Athena Enters API's Pantheon

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Audio Products International plans to expand its dealer base with the addition of a fourth brand, Athena Technologies, to its speaker pantheon.

The seven-SKU line, targeted to young adults, includes three passive satellites that can each be docked to the top of one or two of the line's three narrow-profile powered subwoofers.

The modular approach gives consumers an upgrade path without forcing them to sacrifice their initial purchase, said new product development manager Gord Van Kessel. The line also features a center channel.

By minimizing the SKU count, the modular approach also helps API enhance the line's appeal to dealers who want to husband their inventory dollars, and it helps the company sharpen prices by keeping its costs down, Van Kessel said.

The selection enables dealers to offer speaker pairs priced from $275 per pair for a passive satellite to $1,800 per pair for a four-way tower with integrated powered subwoofer.

Shipments begin in November in small quantities, with volume production scheduled for early next year, said Gary Post, API's U.S. national sales manager. Current API dealers "will be examined first for candidate dealers," Post said, but he also saw the brand expanding API's dealer base in a controlled manner. "We don't tend to throw multiple lines at the same retailer," he pointed out.

Because the line covers "a broad range of price points," he said, a "broad cross section" of dealers has shown an interest. They include high-end dealers, custom installers, and regional chains. The type of dealer franchised "will be examined on a territory-by-territory basis," he said, but "at the outset" the company isn't targeting national retailers.

To support Athena dealers, API will for the first time place ads in daily or alternative newspapers in dealers' trading areas "once a dealer is up and properly merchandised," said marketing communications director Robert Donnelly. Buff-book ads start with the January issues.

The line consists of three passive satellites priced from $275 to $600 per pair, three powered subs from $275 to $600 each, and a $250 center channel. They can be combined to create home theater systems priced up to $4,125.

To simplify setup when speakers are docked, Athena uses metal rails to mechanically and electrically connect the passive satellites to the powered subs. The rails ensure the sat and sub are connected in phase.

After docking the speakers, consumers uses a sub's front-panel mode switch to let the sub know which satellite is connected. The sub's individual phase and frequency controls are then automatically overridden, and the sub's settings are changed to blend in with the attached satellite.

To drive the docked speakers, consumers connect their receiver's speaker-level outputs to the subwoofer cabinet's inputs. An active filter and step-down converter deliver preamp-level low bass frequencies to the sub driver.

Full-range speaker-level audio passes through the docking rails to the satellites, which are designed to reproduce sound down to 40Hz to 60Hz depending on the satellite.

The three subs go down to 20, 25 and 30Hz, respectively, and when connected to their satellite mates, they reproduce frequencies up to their connected satellite's low-frequency rolloff point.

Although a docked subwoofer and satellite are connected in parallel, impedance isn't lowered because of a resistor network in the subwoofer amp, Van Kessel said.

The center channel doesn't dock to a powered subwoofer, but it can be wired to the smallest sub and placed in front of it on top of a projection TV. The duo can also be used together as a TV stand.

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