February 2003 Issue

 

Hardware Spotlight ? Harmony

Harmony SST-768 Web-based Remote By Grant Clauser In a custom home theater system, the magic transition from technology to entertainment experience usually comes down to just one device — the right remote. I've used most of the best remotes on the market, and some, like the Philips Pronto line, excel in customization, while others, like the Home Theater Master MX-500/700 models, feature exceptionally smart layouts. The new SST-768 from Harmony is a little of both, but its strong suit is in its ease of programming. This has got to be the easiest remote to program and integrate into a home A/V system of any


Hardware Spotlight ? Jamo

Jamo A210PDD Speaker System By Ron Goldberg Recent CEA findings have shown that women typically influence about three-quarters of consumer electronics purchases, and initiate nearly half of them. This news won't come as any surprise to most C-tailers, or anyone that's had to propose equipment to a design-conscious couple. The spouse-acceptance factor is amplified many times over when it comes to custom installs, which is why manufacturers are placing so much emphasis these days on "lifestyle-oriented" electronics, whatever that really means. But making something truly "lifestyle" is more than slapping a silver finish on a CE product. It's about being livable: How well


Hardware Spotlight ? Niles

Niles ZR-4630 MultiZone Receiver By David Dritsas Looking more like a traditional A/V receiver than a custom-install component, the Niles ZR-4630 multi-zone receiver is designed to distribute audio throughout the home by creating six separate, keypad-controlled zones, powered by six, built-in 30-watt stereo amplifiers. Each zone can be controlled independently, and offers separate access to one of three audio sources or an internal radio tuner. In addition to the separate source-per-zone scenario, the unit can also play the same source at independent volume levels, in multiple zones. Because the unit is from Niles, as opposed to one of the customary receiver brands, the ZR-4630


Hardware Spotlight ? Pioneer

Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi A/V Receiver By Ron Goldberg Traditionally speaking, A/V receivers haven't been a top-of-mind choice for most C-tailers. In a market oriented toward the upscale, receivers are usually perceived as downscale choices. But lately, manufacturers like Denon, Marantz, Yamaha and Pioneer have answered the charge with a generation of "super" receivers that offers a one-box hardware and software solution for even elaborate home theaters. The Elite VSX-49TXi ($4,500) is Pioneer's entry in this class, a monster unit with an outstanding user control and features that go beyond "me, too." The VSX-49TXi is flexible enough to compete with a dedicated A/V preamp/processor


Hardware Spotlight ? Sencore

Sencore CP5000 All-Display Color Analyzer By Grant Clauser Aside from creating new opportunities for selling home entertainment gear, the growth of direct pixel-addressed display technologies such as plasma, DLP and LCD has opened up another issue to the public consciousness — display calibration. The problem, however, is that most of the video calibration equipment on the market, specifically, the tristimulus device color analyzers, are not compatible with new technologies. Analyzers like the Sencore 288/290 (and similar devices from Philips and others) were, and still are, great for CRT calibrations. But these days, many more home theater consumers are opting for DLP and plasma. Spectraradiometers


Hardware Spotlight ? Yamaha

Yamaha LPX-500 Home Theater Projector By Grant Clauser As is the case with many of the latest home theater projectors, the spiritual ancestors of Yamaha's new, LCD-based LPX-500 lit up PowerPoint presentations in corporate boardrooms everywhere. Because the competing DLP technology has usurped much of the home theater market, it's somewhat surprising to see Yamaha come out with a high-definition LCD model, particularly when the company is also already in the DLP camp. So why do it? In a word: price. The LPX-500 does HD for under $6,000, while DLP projectors at that level cost at least $10,000. There are both


I Can Take it Home With Me!

By Bill Johannesen The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is all about checking out the cool new products, capitalizing on the show's business frenzy and connecting with colleagues in sharing experiences from our dynamic, challenging business. Many of the stories exchanged in Las Vegas continue to support a developing trend, which many in the industry feel represents a clear opportunity for new growth in an overall sluggish business environment. One industry veteran's story was typical. "The wife and I were visiting her 66-year-old mom over the holidays," he said, "and we walk in the kitchen, and there's this 15-inch flat-panel LCD TV on the


In Association - PARA Conference

PARA's 2003 Business Conference for Specialty Custom and Retail Dealers There has never been a more important time in the industry for specialty custom and retail dealers to understand their market niche, and be ready to re-invent systems and operations that can create profits. Smart dealers understand that when the economy fluctuates, it becomes imperative to make adjustments, reconsider staffing needs and job descriptions, manage inventory, initiate aggressive marketing tactics and improve efficiencies in all parts of the business. For these reasons, PARA's 2003 Conference, which will be held April 9-13 in Miami, is especially timely, and fittingly themed as "Survival of the


In Control ? Leviton Model Home Program

Leviton's Model Home Program Lends Context to Connected-Home Technologies By Jessica Millward If seeing is believing, showing must be selling. The significance of the demo certainly isn't lost on electrical and telecommunications wiring specialist Leviton Manufacturing Company. In 2000, the Leviton Integrated Networks (LIN) team was initiated to market many of its parent company's products into a single, comprehensive set of upgradeable packages for residential housing. The LIN team soon recognized the context-critical nature of its mission; its roster of home networking, lighting and automation control and power quality products for the home would be most effectively marketed and merchandised in a home. So


Is the A-Bus Going Your Way?

By Ron Goldberg Anyone who either designs or markets technology products can tell you it isn't easy to go against an established order. In the case of Sydney-based Leisuretech Electronics, developer of the ABus audio distribution system, the challenge has been taken up on two fronts. ABus is not only a departure in terms of technology, but also a marketing challenge. How do you get system designers and C-tailers to go against a well-established, decades-old paradigm? According to Andrew Goldfinch, president of Leisuretech, it's about offering a simpler product that can still claim to be a better mousetrap than the status quo. His company's


Mobile Interfaces

Navigating the Dashboard By Brett Solomon Today's mobile electronics systems demand more as they take on the role of multimedia systems. Hence, head units demand more real estate for displaying audio information, navigation directions and (most important to the younger set) entertainment in the form of a DVD movie or Xbox game. What was once a simple alarm-clock style LCD display and two knobs has become a 7-inch widescreen LCD monitor with an integrated DVD player. Manufacturers are scrambling to enable consumers to take advantage of today's multi-faceted multimedia environment. The responsible ones are doing so with the understanding that this technology has


Opening the POD Door

Cable-Compatible TV, at Last! By Cliff Roth It's been over 20 years since the first "cable-ready" TV sets and VCRs hit the market. But as any installer can tell you, a funny thing happened on the way to cable compatibility. The signals got scrambled. While it was true that a "cable-compatible" TV set could use its built-in cable tuner to view all the unscrambled basic channels, the same technology was essentially useless for all the premium channels, such as HBO and Showtime. With the advent of digital cable service, the "cable-ready" tuner became even more useless. And in some cable TV markets, such


Premiere Seating

Not Just an Attachment, a Solution By Bill Johnson Home theater seating is an oft-overlooked category. Dealers have traditionally shied away from selling seating because they don't consider themselves specialists. But home theater seating is a great way for dealers to create additional revenue with every home theater sale. The dedicated home theater-seating category represented an estimated $45 million in 2002. Today, several well-respected home theater designers actually suggest beginning the design of the home theater with the seating. Unfortunately, many dealers still treat the seating portion of the sale as an afterthought, or they neglect it entirely. Call it fear of


Shopping the Forbidden

Protected Brands on the Web By Ron Goldberg Some time ago, I was involved in a dotcom (OK, let's not go there) that among other things, served as a content-driven shopping aid for buying consumer electronics. Many of the products were available for online purchase, while others, because of vendor policies, could only be "fulfilled" at authorized brick-and-mortar dealers. Because E-commerce and the CE industry's reaction to it were both in a nascent state, the methods of protection for brands and product prices were still being established. A brief look at the Web circa 2003 clearly shows that the situation hasn't evolved all that


Software Spotlight ? HomeSeer

HomeSeer 1.6 Automation Software By Ron Goldberg It's hard not to give X10 technology the props it deserves, not only for lasting this long, but for evolving over the years. Annoying pop-up Web ads aside, in many ways, X10 is still as cutting-edge as it was in the mid-1970s, when it was controlling Accutrac turntables and introducing America to the idea of simple home automation. Despite the general perception of X10 as a medium that's too limiting for larger-scale applications, the technology continues to be a powerful and relevant force for affordable home control. Because X10 has been around for so long, the technology


Speak Out! Rep Distribution, Part II

Deborah Smith's cover story in Custom Retailer's December issue, "Rep Distribution: A Puzzling Landscape," struck a chord with many disparate factions of the vendor-distributor-retailer axis. For some, it was pure music, to others, decidedly off-key. Custom Retailer received so many comments and so much feedback on the story that we decided to open up our pages for other points of view — pro and con. Chris Browder Executive Vice President B&W The old adage "you are who you sell" has never been more true than it is today. In the case of B&W, the quality (not the quantity) of our dealer network has


The Coming Crush

Will Giants Take Your Business? By Ron Goldberg AVI Electronics, a small, New Jersey-based C-tailer specializing in custom installation for home and auto, had it nice for a while. Situated on a busy highway with enviable visibility, the single-store operation had the good fortune of not only serving a relatively affluent suburban market, but also of being nestled among a row of car dealerships, virtually guaranteeing a steady flow of mobile installation business. When the store began operations in 1992, the closest CE chain was miles away, CEDIA was a toddler and the custom-install market rarely extended past commercial work, or the occasional bigwig's


What Keeps You Awake at Night?

Nobody ever said custom was an easy business, at least nobody who's ever actually run one. First, consider the challenges that are specific to the trade: fast changing technologies, a faster-changing distribution and retailing environment and extensive learning curves for both personnel and potential customers. Now add to that the challenges that every small business faces: how to manage cash flow, workforce and schedules; how to fend off competition and promote your company; whether to add staff or outsource; how to create strategic alliances; how to survive uncertain economic times. The custom business is a deft blend of traditional and next-generation challenges that would


Who Gets It?

Progressive Audio's Digital Domicile By Natalie Hope McDonald Show, don't tell, is a rule most retailers live by. But it took a Columbus, Ohio-based company to adapt this concept to C-tailing by designing an apartment showroom ripe for reproduction in townhouses, condos and co-ops everywhere from Tribeca to Santa Monica. Progressive Audio has been a successful specialty retailer of high-end audio and video systems for more than 20 years. With numerous retailing awards and a client list that includes IBM, Record Town and The Limited to its credit, Progressive has been working with audio in the home ever since founder Scott Ranney built speakers out