Making Audio Work
The State of Non-Traditional Audio
Of course, the single non-traditional audio product that has both directly and indirectly shaped the audio market in the past year, some say, is the iPod, stimulating sales of peripherals and awareness of distributed audio. Other influences that are coming to the fore, say industry executives, are satellite radio, just beginning to percolate with regularity into home components, and to a lesser extent at present, HD Radio.
"The iPod has been a very positive thing for us," says Mody. "It puts us in the position to sell related speakers." "The knowledge level among consumers about audio is certainly becoming more apparent as the iPod has become a way of life," says Jon Robbins, "and people are looking for that convenience, for that different way to control music, in their homes. But it's our job to let them hear the difference between a music server that works through earbuds versus a music server that brings content throughout your whole home. It's our job to point out the differences in sound quality." Fabiano of DSI says iPod presents c-tailers with an opportunity: "It creates a taste for good-quality sound. It's like taking people from wine in a box to a wine-tasting experience in Napa Valley. All of a sudden, you're going to know, by tasting a small sample, the difference, and soon, you'll be spending your entire savings on cases of good wine."
"It's raising awareness," cautions AVAD's Gartland, "but I'm not clear whether that's helping us, because there are people who'll take their iPods and say, 'This is fine for my bedroom,' who might have done something else for music there otherwise, if that weren't around.
"I do have some concern," Gartland continues, "that with the whole digital music phenomenon, which I support, there's not enough talk about performance. And if there is no talk about performance, that will hurt us, because that's what we sell. I don't think digital music and performance discussions need to be separate, but iPod itself is not viewed or discussed as a performance-based product. On the other hand, the ability to have a 60GB iPod almost full with a CD collection and to have a music server at home, and one in the car, and have them all sync up - we're not very far from having that occurring. That will drive interest in audio. And our dealers will win, if they put themselves in the right position with these products."