Big vs. small

May 29, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

I am struggling to think of a smaller company that’s gotten better after being acquired by a bigger one.

I cringe at the aftermath of Harmon’s purchase of Infinity, and JBL, and I wince at the results following Sound United’s big gulps of Denon, Polk, Marantz, B&W, Def Tech, Boston, and Classe. The list seems to be endless.

None of those brands retains any semblance of its former glory.

And it’s not just the audio industry. Shop in Whole Foods after Amazon’s purchase.

Surely there must be some advantages to being swallowed by a bigger company with heavy resources and financial freedom.

I just cannot think of any.

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58 comments on “Big vs. small”

  1. Mark’s original pieces were ground breaking. Levinson2, nah so much. Madrigal really didn’t bring to market revolutionary products, but did a damn good job of refinement while filling a pipeline. Also think some of the Audio Research and McIntosh people may not agree with you.

    How’s Sandy getting on with Bill?

  2. It just becomes all about the almighty dollar for these behemoth companies.
    We know that while you are alive that this will never happen to PS Audio.
    Your passion & dedication to home audio just wont allow it.
    I’m not blowing smoke; I’m just stating a fact.
    My ‘Onkyo A9070’ integrated does a good enough job for the Rock ‘n Roll
    CDs that I listen to, but I know that it’s not high-end audio…no pretence (pretense) here.

    A few ‘Paul’s Posts’ ago I posted a link about a discussion on this snake-oil called MQA.
    Now here is part 2 of said discussion, which quite frankly just left me shaking my head.
    When people tell lies to try & cover up their first set of lies…
    “Oh what a tangled web we weave…”

    Bob Stuart has lost all credibility as far as I am concerned:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHkqWZ9jzA0

    1. That video was an eye-opener FR. I dropped Tidal after subscribing to Qobuz particularly because MQA sounded somewhat strange (electronic) to my ears. I AB’d several musical cuts on Qobuz and in MQA and quickly came to the conclusion that Qobuz sounded more musical but I couldn’t really put my finger on why. Thanks for posting.

    2. Bob Stuart in my thinking is entirely credible! He has overseen and achieved many advantages in the digital and time domain and continues to do so.
      I am fed up to the back teeth with the Bob Knockers.
      MQA is driven by all elements of the Audio and in Future Video/TV fraternities.

      To all you King Canutes out there, the tide has turned and is unstoppable.

    3. Speaking of “MQA”, I’ve yet to see my new Dac light up when playing “master” file music on Tidal… Did I miss something here? My dac was supposed to indicate when those files are playing. It says MASTER beside the title, but the light never shines 🙁 I think you may just well be on to something here FR.

      But I’ll and you as well Keep Listening 🙂

  3. Like you I struggle to come up with a ‘better’ company after being bought by a bigger one. FR may be (is) correct about the $$ being the motivation. But that thought process goes both ways. The company being bought is most likely smaller and privately held. The owner(s) walk away with a cash laden profit and the corporate business ‘know it all’s’ take over. The corporate entity is interested in one thing. Profit. How that profit is or is not achieved is where the downfall can start.

    What seems to get lost when the ‘Big Guy’ takes over is the passion that built the business and employee loyalty / contentment. Once those are gone, the downfall is poised to happen.

    In today’s world an employee has become the commodity, Easily replaceable in corporate management minds….. So growing and managing a holding company or public corporate entity becomes the goal… not the products, nor the founders legacy of some acquisition.

  4. Where it’s not that critical if a product comes from a big or small company is e.g. bicycle business. There are also the fine small businesses, but IMO if a larger one contracts a good designer, there’s not so much difference in the products.

    What might be the difference in audio is, that the design process is not a kind of isolated job, but a continuous one where developers’ mind set, creativity and motivation are more depending on their surrounding in the company.

    Fact is, spontaneously no larger audio company comes into my mind which is not just at the peak of convenience innovation (many are) but also upmost high end audio quality innovation. I know some will see Diavalet and Linn etc. there, but I think such companies lost the last bit of sound quality performance lead at each price point or in cost no object.

  5. Paul, you are so right. As a retired forester working for private industry in the forest products community I have experienced several mergers, acquisitions, or take overs by other large paper companies. It’s never the same when a company acquires another one. Policies change and some staff lose their jobs. But, in the end life goes on and we all learn to adjust.

  6. Agreed Paul – was just about to buy a new Denon / Onkyo / Pioneer amp to relieve my 40 year old SA508 on my tiny budget when SU takeover stopped supplies dead. So it was on to Ebay / Used instead & some contact cleaning fluid & it actually worked out quite well. My old & slightly newer (90s & 2000) purchases work fine for now so I’ve put off getting the soldering iron out & attempting the dreaded recapping for the time being but will scarcity push even these mid-fi bargains up to ludicrous levels eventually?
    Like Fat Rat my system doesn’t approach your levels of fidelity (or my budget) but with some new speakers cd player & a Grado cartridge or two sounds better than it ever did to me – even with my aged hearing clipped at 10khz ….
    Many thanks for the rekindling of this interest Paul – your unique approach & enthusiasm is a great motivation to get some damn things done & enjoy life in this & many other fields….! ; )

    1. Andy L., stop under playing your system please sir. Buy Paul’s book and move your speakers around a little and it will sound fantastic. The real point here is that you are listening and giving it your all. That makes your an AUDIOPHILE because you care.

      Keep Listening 🙂

  7. Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, is a good friend of multiple friends of ours. I’ve met him several times, and Honest’s headquarters is a half-mile from my house. This clip sounds like it’s typical corporate PR, and consumers may disagree, but I know he really does believe that selling Honest to Coca Cola was on balance a good move for Honest. His rationale is that a great product with minimal distribution isn’t really a great product.

    I’m not trying to disprove Paul’s thesis, just to supply the example that he asked for.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YPRZSsXRpWE&t=110

  8. I’m going out on a limb here and probably get a lot of flack for it, but I’ll suggest Disney. Most of their adaptations work quite well and are given a much larger and longer lifespan than those works of similar content that didn’t get Disney’s assistance. Disney saved Lucas from himself and we get the Disney+ Star Wars spin-offs. Does Disney always hit it out of the ball park? Certainly not, but they’ve done more for storytelling than any other company in the world and proved to us “that it’s a small world after all.It’s a small world after all. It’s a small small world “
    Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. Enjoy the ear worm

  9. Is this a rant ? Well, I join in.
    The old Levinson’s may have been groundbreaking in their time, but the modern Levinson amps of today are way better than those oldies. I’ve got a pre/power combo and it sounds FANTASTIC.
    And, not unimportant, the reliability is terrific. I bought my Lev’s in 2005, 2013 and 2018. In those 16 years never a problem.
    I wish I could say the same from the PS Audio devices I had. 3 repairs in a little over 4 years. (PWT and DSJ).
    Sorry to say but the volume button on the DSJ is rubbish. The screen on the PWT does not function very well. I stopped using it. The digital coaxial input of the DSJ stopped “working” the third year. I stopped using it.
    The DSJ was overheating sometimes and then “freezed”. I had it repaired. 400 dollar.
    The PWT didn’t respond to the remote. I had it repaired. It’s better now, but still not flawless.
    Every now and then the drawer of the PWT does not open smoothly.
    So, PSA, get you quality control together.
    Then some other brands mentioned here. The JBL speakers of today (I heard several) sound way better than the disco sound they had in the 1970’s.
    Most B&W fans say the same about B&W. (I’m not a B&W fan so I don’t know).
    So, since my mother always taught me to give my honest opinion and don’t beat around the bush, I migth as well do that. After all you poked the bear.
    I think nostalgic feelings got the best of you and frankly, I consider today’s post as absolute nonsense.
    Having said all that it may be clear that because of what I experienced the last 10, 15 year, I for one put my trust in big(ger) companies, rather than in small(er) “family” companies with their limited resources.
    And BTW., “grounbreaking” is no company anymore. In these days it’s (slow) evolution in “audio-country”, not revolution.
    Some (followers…) may not like this comment but it’s only the truth. I did not make it up. It’s based on facts, my personal experience with PSA stuff. And I think that’s more than you can say about today’s post.

    1. Nice rant jb4 ✌️

      Long term quality is important to many, my self included. Even if things are under warranty it sucks to deal with repairs and loss of music.

      As far as PSA reliability I’ve haven’t experienced what you have.

      As far as bigger companies go, those that have been around the longest, have a strong following have stayed close to their initial ‘values’, and have proven themselves over time seem to be the ones to stick with. Brand names have a value, but once that brand is tarnished the value to some is almost worthless. There’s a life cycle of both name brand, and product life. The trick for the small independent companies seems to come when the 1st generation ownership moves on. Either the vision continues and things improve or not.

  10. **Political Analogy**
    China is ‘Sound United’ & small countries that China wants to play ‘Debt-Trap Diplomacy’ with, especially island nations in & around the Pacific region, are Denon, Polk, Marantz, B&W, Def Tech, Boston & Classe.
    Like in the audio world; nothing good will come of it.
    Just watch what happens in the next ten years around the Pacific.

    1. (Sorry, can’t help to put my reply. Should not go political.)
      Well, I hope this will not happen in next ten years. Australia seems to have started to see the real intention from that and starts to realize that the “democratic China” has been trying very hard to warn others for a long time but no one is listening. I hope (unrealistic!) people can realize the situation and politicians can resist the temptation, and do the right thing for their people not for themselves.
      If worse scenario happens, I hope I can still have my right to chose which brand of audio gear I am allowed to own!

  11. As many have indicated already, mediocrity is acceptable as long as it provides “shareholder value”. In other words money, money, money!! It’s all about the bottom line, greed. No pride of ownership. There can be a balance but most choose not to. Corporate speak such as leverage the market to maximize profits.

  12. As many have indicated already, mediocrity is acceptable as long as it provides “shareholder value”. In other words money, money, money!! It’s all about the bottom line, greed. No pride of ownership. Picture Scrooge counting his pennies and all the other life messages conveyed in the Christmas Carol. Sad, very sad.

  13. [snark mode ON]

    Seriously, dude? The advantages are myriad: consolidation of market, elimination of competition, commodification of circuitry leading to economies of scale, monetization of unused legacy brand reputations (which were fading anyway, so, abuse it or lose it, know what I’m sayin’?), proper calibration of customer expectations…

    …what? Oh. No, who cares what you want? We’ll tell you what you’re allowed to want. You don’t get your role in the system, dude. You’re not a design input, you’re a consumer. Shut up and consume.

    Weirdo.

    [snark mode OFF]

    Actually seriously, the true audiophile segment has always been a fringe niche, and always will be. It was when experimenters in the 1950s first started adapting the fruits of WWII electronics advances to the reproduction of sound with “high fidelity”. And later when they added spacial complexity to that reproduction with the notion of “stereophonic sound”.

    Audiophilia is distinct from mass-market sound. Really, it’s a pleasure to see how much sound reproduction technology has been adopted from the audiophile to the boom-box and bookshelf-speakers audience. “Brand extensions” like quadrophonic sound, surround sound, 5.1 and 7.1, the 44.1 kHz compromise for CD recordings, etc., were intended to expand that market while not wasting too much money serving it (and training the market to believe that what they’re getting is all they need or should want).

    But most of that casual audience is not interested in making the investment that audiophilia requires: not just high-end circuitry and cutting-edge speaker technology, not just dedicating a hall for listening and tuning its acoustics, not just developing recording mechanisms that save and play back sound images with the inevitable, inescapable transcription errors reduced to so low a level that they are imperceptible.

    But the investment of time, and more importantly attention, in learning what the real sound actually sounds like; in reproducing that original as closely as possible; and in paying full and genuine attention to that reproduction. For the casual listener, “serious listening” consists in turning off the TV while the record is playing. Anyone who wants to go beyond that is a blip, a statistical anomaly. A weirdo.

    So, thank you, brother. Stay weird.

  14. Acquisitions are a mixed bag in my opinion, some good others bad.
    I used to work at our local commercial radio station for a while. It was locally run and popular in the area.
    Then it was bought out by a huge conglomerate called Bauer Media.
    Out went the Station Managers etc. in came their own people.
    We were all told to congregate in the conference room apart from the on-air staff.
    A new Bauer boss unveiled a white board that was writted on in large letters CASH IS KING, CASH IS KING.
    I stuck my hand up and said surely the listeners are king, that didn’t go down well atall. Talk about a surly atmosphere.
    The station took feeds from their own media outlets and became hyper commercial – now it sounds horrible, over compressed for loudness and not of the area.
    I’d had enough.

    1. AllanG,
      When I worked at audio retail stores where it was very evident that ‘cash was king’
      I also didn’t last long at those stores, since my priority was the customer’s audio needs.

      1. Fat Rat, it was a great place to work in. I used to assist in electronic maintainance and repair. I along with my wife we presented a live two hour jazz programme a week. Promo CD’s for the programme we were allowed to keep, there was enough promos each week to more than fill the time slot. (Otherwise the station record library would be overloaded). I used to send a copy of our playlist out to all every week and in return received CD’s 🙂
        With the new owners this all stopped but we didnt care as I’ve got many hundreds of jazz cd’s.
        It was a great time while it lasted.

  15. Mini purchase by BMW.

    Bentley purchased by Volkswagen.

    Rolls-Royce purchased by BMW.

    Lamborghini purchased by Audi

    The list goes on. But the one common thread in all these acquisitions is, when a small company falls on hard times, the quality of their products often suffer badly. This is when the acquisition by a large company and the infusion of funds can restore a tarnished brand name.

    I’m sure if some of the more historically knowledgeable audiophiles think about, they can come up with some audio manufacturers who followed the same path.

    1. Nelson Pass comes to mind. Instead, he left Threshold to form Pass Labs and eventually First Watt. I have never read one negative word regarding his product lines. It’s good to have investors providing Nelson the flexibility to continue evolving his circuit design and masterful engineering.

    2. Lamborghini is MUCH better after the purchase by Audi.

      Their vehicles are much more reliable than they used to be, and the use of many of Audi’s electronics parts (entertainment systems, dashboards, etc.) have been of great benefit, too.

  16. DYNAUDIO. At least so far… their parent company invested a lot of money into Dynaudio, allowing them to up their R & D game, and the new speaker line(s), like the new Confidence Series, are their best ever speakers. They were able to keep all of their engineers as well. It is still early days though, and sometimes the buy out problems do not happen until further down the road-but so far, so good for Dynaudio in my estimation.

  17. I think that the emotional discussion overlooks an important point. Much of what we buy is electronics. Electronics is based on stuff – chips – that are necessarily manufactured in the millions. Very few people build their own DAC, for example. You can buy actual DACs, or you can do what PS does and buy FPGAs. But you’re leveraging stuff that is manufactured ‘for you’. There’s not many who could design and tape-out their own chips. And even if they did, the chips will be made by TSMC. You can get bigger than that, but not by much.

    Yes, you can build something out of individual transistors. But they’re still manufactured by somebody else.

    Long story short, the real degrees of freedom in electronics are reducing. And yet this week’s electronics really do sound better, really do work better, than the stuff in the past.

    Speakers are a bit different – it’s mechanical engineering, and you can DIY. But there’s a lot of materials science now widely known – once upon a time, Celestion’s use of lasers to see the deformation of tweeter diaphragms, and the use of software to design better domes, was absolutely groundbreaking. Turntables and arms and cartridges are like speakers.

    So when the degrees of freedom are reduced, the innovation that an existing small company can bring is reduced. They may well better serve their customers by being part of a larger unit; in a sense they already are – they all – large or small – source their active electronics from the semiconductor industry. And being bigger means you can get stuff cheaper. And you can buy better manufacturing equipment, and better test equipment.

    And folk, like B&W, who sell speakers at $30K aren’t going to stay in business if their products aren’t competitive at that price level; so being part of a big organisation shouldn’t hurt. And there’s any number of folk who can sell speakers at the $40 and up level; it’d be hard for B&W to exist competing in the shallow end. Sony’s even bigger….

    But don’t worry; there are still new things to do.

    I’d still like to see much more modular electronics – I have a NAD M12, which like many other NAD products offers upgradability through plug-in modules. But I’m pretty sure they don’t actually have a good ‘modularity architecture’. Which would be easy for all-digital products; have the modules communicate via USB-C or ethernet, using widely-available switch chips. And bring in analogue with a good ADC or seven. Then I’d be able to add a digital volume control to my next-gen M12 equivalent, add Dirac room equ where I wanted it, have digital outputs from where in the chain I want (so I can feed a fixed-level output to my Mac Mini to capture my vinyl, and a volume-controlled stream to my digital-in active speakers). And so on.

    Incidentally, I’ve just rearranged things in the house, so now I have an M12 surplus to requirements….

    Pete

    1. Mr. Wilson makes a very good point (thank you, Pete): a system can only be implemented with technology available today. In fact, for manufacture at industrial scale, you’re constrained to technology a decade old, because the factories and supply chain aren’t built at the cutting edge. Can’t be, and shouldn’t be.

      I earlier commented that the CD standard of 44.1 kHz sample rate was a compromise. That’s only a skosh above the Nyquist frequency for the top end of human hearing — but a skosh is enough. The real compromise was saving only 16 bits per sample.

      That might sound like I think it was a crass and cynical compromise. Oh, my, no, not at all. It was a brilliant compromise, sheer genius! Would 196 kHz and 24 bits be better? Sure. And CDs would have been bigger than LPs, and cost twice as much, and held only three or four songs. And the players would have cost more than the rest of the system combined. And the format would have sunk without a trace, not even a footnote in history.

      Consider that the Red Book (the CD-DA protocol standard) was written during 1979, and first published in 1980. In 1979, the ARPAnet (not even yet the Internet) was barely into kindergarten; Tim Berners-Lee was 24 years old, and a decade away from inventing the World Wide Web (slacker!); “microcomputers” were literally hobbyist toys with 8-bit CPUs and 48K of RAM — the Model 5150, IBM’s “Personal Computer” running a 16-bit CPU and up to 640K of memory (all anyone would ever want, as Bill Gates famously never said) wouldn’t appear for another two years; power transistors still had trouble hitting a few MHz *at all*, and couldn’t quite yet reproduce 20 kHz cleanly (not the consumer-priced ones, anyway).

      The real compromise that allowed the CD to be wasn’t technical at all: it was Sony and Philips management giving their engineers permission to work with each other. That gamble allowed them to create a market that did not yet exist. Kudos to those visionaries, tech and management alike.

      By all means, cherish and attend to the cutting edge. But keep in mind that the spine and tang and ricasso, and the sheath, also play their humble but essential parts. (Or, if you disagree, at least cut me a little slack.)

      1. Great points to balance the argument & a reminder that without those two (or three) very large companies great consumer leaps in technology may never have happened. Sony & Philips get too much stick for popularising with some comprimises rather than plaudits for the investments they made in technology of many varieties & at all levels. Sony can make top quality hifi when they want to but they have much broader markets to appeal to also. IBM pcs are so easy to build even I can do it – just a step up from Lego. So as you say it’s a mixed bag – but often the previously highly distinctive products can become a badged rehash of the same basic designs – hence mediocrity. But not doing do can backfire too. Saab ignored GM’s requests in this respect, blew the budget & bankrupted themselves (Car division) so there’s dangers to both approaches.

  18. I’ll chime in concerning the disgrace Infinity became post Arnie Nudell. The one thing good to come of it was it clearly set the boundaries of the era when Infinity was an extraordinary speaker company that knew how to very successfully build excellent sounding speakers and market them for the general and upscale public at reasonable prices. I greatly appreciate being able to participate in that era. I’ve spent my whole adult life appreciating Nudell era Infinity.

  19. OK, I tend to agree Paul… but please don’t wipe out all of SU…
    … guess I’ll get flamed 🙁

    Some of Denon audio should still be respected as folk that care for sound. When combined with British speakers the sound is renowned to many to be a great mix for clear tonality for voice and instruments with a rich non boomy but punchy bass.

    Case in point, their recent 110 Year Anniversary edition AVC-A110, all made in their Japanese Shirakawa audio factory. While the video part is still mostly from their flagship X8600H the audio has had hundreds of improvements that I’m sure you would approve of. These include a more massive copper based transformer, redesigned main power capacitors, when did PS Audio last design and make capacitors for sound. Plus loads of other tuned for sound upgraded by ‘listening tests’ including – updated DAC board with new polypropylene capacitors, thicker circuit boards with lower impedance, improved mechanical stability, reduced vibrations and better heat dissipation – everything inside is black or painted black to radiate heat, well except for a bit of bling.

    They still use an AKM 192kHz/32-bit DAC, that you recently highly praised, and have reduced clock jitter. It can accept many digital sources including I2S DSD over HDMI, sending a central clock to their external SACD, so no need for external DACs, preamplifiers and loads of noise inducing cables.

    Some of the high end Denon and and think Marantz audio have been left to the devices of original and gifted audio designers in Japan, where it’s also made. The board of directors are practically all American, https://www.soundunited.com/board-of-directors , and are in it to make money – as are you… as you justifiably use high end components and well paid folk, then if I remember right charge 5 times what each unit costs to make?

    So it’s good that SU sell decent items across the range, to people that can afford such low margin items sold in massive quantities, but also leave ‘some’ of the high end ideals to continue, partly sponsored by the masses…

    For a number of reasons I have to compromise as I have one half decent room that I want as a high end as possible stereo and multichannel SACD sound, plus 4K OLED film/tv pictures with great sound too. I can’t afford a separate home theatre, not sure I’d want a granny projected image anyway. My room may only seat three to four, but that’s more than I need.

    While maybe not in your ultra high end PS Audio league, please don’t tell folk they don’t retain any semblance of former glory, that’s not fair or true, not even 99% true…

    1. Alan – ADT U.K.
      30 years ago I bought a pair of ‘Denon POA-4400’ monoblocs.
      They were the world’s most affordable ‘bees-knees’ of high-end power amplification.
      I had them for 6 years & I sold them for exactly what I paid for them to a gentleman
      who was thrilled with the price that he purchased them for.

  20. I really think you might have meant “Harman” not “Harmon”… However, since Jervis (later renamed Harman) has owned JBL since the 60’s and the great studio monitors of the acclaimed designer Greg Timbers happened all though Harman’s ownership, I don’t really understand why one would “cringe” outside of not really understanding the history of some companies. Just sayin’… It is actually the sale of Harman to Samsung that we see the heritage of those great companies of old being lost to the all-mighty dollar.

  21. Unfortunately, it is not only affecting the audio industry. I have seen caring community hospitals serving their surrounding areas be bought out and quickly turned into only for profit centers for out of state companies who treat people like they are nothing but a hamburgers or a numbered product.
    We all have experienced the decline of many mom and pop audio stores who have not been able to weather the storm without any type of buy outs and simply closed their doors. I remember visiting several mom and pop audio stores on a monthly basis to listen to what a “dream” system would sound like. Now, I have you-tube? Life changes. Thank you, Paul for for bring the the focus of PS Audio back on the course to the community it serves.

  22. The integrity of any organization is inversely proportional to its size. Bigger is not better in cities, school, government or business.

  23. I was a design engineer for Quad Eight when Mitsubishi Pro Audio Group acquired them in the 80s. In the 70s, they were one of the world’s premier recording console manufacturers. After the bean counters at Mitsubishi took over, not so much. Same thing with Neve after Siemens bought them. 70s Neve consoles are highly coveted and can be worth $150,000 or more today. 80s Neve’s not so much. The extra levels of bureaucracy seem to hinder innovation instead of fostering it, and sap the company of funds that could be used for research. I also worked for Harman/JBL in the late 80s. The bureaucracy was ridiculous! I remember a meeting with 9 people – engineering managers, purchasing people, mechanical engineers, etc. just to decide what type of screw to use. I didn’t last long at that company. I much prefer a smaller, leaner, more agile place to work.

    1. A Siemens manager once told me that in big companies an employee only works for a third of his working hours according his job description. Another third he spends for further education and training. And the last third he is busy in networking and mobbing!

  24. Isn’t that the truth, seems pride in ones work has become an exceedingly rare attribute in a country of people that once led the world in quality. Shameful what has become of America.

    1. sttawbor,
      **Bigger Picture**
      America sold off it’s manufacturing to China decades ago
      & is now reaping the ‘rewards’
      Is it too late?
      Has the lesson been learned?

  25. Anyone who thinks they can make sweeping rules about the economy ( especially a free economy ) is just kidding themselves. Sometimes a small company being bought by a big company is good thing, sometimes it is not. That’s it, it is the only rule that applies.

  26. IMHO mergers and acquisitions, of course, come with the business plan that the “new owner” wants. If the business plan is to keep original company independent and retain its heritage, might be good. But, if just want the brand name to blend in products that don’t represent the original brand, might not be good for persons, like me, who are looking for that heritage. So far, I have not yet see the “new owner” who does not have strong opinion on what he/she want.

  27. Paul,
    I totally agree with your post. I worked for Thrifty Drug before it was purchased by an investment Company and combined with Payless Drugs. It was later acquired by Rite Aid. West Coast drug stores and East Coast drug stores are not the same. The Drug store Industry has changed like many others Industries. The cookie cutter approach. I think bigger companies concentrate more on price of the stock vs the quality of their products.
    Enjoy the day and the music..

  28. How much money can a man want after he has made enough that he could not spend it all in 2000 years? Its not done for money by the big ones who buy out the small ones. Its about control. Not money.

  29. I worked for a medium size architectural/engineering professional services firm. Acquisition of smaller firms was one way to gain immediate presence, staffing and client base in other geographic locations as part of a corporate long term expansion strategy. Also, through national diversification, risk of loss due to regional economic slowdowns is lowered. In ten years the firm went from 20 offices to nearly 50 offices nationwide. In some years the offices in one region would do better than those in another, and then the tide would turn and low performing offices could be the highest. It’s called diversification. The benefit to the owners of the firms being bought out is that they can cash out and retire and serve the buyout firm on a consulting basis. Many of these buyouts were financial bombs, but the few successful ones more than compensated for the losing ones.

  30. This was a intriguing coincidence to my morning NYTimes read of President Biden’s efforts to improve and grow the middle class in America because of its declining numbers during the past 40 years. I was reflecting that during much of this same period, many of the smaller stand alone corporations that produced the name brand products and services that we were familiar with were increasingly being absorbed into much larger corporations that often dumped lower profit products and services for increased corporate wealth. Many of those are not at the levels that we remembered them as being, though others did improve and costs cut to be competitive. But I have also seen a tremendous reduction in R&D from these larger corporations that drove new markets and demands as well as those that did the research but proved unable to recoup the costs because of competition from businesses who did not have to do the development costs from the bottom. It cost many more of those businesses- witness Kodak and Xerox for example and Thiel speakers in the audio industry.
    There are pros and cons to all sides of this topic but I for one remain concerned that not enough new innovative ideas happen here compared to say the Asian marketplace.

  31. I love how companies spin acquisitions as being in the best interest of the consumer. Emotional speeches, etc. Or, how the spin is about how the mega corporation can no longer compete unless they acquire. So much lying.

    I’m sure I’ve benefitted from some acquisitions but I think they often do more harm.

    Whole Foods, a good example, seemed to allow stores and staff to have a personality but now the stores are sterile, plastic and more expensive.

  32. Large companies come in with a lot of baggage, one is manufacturing ISO standards. These standards put a strangle hold on development, engineering, quality control and assembly. Any employee that is brilliant at what they can do no longer has the freedom to make it happen on the assembly line. I am a retired operations manager that has seen it happen, frustrating to no end. By there own nature ISOs limits the quality of a product so no one company can out shine another.
    My opinion..

  33. Fine Sounds didn’t do anything too bad to Audio Research, but they killed Wadia.

    Wadia had updates for 192/24 designed and ready to go into production for their flagship S7i, but after Fine Sounds bought them they not only killed their high end products, they decided not to ship the upgrades, either.

    That was the end of Wadia in the high end DAC marketplace; now they only have lifestyle products based on off-the-shelf DAC chips. The brand exists but the secret sauce of the DIgimaster algorithm is long gone.

    Many had hoped they would perhaps use that algorithm and put it into ARC DACs, but they didn’t do that, either.

    Completely depressing as were they still around, they’d still be wiping the floor with their competitors.

    Recently I replaced my Wadia with a dCS Rossini and Rossini Clock, but it took three times the MSRP of the Wadia to be able to do it – and the Rossini alone didn’t – it was only the Rossini paired with the clock that did it.

    Given what Wadia did with their ClockLink technology, that makes perfect sense.

  34. As a small business owner, reading Paul’s tome, I felt….I dunno if validated is the correct term but let’s just say reading about his struggles with running PS Audio, I kept thinking “me too!”

    For those that haven’t owned their own business (and look, this isn’t a criticism by any means) you have. No. Idea. As the owner, you literally feel like you have the weight on your shoulders. And, many small businesses owners are not good business people….I can attest to this personally.

    That said, the time comes when it’s time to go. I know a lot of the guys at Polk, to include Matthew and it was the right time and the right offer. Matthew did his bit for king and country and I don’t begrudge him profiting from the fruits of his labor. Most of the folks I know that went this route didn’t leave the folks that had been faithful high and dry, either.

    Bottom line is everything has a life cycle and that includes business owners.

    BTW, Polk has released some interesting speakers under SU….the L800 is an SDA fanatic’s wet dream.

  35. There are so many great companies who lost their former glory and greatness to the the monster. If they think owning a name is going to get me as a customer they are mistaken. It’s why so many audiophiles seek out vintage gear. It’s better than the new stuff these bought up companies are producing.

  36. Well, thing is…..folks that build their own businesses, the business becomes an extension of themselves and takes on a personality that reflects that of the owner. I know that mine does and I know that’s true of most of the people I know that own their own businesses.

    Corporations just aren’t wired that way……and, btw, this often happens to small businesses that pass the business on to their kids, for example. They don’t have the sweat equity in it and the brand doesn’t have the personal importance, it’s just a numbers game.

  37. Pros and cons, surely. Polk has come back with some great offerings and misses. Boston Acoustics – who cares about them now? Can’t think of a single speaker they offer today. Acquisitions usually work out for the struggling owners but it’s a mixed bag for their products, mostly losing what made them special in the first place. Tangent – QC is an issue for all sizes of companies – I had two issues with my Stellar DAC – the Mute function wouldn’t work (fixed by an upgraded chip that I was sent and installed myself) and an issue with the headphone jack that was missing the mechanism that cuts off the mains when a plug is inserted – not broken, missing, I was told. I had QC issues with Topping – graphics printed upside down, and then sending the wrong AC adaptor. Have a Schiit Freya+ where the volume control motor jammed up because the volume knob can rub against the case and stops it from rotating (and you don’t want to even start about their turntable). So, QC issues with small and large companies.

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