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Access Past and Future

30 years is quite a run for any specialized electronic system! When Chief Engineer, Jonathan Gertz, released the Access™ Demonstration Network back in 1994, it was a revolution in the esoteric world of audio signal routing and product selection.

Car Audio

It was a leap ahead of the traditional mechanical switching panels that had been used in car audio and home stereo showrooms since the 1970s. Those systems were bulky, of limited capacity, controlled from a central location (instead of near the product), and required miles of wire from every speaker and amplifier to a central location. The Access™ Demonstration Network changed all that with electronic switching modules near the product and connected via a communications bus. This allowed the system to be scaled to virtually any size, efficiently installed, and controlled by several interface options that were intuitive for sales staff as well as self-guided consumer demonstrations. The electronics trade and customers alike made it an industry success that has endured for decades.

First Generation Access
First generation Access was made up of bare circuit boards.

Access had the flexibility to fit any number of products in multiples of four, unlike the previous systems that required the addition of 12 to 18 products for the next increment. Up to 99 product groups could be combined in the same system. The control panel was small and compact, easy to mount in a convenient location, and you could have a button next to each product in addition to a control panel. An IR remote control was also a welcome enhancement!

Control Panel

Its modular nature made it ideal for all kinds of retailers, including audio specialty shops, regional electronics chains, and national retailers like Sears, Montgomery Ward, Best Buy and Circuit City.

Circuit City Car Audio
Circuit City Car auido room.

A few years after its initial launch, Audio Authority engineers re-designed Access, combining some of the modules to form the most common configurations, making it simple to configure and assemble each system, yet still allowing great flexibility. This generation was called Access™EZ. Each circuit board was enclosed in a durable steel case. That format would remain consistent for the long life of this popular solution to a unique challenge – demonstrating hi-fi gear in a retail showroom environment.

Access Modules
Modules were distributed throughout the fixture cabinets, positioned near the devices on display.

Access Today

Access Modules

Special enclosed workboards with custom harness and color coded connector ports.

Access has been around through multiple revolutions in the retail business, from the fall of the Mall, to the demise of custom car audio, to the rise of online giants like Amazon. Many products that were considered luxuries have become commodities such as home theater sound systems, DVD players, big screen TVs and 4K projectors. Most retailers and manufacturers no longer see a benefit to live demonstrations in stores, beyond the most basic level. The world is changing, and so Access will change with it!

Access Connected World logo

What’s Next for Access?

The future of tech in retail is in connected systems that interact with customers and collect data on consumer behavior in stores. Most of the interactions we see in stores today don’t require the complex audio switching that Access was designed for. Original Access had a great run, but Audio Authority is creating a new exciting system that will help retailers and many other enterprises save energy and labor, respond to the interests and needs of their customers and staff, and provide vital information for shoppers and administrators. Access Connected World will bring a rich flow of up-to-date data to company headquarters, making sense of trends across the entire operation, and allowing administrators to closely monitor every system in each store. If problems are detected, they will be able to perform basic troubleshooting and first aid that will resolve the majority of problems, avoiding the long delays that usually occur until service personnel can travel to the location. We're eager to tell you more about the new Access, so watch this blog!

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