Something extra: autosound makers step up attention to quality and installation factors to please demanding consumers
Automobile stereo equipment manufacturers are concentrating on quality and ease of installation for car speakers. The manufacturers are addressing the demands of customers who have become more sophisticated in their appreciation of how speakers effect the overall quality of sound systems. As factory-installed systems have improved, aftermarket equipment makers have had to develop better systems. Products from several autosound companies are described.
Car loudspeakers may lack the flashing lights and fancy features of other autosound components, but manufacturers are giving them extra attention these days due to stepped-up consumer demand.
Autosound executives said consumers are realizing the significance speakers play in making a quality car audio system, and audio makers are improving components and making finished products easier to install.
Most manufacturers now have models either designed for specific makes of automobiles or with the ability to be installed in several different auto types. Sam McLain, Pioneer Electronics brand manager of marketing, said this has become the company's fastest-growing speaker category. The company makes speakers to fit Honda, Mazda and Nissan cars.
"We are addressing this more aggressively, looking for vehicles that will be around for a long time," said McLain. "This makes it easier for the installers and customers, and we also include all the parts needed to install it."
Bob Hazelwood, JBL's product marketing manager for mobile audio, said his firm is working along a similar line, producing separate mounting frames for U.S. and foreign cars and frames with many predrilled holes and breakaway mounting tabs that can be used as needed. Also, new basket and smaller tweeters now are used to fit in the tight spaces most cars have.
"We try to make each speaker fit the largest number of applications possible," he said, adding this approach was taken because it is hard predicting what car makers will do from one year to the next.
In JBL's high-end GTi line an intermount is used. Basically, this is an adaptor-type mount that goes between the speaker frame and the car mount. The intermount provides the easy removal of speakers in one car and quick re-installation in another. What are the best car speakers Carspeakerland.com
With an increasing number of car owners looking to install systems themselves, component speaker packages--which bundle a driver, a tweeter and a crossover together--have become increasingly popular.
Hazelwood said he sees growth in this area, and JBL's business within this segment has grown accordingly. "Recently, we've addressed this market a little bit smarter," he said. "We used to come at it from a home audio perspective. We were making speakers that sounded good, but were hard to sell. Then we came out with the GT series a few years ago which we designed from an installers perspective."
SPAM America Consumer Products Inc. also has its one-size-fits-many-speaker-slot models. The 900 series, which has just began shipping, has an installation plate so it can fit 5-1/4-inch, 4-by-6 inch and 5-by-7 inch speaker mounts.
SPAM Corp. also has plans for this category. It will be introducing three models--5-1/4, 6-1/2 and 6-by-9--and will utilize the car's original grill as a waste-saving maneuver since these items are normally thrown away when the speakers are replaced.
While total speaker sales have not changed for Pioneer, there has been a shift in the popularity of certain types, said McLain. Component speaker packages featuring 5-1/4-inch drivers and special size models are doing well, but at the expense of 6-by-9 and 4-inch units.
There are several reasons for this, said McLain. The quality of aftermarket speakers has improved, and customers are realizing how importance of speakers in quality autosound systems. Automobile buyers are placing greater emphasis on factory-installed systems, so car makers have been improving the quality of those stereos, industry executives said.
This has made it more difficult for aftermarket autosound manufacturers to entice end users into replacing those systems, so they have responded with improved products, according to some companies.
Paul Brown, Coustic's director of sales and marketing, said his company's new line of speakers deliver better sound with features such as ferro-fluid filled tweeters.
"We've gone out and done the little things that make a speaker better," said Brown.
Coustic also will be hitting the component-package market this summer with a set selling for under $300.
Another company improving its speaker components is Kenwood U.S.A., which at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show introduced models with a larger cone area for deeper bass and a glass-fiber reinforced voice coil bobbin surrounded with magnetic fluid to help withstand extreme heat conditions.
JVC Co. of America also is looking to boost its category, said Tom Caronia, general manager for mobile electronics. JVC has revamped its entire speaker line, replacing the paper cones with Olefin cones. This substance improves sound quality and makes the speakers more weather-resistant, Caronia said.
Caronia said speaker sales for JVC had been somewhat flat during the past few years, but he is hopeful these Olefin speakers will help drive sales during the coming year.
At Audiovox Corp., vice president Marty Novick said new speaker designs are influenced by the increased sound performance put out by other audio components, not by what Detroit is doing.
"Our speakers are in response to the type of equipment being sold. They demand more power, and with CD market and amplifiers growing they command that speakers have more response," he said.
In addition, Audiovox is changing the speaker's image by replacing the old plastic grills with metal, giving it a more high tech look, said Novick.
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