This is the second part of my discussion with Gordon Shackelford, VP of Sales for Krell, to find out more about Krell’s latest components and where he sees the evolution of the custom integration industry progressing. To read Part One, go here.
Maureen Jenson: Last week we talked about the new Krell Theater 7 seven-channel Home Theater amplifier and the luxury market. Any other new products you would like to talk about?
Gordon Shackelford: Yes, the Digital Vanguard, which is now ROON capable and controllable, is a very exciting piece for me because at $6,000 it represents everything that is both classic and new from Krell at a very attractive price. I displayed the Digital Vanguard at Rocky Mountain Audiofest and was extremely gratified by the positive reception by the audiophile crowd.
The Digital Vanguard incorporates a 200-watt-per channel amplifier and a Class A preamplifier, enclosed in a chassis that borrows its design and construction from the Krell Foundation preamp/processor. Digital support has been included with USB, HDMI, coaxial, and optical inputs as well as Ethernet audio and Bluetooth streaming. Ethernet music streaming can be controlled through dedicated iOS and Android apps such as Roon, Tidal, and Deezer; and Bluetooth is available for high-quality wireless streaming from phones, tablets and computers.
MJ: With your deep roots in custom integration, how do you see the industry changing as a whole?
GS: In recent years I have been amazed by how the industry has embraced or eagerly sought out the next big thing, also known as “the flavor of the month.” 3D jumps immediately to mind. It was, from the industry’s standpoint, a must-have feature which precluded selling any sets that did not have it. The trouble was the industry never asked its customers if they actually cared for or wanted 3D. It turns out they didn’t, and the stigma of that technology being foisted on the public lingers with customers concerns about “Gimmickry”.
Our lives would be so much simpler if the manufacturers and their engineers utilized market research and focus groups to find out what consumers think the next big thing should be. It would really be nice as well if the industry and CE press could refrain from hyping unavailable technology like 8K, twenty minutes after consumers sorta’, kinda’ are beginning to grok 4K. There is nothing more disheartening than having a consumer ask you if they should wait for 8K, instead of buying 4K now.
Aside from the confusion over technology, which can really put a dent in an integrator’s design plans, there exists the basic reality of clients’ expectations of what a custom project really is, and what it is supposed to do. Nearly every custom project I’ve ever dealt with was based on the reality that the folks who are paying for these systems don’t have the time or inclination to learn all about custom install. They simply and rightly expect a reliable setup that functions flawlessly, is bulletproof, easily controlled and whose performance screams value and money well spent. This is why the recent push for do-it-yourself smart home products baffled me, because it goes against the grain of the true value-add that an excellent integrator brings to the scene. Even the simplest do-it-yourself setup is too complicated for most of the customers I’ve dealt with. Whether it is Nest, Sonos or Harmony remote controls, my clients could never be bothered with anything more than basic instructions involving as few button pushes as possible.
Lastly, I’d like to say that the biggest change in custom integration I’ve seen in the past few years is the need for the integrator to protect the integrity and performance of his/her work by preselling as powerful and robust a network, especially the wireless aspect, as is possible. Twenty years ago systems were never dependent on the performance of cheap connected components. These days it all rises and falls on the strength of the network and its connected devices. No matter how expensive the componentry might be, if there is no internet or if a cheap set top box fails, there is no Pandora, Netflix or Apple TV. There is nothing like a cheapish wireless router failing to accommodate five adults on smartphones and 15 grandchildren on iPads to ruin any integrator’s Christmas.
MJ: Anything else you would care to add?
GS: Krell is a venerated brand name that has been serving its customers with high-end products that are amazingly powerful, robust and musical for 37 years. Our base of legacy customers and their loyal support runs broad and deep. It has been these customers’ word of mouth and long-term satisfaction that has kept Krell vital as a brand. As the industry has shifted away from a purely two-channel world toward home theater, whole-house audio, and media room setups, Krell has expanded its scope to meet the needs of its customer’s expectations. I often hear, “I’ve always had Krell, I love it, I’d like to keep it that way.”
To that base of customers who know and love the Krell sound, I’d like to say, thank you very much for your support and Krell wants you to know that our strategic vision is one that aims to make you all happy for a very long time to come!
To those dealers and integrators who are not currently offering your customers the choice of Krell products, I’d like to invite you to contact me and give me the opportunity to explore with you if adding Krell products to your line-up would be a good fit. If our past customers are any indication, chances are pretty good that Krell just might be.
Krell Industries, Inc.
Vice President, Sales