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Multimedia Speakers Sound Off

October 1999
Most multimedia speaker sales are under $30 or $40 and largely generated by OEM and non-store sales. But MP3, A/V streaming and more sophisticated games are intersecting in current introductions with Dolby, USB and multi-channel sound to add margin dollars and aftermarket potential.

Speaker manufacturers are also thinking about getting people to upgrade when they buy the computer. Portable audio, game systems and converging technologies represent additional speaker sales potential.

Mac- and PC-compatible products already out this year reflect this thinking. Comdex will see more introductions along these lines.

"A lot of people are looking for better sound for music and gaming," said Labtec Director of Marketing Frank Romero, so aftermarket potential is growing among a broad range of computer users.

Labtec targets early adapters, enthusiasts and tech-savvy users with three additions to its Audio F/X Series. The three-piece LCS-2422, the flat-panel plus subwoofer LCS-2416 and the five-piece LCS-2514 are all priced at $79.99 MSRPs. For Mac users, Labtec introduced the LCS 2414i Macintosh F/X Series earlier this year. The total line covers all the bases, starting at $19.99 and topping off at a $199.99 MSRP for the ATX-5820 with virtual Dolby surround and 3D imaging.

"The $79.99 price point meets the needs of different users," Romero noted in discussing the positioning of the new introductions. Labtec speakers are on demo stands at some select retailers, "so you can test-drive them," Romero said. Gift box packaging keys into holiday sales, he added.

Yamaha focuses on aftermarket potential and what happens when people listen to the bundled speakers for a few days. "We want them to go back to the store and upgrade to a better speaker," said Allen Gharapetian, marketing and production manager for Yamaha Consumer Products Division.

Shipping in late September, Yamaha's YST-MS30 three-piece powered system is tagged at a $69.99 MSRP. The YST-MS35 ($99.99 MSRP), also three-piece, has a USB interface. Both are available in white or black.

"People are looking for things that are different, and there are few manufacturers making a black speaker," Gharapetian said.

Yamaha is also targeting portable audio and game systems with the new speakers. Music downloads and more interactive games and web uses are good arguments for better speakers, he commented. Even if the main interest isn't listening to music, "A good pair of speakers will give you a better idea of what you downloaded and whether it downloaded correctly," Gharapetian said.

Kinyo's customer is "the person who has incorporated the computer into home entertainment," said Sales Vice President Barry Freedman. "Most are computer people not audio people." They mostly play games, and "they want exciting sound quality to enhance the games."
 

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