The trend is clear: Physical media for audio is dying a slow death as more consumers embrace digital music
, from downloads to storage to Cloud-based solutions
For Mokena, Ill.-based The Little Guys
, a CE Pro 100
company, that trend has become a reality. That’s why David Wexler has become the first to install a new pre-packaged education and demo area from The Lenbrook Group
It’s called the Digital Music Experience Center (DMEC), and Wexler carved out a 475-square-foot area in his specialty retail showroom for the DMEC to educate and demo real-world applications on how to obtain, store and transport personal music collections. Lenbrook’s copyrighted plan combines high-performance audio components with computer technology and other features that allow consumers to experience music in the showroom just as they would in their everyday lives.
"The fundamental objectives of our plan," says Dean Miller, president and CEO of Lenbrook America, "are to introduce and educate specialty dealers to a holistic approach to marketing computer audio; to drive traffic into specialty retailers, and more specifically, to become more attractive to a new buying group (demographic) of younger people that are well aware of digital music but not necessarily aware of high-resolution audio and the performance enhancements it offers.”
Miller first got the idea in 2011 as he was moving from AudioQuest to Lenbrook
, which distributes the NAD and PSB brands. He pulled together a consortium of people and companies to create the DMEC, including AudioQuest and Panamax/Furman, along with industry notables Chris Connaker (president & founder of ComputerAudiophile.com) and Gordon Rankin (father of the asynchronous USB DAC), Spencer Kalker of ImageCrafters and several integrators.
“We wanted to make it fun, exciting and cool,” notes Miller. “We want it to look like an Apple Store
without copying them.”
Lenbrook's DMEC has six "zones" that each come with a scripted demo and equipment list.6 Distinct Zones of Digital Audio
(Click image to enlarge)
The DMEC has six distinct “zones.” Each area has a scripted demo and list of equipment. The plan does not call for exclusively Lenbrook product, and several brands are represented in the merchandising plan, but the entire showroom plan is copyrighted by Lenbrook and available exclusively through Lenbrook America. Customers need to be accompanied by a trained salesperson for the demo.
Zone 1 - Welcome, Education, & Qualification:
This area is designed to welcome customers to the DMEC and invite them to learn more about digital music solutions and high-resolution audio options. The salesperson invites the customer to sit at a futuristic table in the area that is designed to look like a giant cloud. There, the salesperson uses a built-in monitor to help educate and qualify the customer as to what they have now and what they think they need. (See sidebar: 12 Qualifying Questions to Ask Clients about Digital Audio.)
This area also serves as the final meeting point with the customer. It is recommended that the dealer provide the customer with a high-resolution audio file on a flash drive that is branded with the dealer’s logo.
12 Qualifying Question to Ask Customers about Digital AudioZone 2 - Desktop System / Simple Wireless Single-Room Solution:
1. How do you listen to music now?
2. What type of stereo or home theater gear do you have now to listen to music? Amp? Speakers?
3. Are you connected to the Internet at home? If yes, what type of router/modem do you use and/or what service provider do you subscribe to for internet access?
4. How many computers to do you have at home? What type?
5. Where is your music collection now? HDD? CD collection?
6. Where would you like your music collection to be?
7. How would you like to control your music collection?
8. How do you manage your music collection now? Do you use iTunes, Windows Media Center, or some other music management service via your computer?
9. Do you understand what compressed and lossy refer to?
10. Are you aware that today, using computers, you can experience “better than CD” sound quality?
11. Do you have a DIGITAL phone? Do you listen to music on this product?
12. Do you subscribe to any internet music services? If yes, which are your favorites?
In this area, dealers educate consumers on the various methods by which to simply and affordably transmit digital music stored on a computer to an audio and/or home theater system. The demo starts with a simple desktop/laptop computer and a pair of powered speakers, and progresses through several upgrade paths, including plugging in a DAC that connects to higher-end speakers. Headphones can also be demonstrated with this system. Products in this area include those from NAD and PSB.
Zone 3 - Single Room Solutions featuring Portable Speaker Docks:
This area demonstrates a single room and/or smaller dwelling experience to customers that need a simple, space saving solution, but do not want to sacrifice sound quality or performance.
This area also allows the customer to experience various communication protocols such as Bluetooth and Airplay. Products for this area can include Apple TV and audio products from NAD, B&W, Arcam, Bose or other comparable inexpensive speakers.
Zone 4 - Multi-Room, Multi-Source Network Audio Solutions:
This area demonstrates various types of network audio products that stream music throughout the home using a wired or wireless home network. Additionally, these systems will have the ability to interface with a number of various music sources: i.e. the Internet subscription based and/or free music services, a networked computer, or a network attached storage (NAS) hard drive loaded with a digital music collection.
Additionally, this area demonstrates how to upgrade the limited bandwidth of the networked audio solution by adding higher performance amplification combined with a high performance digital-to-analog converter to upgrade to a high-resolution audio solution. Products in this area include Sonos, NAD and Peachtree Audio.
Zone 5 - The High Resolution Digital Audio Experience:
This area demonstrates “the ultimate in digital audio playback technology using a DAC/amplifier combination to play audio recorded in a 24/96 “studio master recording” quality resolution.
Additionally, the consumer will experience and learn about the various connectivity options and the different “resolutions” these various connection methods - USB A & B, HDMI, Optical, Digital Coax, and Balanced Audio inputs - are capable of transmitting for best high resolution playback.
Lastly, the consumer will experience the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio format coupled with a video experience utilized with Blu-ray. The gear highlighted in this area include NAD DAC, amp and Blu-ray, Apple Mac Mini, PSB Imagine speakers, LG HD monitors and various cables.
Zone 6 - The Ultimate Digital Music Experience:
In this area, the customer will hear a high-resolution digital music file recorded in a 24/192 resolution via an all-digital two channel “Statement Digital Audiophile System.” Products in this area can include NAD’s Digital Master’s Suite and PSB’s Synchrony One loudspeakers.
Customers ‘Love it’ So Far
So far, Wexler says customers are eating up the DMEC. “They love it,” he says. “Getting information, being exposed to better sound, and finding out all the amazing ways to use Digital Music always exceeds their expectations.”
He says younger people who are coming into the store with their parents “are all over it. They are blown away with the demos; they have no idea that music could and should sound so good."
The Little Guys trained every salesperson in the store on all phases of the DMEC. They all have control from their phones, as well as the iPads
that are dedicated to the room. Already, Wexler says he has sold several DAC’s, speakers, headphones, digital amps and some very extensive networks.
Zone 6 of the DMEC.
(Click image to enlarge)
In terms of marketing it, The Little Guys held an open house preview for the area in March. Wexler also has a high school student working Wednesday evenings who posts items on Facebook and Twitter. He targets fellow students to come over and hang out in the store to “experience cool stuff” and get exposed to high-performance music systems. Wexler is working on an extensive marketing campaign.
“It’s probably not a fit for appointment-only showrooms,” admits Miller, noting that the DMEC is really aimed at specialty retail. His plans are to get 50 to 60 stores installed. Right now, the cost is $28,000 but Miller says he is hopeful to get it down to $24,000 or $25,000.
Once the dealer buys the DMEC, all the equipment is shipped to him on two skids. A local contractor is used to do the installation under direct supervision from Lenbrook. It takes about 2.5 days to install, after the proper networking backbone has been put in place.
Lenbrook recommends retailers use Pakedge
to install a dedicated, high-speed wireless/hardwired network for the area. Additionally, Lutron
is offering to install motorized shades for ts dealers who adopt the DMEC showroom. Lenbrook recommends retailers configure their entire showroom to demonstrate control using Control4
Currently, two more are in beta test, including Gramophone
in Baltimore and Listen Up
in Denver. Miller says another 12 showrooms “want it.”