How a small, privately-financed company changed the way the world buys TV sound.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Tuesday, February 25, 2014
In January of 2004 NBC’s Lester Holt did a feature on the Today Show highlighting the first commercially successful “sound bar” audio system, the ZVOX model 315. What Today Show viewers didn’t know was that at that time only four ZVOX 315s had been built, that none were available for sale, and that ZVOX “Worldwide Corporate Headquarters” resided in a spare bedroom of a suburban Massachusetts home.

The response to the Today Show feature was so strong that Tom Hannaher, ZVOX’s founder, immediately placed a follow-up order – four times the size of the original order. That turned out to be a good idea, because when the ZVOX web site started selling systems in early March 2004, they sold out almost immediately. ZVOX had been successfully launched with no venture capital, no bank loans, no offices, no warehouses…and one employee.

Initially the going was rough. Consumer electronics retailers were flourishing – selling thousands of expensive 5.1 surround sound systems to consumers’ flush with cash from refinanced mortgages. The idea of giving up all those lucrative $1,000-$3,000 systems sales, and instead selling simple, affordable sound bar systems, did not go over well. But by controlling costs and focusing on on-line marketing, ZVOX survived – while chipping away at the retail market, one retailer at a time.

Now, ten years later, the market for TV sound systems has changed dramatically. While not completely gone, 5.1 surround sound systems now sell in very small numbers. Instead of complicated, expensive home theater systems, most consumers opt for sound bars (introduced by ZVOX in late 2003) or SoundBase® systems – a concept ZVOX introduced in 2008, where the TV sits on top of a wide, low sound system cabinet.

While sound bars from Sony®, Bose®, Yamaha®, Boston Acoustics®, Polk Audio® and other companies had a significant impact on this massive change in consumer buying habits, ZVOX is arguably the company that started it all.

Further information:

® Sony is a registered trademark of Sony, Inc. Bose is a registered trademark of Bose, Inc. Yamaha is a registered trademark of Yamaha, Inc. Boston Acoustics is a registered trademark of D&M Holdings, Inc. Polk Audio is a registered trademark of DEI Holdings, Inc. ZVOX and SoundBase are registered trademarks of ZVOX Audio LLC.
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