From a base in TV and radio retail, Dawsons Group has developed to become one of the UK’s most eminent home cinema and CI specialists. Multi-category finalist and winner of the Best Media Room under £15,000 trophy at this year’s CEDIA Awards, the company also has extensive interests in the marine market. Project manager and technical advisor Bob Crowson (pictured here with Kevin Dawson) speaks to David Davies about the evolution of Dawsons and the technological trends likely to shape CI over the next few years.
By the late 1980s, Dawsons Group had a long and distinguished heritage in TV and radio retail, but what was the specific catalyst for the company’s move into home cinema and the custom installation market?
Even in the early days of TV and hi-fi Dawsons was renowned for providing something out of the ordinary. Bang & Olufsen had its Beolink system for providing multi-room audio and often clients would require integration with other existing equipment. The move to home cinema was accelerated by staff who had come from a cinema projection background and at this time products had become available to allow this in the home. Dawsons didn’t mess around with this though, and embraced the technology to produce probably the first dedicated demonstration room in the UK. We equipped this with a full JBL synthesis THX system, CRT projector lighting and curtains. Combining all these aspects is the essence of custom installation, and Dawsons dedicated staff drawn from a wide skill set made the custom installation aspects easy to incorporate.
Nearly 20 years on, many companies have moved into the home cinema market. What is particularly distinctive about the service that Dawsons is able to offer in this competitive sector?
Dawsons’ strengths are knowledge, flexibility and independence. As you correctly point out, many companies have sprung up purporting to be the next best thing in AV installation but many more have disappeared since they didn’t anticipate the complexities and resources required.
Our industry has suffered from these would-be companies as once clients have had a bad experience it’s extremely hard to convince them otherwise.
We work on projects of all sizes and complexities. Networking and IT in general has become a core function of our work and staff here are experts, [to the extent of advising] multinational companies on their AV systems.
Surround sound, HD, 3D... What do you think will be the next major development in home cinema technology?
I’m not sure home cinema is where the next big thing will occur. Home cinema has such a broad meaning, it can be [anything from a] basic off-the-shelf DIY package to a bespoke dedicated room.
I think 3D will become a standard on most TVs over the next two years due to economics and I can see a growing future for 3D technology in augmented and interactive media. Also expect to see greater implementation on desktop PCs and mobile devices, where the more controlled viewing angles can support 3D without glasses.
Watch out, too, for organics as this technology will sure take hold. Organic memory will transform storage and issue in an era of super high-definition displays that can be formed onto any surface. Wallpaper that becomes a TV – a pipedream? It maybe a few years off but just you wait and see!
A marine-focused subsidiary was established in 2006. Is there such a thing as a ‘typical’ luxury yacht installation, and what elements tend to be common to these projects?
Dawsons became involved with Yacht AV as we identified an opportunity to provide owners with something different and at much higher quality than was standard. There is no ‘typical’ installation; every design is bespoke, although owners have some general requirements. These tend to be [the expectation that the system is] simple to control, provide great quality picture and sound, and be reliable; all the things we would expect. Dawsons works at the build stage with many yacht builders to ensure that our message for no compromise quality gets across. In direct response to audio performance issues on yachts we produced our unique range of audio power amplifiers. These small, light, energy efficient digital amplifiers with powers up to 250w/ch are the key to the amazing audio performance we can achieve, especially in outside areas.
To what extent has Dawsons felt the effects of the downturn? Or has its target audience been relatively unaffected by the economic fluctuations?
Dawsons has been affected, of course; after all, we run a high street retail shop! But because we have diversified, we have always got some project on the go, and this bears out in the business we did over 2010. It’s still tough out there, but we don’t wait for the phone to ring or the door to open. We actively look for business – whether it’s through interior designers, architects and boat builders – and we also have a large database which we actively market to.
What’s next for Dawsons? More specialist divisions, showrooms, etc...?
Dawsons has always been proactive in looking for the next technological advance in 1980. We were one of the first independents in the UK to premier HD TV and showed live HD from the 1992 Winter Olympics.
We are soon to expand upon our range of amplifier products with exciting new products aimed specifically at the marine sector.
Expect to see much more of Dawsons in the home and marine sectors. Major projects are progressing so we are confident of winning many more CEDIA awards.