The Man Cave is Extinct

Aug 15

Written by: Heather L. Sidorowicz
8/15/2012 10:24 AM  RssIcon

"F-bomb," "sexting" and "man cave" are among the newest terms that were added to the latest edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which was published this month. (You have to love a blog that opens with “F-bomb”). I'm unsure of how I feel about man cave being added. While I'm excited any time our industry gets a “shout-out,” I don't think this term is relevant.

As a female in a male-dominated industry I strive for balance on every design project. My systems don't just focus on the best audio-video. They spotlight “ease of use” and how the equipment fits in the space. Don't get me wrong-a sports bar can be sexy. There is nothing like an immense pair of tower speakers, but the system has to fit the space. A “man-cave” implies “no girls allowed” (which is not going to help the budget) and who has any fun without the ladies?

Why “man-cave?” Why not “escape den?”

We used to call ourselves a “home theater company” and yet we hardly spec dedicated home theaters anymore. Our company focus is on the middle market. Our systems range from 5k to about 50k. And in this market the dedicated home theater is on life support. Basement theaters are now “multi-purpose” spaces. With the increase of flat panels above fireplaces in great rooms (still one of the most popular installs) speakers are forced to blend into the room—no longer taking up precious floor space. And soundbars have provided a sales surge, especially in the last year. In no way do they compare to a surround sound system but they can do a decent job of “enhanced sound.” (I'm going to copyright this phrase). For a lot of people enhanced sound is enough. They may have never purchased a home theater or surround system, but the moment I demo a soundbar compared to flat-panel TV speakers, the client is hooked. That's the power of the demo.
Basement theaters are now “multi-purpose” spaces, and with the increase of flat panels above fireplaces in great rooms, speakers are forced to blend into the room—no longer taking up precious floor space.

So if we are not a home theater company, then what are we? Technology experts? Yes. Integrators? Absolutely! (But that won't get you far, because a client has no idea what “integrator” means).

We need to be able to speak not just to the husband, but the family. We need to create the system that is perfect for them. I promise this will not only expand the budget, but result in more leads after the fact. The reason a client buys from a specialty shop is because we make it easy. It's not because of the price. We're there for them after the sale. We answer their questions.

If the babysitter or the in-laws can't use the remote that you just sold your client, you're not doing your job. Become their “expert,” and you will have a customer for life.

Don't give your customers a man-cave. Instead, improve their quality of life with technology. Give them a solution that the whole family can enjoy.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.

18 comment(s) so far...


Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

Might be to early too announce the death of the dedicated Home Theater. I think once the economy picks back up and people buy houses big enough for such dedicated space, you'll see a come back. Honestly there's nothing more breath taking then going in to someone's home and entering a dedicated theater. It's so upscale and so special.If theaters weren't special, we'd just go to McDonald's and watch the latest summer blockbuster on one of their 60" flat panel screens hung near the restroom doors wouldn't we?

By Charles on   8/15/2012 1:52 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

I agree with Charles, It may be a bit too early to kill the dedicated Home Theater or Man Cave concepts, they will come back especially as technology prices decline. However in this economy those spaces have had to evolve into what Heather is describing, A multipurpose entertainment area. That doesn't mean it can't be sleek and cool looking, we, as integrators, just have to find ever more efficient and inexpensive ways to make it so. A clean 60" Tv installed over a fireplace with matching speakers (or hidden ones for that matter) can give quite a wow look to a room. Sink the TV into the wall, or install a frame around it to make it look like a picture. Find a custom woodworker to help integrate the TV into a fireplace mantle. It's our jobs to not only provide an easy to use experience, but to also consider the aesthetics. In my opinion you are just an installer and not a true integrator if your not considering look and feel in your installs and just putting technology on the walls.

By Drew on   8/15/2012 2:07 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

There is a great difference between a home theater and a man cave. A man cave is a place where a man can entertain his friends without having to sit on a plastic covered couch, and upset the rest of the household during sporting events. A man cave is a place where someone my accidentally spill a drink or drop the popcorn bowl without worrying about the furniture or carpeting. A man cave is a place where you can turn up the volume without fear of reprisal. Where most woman would rather be entertaining in a formal living room with decoration and design, a man cave is a place for loud, lewd, and crude behavior that only a man can appreciate.

By Jeff M on   8/15/2012 2:08 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

Although I agree with some of what is said in this article, unfortunately I would rather sell a 'solution' based on a projector and screen and a great sound system than just slamming in a flat screen and sound bar. This is a good way to go bankrupt - try 'selling' excellence and quality rather than reducing to the lowest common denomitor like a big box supplier may do. Yes, let's drop the 'man-cave' name and call it what is is 'family entertainment' - but lets sell a true 'large high-quality picture coupled with an awesome sound experience' rather than a TV and sound bar with minimal dollar margins.

By Bob Koopman on   8/15/2012 2:19 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

If a customer can afford an integrator to come out and design, install, and program a home automation system, the same customer can afford a customer home theater system. If you're trying to say that today's customers are just buying flat panel televisions and mounting them above their fireplace, and that a sound bar is all they need, you are referring to the typical WalMart or Best Buy customer. I seriously doubt any WalMart or Best Buy "integrators" actually read this publication, so you're really just talking nonsense.

By Steve on   8/15/2012 2:42 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

Thank you for your comments. I agree there is nothing NOTHING like a true home theater. I agree that watching a movie is best in a dedicated room. I too hope that as the country bounces back so will our dedicated home theater sales. Soundbars will never compair to surround sound.

Its the TERM Man Cave that is extinct.

Most houses that will have a dedicated home theater also will have a wine room and a library. Middle market (at least in my experence) has opened the theater to become a multi purpose space. But maybe that is just here...

Again, thanks for your thoughts and comments!

By Heather on   8/15/2012 2:52 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

WOW ... is this article for real?I just read the article last month that talked about Sink or Swim? Ok so Heathers company is swimming but because shes not specing in theaters doesent mean the rest of us are'ntSound bars are nice in comparrison to the mini speakers in todays TV's and just because the bar sounds better and the customer may be happy with that and ready to plop down soem money to buy on the spot, its nice to show them soemthing more....If you give them a sound bar and are happy to sell them "Enhanced Sound" then I see why you wouldnt call your self a hoem theater company any more.....A lot of HTIB systems will sound better the the crappy tv speakers as well so should we settle for that now and call our self's home theater companies, integrators? HELL NO!Hopefully Im not sounding too down on Heather....But yea I get it the economy sucks and its definetly effected how many theaters I do a year but by no means is is dead. Because the economy has had such an effect such new companies have shot up to show people that yes they can still have a killer theater without paying through the nose....EMAV Loudspeakers has done just that.This is a new division of my custom AV integraiton business that I have wanted to push for a long time and now have the time to do so to show clients that they can still have the big theater they wanted but were afraid it would hit their wallets too hard....Lets not cop out and settle for sound bars and just sell "soloutions" all day and call it done. Enhanced sound is like EDTV its better then SDTV but its NOT HDTV ....Yes there are those that the sound bar is all they will ever need but its not for everybody and you shouldnt just settle on it if you really wanted a surround sound system.....a solution is just a solution but may not be a good solution long term after then new car smell wares off!

By Victor Ciccarone on   8/15/2012 2:53 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

I've argued against the term "man-cave" for years. At the company for which I work, we continue to install state of the art home theaters. However, one of the biggest selling points is that the room is a gathering place for the entire family, and a place that parents can provide for kids to entertain their friends so the parents can rest easy knowing where their kids are. If a company continues to view home entertainment as a "boys with toys" proposition in an industry where at least half the home technology purchases are driven by women, they are setting themselves up for failure.

By Phil Melton on   8/15/2012 3:38 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

Heather and i must be in the same twilight zone. i am surprised at the attitude towards this article. i react to what my customer base is wanting and purchasing. i started 10 years ago trying to be a "Home Theater Company". the people with money wanting to pay me did not want that. im not slamming any TVs in or reducing myself to the lowest common denominator, whatever that is supposed to mean. what heather describes is exactly what i experience in the new home construction market $250,000-$600,000 in the midwest. last year we did 162 homes, almost past that this year. multi purpose 5.1 great rooms/recreation rooms, sometimes both. sometimes its just run 2 -20 ft HDMIs, mount 2 TVs/soundbars and a security system. only 13 dedicated theater rooms, all around $10,000. we are very far from bankrupt. 10 years in business. 400 RMR. i guess when your nose sticks up that high you tend to always look up, miss whats going on below you. i say keep it there.

By John G on   8/15/2012 3:51 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

So far from the comments, there's a lot of "not seeing the forest from the trees" and it tends to be the achilles heel of the CI Industry in general, that people love gear... the truth is that most people don't, what they do love is the result of well thought out systems that match *their* lifestyle and budget needs.

Heather is speaking to what has been the mantra of successful Integrators and Designers in the High End Custom Market for well over 25 years - take the holistic approach and you gain a client - focus on gear and all you likely have is a one time customer.

The man cave *is* an antiquated notion, in the same way that AV sales techniques that rely on coddling the "little woman" with "Wife acceptance factor (WAF)" should be promoted - it is short sighted and offensive to most rational people (case in point, if someone is willing to invest 50k with you or even 25k it stands to reason they're reasonably intelligent and successful people who are just as smart if not smarter than you)

CI trends have always closely followed the building and architectural trends of their respective time and regions - that's just a simple fact of survival and relevance.

Why have soundbars sales exploded in what has been a relatively flat sector? Because the cost of entry for Large Display Technology has dramatically lowered.

10 years ago, you had maybe 1 or 2 displays in a home. Why? because they were heavy, bulky and generally cost prohibitive. People thought long and hard about dropping 10k on a Fujitsu 42" Plasma. Now, they'll buy 3 50" Plasmas at Costco or Best Buy and plaster them all over their house.

What Heather is talking about, is how companies that will survive and thrive in the next chapter of AV Integration will spot the opportunities to sell items that provide not only a decent margin but are a solution that add value to the client's lifestyle.

You stand a greater chance of selling 5 soundbars, mounts, wiring, installation and some form of "smart" control in a home and make a decent margin, than trying to sell the same amount in video sales and make little to no margin. The name of the game is to educate, entertain *and profit* from what we do, not support a hobby or rail on that other integrators "don't get it".

Heather is taking the lessons she's been taught that once you earn the trust of a client, you can then expose them to "what's next", because now you've proven yourself as an advisor and not just a salesperson. There are a lot more opportunities *today* to upsell in these situations, than the uphill climb of a dedicated theater or viewing space.

The dedicated home theater is a great accessory for a home, in the same way that a properly tuned, high end listening room is a great accessory, but today's homeowners (the family not just the "man cave" males) are looking to create versatile environments for people to gather and be entertained.

There will be even more of a dramatic shift in the next few years towards integrated "lifestyle" rooms, if you don't believe so take a sneak peek at the CEDIA Future Technology Pavillion. If you're focused on the Dedicated Home Theater as your anchor point, then you're setting yourself up for some rough roads ahead.

Case in point - think Soundbars are sub par or a step down? Then why is Krell making them now, or Leon Speakers, or Anthony Gallo Acoustics and many other revered names in High End Audio? They're doing it because the sales numbers point towards it. Math don't lie or make excuses.

Worse yet, you know the fastest growing sector in Audio right now? Headphones...

The dilemma that we face is not why aren't we selling more dedicated theaters but how do we combat the rapid shift of the upcoming generation of consumers who are used to listening and viewing their content on 4 inch to 9 inch screens?

Times are changin', the companies that will be here 5 years from now are the ones who are looking to Adapt, Evolve, and Profit...

Good luck to us all...

Rich Fregosa
R.A. Fregosa Electronic Interiors

By Richard Fregosa on   8/15/2012 4:05 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

Who cares what term people use. Also,never assume that men are the technology market. We talk with lots of women who understand technology and like great sounding speakers and amazing video. Fortunately, there are many price points in home entertainment. The trick is finding out how much the customer values what you have to sell. Find out their "hot spots". What gets them excited??? Sound bars are great, but certainly not for every application. Keep the custom in custom design. Don't blame the economy for a less than enthusiastic sales effort.

By Joy on   8/15/2012 4:07 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

WOW...based on the responses, it seems that you struck a nerve there didn't you?

My take...just because it's a MAN CAVE doesn't exclude the female gender, it simply means that she must be willing to play by it's rules (which are few).
The real fact is, the female in most households I have dealt with, drive the design, since the man typically has the good sense to realize his creative limitations. Thus man caves have always been a luxury.
As far as sound-bars...they suck (excuse my choice of adjectives)but I agree that if the client doesn't want full-blown surround, at least sell them something 'enhanced'.
All-in-all dedicated theater rooms are nice and I love building them, but my house, which is large enough to have one will never because I can rock my family room like nobodys' business and still I am able to use it as a comfortable conversation room when the system is off. That makes everyone in my house happy! But then again, I don't sell to me...

By Mike Ross on   8/15/2012 4:13 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

For the past 10 years, we at Miracle Audio have had the entire family (and especially the wife) in mind as we developed a line of on/in wall speakers and subs that are equally proficient as audio only, home theater spectacular and kid / video game rugged. There are numerous price ranges, and I will put the DiAne speaker system up against any audiophile quality "Big box" out there. See the recent review from the Capital Audio Fest at:
Mark A. Kovach, Pres.
Miracle Audio Inc.

By mark a. kovach on   8/15/2012 4:41 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

The man-cave isn't dead, nor is it just a place where men can entertain in crude fashion. As an electrician/handyman, business owner, and man I do not think man cave is either a dead concept nor strictly limited (as one commentor mentioned) to lewd and crude male entertainment.

The man-cave concept certainly has evolved past what fans of the "Man Show" might typically conceive of, but it certainly isn't a dead concept. I'd love a place where I could have a juice/water/milk bar (I don't drink, buy, or serve alcohol), big tv with big speakers, and go entertain my male friends without causing a ruckus in the rest of the house.

I also have to agree if you aren't trying to upsell your customers you won't be in business long or you'll wind up like a Big Box store, selling to the lowest common denominator (nothing wrong with that, as long as its not your primary focus). The bread and butter jobs get your name out there and grow your rep. Flat panels and sound bars don't.

By Joseph Nagy Jr on   8/15/2012 6:32 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

Most of the comments are accurate,
but my favorite scenario is having both!
The dedicated Theatre Room AND a seperate Man Cave.
The Man Cave may be just a 60inch panel but may have a high end 2 channel system or even better a high end 5 channel system!

By Anthony D'Ascanio on   8/17/2012 9:27 AM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

Man Cave? can't say I have ever really done one. Home Theaters? Yes we still do those and we we are working on two of them right now. They are "family" rooms. Real projectors on real screens, with really good sound systems and super easy to use controls. The entire family will have a movie night several times a month, and make memories that will last a life time. We still hang a lot of flatscreens over fireplaces, but the real action is in the Theater. You make a better profit on a Projection system and The client gets a better quality picture with way more color saturation, detail, and not to mention being large enough to see the small details. So give the design that keeps on giving. The "Family Theater" with the popcorn machine and the soda fountain and the candy bar.

By Doc Greene on   8/18/2012 7:36 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct

I am not fortunate enough to have my own Man Cave, but, my friends man cave doesn't even have a video screen or TV, not that he couldn't. A man cave is exactly that, usually in the basement or garage. It is stocked with a mans toys, stuff that a woman doesn't want in her living room or family room. My friends "MC" contains a drum set, a karaoke machine, an Ipod for music, and a well stocked bar. If there's a major sporting event he drags in the 50" from the family room for the show. It is a middle class place that a man can entertain friends and family for those events that are in everyone's lives, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, deaths, etc., while the women tend to gather in the kitchen, men head to the Man Cave! Not that women are prohibited, they're most welcome! In my circle of knowledge (family-friends-acquaintances)typically, the women tend to gather in the kitchen, the kids in the family room, and the men in the Man Cave.

By Jeff M on   8/25/2012 9:16 PM

Re: The Man Cave is Extinct


It certainly seems that you struck a nerve with your article! Quite frankly, I don't know if "The Man Cave is Extinct" was the intended title of your article or if it was edited by the staff at Residential Systems, but either way I would say that the title is misleading and worse, detrimental to the industry as a whole. I am waiting for the next article from a trade publication to be titled, "Surround Sound is Dead!" or "You Don't Need Any of This, Just Watch TV".

For an industry publication to print an article like this potentially gives credence to the complete downgrade of a front projection system with great audio to a flat panel and surround bar as in your market you have deemed it an acceptable practice. As I think of it, foolishly many CIs leave RS and other trade magazines out in their showrooms and design centers to stir the emotions of a potential client and hopefully get there pocketbooks as emotionally stimulated as their eyes are. While Mr. Smith is starring at 110" of pure front projection bliss with audio rocking out that reminds him of the old Memorex ad, his significant other is thumbing through RS where your article implies that sticking a TV over the fireplace with a soundbar is good enough.

What does that perception do for the various manufacturers and integrators that live on the middle market profit other than hurt their bottom line? It unfortunately reminds me of the statement that I have heard many times as plasma prices plummeted to ZERO margin, "Yeah, we make a lot less money but we will make it up on volume". Lets ask Pioneer how that model worked out.

Yes, I have a very dedicated horse in this race as the VP of Sales for CSI Theaters. My income is directly tied into the installation of Man Caves, Fan Caves, Theaters, and the occasional Family Rec Room. Is the team "Man Cave" no longer relevant, maybe. Does it do the industry any good to have an article with a title that kills a category, NO! I guess you can say that I find myself sensitive to the article due to the fact that I continue to see this dribble out of publications that are supposed to support the growth of the industry, not shrink it.

Please keep an eye out for my upcoming blog, "Print & Web Media is Extinct - Survive Without Spending Advertising Dollars" ;)

Mike Young
VP of Sales - CSI Theaters

By Mike Young on   9/25/2012 3:31 PM

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