To me, watching the CES Nakamichi Dragon sound bar presentation was like watching the introductions of the iPod, iPhone, or MacBook Air. IMHO, it’s not just the Dragon itself that’s exciting, but how it will push the audio electronics industry into a new race for uncompromising wireless.https://youtu.be/PI7eV3LIub0?list=LL
The Dragon will likely represent the future form factor of premium sound bars, with some features trickling down to midscale offerings. It might even replace traditional home audio as we know it. Let’s see what’s right with Nakamichi’s marketing:
- Wireless convenience matters. It’s hard to see a wired home audio future, when the average household only has one person who knows how to operate and diagnose their A/V setup. When the baby boomers and Gen X’ers die off, future generations will probably think of a rack of stereo equipment and hardwired speakers to be as quaint as household cat 6 ethernet cabling to get internet connectivity. Wireless appears to be a tough nut to crack, with Sonos being the only brand that seems to have mastered convenience with wireless reliability. Bose, KEF, Klipsch, LG, and Samsung haven’t arrived yet.
- Size matters. With today’s TV’s moving into the 70” and 80” range, today’s sound bars are comically small and narrow. Too bad Cadillac already took the marketing slogan “Coming with length.”
- The all-in-one form factor will die. Nakamichi has completely outflanked the Sennheiser Ambeo Max, Devialet Dione, and Bang & Olefsen Beosound Theatre. There is no substitute for real surround and height channels and multiple subwoofers, particularly in the age of wireless.
- Dual subwoofers remain marketing gold for Nakamichi, but has real world benefits for many rooms. Sonos already allows for a second subwoofer, and I expect others to follow.
- Considering how little was spent on marketing, I think Nakamichi nailed influencer marketing and strategic use of the CES show.
That said, we have to remember that Nakamichi is a marketing shell company. The original Nakamichi company and engineering staff no longer exists, the trademark was purchased by a Hong Kong equity firm for its brand equity, much like Volvo, McIntosh, Marantz, and Polaroid today.
- 11.4.6 channels is nonsense. A pair of dual isobaric subwoofer cabinets is technically 1 channel, and the other channel numbers are equally suspect. Take away the marketing, and it’s closer to a 5.1.4 system.
- The stainless steel enclosures will redefine the baseline for competing in the luxury market. No room here for MDF or plastic.
- I expect soundbar obesity to be a thing, now that they’ve fired an opening salvo of “120 pounds of force”.
- The Nakamichi Shockwafe lineup is not known for fidelity, so I’m not holding my breath for the Dragon to be tuned for neutral NRC-accuracy. That means there will be room for a competitor to use NRC-research to occupy that niche.
It’ll be a while before I trade in my separates for a sound bar. I can’t afford to churn my equipment all the time!