Commitment to Custom
Built-to-order manufacturing has woven its way into many different industries as a means to achieve flexibility in today’s consumer-centric environments. For Leon Speakers, manufacturers of on-wall and flat-panel audio, this has been an essential tool to compete in an ever-changing, rapidly expanding, consumer electronics industry.
Leon Speakers’ most valuable asset is its ability to create custom cabinets at a breakneck speed while maintaining cutting-edge acoustic design. The company prides itself on handcrafting a wide range of elegant loudspeakers, custom-built and finished to match the exact dimensions and finish of any flat-panel display, with a very fast turnaround time: just three to five business days.
“At our core, we are a true CI company,” said Noah Kaplan, Leon’s president and co-founder. “We can customize our loudspeakers in any way our customers can imagine, whether it be the color, dimensions, mounting options, drivers or anything else. If you can think it, we can do it. We have built our reputation in the industry around that philosophy.”
Instead of being limited by a warehouse full of inventory, Leon stocks only the raw materials ready to be assembled into new products. “Our operations are totally focused on processes, rather than stocking in-the-box consumer electronics. For our dealers and installers, we don’t push product lines; instead we offer sets of parameters that can be easily customized to meet individual needs. This also allows us to not only respond immediately to industry demand, but also to be more creative and continually provide our craftsmen with different challenges, which they thrive on.”
The Flat-Panel Revolution
In the 11 years since its founding, Leon has evolved and expanded in order to meet industry demands. In the beginning, Leon’s products were a collaborative mix of the primary interests of the company’s two co-founders: Noah, a graduate of the School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, and Jeff Gordon, a student at the University of Michigan music school. The first products featured an array of both traditional solid hardwood speakers and very non-traditional, wall-hanging speakers sculpted into works of art.
“Our wall-hanging products were very popular and were getting a lot of national attention,” said Jeff Gordon, CEO and co-founding partner. “We soon created our first product line, called PictureSound, which consisted of on-wall, flat-panel speakers with acoustically transparent, silk-screened decorative grills. They were only three inches deep and essentially appeared as framed artwork. They even showed up on the Discovery channel’s ‘Monster House’ featuring a Japanese silkscreened grille cloth for an episode called Zen House.”
But things quickly changed with the introduction of flat-panel displays. Noah and Jeff immediately realized the possibilities for speaker design that this new technology required, and quickly scrapped the speaker/art concept. Their intention was to be the first speaker company dedicated to the flat-panel revolution, and they plowed ahead by putting all their energy into a new product design: The Profile Series—the world’s first speakers designed specifically for plasma TV’s.
Designing products specifically for flat-panel displays led to a number of challenges as well as innovations. Primary among these was that Noah and Jeff had to reconsider the classic notions of two-channel audio, as a plasma display is not a traditional stereo system. “We came up with a theory called Direct Source Audio (DSA),” Gordon recalled, “which basically means that audio should emanate from, and enhance, the visual experience of the display. This theory is embodied in our Horizon and Profile Series products.
“While we did invent what is now commonly known as the ‘LCR soundbar,’ that wasn’t enough for us. We wanted this new audio solution to hold its own against the finest loudspeakers in the world. This is why we chose to outfit these loudspeakers with the finest European drivers, including Focal and Peerless, and extreme high-fidelity tweeters like Morel, to create what we think of as the Leon sound, which offers detailed vocal clarity while maintaining full-range musicality and fidelity.”
Audiophile Meets Audiostyle: The Next Generation of Leon
This year, Leon has shifted focus again to develop a new generation of products meant to be showpieces: “For some time, we’ve been developing solutions that are intended to match any given installation. However, there’s been a shift in the industry as design has become more relevant for our customers. Our new products still offer the audio quality for which we are known, but can stand out in a room as a design piece. The result is a true meeting of audiophile and audiostyle.” To help move the company in this new direction, Leon has appointed Robert Waissi, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design masters program, as the company’s senior industrial designer.
Included in Leon’s new offering is the Profile 404-X-A. Beautifully styled and expertly crafted, the Profile 404-X-A delivers high fidelity and high-design to any environment. With a depth of only 4 inches, the Profile 404-X-A complements new, thinner flat-panel TVs, and can be custom-built to match the exact height and finish of any display. In addition, the loudspeaker is available in a number of wood-veneered baffles, including bamboo and maple, and can be painted to any color to match any home décor.
The Profile 404-X-A is perfectly suited for small theater settings and two-channel audiophile listening rooms. It utilizes some of the finest drivers and tweeters in the world: each channel features dual 4-inch Peerless HDS woofers and a Morel MDT29 1-inch hand-treated, cloth-dome tweeter housed in a vented enclosure. The speaker boasts a 65-Hz to 22-kHz frequency response and a power rating of 235 W per channel.
For consumers who desire the same level of quality from their surround sound speakers, Leon also offers the timbre-matched Profile 114-X-A Surround Sound Series. Also just 4 inches deep, the Profile 114-X-A Surrounds can be easily mounted on-wall to produce superb stereo imaging. If customers want their surround speakers to be hidden out of sight, the Profile 114i-X-A is also available for in-wall installations.
Leon has also developed a very unique three-in-one compact subwoofer sporting a radical new design. The new A3-SUB redefines the possibility of large bass from a small enclosure for in-wall, on-wall or in-room configurations. Featuring AuraSound-patented Neo Radial Technology (NRT) and a unique teardrop-shaped motor structure, this subwoofer can handle large amounts of power with minimal compression. The A3-SUB’s modular design allows quick and easy conversion to in-wall, on-wall or in-room setups for short lead times or project plan changes.
The A3-SUB features an extremely large 1.6-inch peak excursion, increased linearity, lower distortion, greater efficiency and greater power handling. Measuring just 12 inches by 14 inches, and less than 4 inches deep, it achieves a 30-Hz to 200 Hz frequency bandwidth in a .25-cubic-foot cabinet. The inverted magnet design increases usable air volume and yields surprising bass and sound levels from an extremely small cabinet. The A3-SUB also comes with vibration dampening wall mounts and is triple braced for rigidity. The A3-SUB is available as a standalone subwoofer and can also be powered with a 1000-W Leon sub amplifier.
Horizon 212 and OS Series
One new series, and many new possibilities, has joined the highly acclaimed Leon Horizon Series. The new Horizon 212 has been designed at a depth of 2 inches and height of 3 inches to match the latest ultra-thin LCD TVs. Now, incredible fidelity can be enjoyed without sacrificing the sleek look that makes these displays so desirable. Leon can also build any model in the Horizon OS Series to a jaw-dropping width of 120 inches. This allows Leon to match even the largest plasmas, including the Panasonic 103-inch and Sharp 108-inch displays, in the limited but expanding large-format flat-panel display market. These one-of-a-kind loudspeakers are physically impressive, aesthetically pleasing, and capable of delivering amazing theater-grade performance.
Combining left, center and right channels all in one sleek under-mount soundbar, the Horizon Series is the ideal solution for any home theater setting and everyday TV viewing. With multiple mounting options and a unique space-saving design, the Horizon Series speakers are the perfect complement to any flat-panel display.
There will always be new trends and demands in the CI industry as the nature of customers and their needs are not a constant. With its flexibility and commitment to custom, Leon is a manufacturer ready to respond to these shifts at any given moment. And while some may look at these changes as a hurdle, for Leon it is an exciting opportunity and a chance to put their creativity to work.