September 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

New crashes onto the scene with cymbal comparison feature

Drummers can select cymbals, drag them into a “virtual cymbal room” and compare how they sound when struck. The feature is part of the newly redesigned music site, and CEO David Ash says he plans to offer similar comparison features for other products.

In music stores, drummers use soundproof rooms to test several cymbals one after another, looking for just the sound they want. On some web pages, it was possible to hear the sound of a cymbal on a product page, but not to compare one to another, says David Ash, CEO of multi-channel music retailer Sam Ash Music Corp. That gave him an idea.

The brainstorm came to life in the form of a “virtual cymbal room” at the newly redesigned, which launched Sept. 15. There, musicians can select the type or brand of cymbals they’re interested in and hear the sound of each by clicking on an icon. What’s more, the consumer can drag product images from different pages into a panel across the bottom of the page, then play one cymbal after another.

“On a typical music site, even if you can hear the sound of each product, you have to go to the next product page to hear the sound of the next product, and it takes so much time you don’t remember the sound of the first one,” Ash says. “This gives you a rapid fire way to play many cymbals at once.” Initial indications are that consumers like the new feature, but Ash says it’s too early to report data on how it’s being used.

Ash says he started with cymbals because cymbal manufacturers typically provide digital sound files to online retailers. He expects to offer similar ways to hear other products on the web site in coming months. “Most of what we sell is based on sound, so there are a lot of other products that this will be applicable to for comparing the sound one to one,” he says.

The virtual cymbal room was developed for Ash by CrossView Inc., which also provided integration to CyberSource payment processing and other payment services for the new web site. The site is based on IBM’s WebSphere Commerce platform and employs analytics tools from Coremetrics and IBM’s OmniFind site search technology.

Sam Ash is No. 200 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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