CR Talks To: KEF : Heading to 50
President Alec Chanin, on how the company is leveraging its legacy as a high-performance speaker brand to build its future marketJune 2010 By Interview By Nancy Klosek
CustomRetailer: Concept Blade was shown at CES for the first time in North America but it was stated that it won't actually become a real product. Why is that, and what was the purpose of the showing? Isn't there still a market out there for aesthetically unique, ultra-high-performance, high-ticket loudspeakers that are "technology statements," like the Concept Blade?
Alec Chanin: A concept product is common in other industries—automobiles, for example. Having the freedom to conceive what is possible without constraints of a specific product brief allows for much greater innovation and creativity. From there, many of those ideas will find their way into commercially available products. Also, keep in mind that not every design or technology lends itself to production, so adaptations will have to be made, in some cases. KEF had a tremendous response to Concept Blade at CES, so the fact that so many are interested in seeing it become a real product is very gratifying. Stay tuned.
CR: KEF has positioned itself as a luxury brand. What exactly does that mean, and why would that be important to specialty CE dealers and custom integrators?
Chanin: In today's market, consumers aspire to own things for cosmetic appeal, sonic performance, convenience, status or simply the feeling they get with a product or service. Luxury can be a combination of those things, even a state of mind. For nearly 50 years, KEF has epitomized the finest speaker one can own, and that is how we would like our dealers to view the brand—and in turn, convey that to their customers.
CR: With all of the hundreds of speaker brands on the market, what distinguishes KEF? How is the company different from the others—and how would that benefit a dealer?
Chanin: In addition to our history of superb design and innovation, KEF simply has more real engineering than most other speaker companies. Despite their marketing claims, most speakers are an OEM or re-badge exercise. KEF has more vertical integration from design and engineering to manufacturing, which allows us to deliver more innovation, more performance and more bang for the buck.
CR: KEF is known more for its high-end audio products. What is the company's focus these days for home theater and custom?
Chanin: While it's true that we have enjoyed decades of high-end audio success, we have also been serious in the home theater and custom categories for as long as anyone. In fact, in the mid-'80s, at a time when in-wall speakers were cheap solutions, KEF created the first high-quality in-wall speaker with the CR-200. Then we followed up with Uni-Q for high-performance in-ceiling applications. Today, KEF has products for home theater and custom, such as our new HTF 8003 and 7003 soundbars as well as the HTB2SE-W wireless subwoofer.