Under new management: Australian DIY speaker maker gets a rebuild
- — 29 November, 2012 13:00
After a year and a half in the wilderness, Australian DIY audio specialist The Loudspeaker Kit is back — under new management, with a new business plan.
The early years
The Loudspeaker Kit (LSK) started life in 2001 as an online and Perth-based retail store specialising in custom home theatre speakers, offering stereo loudspeakers, subwoofers and surround sound systems.
One of LSK’s key selling points was that as well as offering pre-built speakers, buyers could also opt for the company’s name-sake home theatre speakers in disassembled ‘kits’, flat-packed to save on shipping costs. The kits could be assembled by anyone with basic carpentry and electronics knowledge. The DIY speakers appealed to budget-conscious buyers as well as enthusiasts who wanted a hands-on approach to constructing their audio systems.
The kits and speakers enjoyed a great reputation within Australia’s audio enthusiast community, drawing regular praise from users of StereoNET Australia as well as gaining international attention for their innovative design, excellent sound quality, and value for money.
But problems started to appear in late 2010 when some customers reported that their orders had not been fulfilled, and that management was unresponsive to email and phone contact. A user on Australian technology forum OCAU mentioned that the March 2010 flash-flooding of Western Australia had hit the company hard, with “massive stock write-offs” affecting business.
The Perth retail store closed in mid-2011 when headphone retailer Headphonic, which had shared premises with LSK, moved to a larger building next door. Headphonic owner Marcus Miller later intimated on OCAU that LSK’s owners owed him tens of thousands of dollars at this time.
Despite this, the online LSK shop-front, with Web hosting based in the US, remained operational and accepting customers’ orders. Customers were still placing orders for speaker kits in December 2011, with some OCAU users sharing their stories of waiting for weeks with no contact from staff before speaker kits arrived on doorsteps unannounced.
Other customers did not have their orders completed at all, and The Loudspeaker Kit’s Facebook page received dozens of complaints — which were later removed. The site was still running without any intervention, and still accepting orders, in April 2012.
A new beginning
The first sign of life in over a year appeared during May 2012, when the LSK Facebook page was updated with a new cover photo. The update was quickly deleted, though, and half a year passed before any more activity occurred.
Spencer, who is a speaker designer and professional acoustic consultant, has returned the storefront to its original home of Melbourne, where it spent a brief period before changing to the Perth owners.
During the previous owners’ problems in late 2011, Spencer left a post on StereoNET Australia musing on a possible future for the brand: “It is indeed a shame. They were an option for those who wanted light duty DIY, without having to design anything or have all the necessary tools to build from scratch. I wonder what the demand is like for that kind of thing.”
Under its new management, The Loudspeaker Kit is undergoing a significant transformation. Spencer told PC World that as a legally separate entity, the new company could function as a liaison between aggrieved customers and the company’s former owners, but would focus on revitalising the tried-and-tested product line-up, which has remained unchanged for almost 13 years.
“We've bought the stock and website, but the name we now operate under (The Loudspeaker Kit) was created less than a month ago.
“We are legally separate from W Audio, who previously operated the website. [The previous owner] says he has sorted all previous matters with customers, but we are about to ask all our subscribers to come forward with any claims, with supporting evidence, and we will present it to him.
“This has been announced on the Facebook page, but so far we have only had one person come forward with evidence.”
Spencer’s Loudspeaker Kit will be new and improved, with refinements to existing stereo and surround sound products, as well as more exotic models targeting premium buyers.
“The plan is to revamp the existing kits and add new models. We have a lifestyle system at the concept stage — it needs to perform better than typical lifestyle systems for it to go ahead. [The popular premium floor-standing speaker] TL6 is due for a serious upgrade.
“A new HT speaker is coming, with the kind of dynamic slam that will shock people. We're introducing some higher-end speakers to give people an upgrade path, and also introducing some exotic kits.”
Key to Paul Spencer’s plans for the restarted LSK is a representative program, which will put demo product models in evangelists’ homes around the country for prospective buyers to audition in person. This approach, instead of a bricks-and-mortar store, cuts overheads and reduces staff costs.
“It is expensive to run a retail store, especially if you want people to hear the products all around Australia.
“Ideally, I want to get people on board who are excited about what we're doing. Reps will run demo sessions in their own time, and they will be social with a small group. We want to get our products out there via distributors also, but I believe the real key lies in our rep program.”
Representatives will work in conjunction with LSK’s new owner to create demonstration set-ups, optimised with Spencer’s experience in audio consulting. “I'm an acoustic consultant, and my clients normally pay for me to measure their rooms and provide advice. Reps will get it free. We'll work hard to give them something to get excited about, so their enthusiasm will become infectious.”
With the ground-work laid to revitalise the brand name, and a strong background in specialist audio, in-home consultation and the DIY speaker game, Spencer is optimistic about The Loudspeaker Kit’s future.
“Everything that was good about LSK will be improved. The new LSK will be an audio smorgasbord, it will be very creative and innovative, and I believe many will find we offer an eye-opening experience. Very exciting changes are coming!”