By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Altec Lansing Technologies returned to its home audio roots with the online relaunch of four step-up home stereo speaker pairs, including the high-end A7 Voice of the Theater, following a decade-long focus on PC-audio speakers.
The company is "entertaining" sales of traditional home speakers through traditional CE channels but has no timetable for doing so, said product manager Robery Puzey.
The introductions are part of a broader effort by Altec to reposition itself from a PC-audio company to a company that offers "all things audio," including stereo headphones and PC headsets, he said.
As part of that repositioning, the company is providing connectivity to TVs and dedicated gaming systems by adding RCA audio outputs on new powered speaker systems to complement their PC minijack connections, he said. As a running change, the company will also include mini-to-RCA adapters in PC-focused powered speakers priced at more than $50. On top of that, the company has begun redefining its PC audio products as powered audio products that can be used with headphone CD players and TVs, he added.
In traditional passive bookshelf and tower home speakers, Altec is resurrecting four legacy products that Puzey said were well-received by critics during their previous lives. The first, available since May, is the A7 Voice of the Theater speaker launched in the 1950s as a movie-theater speaker that later filtered into music studios and the homes of audiophiles. Its price is $4,000 per speaker, plus $300 shipping per speaker.
The new A7 is acoustically matched to an original A7 and was built from the same specs, production drawings, materials, and tools as the original, but some better components and techniques were used to bring the speaker into the SACD and DVD-Audio age, the company said. Frequency response was extended to 22kHz from 20kHz, for example.
Three other models introduced in 1989 are also on the way. The $1,100/pair 508S and $1,600/pair 510S towers are due in June, and the $900/pair 305S bookshelf is due in June or July and will be available on www.alteclansing.com, Puzey said. All are three-way models.
Other potential products include the custom-home install market, said pro division product manager Steve Schlangen. Nonetheless, although "we have our eye on it," he said, the company currently has no custom-home products in its roadmap. The same is true of car audio, which the company stopped marketing in the mid-1990s.
In the CE market, the company began expanding its focus beyond PC audio last year when it began fall shipments of its XA series of powered speakers.
Two of three models, the XA-3021 2.1 system, and the 3051 surround system with six speakers and Dolby Pro Logic processor, were the company's first systems with RCA outputs to complement minijack outputs, enabling them to be connected to TVs for home theater or to videogame consoles, Puzey said. The third XA system is an add-on subwoofer for TVs and features RCA outputs.
In another line expansion, Altec plans later this summer to offer its first stereo headphones, which will be marketed online and to brick-and-mortar dealers, Puzey said. They'll carry an undisclosed new brandname with the "by Altec Lansing" tag line. They'll follow the company's first line of PC headsets due this month.
Altec Lansing Technologies got its start in 1986 when, as car audio supplier Sparkomatic, it licensed the Altec Lansing name for consumer electronics, including home and car audio, from Mark IV. The audio group of Mark IV, a diversified company, was focused on selling pro audio under multiple brands, including Altec and Electrovoice.
Sparkomatic was renamed Altec Lansing Technologies in 1992, and in May 2000, the Milford company bought the worldwide rights for the Altec Lansing brand name, including pro audio rights, from Mark IV's successor, Telex Communications, which was not actively marketing Altec Lansing pro products at the time. In April 2002, the Milford company relaunched Altec pro products, bringing Altec's pro and consumer products under the same roof for the first time since 1986.
The Altec Lansing brand traces its corporate history back to 1941 with the founding of Altec Corp., which became majority-owned in 1962 by conglomerate LTV in 1962. Altec Corp. marketed home, car and pro audio.
In 1984, a Chapter 11 Altec Corp. was bought by another diversified company, Gulton Industries, which shut down Altec's home and car audio operations to focus on pro. Eleven months later, Mark IV bought Gulton, including Gulton's Electrovoice pro brand, and later purchased other pro brands.
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