You would think that a company like Dana Innovations would have a showroom, listening space and experience center to showcase its Sonance, iPort and TruFIG lines of architecturally and sonically interesting products.
But it wasn’t until last year that the 30-year-old company, based in San Clemente, Calif., completed its first real design center.
It was worth the wait.
The new facility will inspire A/V specialists, architects and interior designers alike – Dana’s core constituents.
The old Sonance space had a “listening room,” says EVP and CTO Rob Roland, “but it was never really reflective of design.”
Yet Dana has been all about design since its flagship Sonance brand began shipping in-wall speakers in 1983.
Since then, the company launched iPort for in-wall iPod (and later iOS device) solutions and the ultimate design brand TruFIG for obscuring faceplates, touchscreens and all manner of architectural elements within the walls. Meanwhile, Sonance has grown to include speakers that fade almost completely into the walls and the new Invisible Series line, which does fade completely behind the walls.
So it seems fitting that the new design center would showcase these architectural gems.
But at its roots, Sonance is a sound company, so let’s start there.
CEDIA 2013 for Sonance was “all about acoustic performance,” Roland notes. “Before, there was such an emphasis on design when we were leading the way in performance. Compare us to anyone you like. We have the best aesthetics and acoustics.”
Two recent initiatives illustrate that claim.
First, Sonance is exploiting the new trend of little 4-inch speakers (matching little 4-inch lights), placing a “big emphasis on how great they can sound,” Roland says.
Secondly, Sonance has rocked the outdoor speaker category with its Landscape Series and Sonarray system (reviewed here), which have been universally well reviewed. In fact, the SLS High Output speakers for large venues had a room of their own at CEDIA Expo 2012, wowing at least one CE Pro contributor, Fred Harding of Capitol Sales.
He wrote back then that the speakers do a great justice to Tom Waits’ gravelly voice.
In arguably the best outdoor audio demo you can find anywhere in the world, Sonance has its full line of products installed just outside of its office. Switching between its three lines of speakers (10 each, spread across the parking lot), you can easily hear the difference as you step up in power and performance (yes, even I could tell the difference).
If a dealer can’t close an outdoor speaker sale there … just give up.
GALLERY: INSIDE THE SONANCE EXPERIENCE CENTER
On another note about Sonance speakers, the company is hard at work making them easier to install, and reducing SKUs for integrators.
For starters, its speakers are made to be used as either surrounds or stereo.
“It’s just one product with a switch,” Roland says. “It’s easier to inventory and order.”
Likewise, Sonance provides adapter kits for switching round speakers to square and vice versa.
“It’s all the same speaker, round or square,” he says.
Other speaker manufacturers offer round/square kits, but you can still discern a round speaker behind a square grille and vice versa, says Roland. Not so with the Sonance models.
CEO Ari Supran says this innovation makes especially good sense because you just never know if you want round or square until the complete environment with light fixtures and everything else comes together.
“If you installed the round and the customer changes their mind, you can always swap it for square,” he says.
Sonance is making it easier than ever to select its speakers, introducing a giant laminated Speaker Selection Guide that shows every in-wall product—down to the grilles—along with at-a-glance specs.
All That and Good Looks, Too
Given its design heritage, Sonance and its sister brands share a space that looks as good as it sounds.
Dealers and their clients and partners can see all Sonance speakers from the thin-bezel Visual Performance Series to the no-bezel Architectural Series and, finally, the completely stealthy Invisible Series.
But the real beauty comes from Dana Innovations’ TruFIG, which makes other people’s keypads, touchscreens, electrical outlets, ductwork and so many other things disappear in the wall.
To get a real taste of TruFIG at the new design center, you’ll have to check out the slideshow below.
There’s a wall that showcases cool faux painting. An exit sign has been TruFIG-ized. So has a door, HVAC vents and more. And who knew that TruFIG could custom-make slats with its in-house laser cutter? They showed me one surface that had some words etched into it but it was a little too cheeky to post here.
Supran suggests that the TruFIG covers could easily be used as speaker grilles, adding interest to in-wall installations.
Supran says it always struck him that makers of fine kitchen cabinetry always showcased their wares without electrical outlets anywhere in the picture, which of course is a little bit unrealistic in the real world, especially given safety codes and all.
“You’ll see beautiful vignettes but you’ll never see that [electrical outlets] on a backsplash.”
So Dana Innovations teamed with Poggenpohl to include TruFIG in its 24 U.S. studios. TruFIG dealers now can now escort guests through those showrooms to showcase their offerings.
Installing TruFIG is not a learn-it-yourself kind of thing. The company encourages integrators – or their trade partners – to train in its new facilities, where they can practice installing all things TruFIG, from HVAC vents to iPad mounts. The room complements Sonance’s classroom training, which facilitates more traditional presentations.
GALLERY: INSIDE THE SONANCE EXPERIENCE CENTER