Raising the bar
British audio brand Orbitsound is back with a new owner and image and is looking to raise its profile in the independent retail sector. Sean Hannam speaks to managing director and product developer Dan Fletcher to find out more
British engineering lies at the heart of consumer electronics brand Orbitsound. The company’s soundbars and speakers use patented Airsound technology, which was developed by musician and audio engineer Ted Fletcher, who worked with legendary maverick ’60s record producer Joe Meek, of Telstar fame.
During the ’70s, Mr Fletcher designed sophisticated mixing desks for studios and rock bands, including Jethro Tull, Yes and The Who. He also created technology for radio stations.
In 2003, when he was working on new designs for studio equipment with his son Dan, Mr Fletcher had a ‘eureka’ moment and found a way to reproduce ‘true stereo’ from a single loudspeaker box.
Airsound technology is said to eliminate the need for users to sit in a ‘sweet spot’ for the best listening experience.
Orbitsound was founded in 2007 and, two years later, it launched its T12 soundbar, which notched up great sales.
The company then went through some tough times – it entered administration on December 31, 2014, but in early 2015 was bought out by
AST Audio in a pre-pack deal.
Product developer and managing director Dan Fletcher is now at the helm of Orbitsound and, with its flagship A70 soundbar, which has a sleek design, as well as Bluetooth and NFC pairing, the brand is looking to make a noise in the market once again…
John Plimmer, who was a minority shareholder and loved the products and our technology, took over the business 100 per cent in January 2015.
I think the business had overreached itself in a lot of ways. It was all about “expand, expand, expand”, but, quite frankly, the business was living beyond its means.
John wanted to bring it back to the creators of the products and where it all started.
I wanted to go back to basics and get the A70 out, which was something I’d been working on for a long time. I also wanted to bring in-house a lot of the things that had been farmed out, as it felt like we were losing touch with our customers.
We’re running the company like a small business – we’ve cut back a little bit. Our head offices are in Victoria, in London, and there’s a small satellite office in Edinburgh. We develop the technology, but we have a close relationship with a manufacturing partner in China.
In Q2 of last year, we brought our support department in-house. We had been using an external company to answer the phones, but it gave us poor feedback [from consumers].
Q: Which retailers are you selling the products through?
DF: John Lewis and DSG are big retail channels for us and we’re working with Richer Sounds. We launched the A70 with John Lewis last year.
We’re going to be keeping things quite tight – previously, we had lots and lots of different SKUs.
There’s also a big move to go to independents – we’ve got a sales manager who’s dedicated to developing those relationships.
It would be nice for independent retailers to take another look at what we do. We’re opening up accounts all the time and we’d love to hear from anyone who’s interested.
Q: You’ve also created a new brand image for the company, haven’t you? Can you tell us more about that?
DF: There’s been a significant change of mood and the way that our brand is being presented is more reflective of who we are.
We’ve looked at our key brand values. Being a British company is very important and there’s a simplicity to what we do – it’s about quality and it’s about being quite understated.
In February of this year, we launched a new website – www.orbitsound.com – and packaging and point-of-sale material, as well as a new dress code for our staff who are working in stores.
Q: So what’s next for Orbitsound?
DF: I’m working hard on some new products and we’re looking at European expansion. We want to choose retailers who are going to add value and get on board with our message, but it’s going to be understated, rather than a massive push.
We make equipment that’s designed to improve people’s audio enjoyment every day – we’re raising the bar in audio. I make speakers that I want and I love – it’s all about what turns me on and what someone else might buy into.
Why do I get out of bed in the morning? Better sound.