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McIntosh Seeks Luxury-Brand Position

DENVER — McIntosh Laboratory is toting new high-end speakers to the CEDIA Expo and touting plans to expand its potential customer base beyond audio enthusiasts to luxury buyers, who will be the target of a Web and dealer-program initiative getting underway in October.

“The consumer electronics market is under-serving the luxury buyer,” said Bob Weissburg, North America sales and marketing president of D&M Holdings, McIntosh’s parent. “Aston Martin and Rolex are quite accessible to the high-end consumer, and they have a number of authorized dealers in every market, but in the premium A/V market, there has been limited success in getting to that consumer.”

A revamped Web site will target the affluent consumer through a “luxury and aspirational message,” underscore the brand’s heritage of offering “the highest quality audio and video in the industry,” and create pride of ownership by building an online community of McIntosh owners, he said. Upscale photography, video content and educational information for the novice will take center stage, and technical information, though remaining, “will not be front and center,” he explained.

The current Web site is focused more toward dealers and highly technical users, Weissburg noted. In the future, McIntosh will use a different portal to provide dealers with cut sheets, specs and other materials.

To help McIntosh dealers spread the luxury message, the company plans October availability of take-home brochures and a visual merchandising guide outlining best practices by McIntosh dealers and luxury-goods dealers in other industries. It also incorporates interviews with consumers and an analysis of the strategies of luxury brands outside the electronics industry.

Elements of the new web site will be displayed on a plasma TV here at
CEDIA, and comps of some of the new collateral will be available for viewing.

In January, McIntosh will integrate the messages of its visual merchandising guide into its McMasters dealer training program, which is held at its Binghamton, N.Y., headquarters. The training program focuses on connecting and using
McIntosh equipment, presenting it on the sales floor, and helping consumers understand why they’re paying a premium for McIntosh products, Weissburg said.

The company also plans to expand training to include online training, which will provide product updates and reach new retail salespeople before they fly to Binghamton for a McMasters session.

While developing a new positioning strategy, McIntosh has continued to develop new products, which will be displayed here. They include two new speakers based on technology in its $90,000 per pair XRT2K tower, its first in-ceiling speaker, its first anamorphic lens and its first dual-zone video processor/scaler/switcher.

The in-ceiling CS100 is a biampable three-way model said to be suitable for all channels of a home theater. It features 8-inch woofer and a cast-aluminum baffle that’s angled down to
direct the baffle’s 3.5-inch midrange and 1-inch tweeter toward listeners. The baffle can be rotated 357 degrees toward listeners, but in surround-channel applications, the two drivers can be directed toward a side or rear wall to create a diffuse soundfield. It also features boundary-compensation circuitry.

The new $35,000 per pair XRT1K tower speaker is one of the first in a new family of speakers to incorporate designs from the flagship $90,000 per pair towers. The full-range line-array XRT1K delivers wide dispersion through a narrow enclosure incorporating a column of 28 0.75-inch tweeters flanked by two midrange columns, each column incorporating 22 2-inch inverted-dome midranges. With two 10-inch woofers and a top-mounted port, the XRT1k delivers 1,200 watts of power-handling capacity.

The full-range line-array XCS2K Reference center channel at a suggested $30,000 is described as “half” of the XRT2K tower and thus voice-matched to the XRT2K. The center channel, which can be biamped and triamped, features a row of 20 20mm tweeters flanked by two midrange rows, each incorporating 16 2-inch midranges. The speaker also features three 12-inch woofers.

The $9,000 VP1000 video processor, scaler and switcher performs separate 1080p scaling and processing functions for each of two video zones. The $14,000 LK1 anamorphic lens, designed for use with the MDLP1 projector, vertically stretches a 2.35:1 Cinemascope film to fill a 16:9 display without displaying black bars across the top or bottom. The resulting increase in picture information improves brightness and contrast and yields a more film-like image, the company said.