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AR, Jensen To Cover All Bases

Recoton Home Audio is covering all the bases.

The company’s Acoustic Research brand is expanding its selection of volume-priced home theater speaker packages even as it plans a new top-end series that will extend AR’s reach further up-market. Meanwhile, sister brand Jensen is expanding its selection of home theater speaker packages.

Perhaps next year, Jensen will introduce its first electronics/speaker home theater package, and AR might join the trend with a co-branded system, said senior product manager Steve Waddell.

AR will outline its plans to further penetrate the higher-end market when it arrives at September’s CEDIA Expo with select models in what Waddell called a narrow line priced up to perhaps as much as $3,000/pair. The brand currently tops out at $1,500/pair in its top-end series, which is dubbed High Resolution.

The brand is also developing more 5.0 and 5.1 speaker packages, even as it begins shipments this month of its new HC6 theater speaker package at a suggested $799. The HC6 complements a single package with a retail price of $499-$599. It is due to remain in the line until the end of the year. Availability of additional packages is slated for the first quarter of 2002.

In expanding its selection of packages and higher-end speaker separates, AR is acknowledging market shifts, Waddell said. “At less than $1,000, tower and bookshelf speakers are going by the wayside to smaller satellite/subwoofer systems,” he said.

Bookshelf speakers, he added, are often defined as using woofers at least 6 inches in diameter.

The new top-end line, as yet unnamed, might include one to three towers, one or two satellites, a subwoofer and a center channel. The speakers will feature a narrower footprint than the High Resolution series without compromising performance, he said. Two subwoofers in the series will use Bob Carver-designed Sunfire amplifier technology, as do some current models. Shipments are targeted for the first quarter of 2002.

A merger of the current High Resolution and narrow-profile Stature series, which tops out at $699/pair, is under consideration to create a single series bridging the new top-end series and the opening-price Performance series, he noted.

AR’s new top-end series will be marketed to the brand’s current channels, which include the PRO Group and specialty A/V retailers. AR also hopes to sign up new accounts within this class of trade, Waddell said.

Speaker designer Cary Christie will lead the design and engineering of the new series.

In the Jensen brand’s selection, the company is developing two more home theater speaker sub/sat packages to complement a current model, the JHT805, retailing at $199. In late September or early October, the JHT525 with 5.25-inch subwoofer is due at a tentatively suggested retail of $129 to $149, followed in the first quarter of 2002 by the JHT 655 with 6.54-inch sub at a tentatively suggested retail of $149 to $179.

In electronics/speaker home theater packages, a single-brand Jensen system would make the most sense, Waddell said, given the brand’s distribution through high-volume national accounts such as warehouse clubs and mass merchants. “Box-mover retailers want single-brand packages [with electronics and speakers],” he said.

Electronics and appliance/electronics specialists, on the other hand, prefer to buy home theater speaker packages and promote them as a package with a receiver of their own choice to maintain margins.