Talking Shop: Audio Video Synergy

Former jazz musician and big-band arranger/composer Dave Schulz isn't too far from his passion these days. His stage now is the store he opened 7 years ago, Audio Video Synergy (908-213-0001).

The 4,600-square-foot location in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, right near the Pennsylvania border, features a main selling area and three sound rooms. Home theater and distributed audio are the bulk of the business, says Schulz. "We're getting a lot of people right now who are looking for a flat-panel TV - whether LCD or plasma," he says. "We always recommend front projectors, though, for those who want a true home theater experience."

It's no surprise that, as a musician, Schulz has what seems to be a little favoritism toward the audio part of the equation (though the store's name was chosen to show that audio and video go hand in hand). "We always like to offer audio demos; we want to sell the concept of surround sound. Audio is 50% of home theater, and without a good sound system, you're missing out on the full experience."

To that end, the three showrooms - Red, Green, and Blue - offer Schulz and his sales team a simple way to help customers see and hear for themselves. First up is the entry-level Green Room, with systems around $10,000. Here, customers can check out speakers, receivers, separate amps and preamps, and various sources - not just DVD but DVD-Audio and SACD, too. B&W, Anthony Gallo Acoustics, Rotel, Marantz, and Sony ES are represented in the room. "We can connect anything they want," notes Schulz, "and demo what a genuine home theater sounds like."

A figurative step up, the Blue Room - with Runco front projectors and four dedicated systems - showcases home theaters in the range of $10,000 to $40,000. And the Red Room, featuring a flagship system up to $100,000, has another Runco projector, a 110-inch Stewart Filmscreen, a Krell HEAT (High-End Audio Theater) surround setup, and a Crestron control system. Acoustic Innovations panels are on the walls.

"We want to emphasize performance differences as much as possible," explains Schulz. "At our store, we display equipment that's more high-end than what some of our clientele actually needs right now. But we want them to see what some of the future possibilities are."

His greatest challenge today? The general big-box retailers who sell toilet paper right alongside TVs. "It's tough to get the general consumer to believe that we can compete in value with the Costcos and the Sam's Clubs of the world." But if a customer has, say, $5,000 to spend, "he will get, for example, a better TV from us: better fit for the room, better picture, and better ease-of-use, plus better service and better expertise. We do ISF calibrations for TVs, which can affect ultimate performance. You just can't get that at Costco."

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