Emotiva Launches Made-in-U.S.A. USB ‘Ego’ DACs
Emotiva Audio, which is doing an about-face in transitioning manufacturing back to The States and in commencing sales for the first time in its 11-year history through dealer channels, has launched the first two models in an anticipated four-model line of digital-to-analog converters.
The diminutive $229 Big Ego and $169 Little Ego DACs can play high-res computer audio files up to 384kHz, said Dan Laufman, Emotiva president, and he said both have high-performance direct-coupled audio paths. The more expensive model is a headphone amp and has dedicated Toslink and line-level outputs for connection to a hi-fi system. The Little Ego has a headphone/line output but no dedicated analog line output or Toslink output.
While these two products are available on the Emotiva website exclusively, the company is beginning to reframe its sales model as mixed retail and direct sales.
Laufman said the company has signed about a half-dozen dealers to date, and six international distributors are being finalized currently; he anticipates having 30 to 50 dealers signed on by year’s end.
“We were never anti-dealer,” Laufman said, “but I had been in the OEM business and had customers who didn’t want to see me in the retail channel.” So he sold Emotiva-branded products mainly to hobbyists via the Internet in the early days without objection from those OEM clients when that channel was a non-factor.
Now, “as a brand, I feel we should approach customers in any manner comfortable to them,” Laufman said – and that includes through dealers, who have been regularly asking for the line, and customers, who want the products but who don’t have the skills to self-install. “We view brick-and-mortar expansion as a necessary growth component,” he said. “There’s a huge interest in carrying the line; it has a lot of pull.”
As for the choice to move manufacturing to America, Laufman said that the idea is to make the change “without raising price-points, to keep us a high-value brand.: The decision was prompted by the rising costs of manufacture in China. “Labor costs have gone up 25 percent in Asia or more per year. High-level component costs are the same in China as in the U.S. Fixed costs in China are up. Asia and the U.S. are now almost at parity [in costs].” By the end of 2015, he said, he expects that half of Emotiva’s revenue will be derived from the sale of U.S.-made products. Moreover, the company plans a rollout of new made-in-U.S. hi-fi and home components in late summer.
Laufman said dealers should expect Emotiva as an exhibitor at the January 2016 International CES.