Dave Vatland, Sound World

by Tim Froberg

Televisions were small and square when Dave Vatland was a kid.

The days of the old box TV are gone. Television screens have grown massive and home theaters — once a luxury that only the wealthy could afford — have become the norm.

Vatland, the owner of Sound World in Appleton, specializes in bringing the home theater experience to customers. Sound World sells, services, and installs high-tech televisions and accompanying sound systems to provide the big-screen atmosphere that was once available only at public movie theaters.

Vatland is a second-generation owner of a retail family business launched 56 years ago by his parents, Merv and Evelyn Vatland. In addition to home theater audio and video sales and installations — primarily for residential homes — Sound World offers a broad range of additional electronic services ranging from home automation and lighting systems to sound systems and equipment for automobiles

Dave shares the building at 3015 W. Wisconsin Avenue with his brother, Larry, who operates Computer World on the other side.  

How much has the industry changed since you began working in the family business?

“Technology changes every day. This industry is a rollercoaster — always changing. Samsung called me six months ago and said, ‘Dave, get your last order in for DVD players because it’s our last run.’ DVD players are done, and most people have no idea.”

What is the average size of the screens you sell for home theaters?

“About 110 to 120 inches diagonally. We just installed a screen that was 152 inches. If you have a 60-inch TV on the wall and surround sound, it’s fine to call that a theater. But in our industry, a true theater is going to be much larger. It will be some form of projection to get larger than a 100-inch screen on the wall at an economical price.”

What should people consider when installing their own system?

“Will it be a movie room? Or is it more of a sports venue where you entertain multiple people and want a bar and a billiards table? Those are the first decisions to make because it will change how the system is done.”

What’s the next big thing in your industry?

“We’re experimenting more and more with virtual reality. It’s exciting, but a little intimidating. The accuracy has become great. It’s going to be part of things.”