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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Getting the old band back together

Posted on September 14, 2010 at 4:58 PM

You’d think that this would NOT be the time to be thinking about starting a new company. You know with the recession and all and with well and established companies going out of business all over the place. But let’s just say that you hit your head, got confused and decided that yes, NOW was the perfect time to start a new company, certainly any VC firm or accountant worth their paper would tell you that a new audio company would definitely be the last thing you should think of investing in. But if you HAD to start a company and it HAD to be in audio, maybe a breathing a little new life into the speaker industry wouldn’t be such a bad thing. (I hear that some other speaker company is dropping long-term dealers like old worn-out shoes... )


This would especially be true if you already had a track record of starting two of the largest, most successful speaker lines in the industry.


And if you’re Sandy Gross – who was one of the original founders of Polk Audio back in 1972 and Definitive Technology back in 1990 – when you (according to some) decided to retire or (according to others) were pushed out back in March of 2009, that’s what you do.


I’ve had dinner with Sandy on multiple occasions. He knows great food and he knows even better wine. (When the wine list comes to rest in Sandy’s hands, you just kind of hold your breath, wondering just HOW magical the evening is about to get.) While dinners with Sandy are often described as “holding court” – and there is certainly an Emperor Sandy at the head of the table taking it all in and overseeing his domain between sips of luxuriant red wine from a crystal goblet – I find Sandy to be far more of a listener than a talker.


So when Sandy called me to discuss his new project, I asked, “Sandy, I’m sure that when you sold Definitive [to Directed Electronics in 2004] you got a healthy check. Why aren’t you on a beach somewhere sipping Pina Coladas?”


In classic Sandy style, he replied, “Well, I don’t really like the beach.”


So I rephrased, “OK, why aren’t you up in your Manhattan penthouse sipping fabulous red wines all day? In other words, why start another speaker line and go through all the headaches and hassles and why not just sit back and enjoy life?”


He said he wasn’t ready to be done with this industry yet. “I love this business and I’m not ready to retire.”


His new line will be launched next week at the Custom Electronics show, CEDIA held in (oh, praise Jeebus, for the final year and then we can all go back to Denver! Wait? Not Denver? But everyone LOVED Denver!) Atlanta. His new company is called GoldenEar Technology with the tagline, “A Passion for Sonic Perfection.” Sandy said he wants, “To bring back the combination of entrepreneurial spirit and passion for incredible sound, which has always driven this business and helped to create great companies like Polk and Definitive."


To make the line as good as possible Sandy has, in many ways, gotten the old band back together. He has reteamed with his Def Tech co-founder, design and engineering partner, Don Givogue, old Def Tech Senior VP of Sales, John Miller, one of Def Tech’s old Regional Sales Managers, Dave Kakenmaster, and long-time romantic interest/Def Tech Director of Sales Administration, Anne Conaway. To further round out the team, he also brought Paradigm’s ex VP of Sales and Marketing, Jack Shafton. (Sandy, I know a great blogger who very well may work for bottles of Petrus if you’re looking to fill that position... ) 

According to the still mostly under construction Website, they "are launching a new loudspeaker marquee which promises to eclipse everything that has come before." With others, this claim would be met with much eye-rolling and snarkiness. But when you've had Sandy's level of past successes, you are given a Golden Ticket of, "Man! I can't wait to see/hear what he's doing next!" and allowed a healthy dose of self-aggrandizing.


Sandy said that he hopes to be a “friendly competitor” with Definitive, and they seem to be taking a friendly jab right back at him. In a video sent out to dealers last month announcing Definitive’s new line of Bipolar towers, Paul Dicomo, Def Tech’s Senior VP of Marketing and Product Development, and Dave Peet, Executive VP, are shown bantering back and forth discussing the features of their new speakers. After describing the unmistakable benefits of the new models, Peet off-handedly remarks, “The benefits of these features can be easily explained to the customer and most importantly are demonstrable and audible. Your customer doesn’t have to be a Golden Eared audiophile to appreciate the benefits of bipolar technology or built-in powered subwoofers,” while shooting a quick glance and smirk over to Dicomo.


Game on!


Perhaps hoping to stave off any showfloor showdowns, the two companies are exhibiting LITERALLY as far apart from each other as possible at CEDIA – at the most extreme ends of the convention center. Def Tech in Sound Room 7 and GoldenEar in Sound Room 15. Gentleman, here’s to promising to come and visit you both, and may BOTH companies win!

Categories: September 2010, Electronics

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