Essence of Audio
Cool-running, ‘green,’ wireless, svelte, small-footprint, thin-bezeled, flange-free, uni-cabled, unobtrusive, stealthy, minimalist.
Quite a packet of adjectives—but at least one or more applied to nearly everything audio at the Fall 2007 CEDIA Expo. The only “fat” things about the bevy of products unveiled in Denver last month were their performance levels and their potential for lifting profitability for both hybrid c-tailers and custom integrators soon to be faced in the fourth-quarter with a reprise of 2006’s flat-panel feeding frenzy.
Chris Byrne, NHT managing director, whose company dedicated its booth acreage to showcasing the high-performance Pro Theater System founded on the brand’s Xd-based speakers and components and with DSP processing at its heart, viewed the show as a reflection of mixed intra-industry dynamics superimposed with external influences including the housing market slump and an unusually early pre-presidential-election period.
“It’s a very confusing time,” he said on the third day of the four-day convention. “Every manufacturer I’ve talked to is re-examining their business models. It’s been building for two to three years and is reaching a critical stage; the housing slowdown has been the tipping point. Guys doing mostly $200,000 installs aren’t really being affected. It’s the guys whose bread and butter is $20,000-to-$30,000 jobs that have to hold on now. And the primaries and the election year are coming up, which are always a drag on business.
“Certain geographical spots are cooking, though. Places like Dallas, and here, in Denver, are doing well. But in some others, business is cool,” he added, causing integrators to look long and hard at areas like the MDU [multi-dwelling unit] and commercial markets.
Indeed, it has been both the manufacturers and the c-tailers whose businesses sprang from audio roots that have had to make the most profound tactical adjustments to a rapidly changing business climate increasingly unforgiving of errors in judgment about what to build and what to carry.