AV Police Squad

Revealing The Magic In AV

I was watching this video the other day about a guy who makes $400 chef knives. I am a knife lover, myself, but even I hesitate as spending so much money on a blade.

But then I see this…and I’m tempted:

I mean, really! How cool is that?! It’s magic. It melds science with art, with lore, with quality, with value. You mean my kitchen knife is made just like a samurai blade “on a moonless night”?! Shut up and take my money, already.

Naturally, this got me thinking about AV.

Why is it that our clients have no trouble paying $100,000+ for a boardroom table and $3,000 for each of twelve chairs for the table, but scoff at the idea of spending $8,000 for an audio system that will let them effectively communicate with the entire world? I think it comes down to how people describe them.

The $100,000 boardroom table: “The 42-by-92-inch Kahiko (Ancient One) table is one of the most unique and expensive tables ever created. The unique grain, known as MegaCurl, seen in this particular piece of wood creates waves that make the surface of the table appear three-dimensional even though it’s flat. The wave effect is exceptionally rare in Ancient Kauri and is not found in any other species of wood.”

Shut up and take my money!

The $3,000 chair: “Arising from the same heritage as the greatest sports cars on earth, Vaya is perfectly engineered to maximize your comfort as it adjusts to your every movement. The same designer responsible for Enzo Ferrari and the new-generation Maserati has devoted his attention to building a new kind of chair with unparalleled precision.”

Shut up and take my money!

The audio system: “The audio system will allow you to make phone calls and hear everyone.”

Shut up and take…hold up a sec. That’s all it does? You want how much for that? But I can buy a speakerphone from RadioShack for like $30. It’s the same thing, right?

I’m not suggesting we should fill our proposals with fluffy nonsense. As engineers, we laugh at such things, like the Galileo LE cables from [edited manufacturer that rhymes with Finnergistic Pea Search]. (These cables “did not use a Litz-like structure of multiple strands of wire twisted, braided, or woven together in a single bundle. Instead, it used individual “air strings” — separate current-bearing, actively shielded, copper/silver alloy, pure silver, pure gold or pure platinum conductors that were routed (via LEMO connectors) into and out of free-stranding electromagnetic power-conditioning/active shielding junction boxes (“Active Mini EM Cells”) that themselves were plugged into “quantum tunneled” Mini Power Coupler power supplies. (Wall-wart-like devices that provided the DC current for the active shielding and EM power conditioning of the cells and the precious metal “strings” attached to them.) Those will run you about $5,000 for a 1m cable…and sound as good as a straightened coat hanger in double-blind, A/B comparison tests.

What I am saying is maybe we can gently clue our clients in to how cool this AV stuff actually is. Maybe show them a demo of what the onboard echo and noise cancelling of a big-name codec can do vs. what an external audio DSP can do, especially in acoustically difficult spaces. The power of the dedicated AEC DSP is like magic. That’s value.

Maybe show them pictures of what a properly calibrated videowall looks like vs. what a video wall color balanced “by eye” looks like. That’s night and day. That’s value.

Maybe show them some screen shots of a typical user interface programmed by someone with limited experience (hundreds of grey buttons on the only menu with little automation) vs. what a streamlined, well-thought-out, mature user interface could looks like (“Greetings Mr. Smith. Are you ready for your 12:30pm call with the Tokyo office? Press here to start the call.”). Shut up and take my money!

We work in a difficult to describe industry. I can’t tell you how many people say, “My spouse still doesn’t know what I do for a living.” And they say it with a little pride, like they are in some secret club that no one knows about. I think that is our biggest obstacle in validating our value. No one knows what we do, so how can we expect them to value what we do, much less appreciate when it is done well? As an industry, we need to do a better job selling what’s “magic” about AV. I whole-heartedly am against fluff and gobbledygook. But, there is enough meat in what we do to keep things simple and honest.

This is a room that was commissioned with AV9000. This is a room that was not. Any questions?

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I think most of our clients just walk into a space and expect it to work flawlessly. They might not have the time or interest to learn about how difficult completing a system could be. But maybe during a low-stress service call, ask for an end-user’s help when dialing in an audio system so they can see the results of a properly referenced audio system. Maybe make taking before and after pictures a habit within your company. If you want to get fancy, put some time-lapse videos of installations on your website to help people understand what it is we do. Then they might start to see the value.

And if that doesn’t work…we can always spin a yarn: “Back in 1876, on a moonless night [maybe], Alex said to his assistant, who happened to be a samurai [maybe], “Mr. Watson. Come here. I need to see you.” To which, Mr. Watson replied, he could be there in a week. You see Mr. Watson was in San Fransisco, and Alex-, or Mr. Alexander Graham Bell, was in New York, and that was the first audio conference. That same feeling of connectedness can be found in this DSP system….” I don’t know. Even with the moonless night and samurai connections, poetic descriptions of audio conference systems still needs some work. I never said it was going to be easy.

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