Catching Up With: Mark Weisenberg, General Manager, Sunfire : Catering to New Markets
Legendary subwoofer manufacturer focuses on high-performance audio for all.July 2011 By CR Staff
CR: Sunfire pioneered powerful, small-form speaker enclosures. How does this design approach relate to today's market?
Mark Weisenberg: The consumer mindset has shifted dramatically in several ways in the last decade. Whether shopping for a smartphone, laptop or flat-screen TV, a stylish compact form factor is at the top of the list of demands. New construction in the U.S. has reached historic lows, and the homes that are being built are trending to be more conservative, smaller houses. Also, more and more people are looking to rent rather than buy a home, which has drastically cut the number of dedicated home theater installs.
The modern lifestyle isn't about filling every possible space in the home, but rather maximizing the available space by minimizing the size of anything that can be made smaller, and being able to move it if necessary. The current wave of wireless home and mobile electronics has proven that people want to cut the clutter.
High-performance audio from small enclosures has been part of Sunfire's mantra for 16 years, so we are the best-qualified manufacturer for this market trend. Before Bob Carver brought high-performance bass to the small form factor, everyone was designing big speakers and enclosures for big sound. It was as if the industry had a psychological barrier, like the four-minute-mile. Until we broke through, no one thought it was possible. Carver's insights and unconventional designs helped us to become a leader in small, elegant high-performance speakers and subwoofers. Even our seven-channel amplifiers are smaller and run cooler while outperforming other brands. These space-saving designs are popular with consumers who are used to netbooks and other increasingly small electronic devices as well as popular with dealers as they now have products to satisfy consumer wants.
CR: How do you view today's home theater market?
Weisenberg: The home theater market is compromised in a couple of areas. Since the introduction of HDTVs, consumers have higher expectations when it comes to home audio and video, and as TV prices continue to fall, they are expecting more for less in all aspects of home entertainment. Previously, some homeowners, whose houses were valued at $300,000 to $500,000, were interested in $15,000 theater systems, and homes above that range were considering dedicated home theaters. Today, industry data suggests that dedicated theater installs have declined as much as two-thirds, and are relegated to homes valued at $800,000 and up. Because of this, the price of a dedicated theater has come down, while securing jobs has become more of a bidding war between installation companies. No longer is a referral an automatic sale.