Koss' FitClip Headphones for Women Aren't Pink or Patronizing

Olympian Dara Torres has teamed up with Koss to make earbuds for women.

June 5, 2013 — -- Consumer electronics designed specifically for women -- it's long been a category marked by unsuccessful products.

Back in 2008 Dell launched its Della campaign, which marketed pink and red laptops to women. Then there was the HTC Rhyme Android smartphone, which came only in a purple hue and with a purse charm. Most recently there was the ePad Femme, a pink-colored Android tablet designed for women.

But headphone maker Koss might have finally cracked the gadget-for-women challenge -- it has done more than just change the color on its new headphones for women. The Wisconsin-based company has teamed up with Olympic swimmer Dara Torres to create the FitClips, a pair of fitness earbuds that say right on the box they've been "designed for women by women."

"Every once in a while I would hear from women that their headphones didn't fit," Koss President and CEO Michael J. Koss told ABC News. "For the most part, women are generally smaller than men and they have smaller ears. We thought it would be a good idea to take a look at designing earbuds with that in mind."

Koss was connected with Torres through mutal friends and together they teamed up to solve the problem of fit for female ears, without sacrificing function or quality. The $30 earbuds have been designed with smaller buds and with a more comfortable and malleable clip, but not at the expense of the audio quality.

"Sound was very important. When you reduce the size of the earbud, you reduce the quality of the sound," Torres told ABC News in a joint interview with Koss. "They had to work hard to figure out how to make a small bud and get it so the sound quality was as good as the other earbuds out there."

Torres also made something else very clear: these are not like other celebrity earbuds. Sure, everyone from Snooki to Tim Tebow has their name on the designer audio equipment, but the 12-time Olympic medalist was very involved in the design and product development and refused to just change the design and color of the earbuds.

"Making a product for women by just changing a color or something isn't really making a product for women," she said. "They sent me prototypes and I would tell them what I liked and what I didn't like and gave feedback on comfort. It wasn't just some guys putting some headphones together -- they were really designed by women."

The earbuds come in five colors, ranging from a coral to blue to a mint green.

Other earbuds have been made for women in the past, but not by such a big name. Yurbuds makes a pair of earbuds that were "inspired for women." They, too. are designed for smaller ears.

Torres' photo is front and center on the box, as is the phrase "designed for women by women." And while it is usually very easy to find female critics of women-aimed-gadgets, experts say Koss has gone about the FitClips in a very smart way.

"While these are colorful, they aren't pink and there are a lot of options," Karena Cameron of Femme Den, a design lab focused on the female consumer, told ABC News. "And they really considered the context -- they are calling out the audio quality isn't being compromised."

Femme Den is a group within the Smart Design agency.

Cameron and her colleague Yvonne Lin say that the key when they work on design for women is providing differentiation in product and design. In most cases, they work on designing products for women without actually saying it. They have worked on everything from printers to TVs that had some aspect that was designed for women.

"Everything we do in terms of design, we think about women," Lin said. "If you look at who buys things, the vast majority are bought by women. Any time we design anything it is often times a lens we put on."

Torres and Koss said that in the case of the FitClips, there was a specific physical difference that had to be marketed to women. Of course, that begs the question: what about earbuds for the male ear?

"Do something specifically for men? I have the feeling that's been done since 1958," Koss said. "It has been a male dominated industry."