TWT Audio team attends approximately fifty conferences and conventions each year. The team is interacting with teachers, IT directors, and administrators at those events. Every day our team is speaking to and asking questions about what these same people are dealing with in the classroom and what are the challenges brought on by more and more technology in the classroom. I receive all of that feedback, and it’s a lot, then we do our darndest to integrate those needs into our products with the newest technology as it becomes available to each district. A good example is we are one of the first companies to offer USB-C headphones and headsets for education, we did this because we saw that the manufacturers were changing their hardware, and there was a need, we filled it. We make headphones and headsets with four different connectors to address every need in the classroom. We also make the TW300 series that allows you to change connectors without having to purchase an entirely new headphone. Just swap out the cable and back to learning. Currently, we are doing field testing of our TW340 Bluetooth headset to see if we can have a classroom of BT units coexist by using a specific naming vocation. Another option for the classroom of the future."

Graphic containing question number five to Mark at TWT Audio

5. Educators often face budget constraints. How do you navigate these challenges while maintaining high-quality audio products?

"From the very beginning, my understanding was that these were 'Education Headphones,' so the bar was set pretty low, and thus the price point was set low. Our challenge was to find ways to create great ergonomics, coupled with great audio and durability that could exist in a war zone…..well a war zone might be understating the abuse they needed to survive; But here you go, this is your budget and price target! That being said, we started from scribble drawings on scraps of paper, ideas that did not exist, with angles and curves that were not common to headphones at that time, always with the thought of how can we achieve these goals on this budget. The answer was to find solutions without just throwing money at the problems, but by utilizing designs that supported our three fundamental goals. Don’t spend money to fix problems; don’t create them in the first place. The other part of the equation, which is critical, is our manufacturing partner. They have been open, supportive, and tenacious in helping us develop our "out of the box” ideas, helping us to find ways to keep our costs down without sacrificing quality. They have been a foundational cornerstone of our success."

Graphic containing question number six to Mark at TWT Audio

6. Are there any emerging trends or technologies in audio that you believe will
significantly impact the educational landscape in the near future?

"Yes, I do, and this is my own personal observation, but it’s not something that I consider a positive technology. AI is a technology that we use to help us in different areas of our company, and yes, it has improved certain aspects of how we do our jobs,……but I can see very quickly how access to AI for students can undermine problem solving, applying oneself to find answers, and the creation of content. These could just be learning processes lost forever. AI within the audio world, because we hear sounds in analog, is not going to enhance the experience. When you speak of ATMOS and Dolby 7.1 etc, etc… yes, those benefit from mathematical AI. At TWT, we are going to do all we can to keep exposing people to the natural feeling of being immersed in a world of analog audio." 

Graphic containing question number seven to Mark at TWT Audio

7. How can educators with limited technical expertise optimize the audio quality of their virtual or online classrooms for a better learning experience?

"As an educator, the process is relatively simple, and in all honesty, we are here to help educators, administrators and IT directors with this. We sincerely want them all to have a say in what technology is available to their students. When it comes to audio, use your ears, pick a source that you like… A piece of music, a podcast, a video presentation, something that you feel sounds good. Then listen to it on as many different sources as you can get access to [different headphones, headsets, on-ear, over-ear, etc]. The one that sounds the best is a good start. Then try using those units on Zoom or Teams, or whatever you use. Listen to the quality of that person's voice. It will really help you to understand how accurately and easily your students' voice will be captured. Pay attention to the nuances. This seems like a lot, but that is why we provide samples of our headphones and headsets so your team can truly evaluate and make the most educated decision. When you try this process, I am sure that you will realize that the best available audio quality for the classroom is created at TWT Audio." 

Graphic containing question number eight to Mark at TWT Audio

8. What strategies do you employ to ensure that your products are accessible to all students, including those with diverse learning needs or those in underserved communities?

"Well we have a few different approaches to addressing this due to my partners' backgrounds and their approach to life. When it comes to designing and building headphones for students with challenges that differ from some other students, we have found that a headphone that does not feel invasive is a good start for making some students feel more comfortable in the learning environment. Talking to educators about special needs students, as well as students with physical challenges, are invaluable to answering some of these students' needs. The second part is our line of products is relatively sparse, but it was designed to have a solution for all ages, sizes, preferences, and learning environments: students in the classroom, students at home, and then just about everyone for leisure listening and enjoyment. The last part is this: in my six years at TWT Audio, we have always provided free headphones to underserved schools and their students, whether it was inner city, schools on military bases, or just a set for a classroom that had no access at all to fund headphones for their students. This happened a fair amount during the aftermath of COVID; my partners feel that giving back is just a part of being business owners in the education field."

TWT Audio offers everyone unmatched comfort and a higher caliber of audio quality. Connect with our top-quality headphones and headsets, made for students, gamers, and professionals alike, and elevate your listening experience with crystal-clear sound and unmatched comfort. 

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