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JerryDelColliano 06-01-2007 01:37 PM

IS THIEL Crazy Opening Crutchfield?
I am working on a story about THIEL opening Crutchfield - a bizzare move for a traditional audio-speaker company.

On some levels, I respect Kathy Gornik's ballsy move. In the Los Angeles market 3 of the top 4 selling Mercedes dealers are within 15 miles of each other (Fletcher Jones, Laguna Niguel and House of Imports) where most other markets have protected dealers. For example, in Phoenix there are only 3 dealers (one is new) yet the market is the 4th or 5th biggest in the nation. The result is in LA and OC - mercedes are on every corner. Kathy's bet is she can have the best of both worlds. Time will tell.

On another level - THIEL is an old-school company with many old school dealers that will NOT take kindly to this move. It will impact their sales unless Crutchfield can gurantee orders to protect them. Crutchfield doesn't market online nor does THIEL which is a double whammy against THIEL on this deal. Audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike do ALMOST ALL of their reseatch online and excellent newer companies like Revel, Wilson, MartinLogan, Paradigm, B&W, PSB, Gallo, Aperion, Usher and many others have stolen a lot of the marketshare from old-school companies like THEIL.

Where I think THEIL blew it was promoting them being a "green" company. when I sold THEIL at Christopher Hansen Ltd. in the early 1990's here in Beverly Hills, THEIL was way ahead of the game in promoting renewable resources. I belive they are still into the concept but who ever hears about it? This is a HUGE mistake on their part. Even the evil empire of Walmart is going green. with that said, does anyone think THIEL will open Walmart? Perhaps if they made speakers that better matched the 2,000,000 flat HDTVs on the market - they could get the meeting?


Mike Rubin 06-08-2007 10:15 AM

Re: IS THIEL Crazy Opening Crutchfield?
I don't think this is as crazy as most audiophiles do, although I'd have started with someplace like Audio Advisor, Music Direct, or Acoustic Sounds before Crutchfield if I wanted to reach people who actually can afford Thiel products. There are only a handful of high end dealers who are prepared to demonstrate Thiels properly, anyway, and even they probably are focusing more on the trendier brands, so Thiel probably has both geographic "white space" and relatively unenthusiastic dealers with which to deal.

And let me suggest something heretical here: Dealer demos are vastly overrated. Until recently, I've bought every set of speakers I've owned after listening at a dealer's place. I've gotten dogs and gems alike despite my efforts. A lot of dealer soundrooms are set up poorly or for HT rather than audio; especially if set up properly, the sound rooms never present the same issues as my room does; the sales guys need to make their quotas even if not on commission so they push what they need to push or tell you what they think you want to hear; the associated equipment all too often either is completely different than what you'd use at home (all tubes or Class A, for example, in the soundrooms when I bought my last turntable) or, even if the same sort of configuration I'd use, from the stratospheric rather than relatively modest end of the price range and thus not comparable to anything that I'd use to drive the speakers at home.

It isn't so crazy these days to buy mail order from a company with a decent return policy and see how things do at home. I bought the last speakers I owned -- Infinity Intermezzo's -- from Audio Advisor on the strength of good reviews and a great sale price, and I did not regret the purchase one bit. I had thirty days to return the speakers if I did not like them, but I drove them with my sources and amp and in my llstening room for the thirty days. While I admit it would be a pain in the arse to return speakers to Crutchfield or whoever if I were not happy with them, that isn't any greater impediment to me than woud be trying to convince a local dealer that he or she sold me something with which I could not live. With so many successful online speaker direct sellers these days, I suspect that others have started to think that the local demo can be overrated.

I used to like Thiels when I last shopped for speakers locally, but they were out of my price range then. I have heard so little about them lately that they've kind of fallen off of my radar now that I actually could pay for them. And, while I doubt that Crutchfield would have gotten my eye, the three other online companies I mentioned might have. I suspect I won't be purchasing Thiels (because of amplification and placement concerns), but I like that Thiel is reaching out to the public in ways its dealer network probably could not.

deacongreg 06-11-2007 12:46 PM

Re: IS THIEL Crazy Opening Crutchfield?
I originally heard Theil speakers some years ago at Innovative Audio/Video in Brooklyn. With the Levinsons, the sound was very detailed, open and articulate. And that was maybe, 1999. However, placement with them is more critical than some others.

It is true that Thiel has fallen off. I can not remember the last time I read a review, for any of their speakers. I can not even remember the last time I saw there speakers in a sound room, or hi - fi show. Thiel to me is a company only the high end community knows. With Crutchfield, to me, is not a great fit. I could be wrong, but the consumers who read Crutchfield, are not there regular customers.

Only time will tell if this will be a good move for Thiel.

JerryDelColliano 06-13-2007 08:54 AM

Re: IS THIEL Crazy Opening Crutchfield?
Kathy Gornik who runs THEIL is one smart cookie. She is on the audio board of the CEA and has run a mostly successful speaker company for decades which is saying something. At that level, I can give her the benefit of the doubt on this decision.

With that said, understanding the mindset of the traditional audiophile dealer the way I do (coming from that world and having succesfully solf THIEL years ago) the remaining dealers are likely to FREAK over this news. I could see them dropping the line right away with dozens of new lines with more protected distribution systems.

The question this leads me to is - have the audiophile dealers gone so far that they have no buying power any more? The days of the Stereophile or TAS review that drove new consumers in the front door by the dozens - is gone by 10 years. Most every audiophile dealer demands 50 points profit margin but they don't market their products and systems to new, local clients. They just pocke the margin from the sales created by consumer demand from the manufacturer and their marketing. Say what you want about Crutchfield but their list is big and the catalog - far reaching. Is it possible they have more reach with their catalog than traditional THEIL dealers? It think it is.

deacongreg 06-13-2007 11:42 AM

Re: IS THIEL Crazy Opening Crutchfield?
Maybe the catalog does reach more consumers. I`ll give you that. And if your saying this is the trend in the future, I don`t know about? Yes, maybe people do not respond like years past in reading a review, then coming into the audio salon with there Stereophile, Consumer Reports, etc. in their hand. This happened often when I sold AV equipment.
But, would you really buy a pair of speakers like Thiel, or any pair of speakers w/o hearing them first? Sure, you can box em up and return them, but who wants to be bothered with that?

I would hate to think that Sound by Singer, The Listening Room, CSA, etc. would have to close there shops and sell high end audio that way.
Have they gone too far? I just believe that the audiophile dealer as you so eloquently said, has not done enough in the past to market there products. And, be friendly in general to the consumer. That to me, has always been the issue. Profit margins aside. If they would have done this earlier, I feel we are not having this discussion.

jcbenten 06-15-2007 05:52 AM

Re: IS THIEL Crazy Opening Crutchfield?
Wow! This is interesting. I agree that Music Direct or some other "High End" outlet would make more sense; although Crutchfield probably has a wider distribution. All that I have read says that Thiels need lots of power and I wonder if Crutchfield has an amp company lined up to match with the Thiels. I cannot see some of the receivers that Crutchfield offers being a good match. I wonder if this is for all of the speaker line or if Thiel will build speakers specifically for the catalog?

Personally I have never heard Thiels but I am interested in their HT ceiling speakers. Wes Philips has always given Thiel speakers a good review. I have been waiting for someone to review the new speaker with star patterned driver.

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