Kicker and Memphis Audio were among the brands introducing new pro car audio lines at the SEMA Show this month as the segment gains more attention, and many say, wider sales.
Kicker’s entry into the market is expected to help broaden the number of retailers carrying pro car audio and educate retailers about the category.
Pro car audio, is meant to be as loud as possible. It emphasizes midrange and midbass drivers and compression horns and tweeters.
Many of the installs are custom, and can include $3,000 or more in multiple drivers that are sometimes stacked on top of each other 5 or 6 or more across in what is known as a stunt wall.
Now some users are starting to install pro audio speakers in standard door and rear deck positions. In other words, some say the products are creeping into mainstream car audio.
“It used to be a limited market, it’s not anymore for us. We sell it coast to coast. It used to be heavily Latin focused. They were the ones doing the custom installs and Latin music sounds best [on pro audio]. Now people just want to be really loud and they are listening to country or rock or rap with it; anything,” said Memphis Audio President Nick LoMonaco.
MMATS President David Thompson agrees, “It’s already starting to displace common car speakers that most people are familiar with—a 6 x 9 for the door coaxial with a tweeter in the middle. Those type of drop in speakers are getting pushed aside for a more pro sound approach because dollar for watt, you get a lot more volume for your money.”
Ds18, a leader in car Pro Audio, says the market is expanding. One of the new trends is building a short stunt wall as shown in the pictures here, rather than the large walls that can hold dozens of speakers.
The short stunt wall can be a wood box with an arrangement such as four mid bass speakers on the bottom, two 6.5-inch and two 8-inch midranges and then four tweeters and compression horn drivers.
Seventy-five percent of DS18’s sales are in pro audio, as is about 80 percent of its products, said Director of Tech and Service Aaron Zook.
JBL entered the segment in the US for the first time last year and said the line has “been very well received.”
Ground Zero says the category is growing. MMATS said the category now represents over 20 percent of its sales and is growing.
PRV Audio said the market is growing considerably. CEO Dan Costa says demand is increasing in Texas, Arkansas and he sees it starting to grow in California. (It’s already big on the East Coast). “In Texas its all about trucks and in California it’s starting with motorcycles and soon it will be in trucks as well,” he said.
Costa said of Kicker’s entry into the market, “I like the idea of a large well known company getting in on it. They reach out to a wide clientel and they will educate customers. They will make the segment more well known, instead of a small niche.”
Kicker’s first pro car audio speakers are square models launched at the SEMA Show this month under a new ST line. Kicker VP Sales & Marketing Tom Heath said after years of considering entering the segment, “We decided we needed to pursue it. We wanted to come up with something unique, so we went with the square. It seems for a lot of people involved in the pro audio scene, it’s all custom work. With the square woofers you can fit those together tighter; go edge to edge. You get more surface area and surface area equals volume, SPL.”
PowerBass plans to offer a new lower cost pro audio line to supplement its higher end line in the segment.
Beyma, which claims to have helped start the market in the US in the 90s, says its sales continue to grow at a steady rate. Beyma focuses on the high end of the market and has a select distribution of about 200-300 dealers in the US, mainly in the Northeast although it continues to expand its West Coast presence (which is the trend in the market in general).
At least one vendor that did not wish to be named said, however, that its sales remain flat.
Some 12 volt customers opt for pro audio in their motorcycle audio installs to hear the music above engine and road noise. That is creating a wider awareness for the products and helping pro audio migrate into mainstream car audio.
“The trend is happening in motorcycles and Jeeps. The motorcycle world is really what’s driving it,” said PowerBass VP Product Development & Global Marketing Erik Harbour.
Memphis Audio introduced at the SEMA Show new pro audio amplifiers and a new SR Pro audio speaker enclosure, model SRXPE10D4F. It delivers 500 watts RMS/1000 watt max power and includes 10-inch mids paired with dual SR Pro horn tweeters, plus RGB LED lighting.