Object-based surround sound like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Auro 3D is maturing and consumers are less surprised by it than they were a few years ago. That's a good sign for the industry, especially loudspeaker manufacturer GoldenEar Technology.
We spoke to Sandy Gross, founder and president of GoldenEar, about how object-based surround sound and high-resolution audio in general are faring in the custom installation market right now, and what GoldenEar is doing to support dealers selling and installing its products.
Is object-based surround sound still growing in residential environments?
Yes, we definitely see object-based surround sound growing in the marketplace. Almost all new receivers contain the means to do it, more program material has become available, consumers are becoming more aware, and most importantly, it delivers a dramatic upgrade in the listening experience.
With Atmos, as GoldenEar is a more upscale high-end loudspeaker company, we have focused on providing the more pure experience of direct-firing height speakers, rather than bouncing sound off the ceiling.
We find that customers buying GoldenEar speakers want the best, highest quality experience, and we deliver that with in-ceiling height speakers, like our Invisa 7000s, which have become best sellers for height speaker applications, as well as with our SuperSat 3C/SuperSwivel combination, which allows customers who don't want to go into their ceilings, a direct-radiating high-performance alternative designed to go up high on the front, sides or rear walls and angle down at the listeners.
Do you see high-resolution audio gaining traction, including sources like Tidal and the growing adoption of MQA [master quality authenticated]?
I believe that we are at the very beginning of the MQA era. Clearly this will be very significant as we move into the future. It appears that streaming is/has become the preferred means for listening to music.
There has been a push to high-res, high-quality streaming, but the file sizes are large and this creates issues. Then along comes MQA which promises higher quality than high-res, in a file size format similar in size or smaller than CDs. We have seen a majority of the record labels remastering their catalogs in MQA and the streaming services getting on board the bandwagon as well.
Why? Better sound quality for listeners and the potential opportunity for more revenue for the record labels and streaming services.
Whole-house audio is thriving once again. What is GoldenEar doing to address these installations?
GoldenEar is addressing whole-house audio with our Invisa Series of architectural loudspeakers. Our Invisas offer a well thoughtout group of high-quality in-wall and in-ceiling loudspeakers with a focus on superb sound quality, near invisibility, compact size, ease of installation and high value.
This fall we will be introducing several new SKUs: a less expensive version of our best-selling Invisa 650 6.5-inch in-wall, in-ceiling; and a brand new Invisa Reference Line Source, intended as an in-wall main front left, right, center channel, or rear or side surround in-wall for very high quality home theater systems.
GoldenEar has received a lot of attention for its SuperSub line. Can you explain the patent the company was awarded for its SuperSub products, and why the patent is important for GoldenEar?
The U.S. patent that we were issued was based on having the combination of inertial balancing in both the vertical and horizontal plane, all in the same subwoofer.
Why is this important? It has allowed us to build ultra-high-performance subwoofers in much smaller enclosures. The inertial balancing totally eliminates cabinet movement and vibration, which greatly improves detail as well as allows all the energy produced by the drivers to be radiated as sound into the room, rather than as wasted energy moving the box.
The ultra-compact SuperSub X achieves the often sought holy grail — a small subwoofer which is highly impactful, goes very low, as well as delivering very detailed and musical low frequency performance.
What is GoldenEar doing to support dealers and their ability to sell and install the products?
GoldenEar has its own dedicated sales force of seasoned industry veterans which is committed to the task of training our dealers in the product from a technical standpoint, as well as the best ways to demo and sell it. They travel around the country in order to carry out this mission, as well as being available (along with our in office technical staff), by phone or email, to help and guide our dealers and their customers. When you call GoldenEar, you get a real person, not an answering system from hell.
Are there any trends you see developing in home audio that dealers could take advantage of to grow sales?
This is an interesting question, and of course, I can think of many things. However, I'd like to focus on something that ties back to the first question. When people think of object-based systems, most thought relates to how they enhance the movie/video experience, and that it does. But there is little talk about what it does for the music experience, especially how it dramatically enhances the experience with the huge library of two-channel music.
Looking at Dolby Atmos in particular, Dolby has included a feature called “Dolby Surround” that is mainly viewed as bringing an expanded height-channel experience to movies not encoded in Atmos. And that it does. However, “Dolby Surround” with two-channel music is simply incredible! It brings an open, expansive, more lifelike sound quality to music, much like what you would get in a much higher-end system. It is not a fake, exaggerated sound, like that produced by the early digital units and their stadium, concert hall, etc. sound modes, but a really well done audiophile-grade experience. So, it is a tremendous benefit in selling people to upgrade their systems to object based.
GoldenEar is known for delivering value. Your latest introduction, Triton Reference, goes into a new price range for you. What was the rationale?
GoldenEar is a true high-end loudspeaker company, whose loudspeakers are consistently compared with speakers selling for five and 10 times their cost. And me? I am a crazed audiophile, always have been, always will be. My focus has always been on trying to deliver products that deliver a similar experience to the best, cost-no-object products.
We have two trademarked slogans at GoldenEar: “A Passion for Sonic Perfection” and “We Make High-End Affordable.” In recent years, the high-end part of our industry, in some people's opinion, has gone crazy — $200,000 speakers, $100,000 amplifiers, $50,000 cables, $30,000 tonearms. We decided to develop the Triton Reference because our feeling was that consumers lusting after these megabuck products would respond well to the $8,500/pair Triton Reference, as it was still an aspirational, achievable dream.
In addition, we felt that our dealers would love to have a really appealing high-value loudspeaker like the Reference to sell them. Based on the fact that consumers are putting down deposits and that our initial production run was sold out months before we started shipping, I think that we were correct.