20 YEARS AGO IN THE INDUSTRY
Jun 1, 2003 12:00 PM
Editor's Note: As part of S&VC's 20th anniversary, we're bringing you “20 Years Ago in the Industry,” a retrospective glimpse of the industry and S&VC through the eyes of industry notables. This month S&VC spoke to Loyd Ivey, who founded the Mitek Corp. 35 years ago. Mitek owns Atlas Sound, MTX Audio, Acoustic Streetwires, Esoteric Audio, DCM Loudspeakers, Oaktron, Spundcraftsman, and other companies. Ivey is vice chairman of CES and a governor of IEA.
How has the industry changed in the past 20 years?
Completely. Before it was kind of a multitiered distribution business, and with the advent and convergence of digital, first the CD player and now delivering music over the Internet, the whole digital domain that we live in now has completely changed everything we think about. Our voice tone loudspeakers have to have a higher level of intelligibility, and everything that we're manufacturing under the UL certification is focused on higher and higher quality. With the digital source material, the sirens, the enunciation — they all have to handle more power and cover more area. In restaurants and bars and different venues, people are focused on a higher quality of program material. That standard is constantly being raised.
What are the factors that have contributed to these changes?
Music. Twenty years ago, it was elevator music. We were playing various forms of elevator music. Now the source materials are far greater and the dynamic range that is expected — even in the office where they have music, we're selling a lot of in-ceiling subwoofers. Atlas is introducing a lot of flying systems and flying subwoofers that will be used in open format restaurants. Stores like the Gap and Old Navy have an open format now. Before, stores were white tile floors and suspended ceilings like a Sears store or a Kmart. Now we're dealing a lot more with the high-ceiling open format.
How has your business changed in past two decades?
Background music was basically background music. We had an 8-inch paper cone loudspeaker attached to a 12-inch diameter grille that was held in the ceiling with a ¾- or 1-inch voice coil. Most of the transformers were tapped at 5W to 7.5W. Now we're dealing with complete enclosed systems that have a very nice look, a screened grille, a metal back can, and flip-out ears, and the sonic quality has gone up and up. The demands of the customers, the architects and spec writers, and the sound contractors have continually gone up. The cost of labor to install this has also constantly gone up. Therefore we have to build products that reduce labor. I've seen a lot of people in the consumer side come in. These are people who are in the hi-fi business because a lot of the hi-fi business, conventional home stereos, went to HTIB: home theater-in-a-box completed systems. People from the hi-fi world have migrated into the commercial sound side, even if they don't quite know what they're doing. If they kick around long enough, they'll figure out. A lot of new players are entering into the commercial sound business, and even though they don't have the slightest clue as to what they're doing, they are entering into the market. The playing field is getting much more populated with players, and the overall market is not growing that much. There is going to be a shakeout along somewhere.
Is that growing competition your business's greatest challenge?
No. The major challenges we're faced with are global economic challenges. We're dealing with a war in Iraq and one of the greatest threats, SARS. One of our large customers, which is building stores at a phenomenal rate, won't even let people come to see it from Hong Kong or Toronto. Until the cure is found for SARS, there's a possibility that the Consumer Electronics Show, the NSCA, and the InfoComm shows could be shut down. It's a real problem.
What kind of changes do you anticipate in the next 20 years?
I believe the delivery system of program and source material will continue to escalate to higher levels of digital and compression. Voice tone intelligibility will continue to become greater. I believe there will be a higher level of intelligibility in all the hotels and casinos and restaurants. There will be a lot more people trying to enter the commercial sound market from the bottom side. Companies that continue to push the standards higher and higher will be the winners.
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