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Audio Technica plans to make loud noise in the market

As the various markets have come together over the past few years, we hear the word ‘convergence’ more and more. Normally it means the process of bringing ever more technology into a single device, but KitGuru has noticed a different kind of convergence. One that Audio Technica is planning to exploit.
The convergence we’re referring to is the way that brands are totally ignoring the traditional barriers of what they ‘do and do not do’, in order to grab sales revenue from anyone who will listen [Intended pun? – Ed].
Part of this is driven by an underlying need for sales and another driver comes from the way that consumers change the way they use products, like media.
Example?  Well, most of us will listen to music on our phones – but want the ability to instantly switch from Sabbath/Spears/Skrillex to an important phone call.
By moving more and more headsets with integrated microphones and wireless etc capability, Audio Technica will be evolving its brand – but not for the first time. In 1962, founder Hideo Matsushita started his business making phono cartridges (needles for record players (No?  Ask a grand parent)). Headphones didn’t come along until 1974.
Now the company is number one in Japan – ahead of Sony for headphone technology – and is looking to create a similar position in Europe. Indeed, the brand’s reputation among pro-musicians is strong and they count bands like Evanescence among their friends.

With re-vamped packaging, the decision has been made by HQ to push harder for casual users, the Apple market and even gamers. They also decided to avoid entry level products for the UK and, instead, focus on products that start around the £70 mark. Yep. That’s right. START at the £70 mark.

The latest incarnation of the M50 is among these models. The initial launch of the headset brought widespread acclaim from the hi-fi press, but a few did comment on the lack of wireless and, if you’re going to go wireless, then you may as well include a microphone.

Audio Technica took those comments to heart and now, for £279, you can be the proud owner of a pair of ANC9 headphones – complete with state-of-the-art noise reduction technology. The wearer can switch from ‘extreme’ mode (useful for planes journeys) to office or library mode. Our operative, over at the Distree event in Monte Carlo, went through the entire range and – philistine that he is – preferred the wireless model.

Experimenting in the 21st century, Audio Technica's engineers have gone wireless, miked and also used exotic materials like titanium - all in search of the perfect audio experience

When we spoke with Attila Árki, Audio Technica sales guru, he was realistic about the company’s biggest challenge: How can you sell an audio product on quality – when most of the selling happens online? The days of every high street having a specialist demonstration zone are long gone.

It’s not like a graphic card, where a test like 3DMark can tell you, instantly, how good a product is – relative to its peers. Audio is an intensely personal experience. Give 10 people access to their favourite music and a graphic equaliser – and you’ll come back to find 10 unique ‘patterns’ as they all set up the sound differently.

At the high end, specialist stockists will still place orders for theAudio Technica W5000 flagship product (which gives you a small amount of change from £1,000) – but you’ll struggle to find the limited edition WS3000 Anniversary Special, of which only 500 were hand crafted. No surprise they are changing hands on eBay for more than £1,500.

It remains to be seen if Audio Technica can transition its professional brand qualities into the consumer market. It seemed to work well enough for Sennheiser.

There's little chance that a company can gear up for a production run of 500 units and make money, unless the charge a serious amount of money. Now even the launch price has been smashed in the 2nd hand market.

KitGuru says: We love quality, so will be exploring the Audio Technica range in more detail in the near future.

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