|Michael Huigen and Ed Warger|
|Key Statistics & Information|
|HARMAN Brands Supported||
JBL Synthesis, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, Revel
The HARMAN Luxury Audio Group is proud to have some of the best high-end consumer electronics partners across the globe. Each month, we have the pleasure of learning a little bit more about one of our dealers or distributors. This time we're featuring a conversation with Michael Huigen, Co-Founder of Dutch distributor Reference Sounds.
How did Reference Sounds start?
Prior to starting up Reference Sounds in January 2017, I worked for a former distributor of HARMAN. I started there in 2004 specializing in repair and design. It was evident that I had a passion for high-end audio; the technology, the precision and the dedication to achieving the perfect sound. This enthusiasm led to sales, where I gained extensive experience and knowledge in the industry. Recognizing a gap in the market and eager to bring my passion into my work life, Reference Sounds was born. I could see a new approach was needed to attract new audiences and believed the company could truly make a difference. I believe that everyone should have access to great sound and be able to experience sound as I do.
How many people are on your team?
The business was formed with my business partner, Ed Warger. Ed also has a passion for high-end audio, and this mutual interest was perfect for creating a new exciting business in high-end audio. Robin is our Operations Manager. He is equally knowledgeable in high-end audio and lends great support for all of our events. Recently two new technicians have joined the team so that we can carry out repairs in our brand new purpose-built experience centre. And, lastly, a new sales team member will be joining to further enhance our relationships with our dealer base.
Tell us more about Reference Sounds and what makes it special?
Reference Sounds takes a completely new approach to the traditional style of the hi-fi industry. We don’t simply supply goods to dealers – we strive to be on a new level. We create experiences that truly inspire and engage while delivering a service and knowledge that is unmatched. This year we have created something magical - a stunning experience centre showcasing all of our brands, products and solutions. Here customers can experience what sound can really do. Music is art and, reproducing that art as accurately as possible is our ultimate mission.
Our experience centre combines superior music and film reproduction with interior and acoustic quality. With six dedicated showrooms, customers have access to the ultimate experience in sound performance.
The two-channel room reveals the detail that is intrinsic to high-end audio, showcasing brands with their own technical philosophy. The dedicated cinema room features a JBL Synthesis 21-channel system. The custom-install showrooms feature products designed to be integrated into walls and/or ceilings for customers that want to achieve an astounding sonic atmosphere without seeing the technology. With our Revel sound experience living room and JBL Conceal Area, we have created ambient atmospheres with unparalleled sound experiences.
The experience centre not only provides great support to our dealer base who don’t have the facilities to offer this level of demonstration, but also provides a solution to everyone interested in accessing the technology. It allows us to market the products alongside our dealers rather than be dependent on them. Because we showcase custom-install products and promote our tailor-made solutions, we can now target architects and interior designers.
In addition to our experience centre, we place importance on marketing. Our website is regularly updated with video content as well as regular communication with dealers. We also exhibit at three or four public events a year, and with our experience centre, we will hold more dealer-focused events.
Thoughts on the importance of training?
Training is very important to us – we like to work in synergy with our dealers, transferring our knowledge and experience so that the customer can find the perfect solution for their needs. In-person communication is essential to us, incorporating presentations and product demonstrations. Our YouTube videos also support training and knowledge transfer to our dealers.
What do you like most about the products and which ranges do you see as the key products?
The majority of our product base is HARMAN brands with the focus on JBL Synthesis. The new packages in JBL Synthesis make the technology more accessible to everyone, providing an opportunity to have this level of quality in more homes. Similarly, the new Mark Levinson 5000 series is very strong and accessible to more people.
We have incredible trust in the HARMAN brands. We know we can guarantee reliable sound quality and performance. The heritage around the HARMAN brands, combined with the high level of science behind the products, allows us to really tell a story and demonstrate the quality ingrained within the products.
How do you think the audio industry is currently doing?
At the moment, people are investing more into their life at home, leading to investing in better home audio solutions. Although the products we sell are considered purchases, demonstrating real-life set-ups plants the seed in our customers' minds on how our solutions can work for them. I see the home cinema market positively growing and commit to presenting the high-end luxury audio presentation and products to a broader customer range. Solutions are key as we think that the traditional single high-end product sale will decline.
Any final comments?
We aim to ensure that the joy we feel for undeniably high-quality systems is conveyed to our customers. We want them to be drawn into sound to really connect with music and movies, so they don’t just hear the sound but feel and resonate with it. And to be fully immersed and enriched by the experience. We aspire to keep delivering the best service as well as luxury products and special experiences.