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The 10 Best Up-and-Coming Companies In Audio-Video

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I bet you are as tired of reading stories about AV companies cutting back, pulling out of CEDIA and firing good, talented Americans as I am sick of hearing them try to sell me on how they are going to grow their companies in a recession by not advertising. For the most part, it gets tiresome as the AV business, since the success of the VCR and Dolby Pro Logic, hasn't really known a significant recession like the one we are mired in now. CEDIA-based companies tied their futures to the then-booming housing market. Now many of them are screwed and tattooed.

But not every AV company is sucking it right now. In fact, there is a new crop of super-companies coming up in the ranks. They love the fact that the big boys are bean-counting their way out of their dominant market positions. Many of these new companies are nimble enough to price their products right, add move value and/or open new distribution channels. This is a new breed of AV company.

Control4
Control4 is positioned with a product line that is a lot cheaper than Crestron, and a lot more powerful than a Philips Pronto or a Harmony remote from Logitech. When the real estate market boomed, Crestron and to a lesser extent AMX were the go-to home automation products and they were anything but cheap. Today, you can get much of the "Crestron experience" for a fraction of the price with Control4. Every dealer has to do value engineering and Control4 allows them to land the job when the AV and automation budget needs a $20,000 diet.

Dtrovision
Minsoo Park's Dtrovision is out on the cutting edge of HDMI with some of the most slick, reliable, HD cable and switching products. Dtrovision makes the lion's share of their money selling 20x20 (sometimes larger) HDMI routers to commercial applications; however their fiber optic HDMI cables are in the top class of the industry, as they not only cover longer runs than copper - they are better with HDMI handshake issues.

NuForce
NuForce is becoming just that - a force in the enthusiast AV space with their affordable, small, slickly designed audiophile electronics. Using digital amps and all new designs, NuForce can sell a more powerful audiophile amp than the more established companies, that has four times the power, is half the size and runs cool to the touch. Value-minded consumers feel strongly about this "more performance for less money" angle and NuForce is delivering it to them in spades.

NuVision
NuVision is trying to become the "new Runco" with performance-based, yet somewhat reasonably priced HDTVs designed for the custom installation market. Custom installers struggle to compete in the big box retail price wars, as they are much more in the service business. NuVision is designed to deliver products that are truly specialty video products that aren't sold at distributors and that also meet high industry standards for performance, calibration and beyond.

Oppo Digital
For $399, these guys make a Blu-ray player that plays every disc format. The big boys can't even do this at $2,000. People are already doing mods for this player to make it more appealing to the tweaky audiophile market.

Orb Audio
There may not be one bigger success story in the AV space today than Orb Audio. Their round speakers match today's flat HDTV and their willingness to creatively sell direct make them the number one most profitable seller of speakers in their genre which is amazing because others have retail channels, custom AV channels and international sales where Orb Audio just sells direct. And sell direct they do - better than any other speaker company out there. They also sell attach-sale products like Denon and Yamaha to round out relevant systems. Orb customers comment on how much time their salespeople take teaching, talking and hand-holding them through the whole buying process.

Outlaw Audio
Talk about a cult following? Outlaw Audio is the Facebook of specialty AV because they deliver their clients incredible values in high-end audio and home theater at prices that are better than the big-box stores. Now if they could only ship their new AV preamp about 2,500 consumers would end their wait for an HDMI Outlaw product with all of the bells and whistles and without a silly price tag.

Wisdom Audio
Think of that scene in Boogie Nights where Don Cheedle's character is selling the stereo system, with its upgrades and features to Burt Reynolds. Those days are gone today as people want high performance audio but they also don't want to dedicate the floor space to it that they used to years ago. This is where Wisdom Audio comes in. They make a speaker that competes with the likes of Wilson Audio, B&W and MartinLogan but it goes in the wall, on the wall, etc. Wisdom Audio provides bi-amped solutions that allow for use of audiophile amps and come packed with Audyssey room correction. Wisdom Audio right now makes the most relevant high-end speaker in the business today.

Sooloos (Meridian-Sooloos)
I know they got bought by Meridian and Meridian isn't a new company but Sooloos' iPhone for the audiophile appeal isn't getting any less strong. All a client needs to do is play with a Sooloos server for 60 seconds and they a) get it and b) are sold if they have the money. It's just that cool.

Volo Cables
Green at heart often means green in the bank, which is the bet newcomer Volo Cables is built around. Their high performance but affordable HDMI cables come packaged to reduce waste and toxins.

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