SpeakerCraft: Changing To Survive Downturn


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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