The spooky part is how simple Grell makes getting paid sound in today's noisy global tech biz. When I asked him what kind of complex business processes are needed to actually create such groundbreaking products, there was no Apple-like zen mystery or GE (GE) Six Sigma quality-control consulting nonsense. "It starts with a simple conversation with the boss," he said. "The IE 800s came about over meetings with Heinrich Esser, now president of professional systems." Grell said it was a simple series of chats about the company having to do something groundbreaking to compete with low-cost global audio component producers.
Grell's investor takeaway is, therefore, exactly this: Listening for profits in consumer tech is not about chasing the next bogus Web experience or cynically hacking the mind. But rather, artfully connecting a listener to a musician. Then getting the heck out of the way. "The approach is that once the artists and producers have done their work, all those emotions are there in the recording," Grell said. "We offer as direct a connection to those feelings as we can. That gives them goosebumps, which happens with me sometimes when I listen to my products. Customers come back for that. They will pay for that." Now that I hear it, Grell may not be so different from Steve Jobs after all.