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Product Launches of the Year

Manufacturers Reflect on Their Most Effective Product Launches of the Year

We’ve been doing stories similar to this one for several years now, and the same thing usually happens. We ask an industry manufacturer to reflect on their biggest success of the year and invariably, they tell you about a product that just launched at CEDIA two months ago. Often, it’s simply a product manager’s mentality that the newest product is always the best, but often it’s just because CEDIA is the biggest product launch pad of the year. Either way, most of the top sellers of the year were successful because they were created from suggestions made by the dealers who are asked to sell and install them.

Crestron’s director of residential, John Clancy, pointed to DM NVX, the latest addition to the company’s media distribution platform. The key, he said, was being first to market with such a “groundbreaking technology” that delivers 4K video at 60Hz, 4:4:4, with HDR over a 1Gb network. “It’s infinitely scalable with zero latency,” Clancy said. “It was co-developed with Intel with our intellectual property behind it, and all the lessons learned over 10 years of DM baked into it.” 

For Brett Stokke, director of marketing at RTI, the company’s C2K1 Custom Control Kit was the biggest hit this year, with dealers and distributors calling it “the perfect entry point” to the world of home automation. “Then, as a client’s needs change, the C2K1 can easily expand to control more devices and add user interfaces, taking full advantage of the RTI control platform,” he said.

Origin Acoustic’s Aaron Cattoir pointed to the Valet Amplifier as the single most anticipated product the company has released. It works with Origin’s Amazon Echo Dot in-ceiling mounting system to amplify the Dot’s audio output and deliver music and Alexa’s voice through architectural loudspeakers. “Combine those two innovations, and you have a nearly invisible, voice-controlled, multiroom music distribution system that is within the reach of the average consumer and not relegated only to those with seven figures in their bank account,” he said.

Russound’s most popular product of the year was the 70v/100V/8-ohm AW4-LS-BR landscape speaker. “Residential and light-commercial integrators alike tell us that outdoor speaker placement scenarios are often challenging, which is why we designed the AW4-LS-BR with 360-degree rotation and 120-degree vertical directional adjustment rotation (60 degrees upward/60 degrees downward) for pinpoint direction of sound,” said CEO Charlie Porritt.

“The introduction of the QLED line was very strong for us as it brought to market the ultimate combination of picture quality, smart design, and smart capabilities in one device,” said Dave Das, senior VP of consumer electronics for Samsung Electronics of America. “The Frame was also a runaway success because it brought innovation to the traditional ‘TV market’ by creating a new way to look at TVs when they are off. By crossing over into the design and art worlds, The Frame helped to drive a great deal of excitement with a really unique, transformative approach to what a TV can be.”

Emotiva Audio’s president and CEO, Dan Laufman, said that the XPA-9 Gen3 nine-channel modular audiophile power amplifier was a hit because it allows dealers and customers to create the perfect amp by customizing it with a collection of stereo and mono blades. “However, the XPA-9 Gen 3 is a simple, powerful solution for custom pros who want a ready-to-install solution,” he added.

Taft Stricklin, sales team manager at Just Add Power pointed to the 3G+4+ Tiling Transmitter, the world’s first 4K network video tiler. “It’s an incredibly flexible device that can be applied to any residential installations that require multiview functionality, providing video support for resolutions up to full 4K and HDR compatibility,” he said.

URC’s Total Control 2.0–the company’s next-generation automation and control system–was hit with dealers, according to director of marketing and communications, Anne Gattoni,. “Consumers, dealers, and integration partners are extremely pleased with the outstanding user interfaces, customization opportunities, and extraordinary performance of the highly differentiated system,” she noted.

Todd Mares, Peerless-AV’s director of emerging technologies, said that the popularity of the company’s UltraView UHD Outdoor TV should be credited to the trend of displays of all sizes embracing the 4K specification once reserved for specific-size classes. “Coupling the newest resolution technology for the masses with a robust, weather-resistant design, outdoor TVs have seen an uptick in interest,” he said.

For SnapAV, major changes to OvrC Pro, including pricing structure, licensing, and the OvrC Home app were most popular with dealers. In particular, noted Kenny Kim, VP of connected products, the industry trend toward remote management and more client control made the app particularly noteworthy. “OvrC Home is a powerful client-facing app that reduces service calls by allowing homeowners to fix common problems on their own through a series of dealer-configured commands,” he said. 

This year, Legrand has seen “incredible success” with its Nuvo P4300 Professional Series Player, which delivers 110 watts of power per zone to three independent zones, via a single rack-mount unit. “The P4300 answers direct feedback from dealers addressing needs for better form, better experience, and better value,” said Fritz Werder, VP and general manager of Legrand’s On-Q and Nuvo lines (check out our review on p. 34).

According to Richard Velazquez, global head of the Denon brand, the integration of HEOS and Amazon Alexa voice service technology across the array of recently released AVRs was a hit because it enabled consumers to “rapidly grow their listening platform with expandable HEOS technology, while giving Denon’s core AVR business a boost.”

For Lutron, vice president of sales, Michael Smith, said the RA2 Select lighting and shading control system was the company’s “showstopper” this year because it’s “an ideal solution for homeowners who want the benefits of a professionally installed, simple lighting and shading control system, but want the flexibility and power to tweak their settings through the Lutron app to adjust lights and shades to meet their changing lifestyle needs.” 

NAD started shipping the long-awaited CI 580 Network Audio Player this year and the response has been exceptional, according to Greg Stidsen, director of technology and product planning. “The feature mix is definitely informed by our many years of CEDIA participation,” he said. “With BluOS, NAD (and Bluesound) can offer the most sophisticated multiroom, IP-based music system available in a variety of products perfectly suited for many different CI applications.”

Epson’s ultra short-throw Home Cinema LS100 projector was the company’s most successful product introduced in 2017. “Delivering an entertainment solution that blends seamlessly into any décor, the Home Cinema LS100 has seized a lot of attention and award recognition for its performance and design at such a compelling price point,” said Carlos Regonesi, product manager, projectors, Epson America.

Pro Audio Technology president and product designer, L. Paul Hales, said that this company’s SCRS-25im high-output, multiuse loudspeaker has received “an enormous amount of praise” since its CEDIA debut. “I designed the SCRS-25im in response to specific dealer needs for a smaller, more accessible loudspeaker that can be installed anywhere from a dedicated theater room to a multipurpose living space, and yet still provide the uncompromised signature PRO sound found in our larger, more expensive loudspeakers,” he said.

Fibaro’s most successful product introduction of 2017 was the HomeKit-compatible Flood Sensor, which may have as much to do with the fact that it is the first and only leak detector in the HomeKit ecosystem, noted managing director Rich Bira.

“Control4 has had tremendous success in 2017 with product launches across the Control4, Pakedge, and Triad brands,” said Kordon Vaughn, senior director of product marketing, Control4. “As we continue to enhance our multiroom audio solutions and overall entertainment experiences in the home, our dealers are a rallying force behind our new Triad Audio product line. All of the Control4 Triad Audio product introductions were developed in direct response to dealer and consumer demand for higher fidelity, designer-friendly, multiroom audio solutions that can be integrated anywhere in the home.”

For Klipsch, the Heritage Forte III speakers were the success story of 2017. “We’re seeing a high demand for premium two-channel speakers that deliver legendary Klipsch sound,” said Rob Standley, vice president and general manager of component audio for the brand. “The new Forte III speakers feature nostalgic, yet updated cosmetics, stunning new finishes, and the latest advancements in acoustic engineering, while maintaining its original elegant design and powerful performance that made it so popular years ago. Plus, we continue to make them in the USA.”

According to Lauren Simmen, manager of marketing for AMETEK Electronic Systems Protection, SurgeX’s most successful product introduction of 2017 was its large-format UPS line. “The introduction of the new models–10kVa, 15kVa, and 20kVa–expanded our UPS solutions to make it possible for SurgeX to offer customers a solution that best fits their needs,” she said.

Keith Fulmer, president of Video Mount Products (VMP) said his company’s ERVR Series of Vertical Wall racks have received a strong response because vertical wall racks fill a need for applications with limited space for rack mount equipment installations.

Platinum Tools marketing manager, Jason Chesla, pointed to the ezEX-RJ45 termination system, which he said offers the fastest way to terminate larger network category cabling cables. “Platinum used feedback from customers to design and improve our popular pass-through-style connector and created a new EXO Crimp Tool for these connectors,” he said.

 Aaron White, home theater and pro AV sales lead at Severtson Corp., said that his company’s Thin Bezel Screens paired with its SAT4K Material have enabled custom options and provided dealers and customers with the perfect fit screens tailored precisely to available wall area.

Becca Jones, channel marketing manager for Luxul, gave the nod to her company’s Epic Series of wired and wireless Gigabit routers, which provide high-speed networking for fast streaming and bandwidth-intensive applications. “The routers feature built-in Domotz remote management technology, which allows integrators to respond to network issues in real time without the need for a truck roll, while Router Limits content management puts homeowners in complete control over their internet experience,” she said.

Stewart Filmscreen’s Robert Keeler pointed to the Gemini screen, a twin-roller projection screen system with dual aspect ratios and the ability to select different materials based on usage. “Consumers want to use their multipurpose or multiuse entertainment areas for watching the news or sporting events during the day and movies at night on a larger screen,” he said.

Meridian Audio’s most successful product of 2017 was the 218 Zone Controller, according to Ryan Donaher. “Most notably, the demand for streaming Hi-Res Audio is growing, and the 218 is an ideal solution for homeowners who want a simple and cost-effective solution for a vastly improved, Hi-Res Audio experience,” he said.

Sony’s Kevin Brinkman said the BRAVIA OLED A1E 4K HDR TV line was a hit because the market was ready for a choice of premium OLED TVs, and Sony’s XBR-A1E arrived at the right time to meet this demand. “The BRAVIA OLED XBR-A1E lineup offers a unique combination of superior picture quality, powered by Sony’s 4K HDR Processor X1 Extreme, the world’s first Acoustic Surface sound system, and an edge-to-edge stand-less form factor,” he said.

Jeff Kilda, VP of sales for EPV Screens, Elite’s line of dedicated CI products, said that the DarkStar UST eFinity (ultra short-throw) projection screen was successful because it represents “the absolute pinnacle of ambient light-rejecting screen technology” as well as “ISF-certified color balance, the deepest possible black levels, an astonishing degree of detail, and clarity in a full 180-degree viewing angle.”

For Vanco International, the biggest success of the year was a business transaction–the company’s acquisition of Beale Street Audio. “With the re-launch, Beale Street is back and better than ever. Distributors and dealers benefit from the same superior acoustic technology, but with enhanced driver materials and specifications, plus stronger build quality,” said VP of distribution markets Mark Corbin.

In 2017, KanexPro launched its HDMI Matrix Switchers over HDBaseT, combining premium quality with ease of use. “The HDBaseT Switchers, available as 4×4 or 8×8, were primarily designed for medium to large connected home installations,” said product marketing manager Kashyap Khetia. “Matrix switchers continue to be a popular product among custom installers because they’re needed in nearly any home theater system.”

Middle Atlantic’s most successful product introduction this year was its Proximity Series Sliding Mounting Plate, which is an industry first that provides easily accessible AV storage right behind the display. “It neatly conceals equipment out of sight for a clean aesthetic,” said Bret Leatherwood, product manager for display mounts.

For D-Tools, the Mobile Quote 2.0 App was a much-anticipated hit with dealers. “The business objective for Mobile Quote 2.0 is to shorten the sales cycle, cut proposal creation time in half, reduce the likelihood of multiple proposal revisions, and eliminate the competition by having the client sign off on a scope and budget, and even pay a design retainer, in the very first client meeting,” explained D-Toools CEO Randy Stearns. “Ultimately, Mobile Quote 2.0 should improve the sales success rate and production capacity of salespeople, while at the same time increasing the throughput for system designers.”

According to Eleven Engineering director of sales, Rex Whitehead, the SCORE Wireless Speaker System is a perfect fit for both the CEDIA installer and the homeowner customer, which led to its success in 2017. “TTI created the RYOBI ONE+ 18V Wireless Speaker System using SKAA technology for its exceptional range, sound quality and multi-point connectivity originally conceived as a job-site speaker system,” he said. “Most likely as your CEDIA installers are cutting sheetrock, drilling holes, and pulling wires, they are already using or at least familiar with world famous Ryobi tools and their ONE+ battery system. The extremely popular ONE+ battery system is used in over 100 RYOBI tools so installers already have them handy and charged.

“With the SCORE Wireless Speaker System, installers can enjoy CD quality sound throughout the house during the installation with up to five SCORE SKAA wireless speakers playing from the same source. And, these integrators, at the same time, may be installing a whole house SKAA wireless system with multi-zone capability. Both installers as well as customers have been looking for an answer to past Bluetooth and Wifi deficiencies both inside and around the home. Now, the same speaker can be used in the house, garden, garage or you can even take it on the road with you since no WiFi network is required. SKAA is the most versatile wireless system on the market for both the installer and the homeowner.”

ProVue was Ihiji’s big announcement of 2017. It allows technology professionals to remotely monitor, manage, and support client’s technology in a completely refreshed and reimagined user experience. “Everything a home technology professional loves about Ihiji Invision is re-envisioned in the ProVue interface through a total redesign which greatly simplifies setup and management without sacrificing the power that Ihiji’s solutions are known to provide,” explained company co-founder Michael Maniscalco. “ProVue leverages innovations in the way Ihiji automatically identifies devices on the network as well as Ihiji’s new Device Visibility Protocol for deeper third-party device insights.”

The PowerHouse Alliance’s most successful product introduction of 2017 was the launch of its exclusive house brand of AV products and accessories, A2V, explained executive director Dennis Holzer. “A2V provides the increased margins that dealers look for in house brand products, with exceptional quality. We debuted the first product categories at CEDIA, which included AV racks and TV mounts. PowerHouse Alliance distributor members and many of their dealers were directly involved in the design, feature set, and manufacturing process of the A2V models. Having group participation in the development process ensured that dealers and distributors got exactly what they were looking for, and thus the first two categories of products have seen tremendous sell-through and positive feedback.” 

Atlona’s national sales manager for residential, Victor Baut, said that while his company is getting the most attention from its newly announced residential AV-over-IP product (OmniStream R-Type), it’s the “humble HDR extender” (AT-HDR-EX-70-2PS) that just may be its most successful residential product launched this year. “We sold through our first run in no time, and it continues selling at a strong pace today,” he said.

According to Wisdom Audio managing director Luc Guillaume, the company’s most successful product introduction this year was its high-end, high-resolution ICS7a in-ceiling loudspeaker, a multi-functional planar in-ceiling round speaker. “It’s a solution for any entertainment space where the client values clarity and performance without having to compromise on aesthetics,” he said.