With products including the Victoria Evo and Niagara, French glass loudspeaker expert Waterfall Audio is an especially stylish player in the residential sound market. As new satellite loudspeaker Serio begins to make its way into the world, Waterfall founder Cedric Aubriot reflects on the company's 14-year history, approach to R&D and expectations for next week's Integrated Systems Europe, at which it will be showing a host of its current products.
Q: What was the starting point for Waterfall Audio?
A: The point of creating Waterfall Audio was to put out an innovative, high-performance and good-looking product. We had a very specific design idea of using glass - not only does it look great, it helps to eliminate unwanted vibrations from the structure of the loudspeaker. But we had to find the right materials and technologies - including our Acoustic Damping Tube (ADT), which allows the driver to work in a glass structure - so the first four years after the company's creation in 1996 were spent on research and development.
Q: Since the launch of the first product in 2000, Waterfall has developed an extensive range of glass loudspeaker products...
A: Yes - having started with two products, we now have a total of nine, several of which have already been through several generations. We have three floor-standing products (Niagara, Victoria Evo, Iguascu Evo), three on-wall products (Hurricane Evo, Elora, Serio) and three subwoofers (High Force 1/2/3 Evo). Serio - a compact and stylish satellite with a depth of only 3.5in that can work as part of a 2.1 and 5.1 system - is the latest addition to the range, and that is already proving to be extremely popular with our dealers.
Q: Serio will be on display at ISE, so what else are you planning to exhibit at next week's show?
A: Niagara [which features a 15mm-thick Diamond Glass enclosure]: it's nearly two years old now, but it's a product that people are always very excited to see. As regards Serio, we have shown the product at a couple of other shows recently, but only as a prototype - this is the first time that exhibition visitors will get to see the finished product in operation!
Q: As a long-standing ISE exhibitor, what makes the show such an important part of your calendar?
A: In my opinion, it is simply one of the best shows worldwide. It has grown a lot over the past five years - as has the overall integration market - and it provides us with the opportunity to meet a lot of professional customers. For example, I know that all of my best customers in France are going to ISE.
Q: How have Waterfall's sales fared during the recession?
A: Like everyone else, we were monitoring the situation closely at the start of last year, but now that 2009 is over I can say that we had a good 12 months. Interestingly, it was the two products at either end of our range - Niagara and Serio - that really pulled it all together and experienced the strongest sales. I think their success shows that it is important to have innovation and develop products that target other customers.
Q: Finally, what can we expect from Waterfall Audio in 2010?
A: Making predictions is a dangerous game! Seriously, it's too early to speculate about products that are still under discussion, but I can say that we always approach each new project with a focus on creating something new. If you look at what we have done over the past 10 years, you will see that each product is basically 99% new design. So, for us, innovation is always the watchword.
Cedric Aubriot was talking to David Davies.