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Charlie Brennan, Arcam: ‘Many integrators have not heard what is possible’

In May, Arcam launched itself into the custom installation market to with a new receiver range. Managing director Charlie Brennan talks about how the company made the move, and how it intends to make progress in the residential AV space.

How has Arcam adapted to the residential AV market? How has it managed to maintain its heritage of high-fidelity audio in doing so?

Born in the mid 1970s, Arcam (or “A&R Cambridge” as it was known then) set out to prove that a sensibly priced hi-fi amplifier that was cleverly engineered could deliver the sort of performance only usually found in vastly more expensive specialist manufacturers products.

Using new transistor technology, a simple, single circuit board design and slimline chassis with classic good looks the A60 amplifier was the first of a new breed. The performance delivered was astonishing, the price was affordable and the company grew quickly as a result. More than ten years ago, Arcam’s DVD research and development programme delivered products designed for high performance home cinemas from the ground up.

This allowed us to build a reputation for players and receivers that were designed for both audio and video performance first, and given us unrivalled experience in the home cinema arena. We still use the best available technology, solid engineering principles and British ingenuity to deliver pristine sound and video quality and help bring wonderful music and movies to life.

From the early days of CI, we’ve always worked closely with installers to bring this heritage and expertise to bear so that they can deliver AV solutions which we and our customers could be proud of.

We understand the CI mindset and the unique set of demands they often face in the field. Technical innovation is obviously important so that we can optimise quality, performance and ease of use. We have retained our focus on this area to help create compelling reasons for installers to select Arcam when they specify CI projects or upgrade existing legacy systems.

We also understand that product reliability and sales support are essential in this part of the market. That’s why we have invested and will continue to invest significantly in these areas, allowing installers to specify Arcam with confidence, whatever the size or scale of their project.

What is Arcam providing to the residential CI market that wasn’t there before?

Arcam ‘s latest range offers the market a level of AV performance that raises the bar significantly to help dealers increase revenues and deliver an outstanding customer experience in home cinema, media room and whole-house installations.


Our new range of receivers combine this attention to detail in exceptional audio and video performance with a bang up to date spec that includes 4K video and IP control. We have also developed control protocols for Control 4 and Crestron that make control and integration a simple and easy process.

We believe the recently launched AVR750, the AVR450 and the AVR380 set a new, higher benchmark for AV performance in home cinema, media and gaming room installations.

Meanwhile, our recent rBlink and SonLink DAC (Digital to Audio Converter) products show how our investment in the latest technologies, such as ‘aptX’ blue core 7 from CSR, is helping installers offer innovative audio upgrade solutions to their customer, again creating new revenue opportunities.

From our new premises in Waterbeach, near Cambridge, we can support our CI products better. It’s home to our design, sales and technical support operation but also offers a new, purpose-built demonstration and training room for all Arcam’s CI product range.

What were the key factors in the decision to focus more on the CI sector – was there a specific catalyst?

We have seen a large increase in our CI business in North America.

With our recent move to new premises, our innovation and investment in new technology and a raft of AV products perfect for the CI market now launching, we recognised that we were ideally placed to expand on this success, and our tradition in our home CI market and across Europe.

We are concerned that the commoditisation of AV electronics and TV was compromising the specialist integrators business. If CI is to succeed it’s important that it retains a focus on optimum performance.

We wanted to offer a viable solution that would be built on quality reproduction of video and audio that was really special.

CI is all about creating a wow factor for the customer, and let’s face it, bringing music and movies to life is a lot more fun that dimming the lights!

How does Arcam intend on establishing its technology among integrators?

Many integrators have not heard what is possible from the best engineered components. You need to experience the difference yourself before you can persuade clients to pay the extra.

We are training CI businesses here in Cambridge on a regular basis as well as supporting our distributor in the market, AWE, with demos and CI-centric education. I must say that we have successfully wowed all of those installers who spent any time in our demo room.

What level of market penetration does Arcam currently have?

We achieved a market penetration of more than 10% in the AV separates sector before the 2008 crash and we plan to be back at that level within the next two years.


How has the new receiver range progressed from its predecessors?

We have made a significant design, production and quality testing investment to build a robust, high performance series of receivers, complete with all new 4K video boards for all models as well as network and IP capability, ideal for a wide range of typical projects.

We have designed a new pre amp stage for all the receivers that’s a huge step forward.

We have maintained most of the power amp designs on the 400 and 360 but have refined and tweaked them and completely upgraded the AVR600 power amp stage that reduced noise and distortion to new levels.

These products are perfect for installers who care as much about the quality of the performance as we do. They’re also easy to install and control, while their customers can expect to be fully immersed in and enthralled by the experience, from the opening sequence to the final encore.