It’s all well and good to use hard-earned company resources to create something related yet completely new, which in the case of Dan Laufman, is a sweeping generalization of how the Emotiva Audio brand was begat from OEM/ODM manufacturer, Jade Design. (Confused? That’s what happens when you don’t read these chapters in chronological order.)
After establishing Emotiva as a stand-alone brand in 2003, Dan took a step back to focus on his then-core business, i.e. designing and building products for other manufacturers. Subsequently, Emotiva didn’t exactly much bound onto the scene as it took a few well-thought out baby steps towards an identity that was not only separate from Jade Design, but something different for the high-fidelity market at the time.
“No sane person in the early 2000s would look at the high-end business and think that the internet was the place to stake a claim,” says Dan. “Fortunately, I’m not that sane, at least when it comes to creating a business. My goal was to start something new that reflected my vision for a product line without stepping on my ODM customers’ toes.”
With Jade thriving and thus paying the bills, Dan took his time in developing the first few models that his upstart brand would market and sell exclusively over the web.
“Picture the most basic website you’ll find in 2019, then dumb it down even further and reduce the resolution of the graphics to that of a photocopied brochure. Such was the state of internet sales in 2003,” says Dan.
With no immediate pressure to quickly introduce and sell a few pieces of product to keep the lights on, Dan stepped back to consider what it would take to launch the brand in style.
“Clearly, we needed a site that would be a stand-out, and it helped that many of our competitors were moving slowly in terms of creating a presence on the web,” says Dan. “And on the product side, we had to make a similarly strong statement about what Emotiva was all about.”
Fans of the brand know that Emotiva is all about exceptional quality and value. The idea of a website being more of a showroom than a brochure was still a new concept, which Dan recognized and seized upon by stating the value proposition up front.
“It’s safe to say that audio enthusiasts were reticent about buying product over the web, and rightfully so. The idea of investing in gear without a lengthy audition seemed ludicrous, so we decided to remove concerns about losing money by emphatically stating that there was a no-questions-asked 30-day return policy on anything we sold,” said Dan. “All that was left was to create something to sell.”
With a genuinely unique business model now taking shape, Dan turned his attention to creating the first wave of Emotiva electronics. Among the earliest entries are models that are still beloved by their original owners, some of whom are no doubt reading these words here and now.
“First impressions are the most important,” says Dan. “We knew there would be only one opportunity to show the market what Emotiva is all about.”
One of the first pieces out of the gate was the DMC-1, which made its debut in 2005. The preamp/processor laid the foundation for years of Emotiva products by packing an unheard-of level of performance and build quality at a very reasonable price. It represented the company’s commitment to quality and value, but it also showed that the burgeoning brand was on the road to introducing some very serious equipment.
Audioholics was one of the first outlets to take notice, stating that the 7.1-channel DMC-1 was, “…simply stunning to look at.” More important, the extensive review was summed up with a series of accolades about its performance, concluding with, “… [if] you want to enter the realm of high-end audio and experience separates at a competitive price to their peers, then the DMC-1 is a great processor to drive the reference system in your listening room.”
The DMC-1 was one early example of the brand’s potential, but how long could it last? We’ll dig deeper into the product story in Part 4. (Spoiler alert: We’re doing quite well, thank you!)