Unmasking the Luxury Sale
Technology Integrator: What is Autonomic’s most affordable whole-house audio solution—and what features and scalability does it afford the user?
Michael de Nigris: Our most affordable whole-home system is the one that precisely matches the number of rooms and simultaneous streams of audio the customer needs. Mirage Audio Systems at a starting MSRP of $3,995 provide two desecrate audio programs that can be distributed to four independent zones. If your client has a larger home, you might find that the most affordable MAS package for you is the MAS-16-2 (16 zones, two streams), which costs just under $500 per room. We’ve created a unique sizing system that allows integrators to construct a system that exactly matches their customer’s needs, and because each system has no
more and no less than what’s
needed, every MAS is the most affordable solution for each
client’s specific application.
TI: What does high-resolution music playback mean to the integrator selling a basic whole-house music system?
de Nigris: First and foremost, it means that the integrator can feel comfortable that they’re providing their customer with a system that is future-proof and superior to anything they can buy in a store or over the Internet. More pragmatically, it also means that the system can be matched to higher-quality speakers, which means greater opportunities for integrators to upgrade equipment for customers that really care about sound, and create a high-end experience. At 192kHz/24 bit, the MMS-5A renders audio at four times the sampling rate and a staggering 256x the playback resolution of wireless consumer audio systems.
TI: What differentiates the new MMS-2A from other whole-house music devices?
de Nigris: A primary factor in our success over the last eight years has been our consistent focus and dedication to advancing our technology base. Autonomic is not a company that rushes a product to market only to abandon it and rush off to the next big thing. The MMS-2A represents everything we’ve learned during those years, and we believe it is among the finest digital media playback devices on the market, second only to its big brother the MMS-5A.
The MMS-2A’s built-in solid state storage is another major differentiating factor. For the customer, it means that their music is always available—even when their PC is off or the network blips. For the installer it means fewer phone calls resulting in walking a customer through PC and router reboots to get the music playing again.
TI: Why is a wired system with wireless control such
as the MMS-2A preferable verses Bluetooth or other
de Nigris: It’s about quality and reliability. Moving content around a home with wireless IP technology carries significant compromises in quality due to the compression, computing and timing required to packetize and de-packetize audio on an IP backbone. Wireless audio products actually severely compress content to below-CD quality in order to do the tricks necessary to get all the networking gear to play back the music at the same time in all the rooms. Only an installed speaker cable can carry full resolution audio to all the end points with no latency, compression or echo between rooms.
Perhaps a bigger consideration, however, is reliability. A properly wired whole-home music system will likely work fine for many years—for as long as the home is owned in many cases. What are the chances that the customer’s IP router, switches and computers will all still be working exactly as they did even one year from now? Unless an installer is prepared to support their customer’s IP infrastructure, IP and Bluetooth-based wireless solutions should be eliminated from consideration for professionals in favor of properly installed hard goods that are truly a part of the home’s subsystems. Certainly, some installers are up to that task and have built IT support into their business model, but they should know what they’re signing up for and go in with both eyes open.
Vice President, Marketing of Kaleidescape
Technology Integrator: Has the consumer’s definition of
Angelika Stalman: I don’t believe that it has, no. Merriam-Webster defines luxury as a condition or situation of great comfort, ease and wealth—and when viewed from this vantage point, the concept of luxury will never change. What changes, however, are the products and services that have been used as signposts of the luxury lifestyle over the years. If we focus on the arena of home entertainment and turn back the clock, we can see a time when wax cylinder players and Victrolas were considered to be the height of high-tech hi-fi. Previously, music lovers were forced to learn to play and sing themselves, or travel to locations where music was being performed. But with these products, anyone who could afford the price could enjoy their favorite songs at
any time of the day or night. In this case, a leap in technology provided a convenient way for people to control their entertainment. The experience was luxurious, but the products only enabled luxury, they did not define it. And so it
TI: How does Kaleidescape embody the concept of luxury?
Stalman: At Kaleidescape, we do not make the movie screen. We don’t make the seats, the projector or the speakers. A home theater “works” without a Kaleidescape System, but it is not a luxurious experience. The seats may be comfortable, but without Kaleidescape, you have to keep getting up to put discs into Blu-ray players. The projector may look great, but you’ll spend so much time looking at previews, menus and ads that by the time the movie starts, you’ll be half-asleep. Your speakers might be the best, but without a high-end source device, the sound will be less than inspiring. With Kaleidescape, you get a home theater experience that delivers your movies and music at the highest quality, with instant access to incredible cinematic moments and an experience that’s easy to use and enjoy. Kaleidescape is, by definition, luxury.
TI: In what specific ways is the Kaleidescape Experience
Stalsman: In order to provide true luxury, the Kaleidescape Experience displays three main attributes: quality, performance and convenience. As would be expected when discussing luxury goods and services, quality jumps to the front of the class. With Kaleidescape, you’ll enjoy full
Blu-ray quality movies—no compression—that you can
conveniently download from the Kaleidescape Store, the only Blu-ray quality movie download store in the world. Your movies will sparkle with true Blu-ray-quality video, and thump with the original DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks.
Another key attribute of the Kaleidescape Experience is performance. With Kaleidescape, you simply press Play and you’ll get to the opening scene of your Blu-ray movie faster than with any other system in the world. No previews, menus, or ads. And if you are not in the mood for a full-length film, you can take advantage of Kaleidescape Scenes and jump straight to your favorite movie moments, each bookmarked by hand and named by our expert Movie Guide Team. So when you only have 30 minutes, you can enjoy the best scenes from the “Matrix” trilogy back to back. Or take advantage of Kaleidescape’s unique Play Song feature and let your five-year-old watch her favorite song from “Frozen”—20 times in a row. It is this level of control that enables Kaleidescape to transcend home theater and immerse you in the true art of cinema.
Third, but perhaps most important, is convenience: Your entire movie collection is presented beautifully onscreen and automatically organized in a digital library. Explore your movies with the engaging Covers View, the customizable Collections View, or the elegant List View. No more straining your neck to read the titles on the DVD spines on your bookshelf. You can easily search and sort all your movies by genre, director, actor and more. And you can control your entire collection conveniently from your iPad—and make your selection in a heartbeat.
TI: How does Kaleidescape support its dealer network as it caters to the luxury market?
Stalman: We support our dealers by offering a true luxury product that will turn their clients into lifelong fans. Every aspect of our product line—from our award-winning movie servers, to the world’s first and only Blu-ray-quality movie download store, to our intuitive Movie Guide—has received loving attention so the product is incredibly easy to use and does not require a user’s manual. All Kaleidescape products are built from the ground up to deliver flawless performance year after year, backed by rock-solid reliability and performance; and they come with world-class warranty and support services (three years extendable to five in total). As added assurance, Kaleidescape provides 24-7 monitoring of all components in the field, so the customer never has to deal with nasty surprises on movie night. With our comprehensive monitoring and alert systems, we are able to notify our dealers and the system owners of any issues that arise, before they become problems.
What’s more, Kaleidescape is the perfect companion for a whole-home solution because it integrates with home automation systems. For example, Kaleidescape can notify the control system that a movie is playing so that lights dim automatically when you press Play, or you can tell your home theater system to pick the DTS soundtrack whenever it’s available, or instruct it to always show French subtitles. You can even configure the system so that the kids’ zone never plays a movie with a stronger rating than PG-13. These are all experiences you only get with a luxury product.
TI: What changes does Kaleidescape foresee in the luxury
Stalman: A change that we see is that the world is beginning to confuse technology with luxury. While it is true that the prices of TVs and audio systems continue to drop while the capabilities increase, a higher-resolution picture or a more efficient subwoofer are simply checkbox features. One needs to step back and ask the important questions: What good is my TV’s resolution if I can’t watch the movie I want to watch? Does it matter how amazing my speakers are if I am feeding them low-resolution compressed audio? And how important is the comfort of my theater seating if I continually have to jump up from it and search around the house for Blu-ray discs? Luxury is not just about having great gear—it’s also about not having to worry about that gear. And our dealers realize this. When they implement Kaleidescape as the foundation for a home media system, they focus on convenience and usability to deliver a truly luxurious experience. By doing so, they provide their clients with systems that they will actually use, as opposed to mountains of high-end gear that languishes in darkened man caves because it’s simply too much trouble to deal with.
Itai Ben-Gal, On Controls CEO
Technology Integrator: Can we converge connected systems for an affordable media room, such as TV, home theater receiver, Blu-ray player, cable box and Apple TV—and add control of a front door security camera and thermostat within the On Controls platform?
Itai Ben-Gal: This aggregated functionality is really right in the wheelhouse for On Controls. We offer integrators an elegant and customizable control solution for less than our competitors, giving integrators the choice of either attracting new customers at lower price points or adding more value to premium systems based upon our Cloud-based control and automation solution. The bottom line is, On Controls enables integrators to unify all of the many disjointed connected home devices for their customers, providing an affordable, intuitive and full-featured smart home experience all within a single app for Apple and Android phones or tablets.
TI: As an integrator, how can I enhance luxury and value for my clients selling a Cloud-based control solution?
Ben-Gal: A Cloud-based control solution offers integrators increased efficiency, enabling them to provide more luxury and value as well as enhanced levels of service to their client base. With a Cloud-based control platform, integrators can easily collaborate with their co-workers—team members can hand off the setup of a system if they get interrupted midstream, all team members are operating with the latest versions and revs automatically, and new features and functionality immediately become available all via the Cloud. This transparency equates to the highest level of service for the client and opens up opportunity for the integrator to offer the latest features to their customers. A Cloud-based solution also enables integrators to provide these high levels of service with “no truck roll,” as technicians can gain virtual access to the control system from any location using the On Controls Manager Portal. And because tech’s can have different access “permissions” than other staff members, there is a high level of visibility and transparency for company managers to see all employee activities. The integrator is in charge of when updates get pushed to their clients and access to the On Controls Manager Portal is always at no cost to the integrator.
TI: If my client already has a lighting control system along with an array of smart home devices, can I integrate control affordably with On Controls?
Ben-Gal: On Controls works with a great many connected home brands to make certain that our control and automation platform works seamlessly with a vast array of lighting systems, A/V systems and all of the other smart home technologies at many price points. As an example, suppose a client has a Lutron lighting system with some Philips Hue integration and Hunter Douglas window treatments. The affordable On Controls platform can be leveraged to cost effectively control all of those devices from a single app—again, bringing together a group of disconnected smart systems to provide the truly intelligent and luxurious functionality that clients are after. On Controls is always working closely with manufacturers to integrate the latest devices. This ongoing initiative brings critical value and efficiency to installers in the field.
TI: What are some affordable ways that I can achieve multiple zones of audio using On Controls?
Ben-Gal: Whole-house audio is a very popular market segment. Our approach at On Controls is to let integrators select the hardware and price points they prefer for each individual client and be agnostic in that regard—we will provide seamless control of whatever devices they install in the home. If the client wants to access their iTunes via Apple TV or AirPlay, On Controls can facilitate that experience. If there are other connected music players in the home, we can easily add them. Whole-house audio systems are typically scalable and come in a wide range of sizes and budgets—On Controls can interface with a vast array of both hardware and software-based solutions to deliver the most intuitive user experience.
TI: What are some of the popular features of On Controls platform I can use to entice new customers at lower price points?
Ben-Gal: On Controls enables integrators to sell affordable luxury in the home automation and control market while differentiating themselves from the competition by offering a truly customizable user experience. First there was “remote overload,” with clunky remote controls scattered across the coffee table and between sofa seat cushions. Today there is “app overload,” really the same concept and equally as inconvenient. On Controls solves for the disconnect of the connected home by unifying control within a single app. On Control’s Cloud-based technology is unique in that it enables integrators to do so much for their clients remotely. As an example, using the On Controls Manager Portal, establish individually customized interfaces for different family members who have completely different habits in the home. Use photos from a family vacation or a favorite sports team to individualize each interface. There is real value to consumers in these services and On Control makes it all happen from any location via the Cloud. •