July 2007 Issue


All HDMI Is Not Created Equal

The HDTV age is here. Sales of 1,080p-capable displays have risen from less than five percent of total displays purchased just six months ago to over 30 percent in March 2007. We now have two new high-definition disc formats in Blu-ray and HD DVD, both capable of outputting 1,080p video and multi-channel high-resolution lossless digital audio. Two of the new gaming platforms have high-def playback and storage options. Downloadable high-def content is available for purchase through several sites, with more to come. This increased new digital picture and sound performance comes at a price, however. High-definition places dramatically increased demands on the cables and

And the Winner Is........

Roll out the red carpet, queue up the lights and roll cameras! Yes, it’s that time of year: We are now inviting our manufacturer partners to enter our 2007 EXC!TE Awards competition. Our crack editorial staff will be hard at work over the next two months determining which products have garnered the most EXC!TEment in the custom electronics industry over the course of 2007. This year, our entry process is streamlined and slick. It can be found online at www.customretailer.net/2007exciteballot. Vendors, please make this a priority! You know the old saying: If you don’t enter, you can’t win! And our deadline for entry is

CR_0707_in the event

Near its Lexington, Ky., headquarters, multi-room A/V and home control vendor Elan Home Systems used the occasion of “Wired & Inspired,” the theme of this year’s edition of its TRIO Dealer Summit, to introduce its Five Star Customer Service Standard. The initiative, which launched last month, promises a roster of free benefits designed to “instill a simple policy set to make it easier for the dealer to support the client,” said Paul Starkey, Elan’s executive vice president of sales and marketing. “The genesis of it was trying to live a day in the life of an upscale client. The norm in the industry is

How to Write a Contract

The purpose of the contract between an A/V installer and a homeowner and/or a non-owner builder is to define expectations for the installation and commit those expectations to a written understanding. When both parties involved in an installation understand what the other’s expectations are, the likelihood of a dispute is minimized. Any agreement between an A/V installer and an owner and/or builder should include provisions that define the scope of work to be performed, the time involved, the cost, post-installation service, payment terms and how to resolve any disputes that may arise. Make sure each is of these provisions is clearly defined for—and understood

Is Your Message Getting Through?

We live in incredible times. We can tap into the minds of great thinkers and massive institutions at the click of a button. We can peruse the libraries of the world’s finest universities and review doctoral dissertations from our easy chairs. We have over 500 channels of entertainment, sports, news, history and science falling out of the sky 24 hours a day. The Library of Congress houses over 20 million books alone, not to mention millions of periodicals, photographs and film clips. We’ve come a long way from Gutenberg’s first printed work in the mid-15th century. However, with this massive amount of potential knowledge

Manufacturers and Trade Associations Respond to Green Movement

Custom installers and integrators are getting the green message. But what about their suppliers, and the organizations that represent both constituencies? A/V manufacturers have already been compelled to respond to the European RoHAS Directive, which came into effect in July 2006 to restrict the use of hazardous materials in electronics. Much of that RoHAS-compliant product is also being sold in the U.S. Furthermore, the number of press releases sent out by manufacturers touting their green credentials and initiatives rises every month. Meanwhile, in response to growing consumer, trade and government interest in green issues, CEA and CEDIA are scrambling. For its part, CEA is

Multichannel Audio: Simplify a Complex Situation

Audio sometimes seems to go out of its way to make our lives difficult. All too often, there is uncertainty at the point of purchase and confusion about hooking it all up at home. We’ve had over 50 years with stereo, and even with the simplicity of that format, industry veterans joke about where people place the speakers and the percentage of systems that have speakers hooked up out of phase (greatly diminishing the bass). And don’t even mention the “stereo seat”—what’s that? We never have succeeded in achieving reliable delivery of stereo sound to the masses. Now we are in the midst of

New Day Rising

CR: The Russound Sphere Certified Integrator Program recently ramped up. What does it entail, and what was the impetus behind its development? Kussard: There were primarily two motivators. With our next round of product introductions, Russound is introducing a range that goes up a step in terms of application of technologies and, in some cases, technologies that may be lesser understood or are new to our traditional customer base. Some of the products are going to start to rely more heavily on IP networking skills, as an example. We initially moved into this area about four or five years ago and, from our experience,

Positioning Your Business as ‘Green’ Doesn’t Require That Much of a Leap

This issue, we take our first close look at the “green” phenomenon and its impact on the custom electronics industry with our new section “Green Mind,” authored by the always capable, always thoughtful Janet Pinkerton. In the coming months, Janet will examine various aspects of the green movement and how they relate to your business. I’ve been around the CEDIA channel long enough to know that politically, custom installers range from the extreme left to the hard right. Heck, some of them are even middle-of-the-road. But although the environment and energy efficiency have traditionally been left-of-center issues politically (just count the number of times

Power Management Vendors on the “Green” Movement

We asked power management vendors: How can the “green” phenomenon play into the category, and how can your dealers communicate this to customers? “People are more aware than ever about energy consumption, both from a financial and an environmental impact perspective. Home electronics often continue to draw power when not in use and even when powered “off” via the device’s on/off switch or remote control. These wasteful “dark loads” add up over time to drive up your client’s electrical bills. Sure, for a well-to-do client with a larger home, this increase equates to a very small percentage of the bill. These days, however, people

Spotlight: Multiroom Audio’s Identity Crisis

We ask the manufacturers what they call it, the challenges the category faces, and how you can sell it better. Elan Home Systems www.elanhomesystems.com “Distributed audio,” “whole-house/home audio” or “multiroom audio”? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to convey the simplicity and high quality of sound throughout the home through one simple phrase? I’m not sure that any of these tag lines do it justice. Why not “sound systems for the home”? All of us relate to the “sound system” in our car. Why not “home sound system”? There’s no reason we can’t move from “Pimp My Ride” to “Pimp My Home” (or

The Greening of Custom Installation

Market interest in energy-efficient, environmentally sustainable lifestyles—often referred to as the “green” movement—is being driven by a myriad of factors: consumers responding to ever-rising energy costs, the increasing awareness of climate change, pressure on builders to differentiate in a down housing market and, possibly, consumer desire to do something positive amid an uncertain time. In addition, the residential housing market is about to see the arrival of not one but two new green rating systems: The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System for Homes (currently in pilot, due for official release this fall) and the

The Search for More Cash

I want to fly but I can’t even swim. —Ray Davies So you want to fly and get more cash out of your business, but you can’t even swim? Well, let’s continue with Part Three in our series of articles on getting more cash out of your business and you might not only be swimming, but flying as well. Two months ago, we discussed your balance sheet, current assets and the benefits of having cash. We asked: If your accounts receivable and cash management currently are in good shape, can you find other areas you can tap to raise cash and take advantage of

The Viking Range Phenomenon and You

Peek into the kitchen of a typical A/V customer and you might find a Viking range. A Sub-Zero fridge. Maybe a Bosch dishwasher. These aren’t your mother’s Kenmores. These are professional-grade appliances reformatted for residential use. What’s going on here? Is every client trained at Le Cordon Bleu? Are they leading the fabulous life, filled with friends and wine and cheese and cassoulet? More likely, these appliances are seldom used. Viking calls these buyers “look not cook” clients. The typical Viking range purchaser uses their range no more than—and often much less than—the typical household. From an economist’s point of view, the client who

Thirty Days on a Yacht That Weren’t Quite Relaxing

Any custom installer worth his salt will bend over backwards to accede to the demands imposed on him by a privacy-obsessed client—and will practically turn contortionist when that client needs something done “yesterday.” Case in point: Don Welter and Kevin Elgas, president and senior programmer, respectively, of Alpine, Calif.’s Don Welter Electrical Design and Control, who recently proved they were worth their salt—in this case, sea salt—in a marine installation of lighting controls where price was no object, but a strict 30-day deadline and utmost discretion counted for nearly as much as the quality of the job itself. Welter and Elgas were tasked to

World Wide Takes a ‘Big Tent’ Approach to Custom Retail

The words “tent sale” and “custom installer” don’t usually find themselves in the same sentence, but last month suburban Philadelphia’s Bob & Ron’s World Wide Stereo hosted a two-part event designed to boost both its traditional retail business as well as drive more custom installations. The weekend consisted of an invite-only private sale party on Friday night and a tent sale in the parking lot on Saturday and Sunday. “We’re 70 percent custom, but we still have a significant retail business,” said Owner Bob Cole, who, with his wife and business partner Karen, stood by the door of their Montgomeryville, Pa., store greeting guests