NHT Regaining Momentum

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Benicia, Calif. - Speaker supplier


, which last year adopted a web-only business model that combines B to C and B to B marketing, is rebuilding sales, running 30 percent ahead of last year, and expects 20 percent gains in 2011, co-owner Chris Byrne told TWICE.

In part, the company is simply regaining ground lost after the company went "quiet" for several months last year to remake its business model, which


in June 2009, said Byrne, one of three NHT owners and one of the company's original co-founders in 1986. But the increase also partly reflects a rebuilt dealer base of about 250 dealers, mostly installers but also independent and on-line retailers. About 50 of them signed up at the recent CEDIA Expo.

Additional gains are coming from the addition last year of complementary brands to the company's web site. Those products, including AudioQuest cables and Sanus stands, are sold only to consumers, not to dealers, and the brands' suppliers fulfill consumers' orders.

Earlier this year, NHT added select Sherwood Newcastle receivers to the site, and the company is considering the addition of two more electronics lines, Byrne said. Other brands sold on the site are Omnimount and HRT USB-powered DACs.

 New NHT products will also contribute to growth, he said. The company plans late October availability of four new speakers that, along with a new tower introduced earlier this, mark the company's first product introductions in about three years.

 These and other NHT speakers are sold under a web-only B to B and B to C sales strategy. Although NHT sells direct to consumers via its web site, the company also sells indirectly to consumers through installers and through on-line and brick-and-mortar retailers who are not required to stock NHT inventory. When an account sells an NHT product to a consumer, NHT will ship the product directly to the consumer who purchased it. Installers, who represent a majority of NHT's accounts, can also opt to take delivery at their place of business before they begin an install.

 Only a handful of on-line and brick-and-mortar retailers carry NHT inventory, Byrne noted.

The company's percentage of sales to dealers is running at about 70 percent.

The business model appeals to dealers, he said, because "dealers don't have to invest in inventory." The model also appeals to installers who are used to purchasing product only when it's ready to be installed. Installs are also accustomed to purchasing products via credit card, he noted.

 The appeal is also great for NHT, Byrne said. "You double your profits when you sell direct." And because no reps or distributors are used, retail prices can be lowered while maintaining dealer margins, he said.

 Business is also simpler. A supplier doesn't have to chase after accounts receivable, "and there's no transshipping," Byrne said. "We have the cleanest line ever."

  The business model will also help keep specialty-A/V brands alive, he contended, because the number of specialty retailers with storefronts has dwindled over the past decade as more specialists shut down their retail stores to focus on custom installation. "Brick-and-mortar is not coming back," he contended.

 Although it might seem unlikely that consumers would buy speakers without first listening to them, Byrne said consumers have gotten used to on-line speaker purchases over the years and turn to legitimate reviewers and user reviews to give them the confidence to buy. A 30-day no-questions-asked return policy also helps ease consumers' concerns about buying without hearing, he said.

  To promote to consumers, NHT turns to search-engine optimization, links on related web sites, and social-network sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

  These methods will be applied to NHT's four latest products, which consist of a resurrected and updated compact Super Zero mini monitor, a powered subwoofer tailored for use with the new Super Zero, and two new high-output powered sub, which are promoted as offering significant performance upgrades over their predecessors in cabinets that are 30 percent smaller.

  All three of the acoustic-suspension [sealed-box] subs are the brand's first wireless subwoofers, thanks to USB ports that accept optional wireless adapters due in the first quarter.

 The two high-output subs are the cube-shaped $499 B10


and $699 B12


, which replace five-year-old rectangular models at the same price points. The B10


packs a forward-firing 10-inch driver in a 12.6-inch cube with 300-watt Class D amplifier. The B12


features 12-inch driver, 500-watt Class D amp in a 14-inch cube. Both models feature DSP to automatically control crossovers, phase, boundary compensation, movie-music EQ, and amp current to deliver full power at all system impedances.

 "The new B-10d and B-12d outperform the old models in every aspect" despite their smaller cabinets, said NHT partner John Johnsen, thanks largely to more efficient Class D technology and a DSP system that dynamically controls subwoofer performance.

 As a result of the efficiency gain provided by the use of Class D amplifiers and DSP, NHT was able to use a sealed-box design instead of the predecessor subs' vented designs, which are less accurate but are more efficient and can thus be driven by lower power amps, Johnsen said.

 The two subs feature LFE and line-level inputs, intended for connection to the subwoofer outputs and pre amp outputs of A/V receivers. The B-10


however, adds speaker-level inputs and speaker-level outputs for use with the many stereo receivers that lack subwoofer outputs, Johnsen said.

 For the new Super Zero 2.0, NHT developed the $349 Super 8 subwoofer, also with speaker-level ins and outs and a crossover designed for use with the new two-way mini monitor.

The acoustic suspension Super Zero 2.0, which resurrects one of the company's first products, retails for $99 each, less than the $115 launch price of the original in 1993, Johnsen said.

 The Super Zero 2.0 features 4.5-inch woofer that delivers 100Hz+ bass. Its tweeter is crossed over at about 1,000Hz lower than the original model's tweeter and now uses a second-order high-pass filter to lower distortion and improve the dispersion pattern and phase response with the woofer at their crossover point


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