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Canton, Turning 30, To Balance Market Message

6/24/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Canton plans to celebrate its 30th birthday by launching a pair of reference speakers and by reworking its marketing message to balance the brand's reputation for sophisticated styling with a greater awareness of its engineering expertise.

"We have been known for our beautiful lifestyle designs," said Canton Electronics (U.S.) president Paul Madsen, but now "you'll see more of a technology push in our brochures and public relations without negating the other factors."

The 30th anniversary product will reinforce the technology theme, he said. The product, called the Karat Reference 2 DC, will be the company's most expensive tower speaker at a tentative $10,000/pair, topping a current top-line floorstander in the Ergo series at $2,700/pair.

The three-way model's side-firing woofer and trapezoidal footprint will allow for a narrow front baffle that reduces diffraction distortion. The trapezoid cabinet will eliminate distortion-creating interior standing waves and, by expanding cabinet volume, will deepen bass response to 18Hz. Like most Canton speakers, the one-piece voice-coil/former allows for a light, rigid tweeter that extends frequency response to 30kHz to deliver many of the advantages of the DVD-Audio and SuperAudio CD formats. The design also boosts efficiency and power handling, he said.

Like other select Canton speakers, the Reference will also feature a high-pass filter that operates at a low frequency to reduce distortion and increase volume. The design prevents the speaker from trying to reproduce the lowest, inaudible bass frequencies, Madsen said.

The Reference model will join 22 new speakers that began shipping earlier this year after their CES introduction. They include a new nine-SKU LE series, eight new models in the Ergo series, and two floorstanding models in the Karat series.

These speakers and the Reference models are available in multiple finishes and in custom-ordered finishes, making them attractive to custom installers, Madsen said. "Because we have clean designs, different finishes, a lot of sizes, and in-wall speakers voice-matched to our cabinet speakers, we are a great resource for custom installers," Madsen said.

Likewise, Canton's ability to ship products on the day they're ordered is tailor-made for installers who buy products on a just-in-time basis, he said. "We're small enough to react quickly to their needs."

In part because of these attributes, half of Canton's dealers are custom-only dealers, with one- and two-store retailers accounting for most of the remaining accounts, Madsen said. Sony stores also sell Canton speakers, he noted.

Also because of its small size, Canton sells direct to most of its small dealers, Madsen said. Some distribution, however, is through rep/distributors.

The German speaker manufacturer, which boasts number one unit and dollar share in Germany, began exporting to the United States about 20 years ago. During the past four years, the company has doubled its U.S. and worldwide sales as part of an export push, having achieved 30 percent dollar share in Germany, he said.

It plans a birthday bash during September's CEDIA Expo, which this year will be held in Canton's headquarters city of Minneapolis.