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SpeakerCraft: Changing To Survive Downturn

9/22/2010 04:11:26 PM Eastern

Atlanta - SpeakerCraft is
changing its product and distribution strategy to survive the downturn in home
construction and remodeling and win the allegiance of a growing younger
population unfamiliar with the industry and with quality audio reproduction,
SpeakerCraft president Jeremy Burkhardt said during the CEDIA Expo.

 The whole industry, he warned, "must reinvent
itself" to appeal to the next round of new home buyers or the custom industry
"won't last," he told reporters.

 To appeal to a customer base beyond wealthier
older consumers who are building big homes, SpeakerCraft is diversifying into
products such as high-performance iPod/iPhone/iPad-docking speaker systems and
expanding its selection of high-performance in-room speakers, Burkhardt said.
The company will also expand distribution of those products beyond installers
to over-the-counter retailers to expand its appeal.

The retailers include members of
the PRO buying group, which the company joined several months ago, and other
"higher end mass-market retailers with a very aggressive MAP pricing policy,
Burkhardt said. "You won't see a Target or Walmart," he added. However, Best
Buy's Magnolia Home Theater stores within Best Buy stores have been carrying
select SpeakerCraft products for about five years, and Magnolia will offer the
iPod/iPad speaker systems, he noted.

 
Installers will have to adjust to the market's changes by embracing
over-the-counter products, Burkhardt added. Installers "must embrace the fact
that they can sell a box, and it can be part of a multiroom system," he told
TWICE.

 Although "we've focused on changing the core
competency of the company" during the past 24 months, Burkhardt said, the
company isn't abandoning custom products or installers. Burkhardt called
SpeakerCraft the largest in-wall and in-ceiling speaker supplier at the show,
and he used the Expo to launch the compay's first outdoor underground subwoofer
and new bezel-less flush-mount in-ceiling and in-wall speakers, which install
like regular custom speakers and feature independently pivoting woofers and
tweeters. SpeakerCraft is also showcasing a revised Nirv home-control/multi-room-A/V
system, which distributes multiple 1080p video streams across CAT-5 cable.

 For broader distribution that will nonetheless
include installers, the company launched two iPad/iPod-docking one-chassis
speaker systems at $999 and $399, a docking integrated amp at $699, three
two-way bookshelf speakers in five piano-gloss colors at $249 to $449, and two
in-room subwoofers at $999 and $1,199, also in five piano gloss colors.

 The docking integrated amp is the $699 Vital
250, said to be the first docking integrated amp that docks with iPads, not
just iPhones and iPods. The amp has optical and coax digital inputs and
subwoofer output.

 The $999 FloBox docking-speaker system,
features CD player, FM tuner, pivoting and tilting base, slide-down front
grille to hide controls, DSP, and bass and treble controls in a single 11 by
18.5 by 10-inch chassis that houses dual 3-inch midranges, dual 0.75-inch
tweeters and a 5.25-inch woofer. It's available in five piano gloss
finishes. 

 The smaller $399 FloBox mini, at 7 by 11 by 7.25
inches, lacks CD but includes FM tuner in five piano-gloss colors.

 All three docking products are DLNA-certified
but lack Wi-Fi or an Ethernet port. Nonetheless, they can stream music from a
PC when outfitted with an optional SpeakerCraft-supplied Sonic Air sender and
receiver. When a docked iPod or iPad is outfitted with an Apple-supplied app,
the Apple devices will display an integrated music menu that displays songs
loaded on the PC and on the iPod or iPad, Burkhardt noted.

The company plans, at an
unspecified time, to incorporate Apple's AirPlay technology in the docking
systems to stream music, including protected music, from a PC's iTunes
application.

The systems also feature a USB
port to play music from other-brand MP3 players, and the

 The docking systems ship in November and
December. The in-room series, called Roots, is due early next year.

 In custom products, the underground Boomtomb
subwoofer retails for $549.The eight bezel-less speakers are priced from $189
to $569 and will eventually replace the flush, bezel-less NEAT speakers, which
require more time-consumer mounting procedures and an application of drywall
mud to achieve their bezel-less flush look, Burkhardt said.

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