Like

Worst audio news since ...

 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18322
Registered: May-04
.

http://www.audioholics.com/news/samsung-harman-business-hi-fi


This is, IMO, the single worst possible take over by a mass market juggernaut of a small, audiophile/music lover's company that I can recall since Craig/Clarion (at the time, a name most associated with eight track/low end cassette/mass market car audio players) bought McIntosh Laboratories back in the early 1990's.

That sale, however, was essentially - from Mac's standpoint - about the resurgence of vintage McIntosh tube amplifier design. Without that purchase, it's very unlikely Mac would have re-introduced their legendary MC275 amplifier. Mac had written off tube based products in the mid-1970's when the last MC275 rolled out of their Bighamton, NY factory. With thousands of vintage Mac tube products still in use at the time, in the homes of doctors and lawyers and music lover across the US along with their steady solid state sales to audiology labs dependent upon the consistency of Mac products, Mac simply refused to discuss tubes as a viable alternative to the then industry dominant solid state technology.

By 1990 Mac had been living off past glories for many years and the number of US dealers promoting McIntosh products was dwindling in the face of a growing number of tube based products from new and lesser known companies. Still recognized for their "best of the market reliability" and their iconic looks, Mac was a choice for the safe buyer less interested in state of the art music reproduction and more interested in the status quo positioning of a rapidly changing industry at the time best known for it's "product of the month" philosophy.

At the time of the Clarion purchase, hundreds of vintage American tube products were being sold annually to parties uninterested in the history of these products as they related to the birth of the US high end audio, and eventually a world wide, market.

People ran ads in the mainstream and the "underground/subjective review based" audio magazines saying they would buy "old" Mac tube products, early Marantz tube gear, Dynaco, Sherwood, Fisher, and so on, only to turn around and ship their acquisitions to Japan for a very tidy profit. Once there, these icons of mid-century Americana industrial design were sold to the very high rollers - this is prior to the first Japanese economic crash - who admired not only the music reproduction capabilities of such products but also the mechanical precision of the hand wiring, the artistic production of transformers and the overall level of construction these products exhibited. Vintage Mac and Marantz were as prized for their industrial artistry as they were for their music reproduction talents.

By that time, tubes were relatively scarce as far as consumer audio products were concerned. While tubes never left the musician's market, mass market solid state was the hottest portion of consumer audio in the 1980's. Vintage Mac amplifiers were being traded in for new Sony/Pioneer/Yamaha solid state receivers. The "audio salons" of the 1960's were either out of business or forced to carry an ever declining quality of mass market products. Mass market and big box were entering into the American lexicon.

Those early buyers who were enticed and enthralled by the looks and the music reproduction prowess of a (LP driven) Mac MC275 and a pair of Bozak Concert Grands, those buyers who created the first footprints of the Golden Age of high end audio in the US, were now buying auto-reverse cassette decks for their perceived convenience.

In the early 1960's Marantz, once claimed to be THE sole competitor to Mac for the title of Best Audio Company in the World, had been sold to SuperScope, a division of Sony. Sony, as a company, was at the time widely viewed as only being successful at stealing US technology, was known to mass market buyers as a button and knob designer of less than stellar products.

The reputation damaging products created by the Japanese owners of Marantz didn't bid well for what was about to happen to the McIntosh brand under Clarion's ownership. Many in the US audio business/hobby waited for the next move from the new owners on the expected path to mediocrity, just as we'd seen with Marantz's mass market rush to the bottom line.

The Marantz audio products were by then available to any store, of any kind willing to sign a contract to floor plan the line on a 90 days same as cash contract. I have mentioned on this forum that I once took in trade a Marantz receiver which had been purchased from a tire shop.


In the mid-'90's, Ken Kessler, writing for England's Hi Fi News and Record Review, published photos of dozens of vintage Americana tube products shrink wrapped and sold on the street for ten to twenty times their original retail prices. Shop after shop offering the same shrink wrapped amps and pre-amps, tuners, etc. One time highest of end American products had become commodities of the most banal marketing imaginable.

It wasn't long after Clarion took control of McIntosh that the first Gordon Gow Memorial Edition MC275 tube amp showed up in very limited production. Virtually the entire first run of this "new" amp (only 500 units, if I remember correctly), based on a highly accurate reading of the original 1960's design, was sold out to overseas buyers.

Very few of those first edition amps made their way to US buyers. The amps were largely ignored by the high end US audio reviewing market.

Since that time, Mac has gone on to design and produce significant tubed products once again. Since the mid-90's it was not uncommon to walk into a Mac dealership and see, if not possibly audition, a bright and shiny, brand new MC275 tube amplifier on display.

Clarion eventually sold Mac to D&M Holdings, another Japanese conglomerate with, at the time, virtually no interests in audio. D&M went on to acquire several other known names in the specialty audio market. They placed and maintained McIntosh as their flagship line. Once again, McIntosh (even if it was mostly in name only) was the best product they had to offer from a wide ranging line of companies.

Since that time, McIntosh has regained a sizable share of the very highest end audio business and their tube products are still regarded as one of the best music lover's amplifiers available.

Unfortunately, IMO, Mac has also become a company in flux with little to no interest in those dealerships which made McIntosh a well known name in the company's earliest days. With Best Buy's acquisition of Magnolia Audio, you can today walk into most of the larger Best Buy stores in the US and see a Mac MC275 on display and for sale with any number of mass market products in support.


Samsung, in my experience, has always been a lower end mass market manufacturer. Made large through their influence in the semi-conductor and integrated circuit manufacture, their digital chips are found in innumerable products today. "Quality" and "Samsung", however, have never been synonymous IMO.

On the other hand, Harman International, under the guidance, for the second time, of Sydney Harman's direct ownership of his own company, has gone about establishing itself as a prime driver in high end audio development. It is difficult to imagine what high end audio today, and particularly high end home theater, would look like without the contributions of the Harman Group's input and products.

While the sale of McIntosh to a Japanese interest was at first a blow to the thousands of Mac fans across the US, the new owners built on the history of the brand. McIntosh survives today as one of the longest lasting brands in all of audio and the MC275 is one of the ten oldest audio designs in current production. The current MC275 and its companion C22 pre amplifier remain largely the same design and implementation of the product as conceived by Frank McIntosh and Gordon Gow in 1960.

I've frequently quoted John Atkinson's measurements section of an early version of the MC275's re-introduction designs as claiming a simple fact of audio, " ... it is difficult to believe from its measured performance that the McIntosh MC275 was designed almost half a century ago (by a team led by company cofounder Sidney Corderman, footnote 1). Good audio engineering is timeless."; http://www.stereophile.com/content/mcintosh-mc275-power-amplifier-measurements#KHl1BkzgAy6hStUm.99

Today's MC275 sells for upwards of $6500. A far cry from its earliest cost of just under $450. Of course, in the 1960's you could still buy a brand new, all in the US built car for under $1999.


It would seem Samsung is really only interested in Harman as a foot in the door without putting in the effort.

IMO this is very sad news for audio buyers everywhere. I hope I am (once again) being overly pessimistic. I've long been a fan of HK's (as it was know back then) products and their philosophy of design. My first "high end" amplifier was a Citation 12 Deluxe. Solid state to be sure, it was designed by Sidney Corderman to sound "tube-like" and to be reminiscent of HK's well regarded Citation tubed products of the 1960's. I still have that amp as well as a 1975 HK dual power, high current, wide bandwidth receiver. HK and McIntosh were among the very first high end audio products I sold. I have uneqivocally recommended Harman products since then
.

(For what it's worth, this buy out did keep Samsung from Fiat's door.)




.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 3442
Registered: Oct-07
How's it working out?
Any Visible signs of distress from Mc and its fans?
Coasting along or any new introductions of note?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18415
Registered: May-04
.

Too early to tell.

When Clarion made the first purchase of McIntosh, they (thankfully) moved slowly. D&M also respected the Mac brand and fiddled only in small ways with the product, mostly broadening the number of components to reach a wider consumer base. McIntosh has reportedly been allowed to be McIntosh under these two corporate brands. A 1960's Mac customer would easily recognize what is sold today under the brand name.

Possibly, I am too pessimistic about Samsung's effect. I base it on decades of watching Samsung go low, dilute quality of design/construction and use gamesmanship to appeal to an uneducated market. Certainly, the market for high end audio no longer values a live music reference as it existed at the heart of many mid-20th c/ audio designers.

With Mac already in select Best Buys and shops which built McIntosh's reputation no longer visible on the consumer audio landscape, I have no real idea where the line will go from here. I do not, however, see Samsung respecting Mac as an original, and virtually unchallenged, founder of Golden Age consumer audio design.


.
 

Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 3443
Registered: Oct-07
We are in the age of 'commodity' hifi.

See 'ya at the LA Audio Show the first week in June.

SONY has rented one of the ballrooms or whatever. Big Space.

If I can find it, I'll forward you the press release.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 18416
Registered: May-04
.

Not sure exactly what "commodity hifi" is supposed to mean. IMO the standards for consumer audio have changed over the years and I'm not sure I could sell expensive audio today as I did in the 1990's even. No way what I did in the '70's and '80's would be of interest to today's rich guys with too much disposable income.

I've long ago lost interest in reviews which come down to listening notes referring to twenty seconds of some recording I don't want to own. Words mean little to nothing to today's buyers and I've had people tell me what I mean when I say a subjective word doesn't matter to them. What matters is what they want to believe but they've done nothing to understand the vocabulary of audio. Seems to be how they go about life.

I would say, anyone who can afford any of the Stereophile Class A gear sure as he!! doesn't need another tax cut; http://www.stereophile.com/category/recommended-components


.
« Previous Thread | Next Thread »

Add Your Message Here

Bold text Italics Create a hyperlink Insert a clipart image Add a YouTube Video
Need to Register?
Forgot Password?
Enable HTML code in message
   

Facebook

Shop Related Deals

Directory

Main Forums

Today's Posts

Forum Help

Follow Us