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Ed’s Class D Economic Forecast

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

The Great Recession’ (generated by the 2007/2008 financial collapse) officially ended in the summer of 2009. That was good. Since then, ‘the media’ has continued to report that ‘The Recovery’ (from the collapse) is also materializing. That’s good too. So why are you still holding on for your business life? You are because ‘The Recovery’ never did arrive. A better yet still optimistic reading is the economy has not gotten any worse.

I define our recovery as a return to our sales levels prior to October 2005. That was the month the Good Guys closed 71 stores. In addition, July of 2005 was the peak of home sales in the United States. Family home sales were a primary source of our audio and video sales.

Here are the facts. Third quarter 2014 GDP was up 5%. Second quarter GDP was adjusted to +3.9%. That sounds great. But much of the improvement came from Federal spending and rising health care expenditures (Obama Care). Overall, 2014 GDP will end up at about +2.0% to +2.5%. 2015 GDP predictions, per the Wall Street Journal, are between +2.5% and +3%. That’s OK. But this trend will not approach my definition of a real recovery any time soon.

In addition, 2014 existing home sales fell 11.54% nationally. Home prices did rise 4.6%. And that’s good for those who sold them. But with a stagnant wage growth of 2.1%, who will buy them from this point forward. Median income is below 1995 levels. Labor participation is at a 36 year low. U-6 unemployment (includes those who are ‘marginally attached’ to the labor force, plus part timers who seek full-employment) is at 11.4%.

Then there’s this. Commodity prices (oil, coal, iron, steel, copper, food stuffs) are declining. Initially that sounds great as you fill your gas tank. But falling world wide commodity prices are typically associated with slowing economic growth. Can you say recession? That is why the predicted 2015 GDP of +2.5% to +3% must been seen as a best case scenario.

Based on the facts, middle class families will not buy homes in a number that will lead to our recovery. They simply don’t have the funds. If families can’t buy homes they won’t fill them with appliances, furniture, and other goods that include our audio and video systems. We can safely conclude that our economic recovery will be postponed yet again in 2015. Frankly it may get worse before it gets better.

Much as a typical Class D amplifier, the economy will continue to deliver a hard harsh result. As the weather, you cannot control or hide from it. You can only prepare for it. So grab your economic umbrella. And plan for a ‘Class D’ economy in 2015.

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Adventures in AV-land Part 2: Wipe out the noise

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

My previous blog navigated an old car audio experience into illustrating why car audio is not car stereo as it ultimately morphed into another Ed’s AV Handbook ‘Saving the world from poor fidelity’ sermon. It concluded with a request. I asked AV professionals to expand their understanding of the word aesthetic to include sound.

Too many AV professionals incorrectly assume that customers will cede audio performance to visual aesthetics. That is; they presume that customers do not want see speakers on their floor. Although this can be true, many of those customers do want what speakers can offer; A high fidelity stereophonic (or surround sound) toe-tapping wow-inducing goose-bump life-enhancing journey in their home.

However, our industry is plagued by four conditions that prevent this outcome. First, most customers are unaware of what stereo (or surround sound) is. I do not have statistical proof. But I do have four decades of experience giving stereo demonstrations; Most simply don’t know.

Second, too many in our AV businesses do not actually know either. It’s true. Take a quick survey of folks who should know. Ask them to describe how they would explain stereo audio to a customer. I have. The misuse and misunderstanding of the word by folks in our business has driven me crazy for decades. How can you sell what you don’t know? OK, politicians and bureaucrats get away with it. But I want you to be better.

Third, too many have abandoned the artistic inspirational power of an audio system. In that regard I have enlisted the words of Peter Gabriel to express the genesis of what too many have simply forgotten. In his song ‘Signal-to-noise’, Mr G. sings ….
“…. send out the signals deep and loud….
….. (and) while the world is turning to noise. … turn up the signal ….
…. (and) wipe out the noise….”
That is our job. Our calling is to assist Mr. G and other artist to ‘wipe out the noise’.

Fourth and last: We are leaving our competitive edge on the warehouse floor. Our industry no longer demonstrates what we offer. Big boxes don’t. Obviously on-line retailers can’t. Most custom AV installers can’t either. The only AV folks left are the brick-and-mortars that have managed to keep their doors open. But too many are exhausted from treading water in the reported economic “recovery” (< a political misnomer) and fading from the AV scene.

If we are to survive as we “Save the world from poor fidelity” in exchange for a few dollars; We must change course and reboot our passion for audio and video. We must revive our professional quest for AV knowledge. We must demonstrate that we can assist in the crusade to “wipe out the noise”. If we do, customers will make room for speakers. That concludes this week’s AV sermon.

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Adventures in AV-land Part 1

Friday, June 13th, 2014

In an early adventure as a sales rep in the eighth decade of the last century, I carried a briefcase of product lines that included car audio. It was customary to refer to ‘car audio’ as ‘car stereo’. I resisted that convention. I still do. Legitimate stereophonic audio is an unobtainable goal in a car. This viewpoint (more accurately audible-point) launched several summery warm but civil debates with the car stereo experts.

Stereophonic audio creates an illusion of musicians precisely placed on a stage in an enveloping acoustical environment. Car audio cannot achieve this outcome. For the sake of peace and closing a sale, I did eventually concede to the notion of a faux stereo-like objective for car audio. With varying degrees of limited success, many did deliver on this stereo-like car audio experience.

My most memorable car stereo-like experience of that period was delivered by a dealer in Fresno California. Although time has erased his name; my memory of his car audio system is still quite clear. His system included customary in-the-door left/right speakers with a very cool sub-woofer system in the rear. He also installed a plethora of hidden 2 inch speakers throughout the front of the vehicle. Each was cleverly concealed in the headliner, in and along the top of the dashboard, and in the door columns. In addition, each speaker was paired with a dedicated potentiometer. This allowed our California 12-volt audio dreamer to painstakingly ‘tweak’ the volume level of each speaker.

Tweaking in the world of audio refers to a symbolic screwdriver in the hands of a constantly experimenting audio enthusiast. In this particular case each screwdriver ‘tweak’ of a potentiometer affected the previously adjusted speaker. This process therefore required the ‘re-tweaking’ of each speaker again and again. This continued until our dealer was satisfied with the result. His ‘tweaking’ in and of itself had devoured two weeks of work that sometimes extended late into the night. He told me he would never attempt it again.

His installation alone was worthy of praise. But then I sat in the driver’s seat as he unveiled a surprising demonstration that received my standing ovation. He played several musical selections and concluded with the recording of a waterfall. The fidelity of the sound was impressive: deep tight bass, clean not harsh vocals. A stereo-like front acoustical stage with each selection was clearly achieved. Remarkably and unexpectedly the image of the waterfall extended from the ceiling to the floor. The effect was amazing. He had created a more than plausible stereo-like experience.

His demonstration was stereo-like. But I could not call it stereophonic. Its stereo imaging still could not challenge a classic mid-fi home stereo system of the day: a properly placed listener and pair of EPI bookshelf speakers, Thorens turntable, Grado cartridge, any Sheffield LP, and a Kenwood receiver.

This is not a ‘knock’ on the Fresno dealer. A better outcome was simply prevented by the unwavering physics of speaker and listener placement. He agreed. That is why we referred to what we offered as ‘car audio’ not ‘car stereo’.

Car audio cannot accurately create high fidelity stereophonic or surround sound audio. Desktop computer speakers can’t either. Home theaters in a box can’t. Dr. Dreadfuls can’t. Even if you include a sound bar; LCD TV’s of any size or resolution can’t. But an AV professional can in almost any home.

Here’s the good news. Most living rooms can accommodate good speaker and listener placement that can faithfully recreate the high fidelity stereophonic illusion. Many can even conform to a multi-channel audio blueprint. Although there are customers who may not want to see a speaker in their room, they do want what those speakers can provide: a musical toe-tapping breathtaking ‘wow’ life enhancing experience.

Here’s the bad news. Too many AV ‘experts’ acquiesce to the presumption of “no ugly speakers here” before they even begin to qualify their customers. This lackadaisical approach omits floor standing and stand mounted bookshelf speakers. They are not even considered. They default to an installation of ‘custom’ in-wall 6½ inch coax speakers mounted in sheet-rock. In-wall speakers may have a legitimate place in AV.  But they are essentially car audio for the home.  Why would anyone choose to work with this type of AV ‘expert’?

I close with the following statement. Aesthetics is more than visual perception. AV professionals must expand or confirm their understanding of the word aesthetic to include sound. I will amplify this thought in my next blog: Adventures in AV-land Part 2.

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A Message for Glendon

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Change can lead to opportunity. Change can be scary. Folks come, folks go. Yes indeed, and another AV company has left the scene. This company’s history dates back to 1980. The company was Novidor & Firestone. Many had the good fortune to do business with Novidor & Firestone. Many of us had the better fortune to have know them; in particular Glendon O’Brien.

I will miss Novidor & Firestone and their Electronic Stockroom. Luckily we won’t have to miss Glen. Glen has started a new company with his partner John Bolin. Their new company is Media Delivery Strategies. And I know they will deliver.

That’s how this world works. We survive the rough patches, only to find a new path. The good news: We can still count on Glen’s professionalism, honesty, good humor, and his better karma.

Glendon, I will see you on the AV trail.
Your friend, Ed Avalos
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A New and Improved Plan

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

2013 was a good year for my website and blog.  Visits to Ed’s AV Handbook  increased 93% increase.  This success was due to your clicks and referrals. Your clicks on my advertiser’s messages paid for the site.  Your referrals built an audience for Ed’s AV Handbook.  That’s how this works.  Thank you.

2014 will offer new opportunity.   But it will still include a stagnant economy with new impeding taxes, fees, and regulations.  Opportunity lays in the shadows and cracks of what’s left.  This will force more of us to become even more creative.  But opportunity still exists.

What’s left may change strategic thinking.  Tactically you can still sell to less and less folks. You just have to sell them more or higher margin stuff while lowering your cost.  But this has a strategic limit.  At some point it takes more than a new game plan to survive.  It takes a new game.  You may be experiencing the same thought pattern.

In my case, I have joined a friend in a new venture. We aim to carve out a new niche in an old market.  This project still involves electronics and our sales skills.  But it avoids our long association with audio and video.

Our prototype has received a great response.  Prospects want to buy it at our proposed price.  A head count of potential customers has convinced us that this opportunity is a ‘no brain-er’.  We may even need help to cover the market.

What does this new project mean for Ed’s AV Handbook?  I have invested four decades into the audio and video world.  It’s just too much fun to walk away from.  Therefore my website will continue.   However, I may seek others to contribute their views to the blog or add new content to the website.  Please contact me if you’re interested in ‘Saving the World from Poor Fidelity”.  Sink or swim, that’s my game plan for 2014.

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I Am A Salesman

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

I am a salesman. I am not a sales associate. I am not an agent, broker, consultant, product ambassador, customer advocate or any other possible pseudonym, alias, stage name, handle, or nom de plume that a human resource department can create. I might accept the term peddler.  It projects an old world image that can induce a bit of humility which may keep my hat size in line. I will also accept salesperson if you suffer from gender-neutral-title-phobia.

As a salesman, I am offended by those who have stained the reputation of good salesmen and saleswomen. I am speaking of the fraudulent deceiving looting pirates that prowl our landscape. They suffer from a lazy mind. They swindle, hustle, and steal to avoid the work of professional preparation and performance. They create confusion and chaos to obscure their ignorance and/or devious intentions. They lie and cheat to win.

Professional sales folks offer an honest hand shake. Much as a ‘shrink’ or old world journalist, they ask and probe with targeted relevant questions. They sincerely listen and observe non-verbal responses. Then they delve into their reservoir of qualified knowledge to forge a solution for their customer. Unlike a lying politician; if a real salesperson says, “If you like your ( …fill in the blank… ) you can keep it, PERIOD. Then you can. This is a profound distinction.  Good salespeople can be trusted.

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Not Invented There

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

The phrase “not invented here” was recently invoked by a friend.  He used the expression to criticize the reluctance of many Americans to accept a Western European solution to an American problem.  In this case he cited health care.  Is this reluctance rational?  Yes it is.

I embrace this reluctance.  It’s a grip on the strain of American DNA that distrusts authority.  Yet this wariness alone does not to justify an aversion to European fixes.  But a mountain of historical evidence does.  And it is not limited to Western Europe.

Since the first camp fire mankind has dealt with cruel or benevolent dictators.  Citizens under this rule bow to a power elite.  If viewed from a rear perspective, their reality becomes more clear.  Their access to food, clothing, shelter, energy, health care, is kept under the allocating dictates of the elite.  They are faced with the following option, bow or die.  That was the prevailing plight of mankind until our Founding Fathers refused to bend over.

Our Founder’s Declaration of Independence, and their sequel the Constitution, flipped eons of history on its head.  They declared that Americans do not bow to government.  The government is expected to bow and owe its allegiance to each citizen.  This is an American invention that has delivered more light in a dark world than Edison.  It created a home for free people to flourish.  It is an exception to a history of bowing.  It is American Exceptionalism.

In a recent New Times editorial, Vladimir Putin wrote, “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.”  Dangerous to who?  Well for one, a KGB thug as Putin should shiver in the winds of American Exceptionalism.

Putin words were a response to our President’s (Obama) speech on the current horrors in Syria.  Sadly, even our President got it wrong.  He said, “……when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, …… I believe we should act.  That’s what makes America different.  That’s what makes us exceptional.”  He didn’t act.  But more to the point, that is not what makes America an exception. The British, French, Australians, Canadians, and free people everywhere have acted to save lives around the globe.

Does our President misunderstand American Exceptionalism?  Did he simply misspeak?  Or does he agree with Putin?  I’m not quite sure.  But many benevolent well intentioned educated American men and women from sea to shinning sea have misunderstood.  Some even agree with Putin, and discourage Americans from viewing the United States of America as exceptional.  That is why we should fear ‘old world’ solutions to our problems.  If adopted many of these same folks, benevolent or not, will become the allocators of whatever resource is put under their rule.  This, unwittingly or not, reopens our doors to the ‘old world’ of bowing.

American Exceptionalism does not grant immunity from big problems.  We have imperfections.  But why would any American be willing to cede their freedom to the whims of government bureaucrats to remove them.  We should always ask, “Is there any other possible solution?”  Walk into any American town.  Our people will offer many good feasible alternatives to any ‘old world’ solution.

American Exceptionalism is the alternative to ‘old world’ indentured servitude, serfdom, and slavery. All of which were invented there.  American Exceptionalism was invented here.  It was not invented there.  That is why Americans should always be reluctant to accept solutions from the ‘old world’.

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The Bully

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Stories about bullies seem to reappear on a cyclical basis. Local TV news generally pictures a trembling child, partnered with a dialog of half-witted solutions such as, “We just need to improve our communication with the misunderstood bully”. Some even suggest that fault lies with an unjust society and the victim. This was not always the case. There was a time when the story would have shown a trembling bully running for his life.

In elementary school I was confronted by the bully. I put him in a head lock and ended his reign of terror. In Jr. high school an over-matched school mate was accosted by the bully. I stepped in and put the bully in a head lock again. That was how my friends and I solved the bully issue for those who couldn’t. By the time ‘We’ had entered high school a generally bully free atmosphere had been established. ‘We’ the enforcers included about five hundred athletes and our coaches.

The bully also roams the world of commerce. In another life I owned a stereo shop. That’s what we called an audio shop in 1976. FM broadcasts, spinning LPs, plus high fidelity cassette and open reel recordings filled our shop with music. That was the scene when the bully, an agent from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), approached our front counter. The bully flashed his ID and demanded payment. Did you ask, “Payment for what?”. He maintained that our use of music in our shop was unethically profiting from the work of their ‘poor’ artists.

Although my first impulse was to drag his bully butt into our warehouse and put him in a head lock, I didn’t. Instead, I calmly asked the agent to follow me to our main sound room. He did. I then pointed to shelves that held more than 3000 albums purchased with our dollars. I also steered him to a smaller constantly changing collection of about fifty albums that we featured in our daily demonstrations. Many of these LPs were from relatively unknown artists. And many of our customers drove to their favorite record shop to buy these LPs after hearing our demonstrations.

Given this, I maintained that we didn’t owe ASCAP or their ‘poor’ artist a dime. On the contrary, if anyone was due compensation it was our shop. The artist he professed to represent profited from our demonstrations. I put my hand out and said, “Pay me or get out of our store!”. My brother/partner and staff then joined me as we chased the bully out our front door. We never again saw a bully from ASCAP.

Recent headlines have put the spot light on another bully, the IRS. The mere mention of those three letters can put a chill in an American conversation. That chill is a response to an intimidating army of more than 100,000 employees with 74,000 pages of tax code that can be used to seize your home, car or truck, bank account, and business. And now the even colder headlines revealed that the IRS had crossed a dangerous line. The IRS was used as an intimidating tyrannical tool of a political party. It probably affected an election.

Part of the story was displayed on TV. Brave, not trembling, Americans sat before a Senate hearing and told their story. They described how the IRS used its power to intimidate their groups. The IRS had targeted these folks because they held political views contrary to the President of the United States. It has also been revealed that the IRS had targeted hundreds of other groups and thousands of individuals. Ironically the hearing even produced a lame attempt by Senator Jim McDermott of the state of Washington to blame the victims. At least the Senator didn’t suggest that they just needed to improve their communication with the bully.

This is serious stuff. This bully knows your name. This bully has your number: address, phone, email, and social security. This bully knows how much you earn, how you spent it. This bully knows which charitable organizations you give to. And now this bully is adding another 100,000 agents with an additional 16,500 pages of regulations to implement the Affordable Care Act. Yes indeed, the bully will soon have your medical records.

Given the sorry totalitarian track record of the IRS, I think it is now reasonable to ask, “Will your political opinions affect your access to medical care?” A year ago that statement would of sounded extreme, ludicrous, and paranoid. Yet in light of the recent avalanche of revelations exposing our government’s abuse of power, political cover ups, and other scandals, it now sounds very credible.

Let’s put some perspective on the situation. This type of bully news is not really new. The tyrannical bully has plagued mankind since since man crawled from the cave. History books offer scores of examples. In their day, our Founding Fathers put the bully in revolutionary head lock. They then followed with a miraculous document to protect us from the bully. It’s the law of our land.

So, here’s the choice. We can fill the TV screen with pictures of trembling citizens partnered with lame ‘Senator-McDermott-type’ obscene diatribe. Or ‘We’ can put the bully in a constitutional head lock and chase their bully IRS butts out of town. I suggest the latter. Then let’s follow up by taking aim at the remaining horde of government bullies. Let’s ask them to follow us to our back rooms and kick their bully butts.

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Panasonic Responds?

Saturday, March 30th, 2013

Panasonic did not implement my plan for P.I.S.T. TV.  If you’re unaware of this epic plan, please refer to my previous blog P.I.S.T. TV.  According to the press, Panasonic will instead pull the plug on plasma TV production.  Can you even begin to measure my surprise?  How could such a large corporation ignore me and my blog?

Panasonic has halted development of next year’s plasma TVs.  Panasonic has failed to sell the best TVs currently available.  They’re dumping fixed assets and property.  On the other hand, maybe they’re just taking my plan to another level.  They could be setting up the launch of high gross profit UltraHD OLED TVs.  The sell-off of assets suggest otherwise.    I must conclude that Panasonic, in a nutshell, has quit.

Frankly, I had not given the option of quitting my sincere consideration.  I tend to avoid thoughts of punting or quitting.  I have confronted similar situations, as friends prompted me to punt or quit, and ‘gone for it on 4th down’ and lost.  But that’s life.  We get up, suit up, and move on.

Although Panasonic ignored my plan, I have now conceded to their strategy.  In that spirit, I am re-considering my options.  I may soon punt on AV.  I am involved in an exciting opportunity that will shift AV from my vocation to an avocation.  You may see a note about this in the near future.

If successful, I will become an AV civilian for the first time since 1972.  Therefore, my blog, website, and Handbook will take a back seat to my new interest.  In that regard, I may seek an AV enthusiast to assist or fold my project into theirs.  I you have any suggestions, please contact me.  The prerequisite for consideration is a desire to ‘Save the World from Poor Fidelity’.

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P.I.S.T. TV

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

      Television is an odd commodity.  The best sells for less than the less-than-best.  A better picture is trumped by 75¢ of monthly energy savings, not-so-smart apps, questionably better  performance in direct sun light, and a slimmer bezel.  In addition, television’s even slimmer profits have amplified the economic woe of capsizing consumer electronic retailers and manufactures.  Thus, in my effort to ‘save the world from from poor fidelity, I offer a back-road return-path to profitability and better performance.

     Let’s set the table with a quick review of recent TV history.  At the outset of the 21st Century, HDTV retailing initiated a transition from specialist to mass merchants.  Predictably gross profit margins shrank.  AV specialists said goodbye to the heady days of televisions with 40% gross profit margins.  Ah, those were the days.  And Japanese manufacturers held the lions share of the HDTV market.

     As the first decade of the new century advanced, South Korean TV manufacturers caught and overtook the Japanese.  Although low cost manufacturing and Japan’s economic stagnation were key factors, the Koreans also replaced LCD CFL back lighting with LED back lighting.  The primary benefit was an even thinner TV.  Keep in mind, it was largely flat and thin, not a better picture, that catapulted HDTV into the mass sales stratosphere.  Then in a stroke of genius, they re-badged their LCD TVs as the LED TV.

     The TV was promoted as a new display technology. Samsung in particular, with an amazing slight of hand, successfully diverted consumer eyes from the LCD label. Their TV was an LED TV. Furthermore their promotional campaigns targeted plasma TV’s alleged weaknesses.

– High energy use:  Althought it’s only 75¢ to $1.75 per month differential.

– Potential for phosphor burn-in:  True, but you really have to try.

– Picture washes out in direct sunlight: Yet, to a lesser degree this also compromises LCD.

      In addition, they transformed band-aids needed to mask LCD’s shortcomings into positive must have features.  This included 120Hz/240Hz processing, back-light-scanning/clear motion rate, local dimming, and in-plane switching.

     Their remarkable effort resulted in consumers perceiving their ‘LED’ TV as a newer, differentiated, and better product.  It crushed plasma sales.  Frankly, I don’t think plasma manufacturers understood what hit them.  The remaining Japanese manufacturers conceded with ‘me-too’ LED/LCD products.

     Subsequently the economic tsunami referred to as the ‘great recession’ slammed product shelves.  Consumer wallets closed.  Manufacturers responded with cut throat pricing and expanded distribution to anyone with a website and a check book.  Manufacturers, mass merchants, and even on-line retailers, retreated into a survival mode.

     So what can an industry do if it is saddled with low margin product and lower sales volume?  It must search for product with higher gross profit.  Begin with a look at a Panasonic plasma TV.

     As of this writing, the Panasonic TCP65VT50 plasma TV is the best television on retail floors.  It has a wider more accurate color gamut than any LCD.  As all plasma television, unlike LCD, it’s free of motion blur.  Its bezel is competitively thin.  Then there’s the price.  The Panasonic sells for less than competing LCD TVs.  As an example, it sells for $1800 less than the vaunted 60 inch Sharp Elite PRO600x5FD LED/LCD.

     The Sharp is a good TV, but the Panasonic is better.  And it’s less expensive.  As a rule, this is true for each price point of any LCD versus plasma comparison.  But this observation does not yet address the core of the problem, profitability.  My three step plan does.  Here is my back-road return-path to profitability.

1. Take a page from the LED TV play-book and re-badge the plasma TV.

2. Raise the re-badged TV’s pricing to a level that is competitive with ‘LED’ TV pricing.

3. Limit the distribution of the ‘new’ TV to retailers who will support it.

     Allow me to illustrate.  Re-badge plasma with an acronym from names and terms in plasma display history.  Consider Panaplex, Ionized, Saha, and Tihanyi.  Yes, each is real.  Our plasma TV is now the new and improved P.I.S.T. HDTV with over 6 million sub-pixels of resolution.  A re-badged Panasonic TCP65VT50 is reborn as the new TCP-65-PIST HDTV.  Next, increase the price to a level that is competitive with LCD counterparts.  In the case of the TCP-65-PIST, add $1000 to its retail price.  That’s still $800 less than the Sharp LED.  Finally, distribute the new P.I.S.T. TVs via AV specialists and a regional chain in each U.S. market.  Select retailers who will support the plan with sales training, state-of-the-art demonstrations, and local promotions.

     You may be skeptical of my plan.  You may also have some concerns such as; Is this plan deceitful?  Will consumers really pay more for the new TV?  Well consider this thought.  If P.I.S.T. succeeds consumers will end up with a better TV, for the same price or less, than a ‘LED’ TV they probably would have purchased.  Plus, if manufacturers and retailers disappear into insolvency they won’t have a choice.  However, your skepticism should be centered on one pivotal deal busting prerequisite.  The plan requires a progressive manufacturer with the resources and gonads to implement it.

     This may be crazy enough to work.  Although, you may want to select a different acronym.  Hey, I’m just trying to ‘save the world ……. from poor fidelity.

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Hedy Lamarr, Lefty Gomez, & David Bromberg

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

What do Hedy Lamarr, Lefty Gomez, and David Bromberg have in common?  Hedy is a 1940’s movie star.  Lefty is a hall of fame major league pitcher.  Bromberg is an amazing multi-instrumentalist, song writer, and singer.  Take a break from your busy day to find the answer.

That’s Hedy not Hedley.  Hedy Lamarr is not the Hedley of Blazing Saddles fame.  Ms. Lamarr was one of Hollywood’s most successful and glamorous leading ladies in the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood.  In addition, Ms. Lamarr was also a technology nerd.  She co-invented ‘spread spectrum frequency-hopping’.  This technology is the basis of Bluetooth, WiFi, and cell phones.  Check out her tech story at the following links:  CEPro and WNYC.

Lefty Gomez is best remembered as a Hall of Fame major league pitcher.  From 1900 to 1950, only Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson, and Whitey Ford have both more victories and a higher winning percentage than Lefty Gomez.

Lefty is also a character in an epic American saga that includes covered wagons crossing the Rockies, life in the San Francisco bay area prior to the building of the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, playing in ball parks from Point Reyes California to Yankee Stadium.  His story also includes friendships with 20th century notables such as Babe Ruth, James Michener, Ernest Hemingway, George Gershwin, and Joe DiMaggio.

I originally became aware of this story via an interview with Lefty’s daughter, Verona, at KNBR in San Francisco with host Marty Lurie.  Marty’s pod cast is no longer available for free.  But I found this link to another Verona Gomez interview via a Portland Oregon radio broadcast: Select KEX.  If you like what you hear, you may also want to check out this link: LeftyGomez

My final story looks back at David Bromberg and the song ‘Mr. Bo Jangles’ written by Jerry Jeff Walker.  This was recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1972.  It was a monster top 40 hit.  If you were around at the time, you couldn’t get away from it.  However, David offers a different spin on this classic Jerry Jeff song.  I first heard his version live at the Troubadour in L.A. in the winter of 1976.  David’s version reveals the true story of Bo Jangles and Jerry Jeff.  The following link is a recording of his performance.  Be patient, the real story unfolds about three minutes into the recording.  Select this YouTube link: Bo Jangels.

What do Hedy, Lefty, and David have in common?  Well, not much other than each is a story that has languished in my blog-to-do-list notes for many months.  I am just happy to finally publish them in my blog.

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Ray Davies

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

My son William took his old man to a Ray Davies concert at the Uptown Theater in Napa, California.  That’s Ray Davies as in the Kinks.  Any conversation regarding great British bands such as the Stones, the Beatles, the Who, the Faces, should also include the Kinks.

I saw the Kinks at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in the early 1970’s.  That concert ranks in my memory as one of the best I have ever witnessed.  They delivered a performance that was dynamic, tight, fun, and sometimes thought provoking without preaching.  The Kinks were masters of a sarcastic, witty, rebellious, fun, confident, and somehow still humble attitude.  I think of it as the rock-n-roll ‘smirk’.

The ‘smirk’ was in good form at the Uptown Theater.  Davies, a master of song and story telling, skillfully pulled on nostalgic strings with Kinks’ classics such as “You Really Got Me”, “Sunday Afternoon”, “Waterloo Sunset”, “A Well Respected Man”, “All Day, and All of the Night”, “Victoria”, “Celluloid Heroes”, and the list continued.  Yet Davies somehow infused each song with a fresh and contemporary feel.  In addition, his more recent solo material proved that his song writing chops were still in tact.  The song “My Next Door Neighbor” from his album “Other Peoples Lives” was an outstanding example.

The master showman was in complete control.  He even directed the audience to join in at key points.  I have witnessed more that a few annoying audience sing-a-longs.  But this was different.  Davies conducted the audience like his personal backing chorus.  He even scolded them, with a ‘smirk’, when they got a line in a song wrong.  They laughed as he taught them what he wanted.  The audience took Davies direction to heart and responded by getting it right.  Many in this crowd could really sing.

Ray Davies is not a young man by any stretch.  Yet he rocked the house with the energy and charisma that any young band could only hope to achieve.  His band that evening, guitarist Ray Shanley plus the opening band The 88, proved to be more than just a back up band.  Their play seemed genuinely inspired by the spirit of the Kinks.  Are my perceptions filtered and influenced by the sentimental memories of my youth?  Absolutely, yes they are.  But my son reaffirmed that we had indeed witnessed an extraordinary event.  It’s a special day when a twenty year old invites his dad to tag along.

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Where have all my AV friends gone?

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

“Where have all my AV friends gone?  Long time passing.  Where have all the customers gone?  Long time ago.  When will they ever return?  When will they return?”

Another AV shop has closed their door forever.  It was a special place for customers and those who worked there.  Together they were members of a cutting edge AV club that got to play with, listen to, and view, some of the finest audio and video gear of the past two decades.  The price of admission was to simply show up with a sincere enthusiasm for audio and video.

The ownership and staff have resumes dating back to the 1970’s.  They witnessed and participated in a special era in consumer electronics.  This was a respected team with a unique mix of skills and personalities who shared AV knowledge with customers that many others could only pretend to know.

In addition, this shop has a story.  It’s a tale that reads like a detective novel filled with mystery, drama, and comedy.  I’m sorry.  I don’t have the time and energy to tell it here.  But it’s good.  Catch me sometime, and I’ll spin this yarn over a cold beer.

Now they’re gone.  And I am bummed.  Some blame Internet shopping for the demise.  Others point to an inability to adapt, a lack of marketing expertise, and the laundry list continues.  But none of the above is the actual case.  Their door closed because too many of their customers stopped buying.  Why did they stop?  The economy tanked.

Why is the economy in the ‘tank’?  It is because to much of our resources have been abducted, wasted, and looted by the takers.  Who are the takers?  They are local, state, and federal governments in concert with public employee unions and taker-business-cronies from Wall Street to Main Street.

But they have always existed.  Why do they matter now?  They do because the takers have taken too much from those who actually make stuff.  That stuff is our goods and services plus corresponding jobs.  Makers simply have less to make stuff with.  That is why our economy is in dire straits.

Some folks believe that taking from those who make to give to others to spend is equal to, or more effective than, the makers spending what they made. That is the principle behind government ‘stimulus’ spending.  Spending is spending, right?  But it isn’t because the takers spend someone else’s money with much less care than those they took it from.

Why does taking and spending someone else’s money with less care matter?  Here’s the deal.  A maker such as Gibson Guitars buys an appropriate amount of materials.  They produce an appropriate amount of guitars and sell them.  They profit by spending less than they make.  Millions of makers worldwide do the same.  Their billions of transactions freely allocate and distribute capital and other resources.  Their more efficient careful spending releases unused resources for other makers to make even more stuff.  That’s how an economy grows.

Resources in the hands of a taker is a different story.  These resources have been taken, backed by a silent threat of force, from private hands.  At best, the takers squander and waste much of the take; at worse, they loot.

The takers give the take to failed green energy projects, and other favored campaign funding backers who walk away with buckets of cash.  Government employees party in Vegas on maker dimes.  Connected big banks take almost free bail out dollars and profit by purchasing T-Bills.  It’s money for nothing.  Tens of thousands of takers pad local, state, and federal government payrolls and then retire early with grand pensions.  I bet you know a few, I do.

The waste is analogous to a buffalo hunter in 1877 who took the hide but left the carcass to rot.  The remainder of that buffalo could have been used to feed, clothe, and house human beings.  Contemporary takers are much the same.  They leave the wasted carcass of looted resources on thousands of Solyndra-type floors throughout the land.  This stuff could have been used to feed, house, and clothe folks.  The poor are the hardest hit.  But the looting hurts everyone.

So who cares?  There is always more to take, right?  Just add another tax here, another fee there, print more dollars, and the problem is solved, right?  Some folks really think so.  But they’re wrong.  Because you can only take as much as folks make.  When it’s gone, it’s gone.

Yet the takers don’t stop there.  They pile on oppressive, wasteful, arrogant taker regulation, licensing, and permitting that dictate how the makers use what little is left.  As the takers overtake makers the economy collapses into recession, or worse a depression.

Where are we today?   Well, even customers who still have ‘bank’ buy less because they feel as though they have less.  They’re anxious and fearful because their neighbor and brother-in-law were laid-off.  A friend returned to the work but settled for part time work.  Their college graduate, who can’t find a job, has re-camped in his old bedroom.  So apprehensive customers have to ask, “Will they be next?”.

That is why another AV shop closed their doors.  Raise your wine glass and toast the great shop that was.  They will be missed.  Who’s next?

P.S.

I have a friend that believes I want to eliminate government.  That is not the case.  Allow me to explain my position by paraphrasing Neal Boortz.  Government is like a drug.  In proper dosage it can save your life.  If miss-used it can lead to addiction.  An overdose can be fatal.

Visit my website @ edsavhandbook.com

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4K BluRay, What?

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Sony has released a $249 4K BluRay player.  Initially I was surprised and confused by the news.  Then my ‘hype-antenna’ got flagged.  What is 4K BluRay?  Before I address the hype-flag, let’s examine the 4K in the player’s description.   (Note: K = 1000)

The 4K refers to horizontal resolution; the number of pixels that make up each line of video.  But it has different definitions depending on where you hang your TV.

If you hang out in a commercial theater, 4K digital video is defined by the Digital Cinema Initiative.  The DCI specification for 4K digital video is 4096 horizontal pixels by 2160 lines.  In addition, DCI 4K is supported by films makers.  They have created a substantial catalog of 4K films that are currently being projected in many theaters.

If you’re a home theater enthusiast the 4K situation is less clear.  Some manufacturers have adopted the DCI standard of 2160 by 4096.  Others define 4K as 3840 pixels per 2160 lines: twice the HD standard of 1920 by 1080.

Did you notice that 3840 pixels is less than 4K?  But it’s almost 4K.  Because of the ‘almost’ qualifier, some refer to this as Faux 4K.  Others have dubbed this standard as QuadHD.  I have also seen this labeled as UltraHD.  And yes, the DCI’s 4096 pixels is more than 4K.  But who’s counting?  As an aside, UltraHD is also being used by others to describe 8K video.  I know, it just doesn’t stop.  We’ll leave 8K for another time.

Almost 4K, or more than 4K, is a lot of pixels with an obvious benefit.  The pixels are less visible on larger screens.  That’s good.  Yet there’s a catch.  Consumer sources of 4K video do not yet exist.  Current Internet streaming and BluRay do not support 4K video resolution.  And a 4K disc (PurpleRay?) does not seem to be on the home video horizon.

Here’s the bottom line.  4K TVs exist but 4K home video sources do not. Therefore all 4K televisions/projectors must include 4K up-conversion-scaling to avoid a blank screen.  This process sums, divides, and rearranges HD and NTSC frames to cleanly fill each pixel of a 4K TV screen.

Now let’s return to the Sony 4K BluRay player that flagged my hype-antenna.  It’s clear that the 4K tag on this BluRay player cannot refer to a disc or a video streaming app.  It can only refer to scaling.  Given that a 4K TV/projector must already include 4K scaling, why would you want 4K scaling included in this $249 player?  Is Sony suggesting that the scaling of their $249 player is better than the scaling of their $35,000 LYCOS DCI 4K projector?  Are they insinuating that their player’s scaling is better than, or even compatible with, the JVC Faux 4K DILA projectors?  Will their player’s scaling outperform the scaling of the 4K OLED TVs scheduled for a Fall 2012 release?  Frankly, the answer to that last three questions is No.

It is my opinion that the 4K tag has been added solely to flood the retail ethos of confused box stores, on-line noise makers, and even more-confused consumers, with misleading hype.  It is an almost-4K-lie or Faux-4K-truth.  At best, this 4K may be only an attempt to shore up interest in a fading company with an almost empty $249 box.  To be fair, the Sony may turn out to be a decent BluRay player with cool features.  But Ed’s AV Blog is not buying it.

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If Dirty Harry was an AV Pro

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

      In 1973, Dirty Harry bluntly stated, “A good man always knows his limitations”.  If Dirty Harry were and AV Pro today he might add: A good AV Pro always has an edge. A good AV Pro always has a plan. A good AV pro always has a reference.

     These pearls of wisdom are easy to state but involve hard work.  As my brother often opines, “This is not a spectator sport.”  If your aim is to stay in this game, you have to make the effort.

Limitations

     Start with an assessment of your limitations.  Take an honest inventory of your audio/video knowledge, installation expertise, salesmanship, and command of management.

     Identify limiting holes in your audio/video knowledge.  This task is as clear as the scotopic state of vision versus the photopic state.  If your mind glazed over the last sentence, then you have a hole.  This is not a make or break limitation.  But if you don’t know, you don’t know.  Use my website table of contents as a check list of probable holes.  The more you know, the less you can be snowed. 

     Don’t shoot me for what I am about to state.  There may be holes in your installation skills.  Humor me for a couple of paragraphs.  Check out sources such as CEDIA or CE Pro.  They discuss the wide range of skills used in audio and video.  Make a list.  Give recognition to what you can and cannot do.

     Now as the classic baseball cliche states; “Stay within yourself”.  This simply means; Do what you do best.  You can still fill holes with training.  But walk away from what you can’t do.

     What makes you think you can sell?  Did you respond, “What makes you think I can’t?”  If you did, you may move to the head of the class.

     Have you ever recognized a glazed look in a customer’s eyes as you spoke.  In their mind, you were speaking Greek.  If you answered, “Never”, you are not paying attention.

     Do you hesitate to ask for your customer’s money?  This is a classic limitation for many.  It must be overcome if you’re going to pass the class.  Even if you think you can sell, go to Chapter 9 of my Handbook for a review.  Think of it as batting practice.

     Which assesses financial capacity best, the P&L or balance sheet?  The answer is the balance sheet.  Do you know why?

     Now think ‘Money Ball’: Do you collect stats?  Relevant stats, with proper interpretation, lead to more efficient successful decisions that produce a healthier P&L and balance sheet.

     How is marketing advertising but advertising not marketing?  Answers to this, the above, and more lie in Chapter 10 at my website.

     Limitations set the boundary on business growth.  Acknowledging your boundary limits is an important step towards avoiding unnecessary work, averting financial loss, and minimizing mental stress.  And you will, because you’re a good AV Pro: Right?

The Cutting Edge

     An AV Pro always has an edge.  However, holed up in your daily grind, you may not be aware of how good you might be.  So take time to visit ‘big boxes’ and legitimate competitors.  Take a survey of their knowledge, salesmanship, installation services, product mix, pricing, location, and promotional activities.

     Given you’re a reader of this blog; You should walk away feeling pretty good about your expertise and professionalism.  This should be followed by a humbling thought.  Your appraisal may not necessarily be about how good you are.  It might be more about how poor they are.

     In either case, establish a summary of what you do better.  Sharpen these edges with continued practice and training.  Then prepare to exploit your competitive edge.

The Plan

     An AV Pro always has a plan that tackles fundamental questions such as:

          – Where do you want to go personally and financially?

          – How do you get there from where you are?

      This plan maps a course, a strategy, that takes aim at fulfilling a customer want or need.  The plan specifies the tactical tools to make it happen.  The plan also confronts your limitations, while exploiting your competitive edge.  Chapter 10 of my Handbook offers more insight on this subject.

References                                                                                                                                                                                                      & why you should care

     An AV Pro always has references.  Not the type listed on a resume.  I’m speaking about reference points of high end audio/video performance.  These are references that define how good an AV system can perform in a perfect audio/video world.

     But customers rarely live in a perfect environment that allows for perfect performance.  So why should you care?  The answer is credibility, and credibility sells.

     Speakers stuck in a ceiling cannot deliver high fidelity audio.  They can still sound good, but it’s not high fidelity.  If your prospective customer know this.  Yet you claim it is.  Then you will ‘blow’ your credibility and the sale.  It’s that simple.

     On the other hand, if you establish in a clients mind how a perfect system lays out in a perfect world.  Add, they don’t live in a perfect world.  Yet, propose they should still strive towards perfection.  Then, describe how you will squeeze more performance from their room environment, desired room aesthetic, and budget.  You will establish your credibility, close more sales, and sell better AV systems.

     In this spirit of better, get out of your routine and listen to some audiophile systems.  In addition, seek demonstrations of the best in home video reproduction.  Even if you don’t sell the ‘highest end’ product, use these references to choose the product you do offer.  Offering ‘sizable chunks’ of the references, can build a reputation that you offer more for your customer’s money: that’s value.  Value sells.

The Final Dirt 

     If Dirty Harry were an AV Pro could you ‘kick his fictional butt’?  I say yes.  You are a living breathing AV Pro who plans to stay within acknowledged limitations, recognize references, and exploit your competitive edge; Right?

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Thank You

     2011 was a record year for edsavhandbook.com, thank you. My primary objective was to reach 10,000 website visitors: Mission accomplished. In addition to maintaining this trend, my goals for 2012 now include:

  • Increase visitor feedback
  • Increase website revenue

      With regards to my first goal; I am inviting visitors to email AV questions to me: ed@edsavhandbook.com .  I want AV novices in particular to take me up on this offer. AV veterans are surely welcomed. However vets may need to grant me more time to respond. I may have to access my network of AV associates to answer the more challenging questions. This is a free offer. Fill up my ‘in box’ in 2012.

      My second goal: Funding for my website is derived from the advertisers seen on my web pages. Please give them your consideration. If you find a message of interest, click the ad. You will be directed to their websites. Your clicks keep edsavhandbook.com ‘on the air’.

      It appears the new year will be yet another rough year for our business. In addition to the weak housing market, government run a muck, the Euro on the ropes, inflation, and continued high unemployment; a tsunami of negative presidential campaigning is about to unleash. Presidential elections, even in better times, are bad for business. This environment demands that we continue to be creative while keeping up with AV trends. My website blog portal page offers links to stories that will impact the new year. Here is a sampling.

      4K HDTV, though lacking source material, was launched with Sony’s recent introduction of a 4K projector. In addition, Sharp has introduced a 55 inch 4K LCD TV in Japan. AV pros are also discussing QFHD or Faux K. What is 4K, QFHD, and Faux K? Check the links on my website blog portal page.

      Here is another story that will impact 2012. Panasonic is cutting its plasma TV production by almost 50%. Samsung and LG produce plasma panels, but Panasonic is a huge source. What does this mean for better color performance if plasma becomes scarce? The answer may lie in Quantum Dot based TVs. The ‘Dots’ may appear by the end of 2012. What is a Quantum Dot? Check out the ‘Dot’ links at my website blog portal page.

      A story of audio interest was reported in audiophilereview.com. The CD format will be abandoned by major labels by the end of 2012. Ironically the LP is still alive & well. (Analog forever!) Will audio only Blu-Ray, digital downloads, or storage in the ‘cloud’ replace the CD?

      How significant is better audio in our smart-phone-tablet-video-centric business? Well, manufactures of laptop computers may give us a clue. Several PC manufactures are attempting to differentiate their product with the promise of better audio. ASUS features B&O ICE based audio. HP is promoting Beats Audio. I recently saw a laptop offering audio by Harmon Kardon. But PC’s and Mac’s do not offer higher fidelity audio without significant customizing. To that end, recent issues of The Absolute Sound and Stereophile outline how. Pick up a copy if you haven’t yet.

      In a similar trend, the big boxes are also trying to improve their sinking profit margins with audio. For example they are selling boat loads of $300 ‘Dr. Dre-adful’ headphones. I’m holding on to my awesome $70 Grado headphones. The bottom line is AV Pros must take the lead in the arena of better audio.

     Do you remember Shefield ‘direct-to-disc’ recordings of the 1970’s.  Their release of Thelma Houston’s ‘Pressure Cooker’, featuring the cut ‘I’ve Got The Music In Me’, may be the finest recording ever made.  Bill Schnee and Doug Sax, the authors of the recording, are involved in a new project. Check out this link on my blog portal page, Bravua Records.  In particular, their recording featuring the Chuck Findley Horns may be a go-to demo for the 21st century. 

     Finally, take a look at the link about a 130 year old, early 1880’s, OPTICAL recording by Volta Labs.  This was brought to my attention by my wife Joyce.  I am continually amazed by the engineering genius of our audio and video pioneers. 

Take care,

Ed Avalos  Saving the World from Poor Fidelity

Visit my website @ edsavhanbook.com

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When this battle is over, Who will wear the crown?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

     A friend recently said to me, “Ed, it’s not all doom and gloom”.  He was referring to my negative comments regarding our economic climate.  He’s right.  And there’s still business to be had.

     Indeed, but there are still too many dealers chasing fewer and fewer customers.  The MediaPost’s blog, ‘Engage:Affulent’, posted a story titled ‘Redefining Affluence’.  They reported that consumers in the income bracket of $100,000 to $200,000 are disappearing.  Hey, that’s your customer. If you want their remaining business you will have to take it from the other guy. My friends, you are in a battle of attrition.

      How do you fight this battle? The CI Expo to be held in Berkley California on Wednesday October 5th may offer a clue. The Expo is sponsored by independent Northern California AV distributors and reps. This group includes The Electronic Stockroom, Sierra Select, Redwood Marketing , Custom AV, and others. It’s an alliance of competitors who have stepped up to the plate to work together.

      Competitors working together; This is an idea that may also work for AV dealers. Let’s begin by asking some relevant questions. For example; What resources can we share? Many of you have downsized your staff. Can you share labor on larger projects? You may have expertise in one area, while a friendly competitor has an edge in another. Can you pool that expertise? Many dealers have cut or eliminated promotional activities. Can you share the cost of a local promotion?

      I am only asking questions. This CI Expo may provide some answers. Call your local rep or distributor to register for the Expo today. I hope to see you there.

Ed Avalos – Saving the World from Poor Fidelity

visit my website @ edsavhandbookl.com

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Breakfast with Kevin

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

     I recently hooked up with my friend Kevin Alger. Many of you know him as the go-to-guy on the phone at AVAD. It was our monthly breakfast meeting at the High Street Cafe.

      Music is an important element in his life. This includes live performances, CD’s, iTune files, and a solid collection of vinyl. On this morning he was particularly excited about a mini tube preamp he had just ordered. It’s the type that inserts between a solid state preamp and amplifier. He hopes it will add ‘warmth’ to the sound of his audio system.

       In addition to this news, Kevin suggested that I should check out a Stereophile article written by Henry Rollins. Rollins is not your normal contributor to an audiophile magazine. But he is a force in the world of music, film, and comedy as a singer, a songwriter, a poet, a spoken word artist, a writer, a publisher, an actor, and a radio DJ.

       Stereophile had foresight in inviting an artist to the audio conversation. Artists as Rollins have the gift to interpret and convey what us mortals can’t. For example Rollins wrote; “Why spend so much time and money to achieve optimum playback? For me it is simple, perhaps brutally so: Life is short, and music is humankind’s ultimate achievement. Michelangelo, Picasso, Einstein were all unfathomably brilliant, but I would toss any one of them off the center spot of my couch when I put on this pristine copy of Hawkwind’s Doremi Fasol Latido I got a couple of months ago. As soon as that music starts, every dollar becomes well spent, time becomes precious, and there is no place I would rather be.”

      Similarly the late philosopher and mythologist Joseph Campbell once told an audience,” I had a marvelous experience two nights ago. I was invited to a rock concert. I’d never seen one. This was a big hall in Berkeley and the rock group were the Grateful Dead, whose name, by the way, is from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. And these are very sophisticated boys. This was news to me. … Rock Music has never seemed that interesting to me. It’s very simple and the beat is the same old thing…….But…this is more than music. It turns something on in here (the heart?). And what it turns on is life energy.”

      Rollins and Campbell got it. Sometimes music is more than music. The same can also be true of film. And customers who share this excitement and devotion should be your primary customer target.

      I may be just an analog guy trying to reconnect the dots in a digital world. But who would you rather do business with? Would you choose those who share the passion or those who simply want generic lowest priced gear? Would you seek those who value your expertise or those who just want another delivery boy? Don’t answer. The questions are rhetorical.

      Earn the trust of passionate musical and cinema customers. Show respect for their music and film. Demonstrate your expertise by reproducing the ‘goose bumps’ that lie within the grooves of their vinyl and digital sources. If you seek assistance in filling a hole or two in the expertise category; get it from your manufacturers, trade groups, and my website: edsavhandbook.com.

      Last night my wife and I visited an intimate forty seat concert venue, the Tin House in Grass Valley California. If you live within driving distance, you have to check it out. The Texas singer songwriter, folk singer, punk rocker, and rocker, Jon Dee Graham was the featured artist. Kevin had informed us of the show. He was there too. Jon Dee’s music and performance was inspirational. Thanks Kevin.

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Why it Matters

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

      Did you hear that? It’s the sound of groans responding to my previous blog: Mis-mixed Audio Concepts. I also heard, as I debated the use of active vs passive equalization, “Ed it doesn’t matter,” “Nobody cares about this audiophile stuff.” Well, it does matter. You should care.

      The current AV market has too many AV pros chasing fewer and fewer customers. In addition, the U.S. economy will get worse before we see better days. Therefore, you must now engage even more expertise to compete and survive. The good news is many of your competitors do not understand the potential to be gained from understanding an issue such as active vs passive equalization.

      Let’s reset the stage. Active equalization is the use of electronics to solve acoustical problems. Alternatively, passive equalization (no active electronics) utilizes room dimensions, speaker/listener placement, sound proofing, as well as acoustical absorption and diffusion. The passive path is a cure, while the active course is a sedative. Choosing the appropriate remedy requires careful diagnosis of your customer’s desires and their limitations.

      Choose active equalization if passive solutions are not feasible. This is illustrated by clients that object to speakers and electronics within view. Consider smaller, hidden, or in-wall/ceiling speaker systems with active electronic equalization. This includes options such as THX processing. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the active approach masks acoustical distortion with electronic distortion. Yet in this situation, it can minimize the audible compromise.

      On the other hand, if a customer is passionate about their music – if they appreciate the elegance and performance of superior speaker systems and electronics – then the passive solution is the better choice. It removes or minimizes the source of the distortion. The result is a more accurate reproduction of the artist’s intent.

      Although demonstrating a concern to choose the appropriate remedy supports a perception of expertise, it is the implementation that seals the deal. I recently met with an AV expert and my friend, Steve Mounkes. Steve can walk into almost any AV situation and improve it. He leaves folks scratching their head asking, “How did he do that?” I’ll tell you how.

      In addition to the choice of the remedy, Steve’s implementation is much as physician in surgery. These are his surgical tools:

– A solid understanding of audio and video basics.

– A disciplined implementation of high performance A/V principles.

– A dash of genuine passion for music and film.

     My free on-line handbook provides the first two tools. Neither involves rocket science. But the high performance step is a commitment to the ‘disciplined implementation’. I’m counting on you to provide the dash of passion.

      Keep in mind, that all rooms and customers have compromising AV issues. The goal is to minimize the compromise, and squeeze out the potential performance. That’s what Steve does.

      I’m not just speaking to dealers and their staffs. This includes manufactures and the sales reps of mid-fi product. You can squeeze significant improvement from modest AV electronics and speakers systems. The difference produces impressive demonstrable results. Your competition won’t have a clue how you did it.

      I heard that. Someone asked, “Ed, who cares?” Folks with crammed shelves of CD’s, records, video discs – they care. Consumers who buy better wine, luxury vehicles, other affluent life enhancing products and services – they care too.

      Thrive while competitors survive. Deliver more goose bumps per minute. Establish a reputation for delivering jaw dropping performance. Exceed your customer’s expectations, and generate their referrals. Join me in my quest to save the world from poor fidelity.

Visit my website @ edsavhandbook.com

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Mis-mixed Audio Concepts

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

     The following quote is a negative response to my criticism of using active equalization in a high fidelity audio system.  It’s from an audio engineer of impressive credentials.   His his remarks were written in a comment area at HomeTheater.com.

     He stated, ““If audiophiles were able to actually view the results of EQ…… on legitimate test equipment ………  90% of the mythology that drives most of (their) business models would evaporate rapidly.””

     He also offered this snide remark regarding high fidelity cable to illustrate the ‘mythology’

““…I have a rare pair of $20,000 two meter speaker cables available …to anyone who needs them . They’re made of a revolutionary material I’’ve cleverly named Cu (copper) Life changing – trust me!””

     A clever response indeed.  This kind of noise has dogged high fidelity audio since its inception.  Is our engineer simply narrow minded or is there a financial motive lurking?  It may be an ample dose of both.  If your livelihood is derived from active equalization, that might narrow your bandwidth view of the audio landscape. It doesn’’t have to.  But in this case, I suspect it did.

     Michael Fremer of musicangle.com and Stereophile said these guys claim we can’t hear what we hear because “…”(we) are not as accurate as some stupid test equipment that someone is using to try to prove to you that you don’t hear what you hear.””  Well, we hear just fine.

     The balanced of this blog is limited to the issue of equalization.  If you’re interested, my view on high fidelity interconnects and speaker cable can be found at this link: In the Defense of Snake Oil

     I once had this EQ conversation over lunch with a commercial audio friend.  I did not and do not dispute his and other AV pro’s ability to provide complex room EQ solutions.  They do some cool stuff.  I simply maintained that, in a high fidelity audio setting, the passive correction of acoustical problems is a better choice than active electronic correction.   By the time our bill for lunch had arrived, he had agreed that we were really on the same page.  I hope you do too.

     Here’’s the problem.  Many AV pros have mis-mixed two basic audio concepts.  Studio and stage AV professionals produce the artist’s music.  Their implementation of active equalization is as the use of a paint brush by a landscape artist. I applaud their work.  However, the goal of a high fidelity AV pro is to reproduce the result of that work, the artist’’s intent. We are talking about two entirely different endeavors: reproduction vs production.

     The output of a high fidelity audio system component is identical to the input. Well, that’’s the goal.  Any measurable or audible  difference is distortion.  If an amplifier distorts the audio signal, replace it with an amplifier that does not.  If a speaker system cannot accurately reproduce the music, it should be returned to the speaker drawing board.  Don’’t replace the speaker if a preamplifier is the distorting system component.  Likewise, if the room acoustics distort the reproduced audio, the acoustics should be corrected —–  not accurate high fidelity components.

     If active equalization is placed in the path of high fidelity audio components, it will change the output from the input: distortion. This type of equalization attempts to mask distortion with distortion.  It may look good on legitimate test equipment.  But it does not pass the test of the human ear and brain.

     Passive equalization avoids this dilemma. Passive solutions engage manageable room dimensions, careful speaker and listener placement, sound proofing, plus a dose of acoustical absorption and diffusion.  This tactic will generate a more accurate reproduction of the artist’s intent.

     Don’t get me wrong.  There is a place for active equalization in audio reproduction.  Car audio is an example.  It can create a much more desirable car audio system.  Small room-boundary-distorted in-wall and in-ceiling speaker systems are another case.  Their sound can surely be improved with active equalization.  But car audio and in-wall speaker systems are not of high fidelity caliber.

     I do not believe that our contentious narrow minded engineer is a bad guy.  It’’s just easier to turn a knob on an active equalizer than to apply and install passive acoustical solutions.  On the other hand, he may have simply been misinformed by his legitimate test equipment.

(Next Blog: Why It Matters.)

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