From the Top: An Interview with Direct Sound President/CEO Steve Rois

Direct Sound - Steve RoisDirect Sound: For those who aren’t familiar with the company, tell us about Direct Sound.
Steve Rois: Direct Sound is an American company dedicated to the manufacturing and marketing of quality passive — which means no batteries — isolation headphones for musicians, studio engineers, and consumers. Our company is focused on the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss for those that use headphones on a regular basis such as musicians, travelers, and kids. 
 
Direct Sound: What is it that sets Direct Sound apart from other headphone companies?
Steve Rois: Our unrelenting passion for combining hearing protection and high-quality headphone design. We’re passionate about creating sound isolating headphones that allow musicians and music enthusiasts to focus on creating, performing and experiencing music. 
 
Direct Sound: How long has the company been around?
Steve Rois: We started the business 17 years ago. Direct Sound’s co-founder is a drummer who early on before it was trendy, recognized the importance of hearing protection. He invented Direct Sound Extreme Isolation headphones with hearing protection for musicians in mind. The headphones offered ancillary benefits such as less distraction in his recording studio, but his primary concern initially was hearing loss. 
 
Direct Sound: So the hearing protection goal was a driving purpose from the start?
Steve: Yes, the attention on hearing protection became our driving focus and our mantra for the design of the headphones. It’s still our driving focus today. Extreme Isolation Headphones help your hearing through blocking out the volume of outside noise in so you don’t have to turn the volume up. Over time, that level of isolation is going to save your hearing. 
 
Direct Sound: Why is a focus on hearing prevention important for musicians?
Steve: Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable and 100% incurable. So, it’s very very important to take care of your hearing at a young age.
Direct Sound: How has this focus impacted the company’s direction since the beginning?
Steve: Early on in our company’s development, we began thinking about other products we could develop to help prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), with young adults as a focus since the incidence of Noise Induced Hearing Loss in this segment is on a dangerous rise due to earbuds. With this in mind, we developed a total hearing protection line of headphones called YourTones. YourTones limit the volume into your ear from any source – your radio, your iPod – to a maximum level of 85 dB, which is is a very comfortable listening volume. We chose 85 Db because that’s a government standard.
 
Direct Sound: How has that passion influenced the development of new products today?
Steve: Today, all of our product design focuses on hearing loss of some sort. Everything from the design of our ear cups to our ear cushions. Our design seals around your ear and gives you enough space between your ear and the speaker so it’s not uncomfortable. We provide the right amount of comfort in the headband so it’s not like a clamp on your head. Professional musicians such as Paul Gilbert and Gregg Bissonette rely on our headphones to give them the professional sound quality, and hearing protection they need. 
Direct Sound: What other professional musicians endorse the headphones?
Steve: There are a lot! Our list of endorsees includes drummers such as Ndugu Chancler, Peter Erskine, Rich Redmond, Alan Childs, Charles Collins. Guitarists such as Bumblefoot and Mimi Fox. And legendary producer Teddy Riley endorses Direct Sound headphones. All of these just to name a few!
Direct Sound: Is hearing loss prevention the only concern Direct Sound has in designing headphones?
Steve: No, the bottom line is that our headphones are designed to be comfortable. If they’re not comfortable, you’re not going to wear them, and you won’t get the benefits of the hearing protection. So they’re designed to comfortable, while protecting your hearing, and again, that’s the mantra of our company. Everything we design is focused on that.
Direct Sound: Talk a little more about the YourTones headphones.
Steve: YourTones volume limiting headphone is our lowest profit margin product. It’s priced so people can afford it and for those who realize the importance of hearing loss prevention, especially in children, but these work for anyone. We wanted to make the YourTones affordable, but also reliable, because so many kids headphones are cheaply made. The YourTones are built on the same platform as our durable studio headphones. We are paying royalty fees to the inventor and a lot of the profits we get from that are donated to some charities we selected.
 
Direct Sound: Talk about the non-profit companies Direct Sound supports.Direct Sound Gene Slay Boys and Girls Club
Steve: One is the Lauren’s Hope Foundation, which provides services for traumatic brain injuries in children and newborns. One is the Gene Slay Boys and Girls Club here in St. Louis, which helps underprivileged kids by giving them a place to go to after school to learn and develop skills so they can be an asset to society.
 
Direct Sound: Are those the only two?
Steve: No, there are others. The newest organization we support is The Sound of Healing, which is an organization here in St. Louis that was developed by a studio engineer named Drew Jackson who actually grew up Drew Jackson - Direct Soundin children’s hospitals, with various defects and cancer as well. He sat around and was depressed during his childhood and after he became a studio engineer, he realized that if he had had a way to make music when he was in the hospital, it would have taken his mind off of all the bad things he was thinking about. So, he started the Sound of Healing organization. The program provides little mini studios that get wheeled in on a hospital luncheon tray to let these kids be creative and enjoy life. It is a phenomenal organization.