Corrine E. Mehigan –
“For audiophiles around the globe, stepping into Steven Lamar’s home is like walking onto sacred ground. As the creator of the Beats by Dr. Dre brand, Lamar’s reputation as a legendary innovator and master audiophile had my heart beating out of my chest (no pun intended). As he welcomed our photographer Jack Hutcheson and myself onto his dropdead gorgeous stone terrace overlooking the Bay, all fears immediately fell away. Lamar is a gracious host, making everyone feel comfortable.
“But when it came time to talk about his dream for everyone to ROAM with his groundbreaking earphones, Ropes, Lamar’s passion and expertise were serious business. As I placed his new Ropes into my ears and heard Katy Perry singing as if she were standing right in front of me, I was blown away by the next generation of sound. It was an experience with music like I’ve never had before.
A Bay Area audiophile and entrepreneur has invented the ultimate in chic wearable technology.
Meet Ropes—the next generation of earphones.
LEND HIM YOUR EARS
STORY BY CORRINE E. MEHIGAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JACK HUTCHESON
It’s no secret that Beats headphones are a global sensation; big, bright, trendy, and generally popular with those who adore being far from inconspicuous. However, they are also old news. Creator of the Beats by Dr. Dre brand and longtime Bay Area resident Steve Lamar has moved on to a new venture called ROAM. His revolutionary new Ropes earphones, released this fall, are everything we’ve been missing in our mobile audio experience. Lamar’s sexy new product line is designed to re-energize our connection with sound, whether it be music, our favorite audiobook, or a phone call. Soon, sophisticated consumers can roam freely with superior audio technology, yet in subtle and cutting-edge style.
With more than 25 years’ experience in finance and technology, Lamar is an audiophile, entrepreneur, and investor. And with a solid track record of succeeding in every business challenge he sets for himself, it’s safe to say our connection to mobile sound is about to be forever transformed. Sexy and sophisticated, Ropes are less about fuss and flash and more about legendary sound quality meshed with high style and practical use. They have an advanced look and feel and fit easily and seamlessly into anyone’s daily routine. And they’re attractive enough to wear around your neck. So, not only chic and practical, it’s wearable technology. When you aren’t listening to music or on a call, they are designed to stay put .No more bulky headphones that can’t fit in your bag or tiny ear buds that one can easily misplace or, worse, lose.
Not only is the ROAM family of products designed to transform our mobile audio experiences, there is also an unprecedented focus on incredible sound quality and the revolutionary ability to personalize your listening experience. “I thought, why be limited to the way engineers at Sony and Bose want me to hear it,” said Lamar. “Sound is very personal and intimate and evokes emotion. Finding that perfect sound that is right for you is hard, but enjoyable when you finally do,” he adds. Lamar identified the need to create high-fidelity audio and personalization for users whom, he believes, have never fully experienced the emotion of sound because of sub-standard products. “Ropes deliver the most superior audio fidelity available today,” he adds. “The unique pendant design houses electronics that enable an unprecedented portable sound experience: pure digital sound with absolute clarity.”
It’s obvious that technology is critically important to Lamar, but experience has made him certain that technology isn’t enough for consumers anymore. “It’s about ensuring the consumer has an emotional connection to the product and that we offer a great user experience.” Ropes are unique in that whether you are on a phone call, listening to your favorite music, or watching a movie, you have the power to customize these audio experiences. “With Ropes,” adds Lamar, “we created an app that connects to the earphones via Bluetooth. We have created settings to get users started but we encourage a new freedom for users to customize various audio experiences in their lives and share their custom settings with their friends.”
The son of a retired Navy Captain, Lamar was born in Columbus and moved far too much for his liking during his youth. After graduating San Diego State, he moved to Tiburon and never looked back. Twenty-five years later, he doesn’t regret that decision. “I’ve lived all over the country, but once I saw the Bay Area, I just said ‘that’s it!’ It’s breathtaking. I’m never leaving this place.” Lamar began his career in the Bay Area in banking at Wells Fargo and Citibank. Before joining SLC, Lamar was the co-founder and managing partner in a San Francisco-based hedge fund focused on investment in late-stage private equity and early-stage public technology companies. Yet after years of big deals, he decided to make a career transition. “I decided to leave to go to the operations side of business. I was a deal guy, a deal junkie who made a lot of transactions and a lot of investments successfully, but I had no experience on the operations side of the business to master how once you give a company capital, what do they do with it, how do they invest it properly, and how do they make that company grow,” explains Lamar.
He went on to become the president of SLC International, Ltd., a small, publicly traded audio technology company. It was there that he launched SLC’s first consumer product in partnership with Quincy Jones and secured product placement agreements for SLC products with Mark Burnett productions. “I joined one of our portfolio companies that we had just financed called SOS Audio, and they had speaker technology for professional venues, big speakers for big venues, stadiums, arenas, etc., and they wanted to miniaturize it and make it available to consumers, and that was intriguing to me. I felt the only way for a new company to market effectively was to give it some credibility with a celebrity partnership. That first product we did was a home theater system in partnership with Quincy Jones. He’s a wonderful man and I really enjoyed working with him,” remembers Lamar. “We launched Quincy’s product on the season finale of The Apprentice with Donald Trump. During filming, I noticed how kids on the show wanted to listen to music, yet they were all together in a house, and there wasn’t a cool headphone anywhere. I started talking to producer Mark Burnett’s people, pointing out all the free product placement they were giving away to Bose and Sony and others. I just kept thinking—where are the cool headphones? There really weren’t any in 2005. So I was determined to create some.” So Lamar went on to found Jibe Audio, LLC, which was responsible for the concept and design of the Beats by Dr. Dre headphone product line.
After Lamar disengaged from BEATS, life took a dramatic and devastating turn when his wife Jennifer was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2012. She died last year, about the time he started working on the self-funded earphone endeavor. Although no concrete connection has been determined to exist between cell phone use and brain cancer, Lamar found the Stand Up To Cancer organization to be an incredible resource during a difficult time, and he wanted to give back to the organization. Now, ROAM has partnered with Stand Up to Cancer (su2c) in the form of a limited edition orange ROAM with su2c Ropes. ROAM has pledged to donate $100 from the sale of each limited edition orange ropes to Stand Up to Cancer.
“Earphones represent nearly 60% of the $8 billion global market for headphones,” says Lamar. “They have remained relatively unchanged for more than a decade, even though they connect us to devices that are evolving every day. ROAM’s aim is to enhance the way we physically and emotionally connect to our devices and, by proxy, the music, content, and people we love.”
For press inquiries and product review requests, please contact ROAMpress@roamwith.com