June 2003 Issue


Audio Is Served

What You Need To Know About Hard-Drive Audio Servers By Mark Fleischmann> The process of playing recorded music didn't change that much from the wax cylinder all the way up to the CD. You'd put a recording into a machine and music came out. Once music became digital, courtesy of the CD, the rules changed a bit (no pun intended). But the digitization of recorded music was almost a trivial event compared to the compression of those digits. Today's state-of-the-art playback systems put compressed audio files on a hard drive, where they are rigorously cross-indexed and organized, travel through the home in a

Can Terk Strike Again with T2?

The exploding demand for custom installation and integration has brought a lot of me-too companies into the market, on the manufacturing side, as well as the installation and services side. With its pedigree of innovative industrial design and clever solutions for the consumer accessories market, Terk Technologies out of Commack, Long Island, has never been a me-too company. Its new T2 division, which is focused on high-quality signal management solutions, aims to bring the same level of product panache directly to the custom installer.T2, as both a product line and a business division, has been in a beta phase since last year's CEDIA, and

Control Issues

Are Today's Remote Interfaces Up To The Task? By Jessica Millward Count on Ozzy Osbourne to act as mouthpiece for a marketplace. In one of the first episodes of his family's popular reality series, the Ozz can't work his own video system, even though he's been provided with a customized remote control. The baffled hero laments to millions that "you've got to have computer knowledge to turn the TV on and off! I press one button and the shower starts!" It'd be comforting to chalk this comment up to substance abuse and/or overexposure to arena rock. But everyone knows Ozzy's not the only one,

Gear Guide

SONANCE'S FIRST SOURCE COMPONENT Sonance has introduced the Concierge, a dual-drive, 160-GB music server that can store 2,500 hours of audio and play different selections simultaneously in up to four zones, with the option of expanding to a total of seven. The Concierge offers comprehensive media-management features, including on-screen menus and access to online services, while providing everyday users with simple, one-button operation from any listening area. The Concierge comes with three independent analog and one Toslink digital output. When combined with the company's new Networked Audio Modules (NAM), which fit in the back of Sonance SAT amplifiers, the unit can be expanded to

Hardware Spotlight -- Audiobahn/Unwired Technology

Audiobahn/Unwired Mobile DVD ENTERTAINMENT System by Grant Clauser While mobile DVD are becoming popular as factory-installed equipment, it's the aftermarket that's driving this sector of the business. I wanted to see and hear if this trend in high-tech travel is all it's cracked up to be, so I checked out a rear-seat entertainment system by Audiobahn and Unwired Technology. For this job, the vehicle was a humble family truckster, a 2003 Mazda MPV minivan, and I recruited Bill Weidemoyer and Joe Henning of Poor Boyz Customs to do the installation work. With a garage in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, Poor Boyz' mobile electronics installations

Hardware Spotlight -- RBH

RBH AC Speaker System By Mark Fleischmann Surround systems anchored by floorstanding speakers in the front left and right positions combine the strengths of 5.1-channel sound with the old-fashioned virtues of stereo. But an optimum combination of livable size, placement flexibility and sonic performance usually carries a price, and customers on a tight budget often end up with speakers that don't look or sound very good. That's why it was such a pleasure to pull the cartons off a pair of RBH's AC-5Ts; the speakers' curved enclosures immediately announced that they were something special. Nearly 40 inches tall, the AC-5T has a

Hardware Spotlight -- Runco

Runco PL-50HDX Plasma TV By Ron Goldberg Runco's products are positioned as best-of-breed, and there's no shortage of C-tailers, integrators and consumers that will be happy to tell you why. The company's 50-inch PL-50HDX aspires to establish a Runco-style benchmark for the increasingly crowded plasma market. From a qualitative standpoint, there's no doubting that the company has accomplished what it set out to do. HARDWARE The PL-50HDX is a 50-inch, 16:9 PDP mated with Runco's outboard Vivix PFP processor/controller. The panel itself features a native resolution of 1,280x768, with a contrast ratio that Runco rates at 1,000:1. The PFP controller acts as

Hardware Spotlight -- Sharp

Sharp LC-37HV4U LCD TV By Joe Paone Throw out every misgiving you've had about LCD TV. Forget your disdain for poor viewing angles and dreaded screen-door effects when you move your head or sit at a sharp angle. Disregard your distaste for the digital artifacts and blotchiness that make it so difficult to watch high-action movies or fast-moving sports on an LCD without getting eye-strain or simply frustrated. Forget about tinny sound from built-in speakers that were largely a design afterthought. That's because the Sharp LC-37HV4U high-definition AQUOS liquid crystal television responds to every one of those concerns. This 37-inch widescreen beauty is

Hardware Spotlight -- SpeakerCraft

SpeakerCraft SoundSource In-Wall Stereo System By Ron Goldberg While distributed audio is the hot ticket in custom residential installations, the whole-house concept is not without its caveats. Sure, you can set up your customer's main downstairs system to pipe their favorite CDs to an upstairs bedroom, but what do they do when they want to listen to another disc? Typically speaking, customers have three choices. They can install a CD jukebox and have a system controller at the local zones. Or, they can have an audio server containing rips of the entire CD collection, also controlled from the local zone. Or, they can

Light from the Start

Illumination Isn't an Afterthought By Stephen Margulies When people go to the movies, they pay to become totally immersed in visual and audible illusions. To support these illusions, and to provide the most focused environment for them, the theater's lights are turned off. Unfortunately, when people speak of creating the theatrical experience at home, there's often the same assumption of a darkened room, though in reality, this is rarely the case. Most home theaters end up in a family room, which obviously is a completely different environment with different lighting needs. And nowadays, the original home theater concept of having a "room" dedicated to

Long Live Plasmas?

Telling Customers About Plasma's Darker Side By Joe Paone Techies, and most salespeople, know all about the inner workings and potential pratfalls of plasma display technology. But lots of customers don't. That creates an ethical, not to mention bottom-line, dilemma for C-tailers. Should they be proactive and upfront with customers about issues such as burn-in, burn-out and general plasma life expectancy, or should they wait for the customer to ask about such issues? Do they know or care that once something in a plasma goes irreparably bad, the whole set might have to go? And are plasmas really any more of a risky

Making It Work at the Wheel

By Brett Solomon One growing trend among luxury and even everyday vehicles is steering wheel-mounted remotes that control the mobile audio system. Wheel-mounted remotes have proven to be not only a convenience feature, but a safety feature as well, as they tend to reduce the time drivers take their eyes off the road to search for a volume knob. But there is one big problem with steering wheel remote controls as they occupy the market today — they do not integrate with aftermarket car audio head units. There is a specialized section of the aftermarket where companies are dealing with the problem head-on.

Personnel Best

The Sales Staff as Marketing Tool By Lew Brown With the recent move by Circuit City to eliminate commissioned sales people, the third largest CE retailer has joined the rest of the top 10, as well as the majority of our industry, in selling products at retail without the aid of commissioned sales people. As non-commissioned selling becomes standard industry practice, the specialty dealer's emphasis on knowledgeable sales help — usually commissioned — has become an increasingly important point of differentiation. Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Sears and other giant retailers have publicly announced their desire to sell the higher-end products and services that

Selling Multi-Room Simplicity

The Distributed Audio Alliance Means Business By Janet Pinkerton American consumers have embraced multichannel home theater for their TV-watching, and home networking for their computing. Many of them are going wireless with home networks and loving it. So why has multi-room audio yet to find such favor? Why still the mishmash of unconnected receivers, shelf systems and radios scattered throughout the home? Why are there so few audio options in the wiring of new homes? Misconceptions and/or a lack of awareness, answers the Distributed Audio Alliance, a group of 13 manufacturer, distributor and trade publications working to grow the multi-room audio business. Such misconceptions

Survival of the Fittest

PARA Improves on Natural Selection with "Survival of the Fittest" By David Dritsas Uncertain economic times have a tendency to spur references to Darwin's theories of evolution. But these references are often framed in negative terms, and miss evolution's most basic premise, which is that "survival of the fittest" is based on positive adaptation. If any business is susceptible to the elements of change, it is retailing, so perhaps it's no surprise that this year's Professional Audio/Video Retailers Association (PARA) conference, held in climate-friendly Miami, Florida, preached the mantra of Darwin. While trimming costs and operational expenses are helpful retailing strategies, the

The Never-Ending Customer

How Much Support Is Too Much? By Ron Goldberg Simple. Friendly. Easy to use. Satisfaction guaranteed. These descriptions and others like them are probably the critical selling points in any custom CE transaction. Consumers expect to receive exactly the experience they've contracted and paid for, and flawless operation is expected to be a given. On occasion, a bug will get by even an expert programmer's eye, and a component, wire or connection might sometimes fail. But in most cases, system difficulties can be traced to the end user. A customer might accidentally mess up a macro. Another can't figure out how to access

The University According to Panasonic

Manufacturers Take Over the Classroom By Natalie Hope McDonald Training and education have become crucial components of the C-tailing world. But in today's CE environment, where new products and technologies fly to market at alarming speeds, there are hardly enough qualified teachers to service the students. While manufacturer reps have traditionally assumed this role, in a growing number of cases, the manufacturers are taking matters into their own hands, and offering Web-based training directly to the retail sales force. In May 2002, Panasonic decided to integrate "Panasonic University" into its fold. According to Grace Nasson, director of training at the company, "Training is

Who Gets It -- Multimedia Salesmanship

Rockford Fosgate Lets the Internet Do the Dirty Work By Natalie Hope McDonald In this world of ever-increasing product complexity, the CE manufacturing community has found itself in a bit of a quandary. For every advancement in technological prowess comes a corresponding learning curve for the consumer. It's now been a quarter of a century since households learned to live with the flashing "12:00" on their VCRs. And in comparison to today's sophisticated digital products, which often include wireless protocols, new file formats and, in many cases, new technologies altogether, the VCR seems as simple as pen and paper. Over the years,