It’s safe to say that the custom installation business is my primary source of income. Looking at it from an entirely self-serving point of view, it’s the custom dealer who relies on my company for the products, technical expertise and commitment to customer service that keeps our company safely in the black, year after year.
So it is with the utmost sincerity that I have to get on the soapbox to say that wireless audio and related networking products represent some of the most lucrative developments in our business since the growth of IP or even Cat-5.
It was only a few years ago that “No New Wires” became our battle cry for the custom market. We never doubted that wireless networking would continue to evolve and grow into a worthy contender for major whole house installation projects, even as some of our closest business associates took our position with a pound or two of salt.
The challenge of course is proving to professionals that contrary to what some believed, our business—and their business–is all about lifestyle, not pulling wire. Whole-house entertainment, energy management, security and more are more accessible to consumers than ever before, and that accessibility seems to grow by the hour. The trick for our industry is not to convince consumers that the old way is better, but to expose these amazing new technologies to a wider range of prospects.
Though wired control options expand as well, wireless audio continues to offer the biggest and fastest growing menu of opportunities, from robust whole-house systems to stand-alone, single-room options that plug in the inevitable missing zones in large-scale installations.
In an age where people are increasingly turning to streaming audio as their primary source of music, our industry is keeping lock step by introducing new products based on both trusted designs–soundbars, once considered an anathema to our market, have come of age with Bluetooth 4.0 for audio performance that is infinitely better than what we heard only a few years ago–and newer concepts such as the all-new Soundbase models that combine a full driver array in a chassis that is deep and strong enough to support a 55-inch display.
But, the real excitement is in whole house audio. CI professionals are faced with an arsenal of products that all but obliterates the inconvenience factor once and for all.
This past CEDIA saw a slue of introductions from industry stalwarts who fully grasp the potential of wireless technologies. Take, for example, Russound’s XStream X5, which employs a certified Wi-Fi device that wirelessly synchronizes audio across all X5-powered rooms. A streamer, an amplifier and a room controller all in one box, it’s capable of offering customized options for each room. And, true to the company’s legacy, it is a custom product through and through.
Five years after launching our “No New Wires” battle cry, wireless technology has truly come of age. The only question for savvy installers: is our business selling improvements in our customers’ day-to-day lives, or are we here simply to pull wire? Personally, I think there is only one correct answer.
Curt Hayes is president and CFO of Capitol, a distribution source for residential systems contractors, retailers, PRO AV contractors, and premium incentive resellers who are looking for home theater, telephone, integrated home systems, and commercial AV products.