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Sonance Readies Initiatives To Expand Share, Total Market

Sonance plans product and marketing initiatives that it says will expand the architectural-audio market, increase its residential market share, and expand the company’s sales in non-home markets.

Domestically, “a lot of our growth is coming from existing dealers using more of our products and higher-end products” since the company’s aggressive diversification in recent years into electronics and higher-end speakers, said sales director Buzz Delano. Nonetheless, he noted, the distributed-audio market “is still wide open.” He pointed to National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) statistics showing that only 6.7 percent of new homes built in 2000 came with a distributed-audio system.

To help expand the architectural-audio market, Sonance has done the following:

  • launched a new in-ceiling LCR speaker intended to spur demand for in-ceiling home theater speaker systems — and compete with small subwoofer/satellite systems for mindshare among decor-conscious consumers.
  • plans to expand its product selection for the underdeveloped tract-builder market, along with a new education initiative to help installers develop the market.

To expand market share, Sonance will introduce the following:

  • its first marine-dedicated speakers early in 2003, sometime after CES.
  • its first LCD touchscreen keypad controller.
  • more commercial-dedicated equipment, although a timetable hasn’t been set. In the meantime, installers are adapting Sonance home speakers for use in 70-volt distributed-audio systems and using Sonance’s fire-rated back cans.
  • and control products to fit European building requirements and a goal of making all electronics “rated internationally.”

The in-ceiling LCR, the elliptical-footprint Ellipse 1.0, “will work where round or rectangular speakers might not work well,” said education director Scott Sylvester. “It will take share from the small satellite/subwoofer systems, and you won’t hear the compromises that in-ceiling speakers had [for the front home-theater stage].”

Sonance said it began competing against small sub/sat systems when it launched high-end architectural speakers. “Installers dropped Bose systems for our high-end in-wall and in-ceiling speakers and enhanced their profits,” Delano said.

Sonance also cited overwhelming demand by custom customers for in-ceiling alternatives to in-wall speakers.

The Ellipse is a three-way flush-mount speaker with elliptical footprint, concave baffle, pivoting concentrically mounted tweeter/midrange, and 6.5-inch woofer delivering bass to 50Hz. The $350-suggested speaker, shipped in July, uses a curved baffle and pivoting tweeter/midrange to direct sound to home-theater seating positions that can be from 8 feet to 18 feet away, said education director Scott Sylvester. The midrange/tweeter combo can be adjusted 20 degrees in all directions.

As a result, sound seems to emanate from screen-level height, and off-axis response is improved compared to ceiling-mounted architectural speakers, even those with pivoting tweeter/midrange combinations, designed for distributed-audio systems.

Ellipse packs a 0.5-inch cloth-dome tweeter, 4-inch polypropylene-cone midrange, and the 6.5-inch woofer into a 5.88-inch-deep enclosure that fits into standard flat or angled drywall ceilings. Standard accessories include acoustical enclosure and staple template. It ships in July.

Ellipse solves practical installation problems, Sylvester said. “In-wall LCRs can get complicated for center-channel placement,” he pointed out. In addition, fireplaces and bookshelves can interfere with proper LCR placement, and an in-ceiling option will give new-home buyers the flexibility to place art work and other items wherever they want on a wall. Some owners of flat-plasma TVs will opt for Ellipses because on-wall speakers stick out too much from the wall, he added.

Also to expand the market for custom options, Sonance will launch additional tract-builder products at the CEDIA Expo in September. Details of the products and a new marketing initiative will be announced at the Expo. Only 10 percent of tract-home builders show distributed-audio options to home buyers, said Sylvester.

To increase its market share, Sonance plans the Navigator K2 black-and-white touchscreen controller, which will control distributed-audio and other IR-based home systems. It will use a combination of hard and soft keys compared to the company’s current hard-button Navigator keypad. The K2 will ship in September for use with the IR-based Navigator Harbor multizone multisource A/V controller.

The two-gang K2 will also be smaller than the Navigator keypad, which required a three-gang version to supply all of the same on-keypad functions. One- or two-gang Navigators required the use of a handheld remote to deliver all of the same functions. Features include shallow mounting depth for European-market walls. Price and additional details will be announced at the CEDIA Expo.

In 2003, Sonance plans “to make better use of CAT-5 for audio and video distribution and control,” said product management director Duke Chadsey.