Interview: "Why now is the right time for AudioXperts"

posted on Monday, 22nd October 2012 by Steve May

home cinema  Hi-fi  High-end 


Eli Harary knows a thing or two about the hi-fi and home cinema business. Over the past 20 years he has been involved with a plethora of familiar brands, including Boston Acoustics and JBL. During the glory days of home theatre, he launched JBL Synthesis, arguably the first example of a high-end multi-channel system designed with clearly differentiated movie and music modes.

His latest venture, AudioXperts is a little different. He's not setting out to re-enter the high-end hi-fi industry, instead he's making a play for the luxury lifestyle sector, which he says is very different.

Inside CI caught up with Harary on a recent promotional visit to UK, during which he unveiled the AudioXperts launch portfolio to UK dealers: the 4TV home entertainment console, EVA tabletop audio products and Korners discrete room speakers.

Harary explained that he felt there was a real opportunity for a new brand in the luxury goods sector, despite difficult trading conditions. "You need to consider the size of the audience, the size of the marketplace," he said. "The high-end hi-fi market does around $20m worth of business a year globally, while the low-end does about a billion dollars a year. Both are overscribed. But the luxury goods market is largely served by just one company, Bose, and they're speaking to around $600m worth of customers. That's significant."

Eli says he's full of admiration for what "the B-brand" has achieved. "They've done a great job of marketing themselves as a technology company. But more importantly, they deliver just enough of what that particular customer needs to enjoy their entertainment. Would I own a Bose? Probably not. I don't necessarily think they perform as well as they should, but at the end of the day they have figured out a way to give access to entertainment to a lot more people." Crucially, he adds, "they speak to humans - not audio guys." Harary says that it's not just the consumer which is underserved in the premium product sector, it's dealers too. "After all, what have they got to sell?"

He's quick to point out the AudioXperts is not a another speaker brand: "What we want to do is deliver unique lifestyle solutions, into where I think there are gaps for consumers. AudioXperts is not about one kind of category. What we are is a great team of people, all passionate about audio."

"One of the things that we're doing which I think says of our commitment to this business is that all our products will carry a five year parts and labour warranty. If the product breaks during the first two years, you just get a new one. We're not interested in having a customer pay £2,000 for a great new lifestyle product, have it work for a year, fail and then have his dealer say'OK, we'll have it repaired for you in 90 days.' If it fails, we'll just give you a new one. We figure that once products work past two years, then they're going to work forever."

Home entertainment reimagined
The AudioXperts president was an early advocate of soundbars, currently one of the fastest growing product areas in hi-fi. "What I quickly realised is that most buyers of flatpanel TVs, regardless of their aspirations, put their screens on a piece of furniture, they don't put them up on a wall. Now the speaker industry has spent the past ten years developing speakers that go up on a wall, but 70 per cent of the market doesn't want that. So I decided we were going to deliver a product that was underneath the TV set."

He's quick to point out that the 4TV isn't a soundbar per se. "We call it an Audio Entertainment Console. It does a great job of playing home theatre, but also does a great job of playing music." Certainly the build quality and attention to detail on the two launch models is extraordinary. They are finished in glass and aluminium; control LEDs go off after about 5 seconds, and don't come back until you approach the unit, triggered by a proximity sensor.

"I surveyed 100 adults and asked them how many would like to have another remote on their coffee table," says Harary, "and I got a 100 per cent response of 'No thanks!' So what the 4TV console does is very simply learn your television remote, and it only learns the key functions: volume up anddown, mute and power. If you want to manipulate other stuff in the settings, you do have to get up and do it on the unit."

Harary hints that over the next twelve months, the brand will move into other areas, including in-car. "I didn't want to see us get pigeon-holed into making a particular product category. What we want people to recognise is the variety of solutions we're providing."

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Also read:
AudioXperts land with a new vision for TV and audio


Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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