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From poverty to world fame: how a Ukrainian who moved to the USA makes headphones for Beyoncé and Jay Z

Vitaliy Belonozhko - founder of the company 64Audiowhich makes professional music headphones. In the 1990's, he still left for the USA as a child. There, the guy lived in poverty for a long time, and in 2008, he made the first pair of headphones in his bedroom. Now Kanye West, Jay Z and Ocean Elsa buy his brand’s equipment. Writes about it MC.Today.

Фото: Depositphotos

Vitaly talked about the difficult move to the States, the love of Coca-Cola and how his company entered the top three manufacturers of headphones in the world.

Next - from the first person.

About moving to the USA, "fake" Olivier and Coca-Cola

Until ten years, I lived with my family in a small town Zvenigorodka Cherkasy region. In 1992, parents realized that they could not raise eight children in Ukraine, and decided to move to the USA. Our relatives have already left there, there was a wave of emigration.

The official reason for the move was religious persecution. We are Protestants, in Ukraine then few people understood this. Parents wrote to the US Embassy and sought asylum in the "quest for religious freedom." They gave us refugee status, American communities helped with the money for the flight.

I don’t remember the move itself, but it was something. Two adults, eight children, 16 suitcases - imagine how to transport it all. I remember how we rushed around the airport, and our parents tried to calm us down and put us together in one place.

We flew to Denver (Colorado), from there we moved to Portland (Oregon). There, in a two-room apartment, we were sheltered by the father's brother. There were ten of us, five more of them - I still do not understand how we fit in this dvushka.

Soon the uncle's landlord found out about such a crowd and drove us out.

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We did not have money for renting large housing - we were paid a allowance, but only $ 600 per family. The average salary in the country at that time was about $ 3 thousand, so it was enough for a minimum. In addition, we did not know English. Nobody wanted to rent housing for refugees with a bunch of children.

One man out of pity offered a three-room house for little money. It sounds good, but the rooms there were small, there was only enough space on the bed. We lived for three or four people, but it was good.

Time passed, dad found a job as a welder. My brothers and sisters went to a regular school. It was not easy in its own way. As refugees we were given free meals. Other students laughed and teased. Again, as in Ukraine, I felt like a minority.

What was not a problem was food. In addition to cash benefits, we were also given food coupons. We could eat normally and allow ourselves much more than in Ukraine. Since then, I remember well that we constantly drank Coca-Cola in gallons. In Ukraine, I only tried it once, and here we could buy not only her, but also chocolates - an unprecedented luxury. We also liked pizza. At home, and the words of this then did not know.

With the usual food was more difficult. Mom tried to cook olivier, and outwardly the salad was very similar. But the taste is not Olivier at all, because the products are different. Missed the taste of our potatoes.

About how I wanted to have my own, separate bed

Four years later, all our relatives “fell off”, and we bought a house on credit for 30 years. But still, there were two or three people living in the room, because by that time there were already 12 children in the family.

I graduated normally and went to college. There he met a musician and immediately abandoned his studies. He lived in music, worked on some old keys that he found in the closet. Parents did not have money for music schools, so he studied on his own accord.

The following years, before I met my wife, were pretty monotonous. My brothers and I did painting to earn a living. The rest of the time they made music, played at weddings and corporate parties. Earned a little, but then there were no other options.

Once I was in church, something helped on the musical part. And then everyone began to say that a new one had arrived. We had a small team, so this was an event - a new girl. I saw her and somehow immediately thought: "It would be cool if she became my wife."

Фото: Depositphotos

Soon invited her to record a song in the studio. It worked - we started dating. I continued to work as a musician, sometimes taking some part-time jobs. Earned a little - about $ 1500.

A year later, in 2008, we got married, rented a separate apartment. I often joke that in my life I did not have my own bed: at first I slept with my brothers, then I got married - and I began to share the bed with my wife.

How to assemble cool headphones in the bedroom

My wife needed monitor headphones. Musicians use them on stage to hear how music sounds in the hall. New ones cost about $ 600, I could not afford it. And then I remembered that I have old broken ones, I decided to try to repair them.

It took more than a year. I took information from various sources - I asked friends, searched in books and on the Internet. In the end, I did it - the headphones were ugly in appearance, but gave a good sound.

I had many musician friends, they began to ask to remake their headphones too. This is an expensive technique, and I did two to three times cheaper than even the most budget options.

In July, 2010 has already registered a company. It was easy because we got citizenship. Everything took an hour of time and cost $ 100.

The first major order is ten pairs of headphones for the church. They cost $ 300 per pair, they immediately threw off $ 3 thousand. I don’t know if I earned anything at all - I just didn’t count it. But with this amount, I was able to purchase parts and tools.

For about six months, I made headphones in the bedroom at home - there then everything was littered with equipment. We did not have air conditioning, in the summer it was wild heat, and I worked without uniform, in one T-shirt. Six months later, he began to "crawl" into the kitchen - chemicals were on the dining table. It was already too much for my wife, and she sent me to look for a room.

About technology that made headphones twice as expensive

We rented a small room for $ 275 per month. I did not know how to pay for it, although three people had already worked with me: my brother, my wife’s brother, and an American. Our earphones then cost from $ 300 to $ 700. For such a technique it is very cheap.

All that I earned, I invested in equipment and parts. We left nothing to ourselves - for several years we lived only on the salary of our wife. She supported me and even after her work came to help - she is very grateful to her for that.

I realized that we had already “caught up” with the competitors in the execution technique, and began to look for something that would make us better. I bought his technology from one person, which reduces pressure on the eardrum. We put it into the headphones, paid him 10% of the price of each pair.

This technology has translated our product into the premium category, the price has doubled. Now the headphones cost about $ 1 thousand. Now I don’t understand how I went about it: to double the price. There were fewer orders, but for the money we went into a sure plus.

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I was able to purchase equipment that I did before with my own hands. We have already come up with our technology Apex. She also defended the eardrum, but in other ways. We became independent, we have patented the technology and to this day we are working with it.

About star orders

In 2015, Beyoncé ordered our headphones. More precisely, not her personally, but her monitor engineer (a person who selects musical equipment for artists). They cost $ 2 thousand

Now I don’t even remember all the world stars that we ordered. There were Kanye West, Bon Jovi, OneRepublic and Jay Z. The average price of one order is $ 3600.

Interestingly, Ukrainians appreciated 64Audio headphones even before the Americans. In 2012, the guys from the Druha Rika group were the first to order them, then there were many others. Our headphones use Ocean Elzy, The Hardkiss, Svetlana Loboda, Without Crossing.

About how headphones are made

Work with musicians is always an individual order. First, an otolaryngologist (ENT) pours a silicone mixture into the client’s ear. It freezes - and we get the form by which we work.

The form is scanned, an 3D model is created. The program is brought to mind, cut off where necessary, and sent to the 3D printer. He prints the base, we call it a shell.

Then the technicians manually put the “stuffing” and the drivers there. A driver is a small speaker. In ordinary headphones, even expensive ones, he is alone. Here the technology is different - we have from two to 12.

Everyone is responsible for their own “piece” of music, for example, low or high frequencies. The musician hears very clearly what is happening. One speaker physically cannot reproduce all frequencies well, but they are different for a bass guitar and a piano.

About the difficulties of working with the family

For ten years, we had almost no technical difficulties. Unless the time when we decided to make discounts on Black Friday.

We received 600 orders in three days, whereas usually we have 25 orders per day. They worked almost around the clock and seven days a week, but there was no clearance. Headphones were promised to all customers in three weeks, in fact the blockage lasted two months.

Now we divide all stocks into smaller stocks throughout the year - the same for money, but there is no emotional stampede.

What has been really difficult for me all these years is the relationship between people, especially with the family. My relatives worked with me: now there are four of them, and once there was 11.

Фото: Depositphotos

In 2016, I ran the company with two brothers. And he hired a friend - he was a cool specialist. A friend did not find a common language with the brothers, they categorically did not accept it. I was driven into a dead end, I even seriously thought of closing the company for the sake of peace in the family.

Under the pressure of the brothers, he dismissed his friend; I still consider it unfair. By the way, both brothers are no longer working with me. One opened his own company, also associated with music, and the second became a competitor.

About the cheapest and most expensive 64Audio headphones

Our office is now located in Vancouver, Washington. We make 12 headphone models. The cheapest are $ 500, the most expensive are $ 3800.

They are designed for two categories of users. Four cheap models are universal and individual. But 95% universal we sell to Asia. They are for ordinary people who care about the quality of music, the so-called audiophiles. We studied that these people spend several thousand dollars a year on high-quality equipment.

The remaining models are made only by individual order, they are bought by musicians. 80% is USA. Now we make about 5 thousand individual and about 2500 pairs of universal headphones per year.

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64Audio is one of the TOP-3 companies producing such headphones in the world. For prices and technology, we are a premium brand.

I’m not collecting the headphones myself now. Product development lies on me - I'm trying to make some kind of innovation.

To be in the subject, I am engaged in tuning the sound at concerts. This is part of my work - because there, directly from the musicians, I understand what they need. I see how they rebuild the sound, what kind of sound they achieve, what equipment they choose. This is very important for my work.

I also make music for myself - I play the piano. This, like meditation, inspires and energizes.

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