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Acoustic Energy Eyes Audiophiles, 1st-Time High-End Buyers

Acoustic Energy, the U.K.-based luxury-speaker brand, is reentering the U.S. home-speaker market after an absence of about three years with a selection of in-room, custom and outdoor speakers at prices ranging up to $5,000/pair.

Although the U.S. speaker market is considered by some marketers as awash in brands, Lirag said Acoustic Energy will take advantage of new opportunities created by in-room and custom brands that migrated to large chains and the Internet, closed their doors or scaled back dramatically. “The dealers they service still have a need,” he said.

For these specialty dealers and custom installers, the company promises to deliver the best-of-class performance at each price point in its selection and deliver compact, durable designs that don’t impinge on listener’s lifestyles, said sales and marketing VP Sandy Lirag. “Our philosophy is that you have to feel that someone is standing between two speakers and singing.”

To promote the brand, the company will market to first-time purchasers of high-end audio products as well as to audiophile enthusiasts, said Moses Gabbay, managing director of Acoustic Energy’s worldwide operations and owner, president and CEO of the company’s North American operations. The company is focused on “encouraging a new generation of music lovers to discover just how good their favorite recordings sound on a high-end system,” said the former president/CEO of Boston Acoustics.

To reach a new generation of music enthusiasts, the company is offering a powered 2.1 speaker system and a three-piece Bluetooth speaker system that will be available to select online retailers and national chains as well as to AV specialists who choose to offer them, Lirag said.

The company, founded in 1987 as a pro audio supplier to the music industry, was purchased in 1992 by Malaysia-based Formosa Prosonic Industries (FPI), one of the largest speaker makers in the world and an OEM source for many other brands, Lirag said. Before it left the U.S. in 2005, Acoustic Energy had been marketed for about 10 years by importers. The company parted ways with its last importer when the importer’s main electronics brand diversified into speakers.

Acoustic Energy established its current North American operation in 2006, soon bringing to market a Wi-Fi-equipped Internet radio. In the past two months, the subsidiary hired six rep firms to handle its residential speakers and began shipping select speakers to a handful of dealers. The company continues to seek reps to expand distribution into 13 more territories. The company will also consider distributing reps in territories, he said.

On Nov. 1, the company will open a West Coast warehouse in Torrance, Calif., to complement a Buffalo, N.Y., warehouse and will begin shipping all of its SKUs. In January, the company will make its formal industry debut at International CES.

The brand’s U.S. selection of about 38 residential speakers, including different finishes, tops out at $5,000/pair for a limited-edition foot-tall two-way bookshelf speaker in the Reference series. The speaker is positioned as a reference-quality alternative to a floorstanding speaker, and it’s based on the company’s first speaker, which was designed for the pro market, Lirag said. Only 100 pairs will be made, all with MDF cabinet enclosures lined with 5mm steel plates and featuring aluminum baffle to create a stiff, well-damped enclosure that eliminates cabinet coloration and boosts efficiency, the company said.

A more modestly priced Aelite series of in-room speakers, topping at $2,000/pair for a floorstanding three-way, uses other methods to reduce cabinet colorations, including cabinets that curve back. The series also features a bookshelf pair, horizontal center channel, and powered sub.

To broaden its demographic base, the company offers a $300 powered 2.1-channel sub/sat system, the Aego M, with minijack and stereo RCA inputs to plug in portable music sources. A three-piece 20-watt powered speaker system, the $219 AE-29, is equipped with stereo Bluetooth receiver for playback of music stored on Bluetooth-equipped music phones as well as on iPods and PCs connected to Bluetooth stereo adapters. It also features RCA inputs for wired connections to sources, including iPods equipped with RCA adapter cables. The speakers can be unlocked from their central amplifier/Bluetooth module to be spread six feet apart to widen the sound stage.

Other in-room speakers include the Aego T compact 5.1 speaker system at $1,760 with two-way speakers in an enclosure described as an injection-molded and die-cast-aluminum hybrid.