By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Despite a rocky 2002, sales of subwoofers and amplifiers are showing healthy increases, as high powered products with new cool looks, continue to drive customers into the stores.
According to year-to-date figures through September 2002 from CEA, amplifier sales increased 9.4 percent in dollars and 4.4 percent in units. Subwoofer sales were up a strong 24.5 percent in dollars and 17 percent in units.
Looking at niche areas in amplifiers, mono sales were very strong, up a whopping 39.2 percent in dollars and 40.7 percent in units. On the decline, were five-plus channel amplifier sales, which fell 13.8 percent in dollars and 34 percent in units. Suppliers said the latter trend is due to the failure of 5.1 surround to catch on, as of yet, in car audio.
Rockford Fosgate product manager Jake Braaten said that most consumers are opting to build their surround systems gradually with separate amplifiers. "Over the last two years, the number of amplifiers sold over four channels has greatly reduced. Although, single amplifier systems help solve several issues, consumers and retailers have never fully embraced them," he said. Rockford Fosgate discontinued its multichannel amplifier as a result, Braaten said.
This year, expect the trend in higher power and high-tech design to continue, say suppliers. Among the new hot products in this area are five-sided subwoofers with matching five-sided amplifiers from Sony and a new 18-inch subwoofer from Kicker.
Also, watch for a new trend in user-adjustable products. Infinity will debut at CES next month new user-adjustable subwoofers, and Mitek will show what it claims are the first adjustable speaker enclosures. Rockford Fosgate will also debut the first car stereo head units that can control settings on DSP amplifiers located in the rear of the car.
In the bigger-is-better category, Stillwater Designs is showing a new 18 inch square subwoofer called the SoloX S18X. The largest square subwoofer to date, the unit is rated at 5,000 watts RMS or 10,000 watts peak with shipping and pricing to be announced. It also comes with a replaceable cone assembly, which does not require the user remove the speaker from the enclosure. The company will also show at CES, a new series of high end power amplifiers.
Sony is entering the exotic shape niche with four five-sided subwoofers and several matching amplifiers. Sony says the new subwoofers, available in 8, 10, 12 and 15 inches, have a strengthened cone which can handle more power than round subwoofers. The new P5 line includes the XS-L121P5 12-inch model with four-layer edge wound voice coil. It handles 350 watts RMS and 1200 watts maximum power at an estimated suggested retail price of $150. Among the new five-sided amplifiers is the XM-D400P5 Class D mono block amplifier at an estimated price of $250.
New user adjustable products include Infinity's new Kappa Perfect VQ subwoofers, which have a variable electrical Q so that users can adjust them for either very small enclosures or an infinite baffle enclosure. Infinity claims that users simply change a few parts in the speakers to make the adjustment.
"The installer can use one subwoofer in a greater range of applications instead of a subwoofer that has to be in a certain size box. Users can also change the sleeve in the subwoofer after an installation to see if the sound improves," said director of brand marketing Chris Dragon.
The new subwoofers feature a magnesium metal matrix diaphragm, which Infinity says is ten times deader than aluminum cones. The line includes 10 and 12 inch models in single and dual voice coil configurations. Shipping is planned for spring at prices from $149 to $349.
Mitek is showing the first unloaded speaker enclosures, which can switch from ported to sealed. The enclosures are designed with removable trim rings so users can alternate from sealed to ported enclosures or from purely loud bass to a bass response optimized for sound quality, said the company. Under the Magnum line, the enclosures are expected to be available in 10 and 12 inch sizes.
In amplifiers,JL Audio is offering a lower cost alternative to its original amplifier line introduced two years ago. Called the e series, it uses an unregulated power supply where JL Audio's high end amplifiers have a regulated supply, said a spokesman. The e series will include a six-channel amplifier aimed at multi-channel surround. Shipping is expected in March at suggested retail prices ranging from $200 to $400.
Boston Acoustics is preparing to ship its first amplifier line (shown at CES last year) to the U.S. market, after entering the international market last year. The Italian-designed line includes seven models expected to range in price from approximately $300 to $1,000. All the new models use forced-air cooling and have a low profile chassis with removable tops to protect the controls. All are one ohm stereo capable and two ohm mono capable. The amps are designed with installer-friendly features such as moveable track mounted "feet." All are rated at 12.6 volts for true power output specifications, said the company, at outputs including 45 watts by 2; 75 watts by 2; 120 watts by 2; 200 watts by 2; 45 watts by 4; 75 watts by 4 and 45 watts by 4 +230 watts by 1.
Pioneer is launching at CES its first line of Class D amplifiers. Called the GM-D series, it includes a mono amplifier and a five-channel model at prices beginning at $250. Also new is the GM-X line of amplifiers with increased power output and new cosmetics. The GM-X series starts at $100.
Alpine is introducing its most powerful AccuClass-D amplifier. The 1000 watt V12 amplifier has on board DSP processing, allowing digital control over sound tuning such as time correction, phase and crossovers. An optional remote module for the amplifier, model MRD-M1000, is also available (RUX-4280) which can control up to eight AccuClass-D amplifiers and allow all programming to be done from the driver's seat. Pricing and shipping for the MRD-M1000 will be announced.
JBL is debuting several Power series amplifiers, such as two Class D subwoofer amps and two full range amplifiers, including the PX600.2 two channel model (rated at 150 watts by 2 into four ohms or 300 watts by 2 into 2 ohms) and the PX300.4 four channel model (rated at 75 watts by 4 into 4 ohms and 150 watts by 4 into two ohms). The new BPX 1100.1 and BPX 2200.1 Class D subwoofer amps can be bridged for double the voltage of a single channel or they can be connected in parallel to provide double the current of a single channel. Suggested retails on the line range from $475 to $1,600, expected to ship this spring.
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.