Meet The Aussie School-Kids Building Their Own Headphone Empire

It's not often you meet someone who can shake you to your very core and make you think about what you're doing with your life. A few weeks ago, I met Rupert and Tristan Buesst: two school-kids who found a problem with the way they listened to music, and started work on a company and a product dedicated to fixing it.

Meet Sacred Sound Audio: a company dedicated to building a pair of headphones that will make music sound amazing no matter what the genre. You love classical? Great; Brahms will pop more than ever. What about EDM? Deadmau5 has never sounded better. Generic Top 40 hits? Rihanna and her ilk thank you for listening. This is the aim of the ∞ONE: to make music sound great no matter what for only $23.99.

It's a lofty ambition, and sometimes to dream big, you have to be small.

The minds behind Sacred Sound and its new product, the ∞ONE haven't even hit puberty yet, and already they have proof of concept product ready to ship to people ordering from not just all over the country, but all over the world.

I spoke to Rupert (pictured right), CEO of Sacred Sound, about his product. Rupert is 14-years old.

"Our mission is to create great headphones no matter what," he tells me. I can't believe what I'm hearing: passion, common sense and business acumen from a teenager.

So how did it all start, I ask, genuinely curious to hear how a company grew out of a primary school music class.

"Sacred Sound Audio is our headphone company that I own with my little brother, Tristan, who is 12 years old. The idea came about when I was at a music festival last year. I listende to some EDM while I was there, and it was great, but I then listened to classical and it was awful, can i make headphones that sound great no matter what you listen to? After designing different drivers we came up with the ∞ONE, which is our first product."

Not only are Tristan and Rupert passionate about listening to music, they're also passionate about playing music: Tristan plays the Cello and Rupert the Violin. Their musical talent allows them to hear the music in a different way and tune their product prototypes to get the best hardware possible.

But I'm still baffled. How can kids found a headphone company? Rupert knows exactly what I'm thinking.

"A lot of people have been a bit skeptical about all this and saying that we can't do it, mainly our friends. But I think that we totally can! I really want to get this off the ground.

"I'm sick of spending money on headphones and earphones and audio products that sound bad. We're going to give you flat cables that don't tangle in your pocket, custom-designed drivers so that they sound incredible for all types of music, a metal earphone head so that there's better protection and better acoustic technology and a gold plated jack," he says in passionate defence of his product.

The secret, he tells me, is something Tristan and Rupert call "adaptive audio technology".

"When you test drivers, we test them with a special EQ machine. You can see a graph of the frequencies. These drivers have a more equal distribution on that graph. The sound is more precise, which means that if you're listening to classical music, it'll sound crisp and balanced, and when you listen to some EDM, then there's be a bit more bass so you can hear the bass line.

"We went through a fair few to get to the finished product. We first started with the initial driver that the factory made, and then said that we wanted to change it and improve a few things. Slowly we perfected it, and now we're almost ready to ship."

The company isn't just run to help the two boys pay for their university education and beyond, however. Rupert founded the company to help others, too. That's why 20 per cent of the profits from Sacred Sound Audio are donated to Médecins Sans Frontières, a humanitarian organisation dedicated to providing medical care to the developing world.

So do they want to be audio moguls when they grow up? Not on your life, says Rupert.

"I want to be a violinist now, and I have been playing for about five years and I love classical music, pop and dance," Rupert tells me. "I love all genres and what I want to be from here is a violinist and an entrepreneur."

"Tristan plays cello, and he loves it. He wants to be a politician and a cellist and he loves architecture," he adds.

So, it's about time to ask yourself: if these two pre-teens are building their own entrepreneurial empire with a desire to change the world, what are you doing with your life?


Comments

    "So, it’s about time to ask yourself: if these two pre-teens are building their own entrepreneurial empire with a desire to change the world, what are you doing with your life?"

    Screw you Luke, you don't know me! :(

    OT: That's pretty amazing, they saw something wrong and decided to change it, and on top of that they're using proceeds to help others out too. Very impressive for kids who haven't even finished year 10!

      So tell us, what have you done?

        I had a diploma by age 18, that's an achievement, right?

          I'm not sure if you are trying to make it sound like an achievement.. but anyone who finishes high school at 17 can have a diploma at 18.

            I finished high school at 16, I could have had two diplomas by 18.

            I didn't.

              So what did you do with that diploma? Is it any good for you, or it only hanging on your wall?

                Why are you people even asking?! My original comment was just a light hearted joke. Giz commentors are so stern and serious. :(

                  > Screw you Luke, you don't know me! :(

                  Yeah, I dunno, man. I thought your response was a classic. :-) I think the others are a little too literal-minded. ;-)

    I've got around 5 pairs of high end headphones and after reading about this project I'm going to get a set when they're ready to see how they go up against the big brands.

      They need pre-orders to get the project off the ground...

      Personally, I'm tempted, but what are my guarantees...?

        They're $23.99. How much of a guarantee do you want?

          I don't need another pair of $24 headphones.

    Great kids, just don't ruin your hearing before you come of age!

    I smell some bullshit with this story.

      It's easy with your grandfather being Barry Humphries. A small dip into grandpapa's pockets and you can have any company you want!

        Hey, that's cruel, low and ignorant. They saved hardcore for the first samples and built the e-commerce site on their own.they are giving it a go man!

    if there was a buy it now link i would have bought one but because there isnt i will probably forget about this in 23 min

      http://www.sacredsoundaudio.com/products/infinityone

    there is a link to buy now and I've ordered some.
    If they are terrible, I can always use those for going to the gym, otherwise, they'll become my daily drivers as the new Apple ones are pretty lame (I have some real cans - Audio-Technica ATH-ANC9 Noise Cancelling Headphone - for when I really want to listen to music, but too big for the tram ...)

      Really, where? Their website says this on the order screen:

      We need your help! The sooner your pre-order your pair, the sooner you receive them!

      Production will commence as soon as we reach our pre-order target. We will make sure you recieve your product as soon as possible.

      Ugh, Noise cancelling headphones are just horrible for music, and give you a completely wrong frequency response.

      Youd get a more accurate sound from $80 sennheisers.

      Noise cancelling headphones are excellent at noise cancelling, and garbage at accurate playback.

        ohcomeon, I'm not talking about eh $100 noise cancelling headphones, but more the $300+ ones, I think you should give it a try, you may be surprised. I had the $80 sennheisers before and the sound is nearly as good (and the noise cancelling part is also really good in noisy environments ...).

    " if these two pre-teens are building their own entrepreneurial empire "
    Riiiight, and mom and dad have absolutely no input at all!
    What's the bet that Daddy has "connections".
    No mentoring / tutoring from the parents or bags of money provided by daddy / mummy?
    Kids don't choose to learn violin or classical music off their own bat.
    That smacks of parental insistence. ( a good thing, but hardly means the kids are anything special)

    Don't get me wrong, good luck to them, but there are plenty of other Audio outfits out there saying they provide the same things and I seriously doubt these kids are doing any of the designing.
    Having a good musical ear is useful, but won't give you the insight needed to design audio hardware.

      With names like Tristan and Rupert you can probably bet mummy and daddy have a fair bit of coin to throw around!

        That, and the fact they're photographed with violins.

        Only rich folk waste their money on teaching the kids to play violin.

          wow. I think you'll find a lot of musicians who didn't have very affluent parents, but whom scraped by so they could give something to their kids that they never had the opportunity to have.

            You'd be right too cleverclogs, but I'll bet that's not the case here.
            Not in their private school uniforms.

            I don't think he's knocking the fact that they're learning a musical instrument, but more that they're learning violin specifically. Let's face it, no kid wakes up and wants to learn the violin. Kids want to learn "cool" instruments like the guitar or drums. Only rich and/or pretentious parents make their kids learn violin.

              To be fair, when I was young I wanted to learn the violin. (It might have been the many movies I have watched with awesome soundtracks)

              Sorry, I learned the violin. Bloody good at it... my folks certainly weren't rich or pretentious.

                Did you go to your parents and say "Mum, Dad, I want to learn the violin" purely of your own accord? Or did you start learning it on their suggestion and then started enjoying it as you got good at it?

                  No, it was thrust upon me as it is to everyone else at primary school. The difference being, I didn't give up.

                  @dman, believe it or not, kids in schools today still take an interest in "uncool" instruments.

              Am I the only person who actually wanted to learn violin?! I got stuck with piano for 7 years, and all the time I'd listen to Vanessa Mae and Four Seasons over and over and complain loudly.

          Hahah, yes I am as cynical as you, but your post is BS. Yes, believe it or not, 'poor people' can be interested in classical music. Thanks for your input Hitler.

            I've known these kids from a very early age, and I know that Rupert had always wanted to learn the violin since he was tiny. Also, their parents aren't funding the venture, the kids are funding it themselves through pre-orders. I do know that Rupert has had an interest in audio technology for a long time.

            Hitler, eh.

            So I guess being poor and interested in classical music also makes you quite cranky.

        I'm really sorry to disturb but having gone to school with and seen these kids play at school concerts they actually have an amazing amount of talent and passion for music. Yes, maybe their parents helped but this is an amazing achievement but anyone's standards.

          Read further down the comments you'll see that these kids are making a fraudulent claim! Deception is not an achievement to ever be proud of!

      On their "Supporters" page they list Jason Buesst, who I presume is their dad. A quick google reveals him to be the Business Manager for Swisse Skin Care. So yeah, it's safe to say that funding their venture isn't much of an issue.

      Makes you wonder how many bright young kids have revolutionary ideas but just lack the support and money to make them reality.

        That's actually a pretty depressing thought, probably missing out on some pretty neat things because of that, and who knows what else...

        looks like Barry Humphries is also their grandfather! Funding definitely isn't a problem

      Yeah, rich kids with more opportunities become richer. Typical. No headphones from them for me.

      Hey - I spent Easter surfing with Rupert and he was checking his email and tweaking his design. Missed some good waves because of it!
      These kids are my neighbours and I can’t believe that you are bagging them for their hard work. Why would you want to crush original and creative souls even if they do play violins! Feedme

    If the headphones was the brain child of some 60 year old professor of Sound in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there would be absolutely no news about it. Age discrimination is rampant, even as an excuse to talk about achievements. For some reason, we all prefer young people who are successful, if you are successful and old, you're just another fart.

      It's just the novelty aspect.
      40 years ago it'd be about a woman developing something.

      Well, aren't you a bitter old fart? The vast majority of innovations that we celebrate have been developed by mature adults. These kids are 12 and 14. Their achievement is noteworthy precisely because they're young and have less experience to draw on. If a "60 year old professor of Sound in MIT" developed these headphones it wouldn't be as newsworthy because it's expected that someone with that sort of expertise in sound technology would invent a new pair of headphones.

      Edit - Obviously though, mummy and daddy are having some significant input into the business so it's not like these kids are completely doing this off their own bat, and I highly doubt they actually engineered their own drivers. Still, it's more than most kids are doing at their age.

      Last edited 17/06/13 2:01 pm

        This statement in itself places unrealistic expectations on children, you don't have to be considered an "achievement" just because you manage to run a company, so many people do not run companies and went on to achieve so much in life, chidren should be taught achievments are also simple things like saving an animal in distress, doing something kind, or doing volunteer work, It's sad that children at such an early age are already talking about achievements in terms of power trips, financial gains, money money money,
        Reminds me of that teen that wrote an app that Yahoo snapped up for millions. Again measured in terms of $. It's sad that older people who have to work their way to achieve "wouldn't be as newsworthy because it's expected" Whereas those who have not done the hard yards or earn their stripes somehow bypass the normal steps in education training and experience is considered so much more newsworthy almost implying all the experiences and hard work normal people have to go through is pointless since you are "expected" that all leads to achievements. I am sure there are so many out there after all the routine hard work that still have not met that expectation, might have to jump off the cliff then. In general society places more value in youth oriented acheivements that is an undeniable fact. Being bitter, old and farting at the same time is optional to acknowledge that. But it's a nice thought.

        Last edited 17/06/13 3:29 pm

          You're obviously harbouring some resentment here. What happened, you don't feel appreciated or recognised in your work? You're falling into the fallacy that just because this article focuses on the achievement that a couple of kids have started a company (and it is an achievement), that that somehow means other peoples' achievements aren't worthwhile. Not everything that's worthwhile is also newsworthy. All the hard work and experiences that normal people go through are not newsworthy because, as you said, they're "normal" and most people go through them. Newsworthiness comes from things being different and unusual (like kids starting a company).

          Also, nowhere have these kids talked about the money making aspect of their business, they're mission is to simply create better headphones for a lower price. Plus, 20% of their profits go towards Doctors Without Borders, which you've conveniently ignored.

        When a creative person has a good a good idea - and they don't have all the skills or money to pull it off - they consult experts in the field. If these experts are within the inventor's community -more the better. It's called networking and it's how people who don't have money and resources realise their dreams. Dman you are obviously smart - why don't you put that to better use than spending too much time be cynical about other people's efforts - especially when they young and full of optimism.

          But if the 'good idea' is little more than 'make a better product', there wasn't really any skill required to come up with it and it's safe to say most other people would have imagined the same thing. There's no indication here that the kids came up with a unique new driver design or earbud shape that solves a problem, their vision seems to be limited to 'make better earphones'.

          Forget the fact they're kids for a second. If any normal adult approached you and said 'I have no technical experience, no education in physics or audio, and I am going to make new earphones that are better than all the other earphones on the market. I don't have a specific design plan on how this will be accomplished, but I'd like you to invest money in my idea", would you consider that to be a quality proposition? I certainly wouldn't. The fact they're kids may lure some people in, but there's no rational reason to do so.

    I'm a little dubious. There is a reason why this hasn't been done already, you can't have a driver that dynamically adjusts to whatever you're listening too, the technology for that doesn't exist even in top end headphones - hence manufacturers aim to optimise for a particular type of music base don their target audience. Optimising for one style often ruins the listening experience for another, and trying to give a good sound for many styles tends to result in a flat experience that sounds shit for everything.
    Still - at the price they are talking I'd support them just to see them succeed, imagine what these kids could create later in life with a bit of a leg up now!

      So it's a con then?
      So why would you support it if you pretty much know it's a con?

        Pulling off a successful con at that age is an achievement in its own right.

          Good point, I readily concede that. However, if you know it's a con and have nothing to gain from it, there's not a good reason to be complicit in it through tacit support.
          -I think Giz should investigate their claims before promoting them.

    +1 to their efforts, now syndicate this to the American gizmodo site pronto!

    Good on their initiative.

    Can't help but feel they order generic branded earphones from China, decided they wanted a different driver, and got a different generic branded earphone, then put their brand on it.

    Much like Brainwavz, for example.

    Last edited 17/06/13 1:10 pm

      That was exactly my thought. Having a background in precision engineering I doubt a two 14 year olds have the knowledge to a) design and b) put such a product into production.

      In addition, if it was that easy companies like Bose would have already developed such a headphone. Those high end companies are in the business of designing audio solutions that think outside the box.

      Actually do a quick Google image search. There seem to be plenty of designs available from Chinese wholesalers that look strikingly similar.

      Last edited 17/06/13 2:01 pm

        Are you telling me that not just anybody can accurately wind tiny little wires dozens of times around a former and then test the inductance, audio performance etc with just a box of screwdrivers and some tape? No, surely these kids are working on their bedroom floors with hammers and a knife. I expect them to achieve cold fusion at room temperature before they're 18 or they're USELESS!!!

          Entirely irrelevant.. Yes, pretty much anyone can do that.. But you don't think companies with multimillion dollar research and dev budgets thought of making headphones that sound good with "everything"?

          The problem is, even if they have an onboard DSP or similar to perform the switching, the drivers themselves will still only be able to represent a fraction of that effect, or even of the original track.

          They might be decent headphones (though id still argue it's unlikely they would be as high quality as a decent set of professionally designed cans, though these may offer pretty good quality for the price.

          Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!! With a box of scraps!!!

    I'm also baffled...

    " The idea came about when I was at a music festival last year. I listende to some EDM while I was there, and it was great, but I then listened to classical and it was awful"

    So there was an EDM gig, using a live PA, they then had a classical act come on (using the same PA), and it sounded crap, so they decided to make headphones? Or was he listening to music on his iPod, and realised that different audio compression formats tend to actually change how music sounds?

    Great idea (as is the cause some proceeds go to), hope it works, but it does look like Beats knock-offs getting ordered by dad and re-sold. They can't have 'designed their own driver' without some serious tech and funding... but they can order it.

      or audio compression? Anyway good for them I hope they kick butt & get the taste to make fixes for lifes problems & make some coin.

    "I’m sick of spending money on headphones and earphones and audio products that sound bad."

    Then stop buying cheap junk. There are plenty of good sounding headphones and earphones out in the market. It's just that you won't get them for $10. Expect to spend at least 15 to 20 times that.

    $27.50 including shipping...im willing to give them a go...

    Hi Everyone!

    My name is Rupert, and together with my brother Tristan, we're the guys behind Sacred Sound Audio.

    The idea came about when I was listening to music through some headphones at a music festival. I listened to two tracks, classical and edm. The edm sounded great. The classical terrible.

    I then decided that I would start a headphone company that would make headphones that let you listen to any genre of music, and it would sound great.

    To all you sceptics out there, my brother Tristan does all the designing himself.
    We fund the project ourselves, as we don't need parental help for it. The project is to be funded through pre-orders, and our lifetime savings.

    If anyone is wondering about the design of the drivers, I attended an RMIT university Audio Engineering course when I was in year 4 (when I was 10), as my uncle used to teach that course. This gave me some background on how sound works, and from there, an interest in computers and audio (digital and analogue).

    I love music, especially classical! but I'm open to any genres.

    Just to confirm, as we've had some questions about it, We donate 20% of our profits to Médecins Sans Frontières.

    Please contact us if you want details!

    Rupert Buesst

    [email protected]

      "To all you sceptics out there, my brother Tristan does all the designing himself."

      It's skeptics. And that addresses nothing. I understand you're a kid so I'm trying not to be too harsh, but the praise your receiving for basically causing there to be yet another consumerist product in an already totally over saturated market, claiming to be amazing seemingly based on nothing.

      You're part of the problem (more cheap products claiming to magically be better/as good as expensive ones based on nothing), not part of the solution (less, higher quality products). If anything the only real "innovation" is that you're probably making far less profit per set than a common brand name company..

        "It's skeptics."

        Wrong. 'Sceptics' is the more common spelling outside of North America, and this is an Australian site. Also, it should be 'fewer, higher-quality products', not 'less, higher quality products'.

        The fact that you just tried and failed to school a 14-year-old boy in basic regional spelling differences doesn't bode well for the rest of your comment -- or for your future adventures in pedantry.

          Actually, it's even more embarrassing than that. You tried to school him on spelling, yet you weren't even aware that regional spelling differences existed. My mistake.

      if you told us, you picked a design from China (http://kuson.en.alibaba.com/product/716197728-210133176/Best_Earphone_manufacturer_2013.html) thats already there and just changing the driver to work better.. that would be a better story than telling us all the design is done by yourselves. I mean so many people here have already seen the alibaba link.

      I saw it before I actually purchased one, But I thought you guys actually did some changes to it. Claiming its designed by you two is pretty much a scam. Feel Cheated

      I want the #HTCOne because its a frikin HTC ONE!! what else do you need ;)

    sweet! just ordered my set! Hopefully this isn't bs...

    I was going along with this until I saw that dad worked for Swisse. Uh-ho.

    “Tristan plays cello, and he loves it. He wants to be a politician and a cellist and he loves architecture,”
    This is not a normal answer for a 12 year old when asked what he wants to be!! What the hell kind of 12 year old wants to be a politician and a cellist???

      @Rstar To want to be a a polotitian,cellist or archetect at the age of 12 is perfictly normal for a well educated child.

        Judging from your atrocious spelling you wouldn't know what "well educated" is.

    Having worked in the audio engineering (hardware design) and consumer electronics industry for over 15 years, I can say this is without a doubt the biggest load of bollocks I've read in a long time. If you want an Aussie company actually doing something pretty cool in the headphone space check out the latest Jaybird bluetooth headphones. That's some impressively compact engineering.

    So they have made cheap earbuds with a flatter frequency response profile than... other cheap earbuds? Etymotics (e.g. frequency response curve here: http://www.headphone.com/headphones/etymotic-er-4s.php)? Denons (FRC here: http://www.headphone.com/headphones/denon-ah-c560r.php)?

    "When you test drivers, we test them with a special EQ machine. You can see a graph of the frequencies. These drivers have a more equal distribution on that graph." sounds a lot like "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about"

    Edit: I feel I should point out that if they *are* cheap earbuds with very flat frequency-response curves, not too much distortion, etc then I'll no doubt buy some. However, I do find it interesting that the site doesn't have any actual data on those properties.

    Last edited 17/06/13 3:52 pm

    'Production will commence as soon as we reach our pre-order target'....It would be nice to know what that is and maybe a counter on the page to see if your getting close??

    Mummy and daddy will be very proud indeed.

    The only semi-decent in-ears I've ever used were AKG IP2's. They cost a lot more than $30 and still aren't as good as these kids are trying to say that these are. Smells fishy to me..

    I figure they went to the chinese B2B site Alibaba, searched for "metal earbud mic flat" and then just picked one and chose a colour scheme.

    The big headphone manufacturers have millions of dollars in test equipment and decades of R&D. Does anyone seriously think that a couple of kids out designed them?

      These look familiar.

      http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/716197728/Best_Earphone_manufacturer_2013/showimage.html

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