Wisdom Audio targets foreign markets
Northern Nevada Business Weekly
A decision by Harrods of London, reputed to be the world’s most famous department store, to take on the products of Wisdom Audio a few months ago provided a major boost to the strategic direction of the Carson City company.
Wisdom Audio makes high-performance, architectural in-wall and on-wall speakers. The new products debuted about 18 months ago – just in time to catch the housing market collapse and economic downturn.
With sales tough in the United States, Wisdom Audio shifted its focus to foreign markets. Now it aims to build awareness of the speakers as the best of their kind around the world and to generate momentum when the economy improves at home.
“It’s been tough to develop the distribution in the United States because I think the United States has been hit in a more severe way than some markets overseas,” said Mark Glazier, president of Wisdom Audio. “Most of our sales are going overseas right now.”
England, Germany and Switzerland are Wisdom Audio’s top three markets among the more than 20 countries where the products are sold.
Domestically, dealerships have been established only in Nevada, California and Florida.
“Will we sell more in the United States than overseas? Ultimately we believe so,” Glazier said.
Much of the installation business in the United States had been tied directly to home construction, so when that came to a standstill, it impacted Wisdom Audio’s dealers, Glazier explained.
When the U.S. consumer is ready to install in-wall speakers to go with flat-screen television sets or movie centers, and when a surge in home-building begins anew, Glazier figures Wisdom will be positioned as a respected, worldwide brand.
In the meantime, the company is winning critical kudos.
In September, Wisdom Audio received awards for Excellence in Custom Installed Technologies and Electronics from Custom Retailer Magazine, Best In-Wall Speaker from Residential Systems Magazine and Best In-Wall at the CE Pro BEST Awards.
“We’re proud of that because it’s a reflection that we’re being noticed by people in the industry,” Glazier said. “We’re getting recognized as making an exceptional product.”
Wisdom Audio was founded in 1996 by Tom Bohlender, who had co-founded BG Corporation (another sound-system company). He intended to produce high-end, high-performance, floor-standing loudspeaker systems based on large-scale, thin-filmed planar magnetic drivers.
In 2003, a private investor came onto the scene and, three years later, began restructuring the company. Glazier, an expert in the world of audio, was hired as a consultant in November 2005 and joined company fulltime in February 2007.
Several other leading audio experts were brought on board and together the team began developing a state-of-the-art, in-wall sound system that now includes more than 20 models.
“In-wall speakers have been available for 20 years now and were always regarded as something you put in the bathroom or a secondary room if you just wanted to distribute some music,” Glazier said. “Historically speaking, they’ve never been regarded as high-quality, great sound.”
Once TVs began being mounted on walls, the need for in-wall and on-wall speakers grew, Glazier said.
“This is a product for high-end residential homes,” Glazier said. “The nicer their home, the more likely they will not accept a large box sitting in the room.”
It’s not an inexpensive solution.
The premier in-wall speaker by Wisdom Audio retails for $15,000 per channel or speaker. One customer had seven channels installed around a room.
All Wisdom Audio products are designed and manufactured in Carson City, including a series of proprietary planar magnetic thin-film transducers.
“At the very core of the strength of our offerings is the fact we make our own transducers,” Glazier said. “It’s very rare. In the category of architectural products, I am unaware of anyone else doing it.”