The Hub: high end audio News, Events and Gossip

Given the amount of gossip that circulates in the world of high-end audio, it's remarkable that there is no source that regularly reports on industry developments in a timely and non-slanderous manner. Sure, there are plenty of places where you can read press-releases, but we're talking about the kind of things that generally aren't conveyed in PR-speak. We're gong to attempt to fill that void, and what follows is a collection of nuggets, none of which would individually fill an entire entry without serious padding. Rather than do that, we'll present the essence of each story, and then move along.

None of these nuggets comprise news, at least not by our own stringent definition. Some of these events occurred weeks ago; but by all indicators, few folks have heard. So, news or not, here it comes.

We previously wrote about the Snell Type A, the first (and some would say the best) model from Snell Acoustics, 'way back in 1976. Half a dozen U.S. Presidents, a couple wars and a zillion other dead speaker companies later, Snell Acoustics was still around as part of the D &M Holdings family of brands. Siblings include McIntosh, Marantz, Denon, Escient and Boston Acoustics.

Clearly, the last few years have been difficult ones for the high-end audio industry in general. Despite a line of remarkable new speakers designed by industry legend Dr. Joseph D'Appolito (including the flagship model "Illusion"), Snell's market share and presence continued to slip.

On April 8th of this year, TWICE reported that the Snell and Escient brands were being discontinued. The official statement from D&M said, "The changing landscape of the speaker industry has made it extremely difficult for Snell to remain a viable business. The advanced loudspeaker technologies developed at Snell, however, will be leveraged by other D&M brands." Okay, that IS PR-speak. Our bad.

The technology of Escient servers will apparently be incorporated into McIntosh products, but exact details of what happens now to Snell and Dr. D'Appolito, have yet to be released. As soon as our friends at D let us know, we'll let you know. We hope that after that last comment they still ARE our friends.

Here's a story that starts out sad, and ends happily. David Beetles, proprietor of Hammertone Audio in Canada, is a patient and personable soul with good ears. He's also the North American distributor for the electronics, cartridges and speakers from Korean brand Allnic Audio, as well as tonearms from Robert Fuchs Analog and Audio Origami. Unfortunately, David recently suffered a massive heart-attack, and fell into a coma.

Remarkably, after five days in a coma, David emerged and is seemingly none the worse for the experience. He sounds as upbeat and irreverent as he ever did. We share the joy felt by David's family and friends at hearing this news.

Finally, a puzzling and somewhat open-ended piece. For over 20 years, German speaker and electronics manufacturer MBL was represented in North America by Peter and David Alexander's company, MBL of America. Earlier this year, MBL-Germany announced in a press-release the appointment of Bill Parish's GTT Audio & Video as distributor for U.S., Canada and Mexico. There's that pesky PR-speak again.

Anyway, the situation seems pretty clear-cut, right?

Not exactly. Alexander sued MBL in Germany, and a decision was handed down in a Berlin court in March. Alexander writes: "On March 25th, 2010 the Berlin Regional Court, 52nd civil Chamber, rendered judgment in favor of MBL of America. The judgment says that MBL Germany must continue to supply mbl of America on the existing terms and conditions of the International Distributorship Agreement until 12/31/2010."

Meanwhile, Parish states that he has assurances from MBL that he is their exclusive North American distributor. He was seeking further details while attending the Munich Audio show.

We're not saying one is right, the other wrong. What we are saying is that litigation is always costly, protracted and confusing. In this case, it's confusing for MBL's fans, dealers, and potential dealers. We wish all good luck, and hope for an amicable settlement as soon as possible. Incidentally, MBL generally states its brand-name in lower case: mbl. We have deviated from that practice simply because it's hard to read and pinpoint the brand-name within a body of text. No comment was intended or implied by the capitalization.

Oh, man: that even SOUNDED like something out of a lawsuit. Clearly, it's time to quit.

We shall return periodically with bits of news and gossip. Manufacturers, dealers and distributors are invited to notify us of developments in their companies and in their lives. No, we're not planning on announcing BIRTHDAYS ("A tip of the Audiogon cap goes to...."), but if you have something others might find of interest, please send it to:
Wow, what a story about David. I had a few business transactions with David and he is one of the nicest guys out there. The first part of that paragraph was so scary. Thankfully he is doing much better.
Sadly it was reported in the Westport conn, news that Jerry Ozment of Audio logic fame passed away on August 2nd 2010. Known to many as the tube dac guru, he will be greatly missed in the audio community the world over, He was 63.