Gibson Audio delivers the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox
By Mike Hanlon
September 20, 2004
The name Gibson was there at the birth of rock and roll, and been the instrument used in for many of the landmarks soundtracks of our lives, from “While my guitar gently weeps”, through to “Layla” becoming the leading maker of fretted instruments in the world.
Gibson guitars, notably the Les Paul model, have helped to define the sound of rock and roll, blues, metal and even country music in the hands of a diversity of artists such as Elvis Presley, T-Bone Walker, Freddie King, Carl Perkins, Michael Bloomfield, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck, Ace Frehley, Peter Green, Freddie King, Pete Townshend, Angus Young, Jimmy Page, Charlie Byrd, Woodie Guthrie, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards and Bob Dylan.
In recent times, Gibson’s invention of the digital guitar has again put the company at the very forefront of musical innovation and the creation of a consumer electronics division is the latest development for one of the best-known names in contemporary musical history.
The Jukebox is offered in three models: a Floorstanding model, which features Klipsch speakers and 1,000 CD storage; a Component model, which is functionally identical to the floorstanding model but without speakers and in a stereo rack form-factor; and a small Executive model that stores 500 CDs and also features Klipsch speakers. A handheld remote control unit forms the brain of the units, which retail in the United States for US$1899, $1499 and $999 respectively.
Gibson Audio, the new consumer electronics division of Gibson Guitar, will sell its first range of products under the name of the world's most famous jukebox name - Wurlitzer. While the name Wurlitzer conjures up images of bubbles, colored light tubes and the birth of popular music in the late 1800s through to the advent of rock and roll, the new Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox is in a different category altogether and its feature set looks particularly compelling.
The Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox allows the user to store a huge CD collection in digital format (up to 1000 CDs), then control that music collection from a wireless touch-screen remote control unit. It also:
- provides access to the Wurlitzer Music Service, a digital music service that offers 100 channels of digital radio
- connects via the internet to its own music store where the user can purchase and download hundreds of thousands of major label songs directly to the jukebox.
- allows the user to build personalised playlists, create "mix" CDs, export songs to a portable MP3 player, or distribute music wirelessly throughout the home
- provides top quality audio with a custom-designed speaker and amplifier system from Klipsch Audio Technologies.
While the cutting-edge functionality of the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox will certainly appeal to technophiles and early adopters, the product was developed specifically for the non-technical consumer.
“We believe that there is a significant untapped market of folks who are aware of the power of digital music, or have a 'techie' friend who swears by it, but who continue to use physical CDs because they have yet to be offered a user-friendly digital music solution," said Kris Carter, President of Gibson Audio.
One of the claimed advantages of the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox is its ability to organise a CD collection. When a CD is inserted, the jukebox automatically captures and stores the relevant information including Artist Name, CD and Song Title, Genre, and most uniquely, digital Cover Art. Users can then sort and access music in any way they want from the wireless touch-screen remote. Perhaps best of all, they can take those hundreds of CDs that are cluttering their living room and box them up in the garage.
“Our goal in designing this line of products was to develop a digital music solution that not only harnessed the power of computing technology, but also placed it in a package that anyone could use,” said Henry Juszkiewicz, Chairman and CEO of Gibson Guitar Corp.
“For most people, it has always been easier to put a CD in a CD player than to deal with music on a computer. Now, with the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox, I can effortlessly call up any CD in my collection from the wireless touch-screen, and if that's not enough, I can go to the Wurlitzer Music Store and instantly purchase and listen to new music without leaving my living room.”
In addition to its powerful functionality and extreme simplicity, the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox also features a premium speaker and amplification system by Klipsch Audio Technologies. CDs can be stored in various compression levels (160, 256, 320 kbps) as well as uncompressed digital format for the most discriminating audiophile.
The flagship model of the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox line is a floorstanding, all-in-one unit designed to update the historical Wurlitzer look. It stores up to 1000 CDs, comes with a wireless touch-screen remote, and features a Klipsch speaker and amplification system with floorstanding loudspeakers and a subwoofer built into the base of the jukebox unit.
For consumers who already have significant investments in stereo equipment, there is a component version, the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox "CP" that is functionally identical to the floorstanding device, but without speakers and in a "stereo rack" form factor designed to fit comfortably in existing home entertainment systems.
For locations such as bedrooms or kitchens, there is a small tabletop version of the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox, which stores up to 500 CDs, has a built-in touch-screen interface, and also features Klipsch speakers and amplification.
The Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox line has already won the "Best of Audio" award at the 2004 CES Innovations Design & Engineering Awards. Additionally, the tabletop version has been selected as one of two top audio products in the Consumer Electronics Association's "Technology is a Girl's Best Friend" Showcase, a showcase featuring products designed with the female consumer in mind.
"Because Gibson is new to consumer electronics, we set out to make a statement with the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox. We knew that to establish Gibson Audio in this space as well as to do justice to the great Wurlitzer name, this product would have to be ahead of anything else on the market in terms of functionality, design, technology, sound quality, and most importantly, the simplicity of the user experience," stated Carter. "The Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox brings together the best of both of computing and consumer electronics . . . an entire world of music at your fingertips, instantly accessible and controllable from your living room couch."
To launch Gibson Audio, Juszkiewicz turned to Kris Carter, an entrepreneur and Harvard-educated lawyer with extensive experience in the development of digital audio convergence products. Prior to joining Gibson, Carter was founder and CEO of Ecoustix, a company that designed and built a high-end digital jukebox system for hotel guestrooms that delivered thousands of CDs of music licensed directly from the major record labels.
Gibson has played a major role in musical culture since the first Gibson instrument was handcrafted in Kalamazoo, (Michigan) in 1894. Despite all of Gibson's success, the prestigious brand hit hard times in the 1970s due to the advent of cheaper imported instruments. Henry Juszkiewicz, a passionate guitarist with an MBA from Harvard, purchased Gibson with his partners in 1986, and turned the company into a success story for the second time.
Gibson is known worldwide for producing classic models in every major style of fretted instrument, including acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins and banjos. Gibson's digital guitar, introduced in 2002, represents the biggest advance in electric guitar design in over 70 years. Founded in 1894 in Kalamazoo, MI, and headquartered in Nashville since 1984, Gibson Guitar Corp.'s family of brands now includes Epiphone, Dobro, Kramer, Steinberger, Tobias, Slingerland, Trace Elliot, Maestro, Baldwin, Ellington, Chickering and Wurlitzer.
You can visit http://www.gibson.com/here.