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Black Diamond business Jones Audio sounds off in Las Vegas
Jason Jones headed to Las Vegas with his mother, Cheryl Jones, but not for the glitz and glamor of the city built on gaming and showgirls.
No, this family trip was to the Consumer Electronics Show, an annual event held at the beginning of each year for manufacturers to show off their latest products and innovations.
This year they represented their Black Diamond-based business Jones Audio and unveiled a new design of their products as more than 100,000 attendees perused products from thousands of vendors at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Venetian hotel on the Strip.
About five years ago, explained Jason Jones, his father Sam started the audio company after running a software business — which is the parent company of Jones Audio — for 27 years.
“He wanted to do something different for a change,” Jason Jones said of his father. “He had always loved high-end audio since he was a teenager. He had some time and opportunity to pursue something he was passionate about.”
Cheryl Jones, who has been married to Sam for nearly 35 years, explained that her husband was self-taught when it came to the engineering of the products Jones Audio makes but also knew when to enlist the help of an electrical engineer. They now have one on staff.
Jones Audio, Jason Jones said, designs and manufactures high-end audio amplifiers and preamplifiers and they are sold through dealers.
“This is a fairly specialized market,” he said. “There are really two sorts of customers. One is the music lover. Some of these folks have enormous music libraries and they’re not all digital. In fact, a number of them have extensive LP libraries. Vinyl is undergoing a resurgence in this niche.”
And then there are those who are technology enthusiasts.
“They like to have the coolest, fanciest, particularly for the home theater that make the biggest, loudest booms,” Jason Jones said. “Some of these guys are really amazing”
This year will be the third trip to CES for Jones Audio. It is the place to nurture existing business relationships as well as establish new ones.
“CES is the big show for dealers, it’s much more of a business oriented show, so we get great interaction with dealers,” Jason Jones said. “It helps us develop relationships and we get a lot of good feedback from people from all over the world.”
Customers love what Jones Audio makes, but there was feedback that there could be tweaks.
“The past couple of years we had a lot of positive response for the sound of our equipment, but they weren’t as enthusiastic about the esthetic, the look of our equipment,” Jason Jones said. “So, we went back and worked with a designer and we hope to have something to wow them with that, as well. The case design in the past, the look, that was really a big barrier for us.”
With marketing a primary focus of his job, Jason Jones knew the importance of the product looking as good as it sounds, so the company worked with a designer from a firm out of Santa Barbara, Calif., called Neal Feay.
“I went down there with my dad, we talked to them about the product and the philosophy of our product and (the designer) went to work,” he said.
Jason Jones is excited to take the re-designed amps and pre-amps to CES.
This is a different approach than when he first worked for the family business years ago while he was in college and he “just hated it, it was just awful.”
“Then, as I got older, I was interested in high-end audio and I designed an acoustical panel,” he said. “That was right before my dad started doing the audio stuff.”
So, with that in common Jason Jones, now 33, went back to work in the family business three years ago, leaving behind a job as a chiropractor.
The company has 13 employees, full time and part time, Cheryl Jones said.
She explains that her husband, Sam, believes in using the best.
“He can only design really high-end things, he’s never really been able to deal with compromise,” she said. “Everything he puts into this, all the components, he researches everything and it’s all really nice.”
Something that has been key to the success of Jones Audio, Cheryl Jones explained, is all the components used in the products are made in the United States. This was a vital selling point for the company’s German distributor whose first question was about where the components and resulting products were manufactured.
This means there’s a higher price tag but that’s a trade off that has value.
“It’s worth it because we have control, we know what parts they’re putting in and they’re not going to change anything on us,” Cheryl Jones said. “The (new) enclosures will all be made by the designer in Santa Barbara.”
Cheryl Jones noted that anyone who loves music to the point they’d spend big dollars on top of the line audio equipment has been impressed, both at CES and the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, which is a show for consumers.
“We play CDs at the shows and people are amazed,” she said. “We had a guy come down ... he said, ‘I just listened to that same thing on vinyl and it sounded the same as it did on vinyl.”
And at CES they’ll show off the re-designed amp for the first time to dealers — attendees at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest got a look earlier this year — and the re-designed pre-amp will make its debut at the show in Las Vegas.
It’s a new chapter for Jones Audio this week at the biggest electronics show in the world.