IS THERE A FUTURE IN DISTRIBUTED AUDIO FOR CUSTOM INSTALLERS? RUSSOUND THINKS SO.
Mike Bonnette, Connected Distribution’s director explains.
When home-based distributed audio was first introduced, way back in the dim and distant past, it followed the typical product lifecycle for a tech development. The engineers had come up with a great idea - “let’s send audio all round peoples’ houses” - without actually knowing whether there was a demand for it. Uptake was really slow, awareness was low, the products were expensive and beyond the reach of most people. As a result, it was only the ‘early adopters’ or uber-wealthy who bought into it and so sales just crept along. Oh, and the products could be really buggy.
But it was a pretty cool thing and word did slowly begin to spread. The tech got sorted, the bugs ironed out and more manufacturers started making products. The prices began to come down and more people decided to put systems in their houses. For custom installers this was a boom time – the products were complicated and so needed the experts to make them work.
After a few golden years it slowly began to go a bit sour for the CI distributed audio market. A group of four clever internet savvy people in the US began working on a wholly wireless multi-room streaming audio system. They saw wires, speaker cables and piles of black boxes as the enemy, and even the PC as an unfortunate necessity (as a music server in the days before music streaming services). They created a product that delivered synchronised, multi-room music streaming from a product that could be purchased on the high street and controlled using the recently released iPhone. Why would you ever need a hard-wired, centralised, server-based system, with wall-mounted keypads that also required a demolition team and decorators to install?
That’s the tech lifecycle for you in a nutshell: an engineer’s idea, the early-adopters, wider acceptance and then the mass market version that leaves the idea’s originators scratching their heads and wondering how they’ve been left behind?
The question for us, now we are firmly in the latter stage of this lifecycle, is how do we, as a traditional installer-based industry compete? Should we even try keep on pushing our centralised, installed solutions? Or should we join the bandwagon and sell the very same product because that’s what the customer is asking for (it is, of course, synonymous, like Hoover is to vacuum cleaners).
All is not lost for the installers; we have some great alternatives up our sleeves. Manufacturers such as Russound have been working hard to take wireless audio distribution to the next level and offer additional features that benefit the consumers. Take the MBX series – compact streamers that create wireless multi-room solutions and also act as room-based amplifiers that connect to a TV’s audio output, auto-sensing when the TV is switched on and then reverting to streaming when it’s switched off. And they do high-res audio, have Bluetooth connectivity as well as Airplay 2 and Chromecast, are fully controllable and come with the legendary Russound sound quality. They’re the perfect product for people who want all the features, convenience and appreciate good quality audio.
They also come with a good margin for the installer – akin to other specialist CI electronics - and they’re protected from grey imports and DIY installation as they’re part of the Russound Certified Installer programme. You have to be signed up to unlock the product, helping protect the livelihoods of hard-working installers.
Industries will always evolve and new players will come along to challenge the established brands, but, in Russound at least, there is a brand that has risen to the challenge of the challenger and is firmly behind the custom installer.
More about Russound HERE