Denon Strengthens Customer Service and Product Line
May 18, 2009 10:12 AM,
By Rebecca Day
With the custom channel taking a hit during the economic downturn, Denon is adding more installer-friendly multiroom feature sets to its receivers and iPod servers. Picture here is the S-52 enhanced networked audio system with built-in iPod dock for $699.
Denon executives re-upped its commitment to the custom and specialty audio/video retail channel last week at the company’s 2009 line show in New York. Noting the hits the custom channel has taken by the economy in general and the new housing market in particular, the company is adding more installer-friendly multiroom feature sets to its receivers and iPod servers.
The company will also show its commitment to the custom channel with product training seminars across the country—including offering classes with CEDIA credits.
Joe Stinziano, Denon senior VP of sales and marketing, stressed the need to show its support for the custom channel. “Even though the housing market is tough and their business is in a rough spot right now, we don’t lessen our commitment to that side of the business,” he says.
Noting the severe economic conditions that claimed Circuit City, Tweeter, and numerous specialty AV retailers and integrators, Stinziano told journalists that a primary company edict for 2009 is to continue to support the dealers who are left. “We are the specialty AV retail channel,” he says, “and we need to support each other.” Part of that strategy includes deepening relationships with key dealers and buying groups, and Denon is going to be the first audio vendor to be a supply-chain partner with the PRO Group. Stinziano says the role includes fully integrated supply-chain monitoring, sell-through, inventory, and sales.
At the same time, e-commerce will play a larger role in Denon’s business. Stinziano noted that more AV receivers are expected to be sold online this year than in stores, marking a first for e-commerce sales in that category. “That’s a reality of how consumers are shopping and something as a manufacturer that we cannot ignore,” he says.
To address the various market trends, Denon plans to focus on value, to provide simplified solutions for consumers, and to support custom installers with expanded capabilities. All Denon receivers will sport a new GUI that will go over HDMI. Promoting a single-cable solution, the receivers will convert all video signals to HDMI, with video scaling reserved for higher-end models.
The top three receivers in Denon’s 2009 line are designated CI models. In addition to RS-232 control and assignable high-current DC trigger outputs, the units offer a party mode that enables networked Denon products to stream music from an ASD 51N/W iPod server to networked Denon client receivers. The mode also enables networked products to provide status reports from one room to another so that users can see volume levels, source selection, and power status for Denon systems located in other rooms. The ASD-51N/W iPod servers ($249, $299) are Windows 7-, Rhapsody- and Napster-ready; offer IP control; and are web-controllable.
To reduce confusion in its networking receivers, Denon has made networking functionality uniform with regard to codecs, photo streaming, Rhapsody and Napster integration, web browsing, IP control, and remote access. The remote access feature, available exclusively to Denon CI-certified integrators, “has become pretty darn successful for us,” says Jeff Talmadge, director, product development and systems integration. Installers have registered more than 2,000 products on the Denon server, through which installers can diagnose, fix, or upgrade the products from anywhere on the Internet.
In the fall, Denon will launch a Blu-ray player with the same upgradeability. “It will be the world’s first Blu-ray player that has web browsing, upgrades and updates, IP control, and remote access,” Talmadge says. Look for the player to ship just after CEDIA. The company hasn’t made a decision whether to bundle Wi-Fi as well. This summer the company is adding $499 and $699 Profile 2.0 Blu-ray players.
Denon has replaced Faroudja with Anchor Bay video processors for all but the top two receiver models in its line for 2009. The new processors use 10-bit video processing with 12-bit output. All receivers will incorporate Dolby Pro Logic IIz processing, enabling installers to expand 5.1-channel and 7.1-channel systems by two channels. In addition, Denon is the first to incorporate the Audyssey‘s new DSX decoder—in the AVR-4310CI—offering a height or width channel. Receivers will ship between May and July and range in price from $349-$1,999.
Looking ahead, 2009 will continue to be a challenge, Stinziano noted, while adding that the company is positioning itself for the eventual market turnaround. Looking hopefully ahead, Stinziano says Denon plans to shorten product lead times so that the company can respond in a more timely fashion when dealers report an uptick in demand—without risk being left with large inventories should demand shrink.
Stinziano says that further market contraction is likely to occur over 2009, including possible vendor consolidation. “I’m not sure who it’s going to be,” he says. With Denon heading toward its 100-year birthday in 2010, he adds, “We’re going to make sure it’s not us.”