September 20, 2016:Damson Audio wants to undercut Sonos, thinks Amazon Echo will flop

The wireless speaker market is a crowded one but some people fear its main barrier is still that devices are too expensive for most consumers.

James Talbot, the CEO of Damson Audio, feels the market is ripe for disruption – but the real potential lies in home cinema and home gaming rather than music.

His company’s latest range of speakers and soundbars are going live this week on Indiegogo for pre-orders ahead of a full launch in April. Talbot says the home audio market has to be fought on two fronts – price and device size – and he sees both as the things holding back Sonos’s growth.

“We are going for the home cinema market,” he tells Music Ally. “We want to take on the soundbar market and disrupt that by destroying the myth that you have to have a speaker that is a metre wide sitting underneath your TV. Our main goal is to disrupt that sector and then try and disrupt the wireless streaming sector.”

He says that Damson’s own consumer research has found that the average Sonos customer owns 2.1 devices, but the majority only own one – and cost is the biggest barrier.

He believes this is because the devices are too expensive and the high-end players in the market are leaving a lot of money on the table by not catering for the mid-level consumer.

“I think streaming music is a big market,” he says. “I think that in terms of the market [potential], people haven’t even adopted it properly. It is the early adopters, but there is still a raft of people out there who aren’t using it.”

He also feels that speakers bundled with access to an audio service for a set period of time are exercises in futility. When asked if he thinks the rumours around Amazon’s Echo, with a low-cost music service subscription bundled into the devices, can provide the mainstream push that wireless music streaming has been waiting for, he feels it will fall flat.

“I don’t think people care enough about that,” he said. “The thing with Echo is that it is always on as it always has to be listening and waiting for your commands. I think some people will have concerns about that. You have power supply that has to be on permanently.”

He adds, “I think people want speakers to be agnostic. You can access your subscriptions through the speakers anyway, so why would you want to be forcing something through something else?”

Fighting talk, although with more than 4m Echo units sold so far, and nearly $1bn of Sonos sales in 2015 alone, those two device families have the sales that Damson Audio is still aspiring to.

Talbot has previously taken two other projects through Indiegogo successfully and feels that it is important for Damson to do it again with its new speakers – not to gauge demand but to do market research by stealth.

“There are two elements for us here,” he says of the Indiegogo route where a limited number of pre-orders will ship before Christmas and the rest available in April. “First, we get to build that brand loyalty and the pre-orders; second, you get to read every single comment that people make and some of the comments are really beneficial and this has helped on the previous two projects to integrate better functionality.”

He is bullish about the potential he feels Damson has spotted in the market, saying it has set itself the goal of selling 100,000 units in the first year.

“What we have done to date has been done on a shoestring budget and we have not really spent anything on marketing at all,” he says. “It has all been word of mouth. Now we are going for it and will [really] be spending money on the marketing.”

Stuart Dredge
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