by Lewis Frisch
Lewis Frisch.New York, NY (October 2, 2007)–In 2004, set to launch a new company to distribute Gotham Audio Cables in the United States to function as a branch of the Gotham organization in Switzerland, I happened to read an interview with recording engineer, Scott Bowmar, describing recording sessions at producer Willie Mitchell’s studios in Memphis. Scott was fascinated with all the vintage gear in the studio: “There’s this place, Gotham Audio, where it looked like he got all of his stuff. Seems like that was the big place where everybody bought their stuff. That was like the Sweetwater of the ’50s and ’60s.”
Then and there I decided to name our new company Gotham Audio LLC, preserving the use of the Gotham Audio name and logo by those with both a historical connection to the Gotham Audio Corporation and a direct knowledge of that company’s immense contributions to our industry. There are few similarities between Sweetwater and the old Gotham, but both companies, in their respective eras, revolutionized the distribution of professional audio equipment.
Gotham Audio, founded in New York City by Stephen Temmer, was the pioneering pro audio dealership based on technical sales of equipment that would facilitate the very highest fidelity in recording and reproduction. Temmer, a classically trained tonmeister, began using Neumann U-47 microphones for recording projects in 1953. He visited the Neumann factory and soon became involved with the U.S. distribution of Neumann disc-cutting equipment. In 1958, Neumann granted the newly formed Gotham Audio Corporation exclusive rights to distribute both its microphones and disc recording and cutting systems. For 30 years, the two companies were inseparable, sharing a mutual reputation for excellence.
Gotham followed its success with Neumann by introducing Studer tape recorders to the U.S. Over the years, Gotham also distributed products from EMT (plate and digital reverbs), Klein & Hummel, beyer, NTP, Cedar Audio, Harmonia Mundi Acustica, Telefunken, Ferrograph, Audio Developments and Audio+Design.
Gotham Audio maintained an extensive service lab and parts department, actively participating in modification and improvement of existing products and the co-development of new products, often under the Gotham name and logo. These included custom mixing consoles, power amplifiers and pioneering digital audio products. The Gotham T-101, developed by Lexicon and introduced in 1971, was the first commercially available digital audio product. Gotham co-developed the ProDAT professional DAT recorder and brought the first practical recordable Compact Disc system, the CDR-90, to studios and mastering rooms in 1990.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Gotham developed a thriving export business in Europe for numerous American manufacturers including Lexicon, UREI, Valley Audio, Switchcraft and MRL. The NY-based Gotham Export Company opened a Swiss office which evolved into Gotham AG, headed by Franz Amman.
Stephen Temmer retired in 1985 selling his remaining shares in Gotham AG to Franz Ammann along with the international sales rights for Gotham Audio Cables, manufactured since the mid-1970s at Dorfler Kabelwerk in Austria. These flexible cables incorporated engineering innovations such as double Reussen shielding that had distinguished cables from EMT and Neumann. They rightly claimed to be the first cables specifically designed to meet the unique demands of high-end recording and broadcast facilities. Gotham AG established international distribution and greatly expanded the product range, including the first audio cables designed for the AES/EBU digital audio format.
Gotham Audio’s core business distributing Neumann products came to an abrupt and distressing end in 1991 when the Neumann family turned over ownership of their business to the German company, Sennheiser. The disheartened principals of Gotham Audio embarked upon new ventures, and with the untimely death of Stephen Temmer in 1992, the remarkable company that he founded slowly faded from the rapidly changing audio scene. But the popularity of Gotham Audio Cables did not diminish.
Gotham Audio LLC is pleased to have joined with Gotham AG to save the Gotham Audio name and logo from the sad fate of so many of our industry’s classic names–names appropriated for rebranding inexpensive Far East imports and other lackluster products in search of high-end cachet.
In our fourth year, we’re proud we’ve avoided the hype and snake oil that dominate so much of today’s marketing of high-end cables. We promote solid engineering virtues as opposed to exorbitantly priced exotic materials and constructions, which offer little but inflated prices and the strange contention that cable can somehow “improve” your sound.
For 30 years, discerning engineers have relied on Gotham Audio Cables to reliably transport audio signals with accuracy and neutrality–some happily use cables that have been in service for well over 20 years. Also, users of “audiophile” products conclude that while the products costing four, five and six times more may sound “different,” they simply don’t sound better than our modestly priced Gotham Cable.
We primarily market our cables directly to end-users, contractors and integrators. We do have a limited number of dealers but, in most cases, today’s dealerships are not well adapted to professional cable sales.
Our current catalog boasts 40+ varieties of bulk cable, and few salespersons wish to learn the ins and outs of cable specification. Most dealers look to heavily advertised brands, which are, in effect, pre-sold to their clients. They either want to put the lowest-priced product on the wall or on the Net, or to sell product that generates very high profit margins and substantial gross profit per unit–often for product that is overpriced, under-qualified or simply inappropriate for the end-user.
A few dealers do things differently. Our largest dealer, Redco Audio, specializes in professional cable sales, and clients all over the U.S. rely on Chris Stubbs for his comprehensive knowledge and integrity. We value and promote such relationships whenever we can find dealers who are serious about cable sales. Gotham Audio Corporation never treated any sale of equipment or cable as the marketing of a mere commodity. With our emphasis on personal service, appropriate technology and sound engineering virtues, we seek to honor their legacy.
Lewis Frisch, chief operating officer of Gotham Audio LLC, began working at radio stations in the 1960s, became a recording engineer in the ’70s and has specialized in audio equipment sales and systems integration since the early ’80s.
Gotham Audio LLC