TWICE: Has there been any shift in consumer preference to show off components? Or to hide them?
Wellikoff: Unquestionably yes. The luxury buyer relishes showing off their high-ticket purchases, whether or not it's keeping their Porsche in the driveway rather than hidden in the garage, or their beautifully sculpted Classé components with color touch-screen control in an open cabinet rather than hidden in a rack. Being “on display” enhances its use and demonstrates pride of ownership.
Fleming: We don't think anything has substantially changed. Everyone likes attractive products, not just because the products look good but also because an attractive product in the home helps to validate a purchase decision. More importantly, appearance is a major factor in the perceived “value” of the product.
Gross: Clearly there has been a strong development in the importance of style in loudspeaker design. Our success with Mythos (as well as the copycats that Mythos has inspired) clearly speaks to the validity of our concept. If we are going to encourage them to buy better audio components, it is important in a world where consumers like to show off the objects they acquire that we allow them to validate their achievements with “upscale trophy products” that they want to display.
Deknatel: The design of components continues to evolve, and today's designs are sleek and sophisticated to complement almost any décor. With new flat-speaker technology, these units are smaller and more compact, allowing them to blend into their surroundings.
Bales: I think that as plasma TVs come off the walls and onto new custom A/V racks, table stands and custom furniture, a streamlined visible component mix may well become "cool." Connections will become much easier with HDMI. Primary components and sources, which will not demand near the amount of space, will include A/V receiver, cable or satellite tuner/HDD, separate DVD or DV-R/HDD, game console, cable modem/router/IP Phone, wireless surround headphone(s) and iPod / portable audio dock.
Kroll: The significant growth in the on-wall speaker category shows there has been consumer acceptance of esthetically pleasing solutions that fill demanding audio needs. This trend is real and bucks the conventional wisdom that consumers only want to conceal speakers.
At the moment, we're especially excited about Boston's new E-Series reference speakers. They continue the trend toward giving affluent consumers products that enhance their pride of ownership — in this case, stunning wood-box speakers with a form factor and versatile installation features that help the speakers integrate seamlessly into contemporary home theaters.