The Hub: A new year brings changes....
For the past few years, the primary topic of discussion in the world of high-end audio has been survival. As the economy slowly began to normalize after the second quarter of last year, there was still a widely-held belief that a lot of changes and consolidations were yet to come to the audio industry. Indeed, the last quarter of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 brought a number of changes in all sectors of the audio biz: retail, distribution and manufacturing.
For over twenty years, Vienna Acoustics
has been a well-known loudspeaker brand in the high end, and has always been known for offering unique designs. After having been distributed in the U.S. for many years by Sumiko
, VA opened a new U.S. distribution office
on September 1st, 2010. At the same time, it was announced that Vienna Acoustics speakers would no longer be sold through Best Buy's Magnolia stores.
Associated with the new endeavor are International Sales Manager Kevin Wolff, North American Sales Diector Patrick Butler, and Western U.S. Sales Manager Barnaby Fry. All came to VA from Sumiko, and all have deep roots in the audio biz: Wolff with Magnolia, Butler with Goodwin's High End and Tweeter, and Fry with Linn.
We previously reported
that B&K Components had been taken over by a bank in mid-September of last year. In mid-October, B&K
was acquired by Morris Kessler's ATI
(Amplifier Technologies Inc.). ATI manufactures multi-channel amps under its own brand, and also manufactures BGW
pro amps, AudioAccess
distributed systems, and Theta Digital
amps and processors. We're happy to learn that B&K will be returning to the market soon.
Mid-December brought news that assets of Danish electronics and loudspeaker manufacturer Gamut
were purchased out of bankruptcy by Kvist Industries, a large Danish furniture manufacturer which has produced cabinets for Gamut, B&W, and others. Sales manager Torben Sondergaard and designer Lars Goller will stay with the revitalized (and recapitalized) company.
Our old friends and Michigan neighbors Wadia Digital
ended 2010 as part of Fine Sounds
, the holding group owned by Italian equity fund Quadrivio
. In recent years, Fine Sounds has acquired Sonus Faber and Audio Research, and both companies appear to be thriving. Wadia President/CEO John Schaffer and the rest of his crew will stay with the company. We look forward to future growth and expansion for Wadia.
Gossip at CES 2011 included the rumor that Klipsch
, one of audio's oldest and best-known companies, was the target of an acquisition bid. Shortly thereafter, press-releases announced the sale of Klipsch
to electronics conglomerate Audiovox
Since founder Paul Klipsch sold his company to cousin Fred Klipsch in 1989, Klipsch-the-company has become a mini-conglomerate itself. In recent years the group has acquired speaker brands Energy, Jamo and Mirage. Audiovox's acquisition of Klipsch adds to a sizeable portfolio of once-powerful brands, including Acoustic Research, Advent and Jensen. Given its size and market presence, it seems unlikely that Klipsch will be reduced to the diminished stature of those brands. We hope for the best for all parties concerned.
All the industry changes mentioned to this point have been, we think, positive ones. We hate to end on a negative note, but Denver-based chain Ultimate Electronics
has recently been forced to undergo a succession of changes including store closings and consolidations, and in rapid succession this January, Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy filings
Ultimate Electronics has already begun close-out sales at all 46 of its stores, and all are to be closed no later than April 15th. The chain's majority owner was Mark Wattles, a serial entrepreneur who had previously owned and sold the Hollywood Video chain, which closed last year. About 1,500 Ultimate employees will lose their jobs, and a number of well-known manufacturers will likely lose millions of dollars as a result of the liquidation.
The world of audio continues to evolve and reconfigure to survive in a changing marketplace. Our next entry of The Hub will discuss the return of some familiar names to the industry, and a number of other exciting developments.