Last week I was walking through an estimate with a new client and I got a comment that I hear frequently, and I think is totally wrong. The client said something along the lines of, “I don’t really care what speakers we use; they don’t matter much, so just put in something affordable.”
In fact, my favorite aspect of what I do for a living is selecting, installing, and tuning speakers in a client’s home.
I recently moved into a new home, and it has become (much to my wife’s chagrin) a testing ground for products. I have installed more than a dozen different speaker models in the home, from four different manufacturers. This gave me a great opportunity to compare the speakers side-by-side in a real-world environment. It also allows me to regularly remind myself of the different acoustic properties for each brand. This is critical: everyone’s ear is a little different and you need to be able to meet your client’s acoustical taste, not necessarily your own.
I play guitar, and I’ve always gravitated toward a speaker that can replicate the tonality of playing guitar live. I want the crunch of a power chord to motivate me. I want the music to get me so jazzed that I want to pick up my guitar and play along.
Our go-to speaker line is Paradigm. I’ve tested many brands and still use some other brands for specific situations and needs, but I found that Paradigm met all of my criteria to be my main speaker brand.
Here are my key criteria for my speaker brands:
1.First and foremost, no matter what else you consider, the sound quality has to be amazing. While everyone does have a different ear and other brands may meet the sound requirements better, your primary line (and all lines you carry) have to sound great. Go with a company that knows how to do it, has been around a while, and focuses on speakers. Companies that try to be a jack of all trades and dabble in speakers might have good product, but it’s less likely.
2.It must be a broad product line, from basic entry-level speakers up through reference level, including a great selection of subwoofers, and in-wall and on-wall speakers. A bonus is to have more “consumer-friendly” or retail SKUs, like powered soundbars for when that solution is required
3.Must have a variety of aesthetic solutions, such as traditional rectangular and round with trim; trimless; hybrid in-wall, on-wall and in-room, all with varying price-points to meet a wide variety of client needs.
4.Needs to offer a reference amplifier that can be used to test and tone their speakers. Paradigm is a sister company with Anthem Electronics, so you know that pairing a Paradigm speaker with an Anthem amp will reproduce sound in the way the engineers intended it to be heard. It makes for an easy choice every time. Whatever speaker brand you use, be sure to ask with which amp they test and tune their speakers, so you can give your clients the right product combination.
5.Must have great customer service. This goes without saying and should be key criteria for every line you carry. Whether they use distributors, manufacturer reps or in-house sales teams, be sure they’ll be there when you need them. When a speaker isn’t working on a site, or a wireless subwoofer was mis-packaged and came without a wireless transmitter, you want to know you’ll be taken care of.
6.It needs to be a protected line. Similar to #5, this will help make or break your profitability. A line that is sold online and at a discount will make your job that much more difficult. Speakers are one of the categories that can still be sold with solid margins. Don’t throw that away by selecting a brand that doesn’t support our industry and sells at or near cost.
I’m sure you all have your go-to speaker line. Let me know in the comments below what are your main criteria and why you selected that line.
+Todd Anthony Pumais president of The Source Home Theater Installation in New York City.