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9-21-2016 -- As things typically go in the consumer electronics world, you can start out in one place and end up somewhere completely unexpected. Such was the case with Paul Goldberg, who took the reins at the Montebello, Calif.-based Epsilon Group of Companies more than 18 months ago as VP of sales and marketing.­­

Started 35 years ago by brothers Jack and Don Rochel, Epsilon has grown from its roots as a single brand, Power Acoustik, to an industry leading outfit that houses several major names under its umbrella including Farenheit, SPL, Soundstream, and Precision Power.

Surprisingly, Goldberg’s career hasn’t included car audio at all. He worked for DXG Technology Inc., a maker of digital cameras and camcorders. He spent time at Epson America, MicroCom, and Diamond Multimedia where he spent 10 years selling cable modems, routers and graphics cards for gamers. “I’ve been in just about everything over the years.”

But being a newcomer to the 12-volt world definitely has its advantages. “The reason [the Rochel brothers] brought me on board was because of my different perspective than a lot of vets in the business,” Goldberg said. “My background is computers, peripherals, connectivity, video, still pictures—and all of these technologies are now being incorporated into the connected car environment. I’m not a hardcore audiophile, but I’ve come into this industry with a lot of experience in other consumer electronics categories and have an understanding of the different channels for those kinds of technologies. So that is where my perspective differs and gives me the ability to take a look at where this company can go and will go into the future as opposed to the same things that have been done already. What are we going to do, come out with another thousand-watt amplifier? What consumers want is access to technology at a reasonable cost—and that is what we do.”

All In The Family

With his fresh outlook, Goldberg is focused on positioning all of the company’s diverse brands to a more discerning consumer base. “We’re looking to differentiate,” he said. “One of the issues is that a lot of the different models have similarities. We need to have each model in each brand do its own thing and exist on its own rather than be a clone of another brand. There has been a lot of diversification in the last year. You’ve seen the graphic user interface with video products. The performance and design with speakers and amps are now very different.”

The products also target different price points and address different concerns of consumers in the marketplace, Goldberg noted.

The growth strategy that has been in place has paid off, he said, with market share and profitability results to prove it. “We’ve grown by six or seven percent, very profitable,” Goldberg said. “We’re about 12 to 14 percent ahead of where we were last year at this time.”

The backbone of the effort is about having the right product. “In general, we’ve been very successful in head units that incorporate navigation,” Goldberg said. “Our competitors have been indicating that that’s been on the decline, but our customers have said they’re coming to us because we produce a great product at a great price. A lot of our units allow you to plug in your smartphone and mirror what’s on your display. Incorporating your smartphone into your head unit has been a real winner for us in terms of where we have gone.”

The company has also added digital amps to its lineup—ones that are smaller and throw off much less heat with more power than the gigantic amps that have been the norm in the business for a long time. “Even though it’s technology that has just started being embraced by the consumer, it is a good strategy because it’s growing.”

Speaker technologies have also been expanded with a variety of woofers at different price points that are both efficient and capable of handling a range of amp power. “Those have done very well for us,” Goldberg noted.

To steer product development in the right direction, Goldberg has implemented something he has found successful in his previous lives—the focus group. “When we design something, engineers talk to chip makers about all the great technology that can be incorporated into a product. If you incorporate this great tech into a product, you also have to consider what the consumer wants. We’ve gotten a lot of consumer feedback. We create prototypes, get consumer feedback, and based on that feedback decide what features will be included in products. We’re just seeing now how it is starting to pay off.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

In its 20th year, KnowledgeFest reaches new heights by offering retailers the tools to shift their businesses to coincide with current OEM technology trends. The event also saw a new batch of industry award winners crowned to help usher in the next era of 12-volt.

9-6-2016 -- Milestones happen every day. People make goals and achieve them. But those milestones are almost never achieved without sacrifice.

After 20 years, KnowledgeFest has reached a rare milestone in the 12-volt industry, having created a place for anyone who loves car audio to come and learn new skills to enhance their craft. This year's event took place at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas August 20 to 22 and included over 40 exhibitors, 23 classes, nearly 50 product trainings and the culmination of a new round of winners at the 2016 Mobile Electronics Industry Awards. The city has hosted the event since 2010.

To house the event, the Hilton Anatole provided 10 classrooms, a trade show hall, a ballroom for the town hall and industry awards, and access to several restaurants, bars, shops and a brand new water park for hotel guests. The city itself also played host to visiting attendees thanks to its wide selection of quality restaurants, including many BBQ joints close to the hotel.

Guests were able to pre-register for classes using the website, which also served as the digital schedule of events for guests to check during the three-day conference. The event marked the first time the website was used as a primary resource for the event schedule. 

All of this was presented in cooperation with several manufacturers who operated as sponsors for the event, in addition to the registration fees paid by attendees. However, the largest contributor to the event could not be measured in money or time, but passion. To last 20 years, an event like this would not be possible without a continuous drive from its attendees and educators to help improve the industry and overcome all obstacles over the years. Thankfully, it has all of the above.


Day 1 - Bad Weather, New Faces

Being that Dallas is located in a central location to the rest of the country, one might think it's accessible enough to limit travel issues to a minimum. But mother nature doesn't always play by the rules. Due to inclement weather, many attendees coming from the east coast were delayed up to a day. Some of those attendees were also educators, like Matt Schaeffer, whose class, "The Perfect Pic: Better Photography to Promote Your Business," was postponed until the final day, while taking the place of a cancelled class, "Public Relations: Let the Media Market For You."

Thankfully, those were the only courses impacted by the weather problem. Meanwhile, in Dallas, the rain poured on and off like a faucet throughout the event, while hotel guests, including some KnowledgeFest attendees, kept a close eye on the rain to give themselves enough time at JadeWaters, the new water park on the hotel grounds. The park features a lazy river, swim-up bar and water slides. Despite the lack of pool time available, attendees found plenty of ways to socialize outside of classes, including between classes in the hallways, at the bars, outside with a cigarette, or on the show floor, which started with a bang on day one, with every booth seeing some action from the get-go.

Several companies made their debuts at the show in 2016, all offering a different category of product. Omega Research & Technology came to showcase a wide array of products, but geared its presentation toward the most relevant technologically advanced products, including its new Linker smartphone control app. The platform allows GPS tracking and is designed to incorporate linking between home alarm and vehicle security monitoring. The company, which has been around since 1971, chose to make this year its first at KnowledgeFest due mainly to the evaporating presence of 12-volt companies at shows like SEMA and CES, where it primarily showcased in the past, according to Mike Thompson, product development manager at Omega.

"With technology shifts being so rapid these past few years, dealers are struggling to keep up. The industry needs a regrouping internally so we can figure out where to go," Thompson said. "We're really excited to come to a show with a 100 percent focus on the aftermarket. There's a solid state of unrest throughout the country, so dealers are struggling and are more reluctant to go to shows like SEMA and CES. Although we do a lot of International business, I really feel like KnowledgeFest helps us turn our attention more to our domestic guys."

On the 12-volt accessory front was F.A.S.T. Rings, the foam acoustic sealers that have become a popular commodity thanks partially to their being sold and promoted by Mobile Solutions. The rings represent an expanding market for 12-volt accessory products that saw several other vendors present on the floor as well, including Kingpin University, Mobile Solutions and SoundSkins.

As a trend, the majority of the companies featuring new products either were enhancing already popular products or adding to an emerging market, such as safety. One such product was the Bury Hands Free Car Kit, presented by John Haynes of Al & Ed's Autosound. The German manufacturer has decided to branch out into the North American market in preparation for a continuing trend of OEM add-on products in upcoming vehicles. 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

9-5-2017, Mobile Electronics -- People are motivated by many things in life. Money, family and career ambition are among them. A chief ideal among many is to do the right thing. It's not always clear what that is, but for the most part, it's widely understood that doing the right thing usually requires doing something for others. Often, it's a favor. For those who believe in principles like honor, dignity and integrity, any favor given is one returned, to keep balance in the world.

Joe Cassity, owner of Tunes-N-Tint in Lakeland, Fla., believes in these principles and uses them daily to cater to the needs of customers. Whether that entails going above and beyond to help a customer in a stressful situation or by adding window tinting or specialty lighting to his business, Cassity reaps the rewards of his ever-expanding offerings through his growing list of return customers.

"We're in the customer service business, we just happen to sell X. Whether that be car audio, leather or window tint, at the end of the day customers come to us because of the experience, not the product," Cassity said. "The most important person who comes into the store is the customer."

It's no wonder Cassity developed such a strong affinity for helping his customers considering his background working for so many companies that didn't carry as strong an opinion on the subject. "From a very young age, the car stereo bug bit me. I had bought products off of JC Whitney, Pyramid Electronics and a few low-end brands. I started out as a part-time installer at Circuit City around 1999 and worked my way to a management position with them," he said. "It was one of the few places that would hire someone without professional experience. I was let go in the structure change in an early round. There was a conflict with management, which made it more than a cost-saving measure for them. It gave me an opportunity to prove myself in spite of being let go."

His disagreements with management at Circuit City led Cassity to make the fateful decision to start his own store, Alarms, Etc., a mobile installation company. Within six months, he knew he had made the right decision as the company was profitable enough to open its first retail location.

Over the course of two years, the company became a chain with two more locations, two in Lakeland, Fla. and the original remaining in Tampa. In 2009, the Tampa store was sold as a franchise store, leaving the two Lakeland locations. Finally, in 2016, Cassity decided to consolidate both Lakeland locations into a single store to better streamline operations and cut down on overhead. "It allowed us to increase some of the services we were offering and now we are a single location retailer," he added. "That location in Tampa is over 30 miles away so we're not in direct competition and still work together from time to time."

The name change from Alarms, Etc. to Tunes-N-Tint was made due to the change in product sales, mainly that window film had become such a large seller. "While security was once our bread and butter, it's not as big a part of our business as it once was. We still have a lot of customers who believe the head unit is the heart of the system," Cassity said. "As more integrated systems are hitting our store, we're seeing more need for OEM integration. Safety has also been a huge growth category for us. We were an early adopter of Mobileye and Rydeen's 360 cameras."

Part of the name change was the addition of the tagline "Automotive Restyling," which includes leather, upholstery, spray and bed liners, and truck accessories, which has been a huge growth opportunity for the store this year. "It gave us a strong focus, let us set up accounts with some of our key vendors like Keystone and Meyers to offer a wider range of products, vehicle lifts, graphics, wraps and electronics."

The overall effect of consolidating his business has allowed Cassity to focus more on improving margins through strong customer service practices, in addition to lowering risk and liability exposure through having only one store.

Read the rest of the issue HERE.

9-28-2017, Mobile Electronics -- In the last segment on this topic, I suggested a process to be used in the installation bay for tuning cars that’s effective and efficient. For some readers, this process may differ greatly from what you’ve been told by numerous enthusiasts, sound quality judges and other accomplished tuners. So, before we get started here, I’d like to explain why.
There’s a big difference between tuning cars as a profession and tuning cars as a hobby. For the hobbyist, the tuning is often the end rather than the means. The tuner likes to spend hours experimenting, listening and retuning. For the professional, these extra hours spent on listening and retuning eat into our profits and our ability to move on to the next car.

Finding Balance
First, my objective in all of the tech tips I write—whether those tips are on the Audiofrog web forum, on Facebook or in articles like this one—is to provide an appropriate balance between speed, predictability and performance. In the interest of speed and predictability, I favor objective processes that don’t require us to use our ears and make a thousand subjective analyses and an endless series of adjustments. There’s a place for subjective analysis, but that’s after all objective measures have been exhausted.
There’s a temptation among many of us to see the speedy and objective process as worse than the lengthy “artisan” process of tuning primarily by ear. This is a fallacious argument if the quality of the performance that the two processes provide is the same or even similar.
Here’s an example: Every subwoofer box built for a round subwoofer needs a hole in the baffle that fits the subwoofer. What’s the appropriate tool? Most of us would immediately say it’s a router with a circle template or a circle cutting jig. For some, the answer is a CNC router. We don’t bash these processes as lacking the necessary opportunity to include our “art” or our skill in the process, even though cutting the circle freehand and with no line to follow using a jigsaw would better demonstrate our circle cutting skills.
What are the chances that we’d cut a circle with a jigsaw and no guide to follow as accurately as our CNC machine? Not good. Eventually, with a series of files and sandpaper, we might get close and after a much longer process, we could demonstrate that the outcomes are similar. What’s the difference? Cost. If we’re charging the customer $30 to cut a round hole, then it behooves us to use the most efficient method that provides an appropriate outcome.
In our circle cutting example, the objective process is not only speedier, it’s more accurate, too. Determining if the circle is correct is a simple matter; either the speaker fits or it doesn’t fit.
“Hey, there’s a difference. Sound is subjective but a circle isn’t!”
Yes, that’s true. Sound is somewhat subjective. Some customers prefer more bass. Some prefer less high frequency content. That doesn’t change what stereo systems and a stereo recordings are designed to do. That design dictates what’s correct. The system is correct when the left and right frequency responses match and the signals arrive at the listener in phase. After it is correct, we can make some adjustments for personal preference.
When we are tuning cars, our objective tools and the information they display allow us to see how far from correct we are in each step of the process. Because of the way our brains work in processing what we hear, it’s helpful for us to use analysis methods that correlate well with what we hear. Some measurement processes are better than others.
We’re all probably familiar with the situation in which the RTA curve appears to be correct, but the car sounds terrible. In some cases, tuners use this as a reason to reject the tool, rather than look deeper into the reason that what appears to be correct is not. The first question to ask in that situation is, “Does this measurement make sense?” The second question is, “What am I really measuring?” The RTA doesn’t lie, but it also doesn’t completely characterize the performance of the system. It shows us one aspect of performance.
Do tools exist that allow us to completely characterize the performance of the system? Sure. Do we all know how to use them? No. Is it necessary to completely characterize and correct everything? No.
Our next consideration should be, “Which deviations from correct are inaudible?” We don’t need to focus on those. If we don’t need to focus on them, then we don’t need to spend money and time analyzing them during a production tuning process. As a skills-building exercise to be conducted on our own time, learning those processes and how to use those tools may make us better able to identify problems and solutions, but those activities should be extracurricular. When we’ve improved those skills to the point at which we can deploy them to increase accuracy, predictability or efficiency, we should introduce them into our process.
The objective of this article is to clear up a few misunderstandings about what we measure, what it means and what’s sufficient based on audibility. 

Read the rest of the story HERE.

Editor's Note: This month we kick off a new series called The Support Team to take a closer look at how manufacturers are handling support functions across the board whether it’s customer support, tech support, rep support—it all needs to come together to keep wheels turning. Read on for our first installment featuring AAMP.

9-13-2017, Mobile Electronics -- Taking care of folks, whether it’s dealers or consumers, requires some hand holding, a touch of tough love, and a sense of humor. Just take a look at AAMP’s support page on their website which reads: “WE'RE HERE FOR YOU. Drop us a line, give us a call, or send your carrier pigeon if that's how you roll.”

AAMP has taken an aggressive but innovative approach to support with its Team Phantom initiative. In the middle of its two-year rollout, the program sets a new standard in retail support in the 12-volt industry. The core of Team Phantom revolves around in-field experts who provide solution consultations and leading edge customer service, sales support, and product training for AAMP’s network of retail partners.

“We are the first line of defense for AAMP to the dealer and we’re also the marketing voice at consumer-based shows,” said Mike Eckley, Team Phantom sales manager and Mobile Electronics Sales Rep of the Year. “We are a multi-hat function—we’re technical support, sales support, and marketing support. We go in and help dealers merchandise their stores. We solidify sales business with our inside salesperson. We essentially are the eyes and ears of AAMP that are constantly moving out on the street.”

The Phantom team is now in six regions with the larger rollout to encompass a team of 40 for the full-blown Phantom Nation. Outfitted in high-impact, experiential AAMP-branded showcase vehicles, 2014 to 2017 Chevy 1500s, these special vehicles allow AAMP’s partners to fully immerse themselves in AAMP Power Brands solutions and preview new products pre-launch.

“Right now we are right in the middle of the full launch so we are still about a year-and-a-half out,” Eckley said, who handles the Florida region. “In the Northwestern territory—the Seattle market—there is Mike Hall. In the Dallas, Texas area we have Kevin Allen. Rick Ross is in the Bible Belt region—Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and some of Mississippi. Jason Denton is in the northern to mid-eastern area covering Pennsylvania, part of New York, and New Jersey. Our latest member is Steve Rogers who handles the Chicago/Dakota market.”

Team Phantom doesn’t replace the standard procedures already in place. For instance, there is still the 800-number (hit option 2) and it puts someone through to technical support. For marketing questions, dealers can send an e-mail request through a generator on the website.

“Those things haven’t gone away just because we now have Phantoms,” Eckley said. “We just have a faster response time in that aspect, but we are still regionally based and the team is still in its infancy.”

Step Inside And Be Surprised

When CEO David Klatt, Jr. took the helm of AAMP over two years, he brought with him some ideas to jumpstart the sales programs. While at Black & Decker and DeWalt Tools, Klatt was part of the senior sales leadership involved with “swarm teams” that would go out to store openings, regional events, and construction sites to host demos to build awareness for the brands and the products.

“When Klatt became the CEO of AAMP, it was easy for him to implement this swarm idea because he already knew the success it would have,” said Eckley. “He knew we needed guys on the street; we needed guys out there that would bleed AAMP.”

Next it was a matter of getting the trucks and loading them with all of the products and dealer support materials. Inside is everything from Phoenix Gold speakers and amplifiers to Stinger wiring and accessories to Stinger batteries to Stinger RoadKill products, along with PAC automotive integration pieces, and EchoMaster safety products.

“We’ve got product outfitted in the vehicles so someone can walk in, see what is new, check it out, try it, and then we can go to the back and install it,” said Eckley. “That is what the Phantom team does. We take every aspect of the business from AAMP and put it in the hands of the retailer when we are right there. It is much like being a rep, but we are a concentrated rep. We are only focused on AAMP-branded products.”

The success to date isn’t just due to loading up the trucks with the right product. It’s also about Team Phantom’s long-tenured and knowledgeable sales staff. “We have all been in the industry a very long time and we all have strengths that make us better than any one person on the team,” Eckley said. “Each of us has 15 to 20 years of experience in this industry. We’re not a marketing team being managed by an outside firm. We are car audio enthusiasts who had shops, were reps, worked for other manufacturers—so the team is put together from that aspect.”

Read the rest of the story HERE.

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