Rethinking the studio reference monitor—affordably
Ask an engineer, and they’ll tell you they’re wired to solve problems—and sometimes that means breaking the big problems into smaller problems. That was more or less how studio reference monitor specialist Fluid Audio came into being. Once an acoustic designer for such companies as JBL, Cerwin-Vega and, most recently, M-Audio, founder and CEO Kevin Zuccaro broke off in 2011 to start Fluid Audio under his own theory. While the studio monitor market was already a crowded one, Zuccaro felt there was a space open for a company that could offer outstanding products more affordably. His concept, in short, was to break down the monitor into its component parts “and see how good we could make each of them for a given price level,” as he puts it. Since shipping its first products in 2013, Fluid Audio has rolled out four monitor series geared to the professional and prosumer markets, often building in creative tweaks and add-ons that boost value and speak directly to the needs of its prime customers.
“Our strategy is to provide more value to our customers compared to our competition,” says Zuccaro, who still designs every Fluid Audio product. “That’s not just in the price to our distributors, but also in product features, personalized customer service, attention to detail—and giving our customers the feeling that we are one of them. We think of ourselves as a boutique manufacturer in terms of quality, with price points that compete and win against the bigger brands.”
Starting from the most basic level, Fluid Audio’s line begins with its Classic Series, Zuccaro’s take on maximizing the possibilities in an affordable workhorse reference monitor. Going up from there, its Fader Series features one of its earliest difference-making features, an integrated front-mounted fader adding, as Zuccaro says, “a tangible level of convenience.” Building on the fader Series, Fluid added maybe its most ambitious innovation to date: coaxial tweeters, a rarity for accessibly priced monitors. First incorporated on its Fader Series FX8 model, that idea led into Fluid’s Fader Pro Series FPX7 model, the only studio monitor of its kind to feature a coax-mounted AMT (ribbon) tweeter. Capping off the line is Fluid Audio’s Bluetooth Series, tricking out its affordable design with BT 4.0 technology and aptX support—which significantly reduces bit rate without introducing audio quality or latency problems. Across the board, the line is known for its energy-saving features and exceptional speaker imaging: the quality that allows sound engineers to pinpoint the placement of each instrument within a three-dimensional soundstage.
“Our belief is that we can bring new technology at competitive price points to vintage recording techniques,” says Zuccaro. “We’re committed to making it easier for engineers and prosumers to improve their work flow using monitors that are fashionable and deliver amazing sound for an accessible price.”
Now selling through distributors in Europe, Asia, and Australia as well as North and South America, Fluid Audio has doubled its sales every year since its inception. Astute use of social media and digital marketing has launched the brand into the public eye, and the growth of DJ/EDM styles, as well as home recording and project studios, has created a ready market for its products. “There really has never been a better time to launch a company like ours,” says Zuccaro. “In the reference monitor market, when customers find a product they like, the word spreads quickly and has a tremendous opportunity to break out. There is a little more risk-taking with our designs—and we see engineers taking more risks than they used to.
“When someone owning a pair of Fluid monitors says, ‘Wow, these really sound awesome,’ it makes our day,” he adds. “We want to ensure we always keep this feeling.”
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