Denon Cracks Code for CI Headphone Sales

5/30/2012 1:35:00 PM

There’s no denying that headphones have become the new “It” product for audio manufacturers. Watching most traditional loudspeaker manufacturers shift their attention, over the past six months, to a category generally considered either outside the realm of the custom integration channel—or simply not worthwhile for their slim profit margins—was at first a bit frustrating, then puzzling. Here at Residential Systems, we’ve been discussing for many months how to cover the headphone market now that it’s become too big to ignore or pass off.

All this came into clearer perspective for me as D+M Group unveiled its 2012 product lineup to press Tuesday in New Jersey, featuring a major commitment to headphones in a rather elaborate lifestyle-oriented approach, focusing on four categories: audiophiles, techie youths, frequent travellers, and fitness enthusiasts.

On the one hand, I think these are really well thought out target demographics, acknowledging the highly specific uses that consumers have for headphones, and at the same time, this is the first instance when I could clearly see how selling headphones would be worthwhile for custom installers/ESCs.

I discussed this a bit with Denon’s Petro Shimonishi, category manager for headphones, who happens to come from a pretty deep background in the custom market, including Russound, Colorado vNet, Sonance, NetStreams, Kenwood, and Pioneer. Whether it was intentional or not, I have no doubt that this background played in important role in developing a product appealing to the ESC.

So what’s so special about Denon’s audiophile-centric headphones? Well for starters, the most high-end of the three models are expected to retail for about $1,200 — more than your basic flat-panel, profit margin drain. Branded the Music Maniac line, the two over-ear models feature a 50mm free edge nano fiber driver for loudspeaker-like performance, a ball and socket ear cup design for 360-degree articulation, and two detachable cables, in 3- and 10-foot lengths. This caters to a trend that Shimonishi said she was shocked to find in market research: audiophiles frequently rip out stock headphone cables to use their own instead.

denon AH-D7100 headphones
Denon's AH-D7100 headphones come in a mahogany cup version with two detachable cables, in 3- and 10-foot lengths.

The over-ears come in a mahogany cup version with a decorative desktop display stand for those that really want to make a luxury experience out of their headphones.

The in-ear version features dual-balanced armature drivers, zinc die-cast housing, as well as silicon, double solid silicon, and Comply foam ear tips.

All three models include a cable with an integrated remote and microphone.

The other really interesting component to Denon’s new headphones is the smartphone apps developed specifically for each lifestyle line. So for example, the Music Maniac app is simply called the Denon Audio app, and it allows users to customize EQ and EQ presets to set preferred music performance levels. There is an integrated audio player for playback of all music stored on a smartphone, instant playlist creation from the app, and access to IP radio service TuneIn—a new partnership Denon has, offering over 60,000 internet radio stations.

So its seems like kind of a no-brainer to me selling a pair of these Music Maniac headphones to those audiophiles that like to turn it up at off hours without disturbing others, or listening to music while some one else might be watching a show or movie in the same room. There’s no need to have to sit in separate areas of the home to enjoy different media.

But it’s not just the Music Maniac line that could be a valuable add-on. Shimonishi has heard from dealers that stock headphones in their trucks, so, say a birthday or holiday is coming up and a snazzy new pair of headphones fits the bill. This is where Denon’s other lifestyle models might be more appropriate.

I’d love to hear if any dealers out there have experience selling headphones this way or in any other innovative or unexpected scenario. Please share in the comments, or head to our LinkedIn group to discuss.

Read about some of the more than 70 new products D+M Group brands are releasing this year here.


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