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Car audio speakers are showing signs of a turnaround, with year-to-date sales through October up 5.5 percent in dollars and 3.1 percent in units, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
The figures mark a welcome reversal from the overall speaker declines seen in 2003 and 2004. (See chart).
“It's not a boom. I don't think anyone will say that again, but it does look really good,” said Leif Blackmon, mobile audio director for Boston Acoustics.
Suppliers credit part of the turnaround to a shift in attitude by retail sales people. Instead of routinely ushering customers into the head-unit demo room, some salespeople are recommending a speaker upgrade when a consumer enters the store looking for better sound.
“Retailers are now doing what they should have been doing for a long time. The selling process is starting after the head unit, not at the head unit. There's more 'trunk forward' selling,” said JBL's brand marketing director Chris Dragon.
The reason for the shift in strategy is that many head units no longer easily fit into newer cars, Dragon explained.
Blackmon also believes that dealers are demonstrating speakers more than in the recent past. He notes, “There are still pockets of the country where sales are slower even though dealers are promoting,” but many areas are seeing stronger sales in speakers, he said.
The enclosed box subwoofer in particular has seen staggering growth in the last year. One supplier estimated the increase for these boxes, both amplified and non-amplified, at 140 percent in units for the industry. Enclosed woofers are easier to install and offer OEM styling, suppliers said.
It is not surprising then that some suppliers are investing research and development in this burgeoning segment.
Alpine will introduce a downsized box enclosure system based on new technology Cupertino, Calif.-based Tymphany. The box provides the bass of a typical dual 12-inch woofer enclosure in about a third of the physical space, claims Alpine. It uses a new technology called Linear Array Transducer. The model PLV-7 enclosure has a 500-watt built-in digital amplifier, and it uses six small transducers that add up to the same size as two traditional 12-inch woofers, said the company. The enclosure is designed for both aftermarket and OEM systems. Shipping is slated for March at a target price of $699.
On the opposite end of the size spectrum, MTX announced new enclosures for its 22-inch JackHammer 369 pound subwoofer. The custom enclosures will fit in Tahoes, Suburbans, Expeditions and Escalades as well as other vehicles. The JackHammer subwoofer handles 6,000-watt RMS power and the enclosure weighs 570 pounds, MTX said.
Here is a sneak peek at some of the other new speakers to be on display at International CES next month:
Alpine will ship a new Type S speaker line with swivel tweeter and a grille that is designed to help optimize sound. The 6.5-inch coaxial model SPS-17C2 is expected to have a target suggested retail price of $100.
Audiobahn is delivering a new AW1000V woofer in its High Excursion subwoofer line with 600-watt RMS power handling. The speaker has an efficiency rating of 91.1dB and dual 4-ohm impedance. It is available in 10-inch, 12-inch and 15-inch sizes, starting at a target retail price of $189.99.
Boston Acoustics will ship its SPG555 woofer in January, marking the first Boston product to offer replaceable voice-coil technology. This voice-coil assembly can be removed from the subwoofer while it is still installed in the enclosure, said the company. The feature has the dual function of enabling field repairs and also reducing dealer inventory, as dealers can now change voice-coil impedance simply by stocking various voice coils without having to invest in different subwoofer SKUs. The voice coils will carry a price “well under $100” each, said Blackmon.
Polk Audio added a new 5.25-inch component/coaxial convertible speaker and two component woofers to its line as part of a Signature Reference series. The new SR5250 5.25-inch speaker can be used as a three-piece separate component system or as a coaxial speaker with outboard crossover. It will ship to dealers in February at a suggested retail price of $899. The SR124 and SR104 subwoofers will also ship in February at $425 and $375, respectively.After-Market Shipments Year-To-Date
|Units Key Categories||% Change|
|CD Head Units||-4.1%|
|Dollars Key Categories||% Change|
|CD Head Units||-8.6%|
|Source: CEA ©TWICE 2005|
|Units % Change||-1%||-5%||-4.2%||0%|
|Dollars % Change||7.0%||-2.2%||-7.3%||5.1%|
|Source: CEA ©TWICE 2005|
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.