Emotiva: Coming to a Store Near You

Emotiva, the popular Web-only supplier of “affordable high-end” audio gear, will be Web-only no more.

Company founder Dan Laufman has announced that, after 11 years online, the brand will move into select brick-and-mortar specialty retailers, with somewhere between 30 and 50 dealers signed before the end of this year.

Lest Emotiva’s loyal following of online customers—now said to be 60,000 strong—think this means a boost in prices to cover the required brick-and-mortar retail margins, not to worry. Laufman said the company can sell to dealers at prices that support industry-standard profit margins with no change in its current online strategy. Laufman’s long background in design and OEM production for other brands allows Emotiva to design smart, cost-effective, high-value audio products to begin with, he says. That has now combined with the firm’s growing sales volume and long-established willingness to accept lower margins to open a new door.

“We can contain product costs, and we’ve got volume,” he said. “I can support a blended model and not have to change my prices.” Growing sales and economies of scale, among other factors, have also allowed Laufman to move a significant amount of the company’s manufacturing back to U.S.-based factories owned by Emotiva and some of its suppliers—a trend that will continue, he said.

The move into traditional retail, Laufman said, comes after years of dealers repeatedly asking for the line and consumers steadily asking where they can audition Emotiva’s products. Laufman believes there are other potential customers out there he simply can’t reach with his online model because of their unwillingness to purchase sound-unheard, or to research and install audio gear themselves. These customers are best served by a third-party retail experience, he said.

Emotiva’s new Big Ego USB DAC sells for $229.

The company is adding dealers slowly to insure they meet company standards. “We want guys who share our approach to the market, treat our customers the way they’re used to being treated by us, and promote us in a manner that’s in line with our philosophy. They’re not the biggest guys but ones where we can be important to them and where customers are important to them.”

Along with dealers in the U.S. with whom the company will sell direct, Emotiva is adding international distributors as well to build a network overseas.

In addition to hearing select products from the company’s current lineup of gear, audio shoppers who visit an Emotiva dealer or the site later this year may see some additional options. The company will introduce eight new unspecified products in the coming months. “They are definitely directed at a more contemporary user,” Laufman said. “They’re beautiful, simple to use, and designed to complement a lifestyle.”

Among new items launching now are a pair of compact, portable USB DACs dubbed Big Ego and Little Ego. The Big Ego ($229, shown above) handles files with up to 384 kHz sampling rate and 32-bit depth, includes a direct-coupled low-impedance headphone amp, and both a line-level analog output to feed an audio system and a Toslink digital output that provides a digital mirror of the incoming USB signal to send to another DAC or digital input on an AVR or other device. It measures 5.375 x 2 x 0.75 inches (LWH)

Three different filter options allow listeners to tailor files to their sonic liking, including a traditional “symmetrical” filter with equal amounts of pre- and post-ringing on the output signal; an asymmetrical low-damping filter with heavy post-ringing for a lively sonic character; and an asymmetrical high-damping filter that emphasizes warmth.

The Little Ego ($169) offers similar processing power, but is even more compact at 4.75 x 1.75 x 0.625 inches. It features only a headphone output.

Perrin1710's picture

The Netherlands... please! I have been a fan of Emotiva products for a number of years, but being able to audition before getting stuff over to the Netherlands would be so great!

jhanken's picture

I love the value prop that is Emotiva, yet I really miss having the neighborhood hi fi store that actually displayed stuff to hear live. This is a dream come true for old stereo geeks, hope you make out to the east bay!