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European P.A. Brands Eye U.S. Market

By Clive Young. In recent years, many overseas P.A. brands have raised their profile within the United States.

New York, NY—The pro audio industry has always been based on relationships, and nowhere is that more apparent than when you walk the floor of an audio convention like AES, ­InfoComm or, increasingly, the NAMM Show. On every aisle, manufacturers and their clients go over the latest gear offerings, exploring how products might fit upcoming projects. There’s always going to be certain well-known companies from around the globe to visit at these conventions, but in recent years, there’s been a steady uptick in the number of European-based loudspeaker manufacturers on hand, a turn of events that’s part of a larger trend.

In recent years, many overseas P.A. brands have raised their profile within the United States, whether they’ve been distributed here for some time but have gained an increased presence, or are simply new to the U.S. marketplace. Entering the North American market may be a daunting challenge, but it’s proving to be an increasingly irresistible one for loudspeaker brands from across the Atlantic.

The benefit for manufacturers to break into North America is obvious. “The U.S. is the biggest market in the world, and with our strong basis in West End theater [in London], it was a natural progression to look toward Broadway initially,” said Mike Wheeler, operations director for UK-based EM Acoustics. “Having said that, there is, of course, the much larger live music rental market that is clearly appealing.”

EM Acoustics Matches Growth Curve with Expansion, July 3, 2018

EM Acoustics has taken a methodical approach, having first landed on our shores in 2005. “It has been quite a slow process,” Wheeler said, explaining, “We approached gradually to make sure we would find the right people to work with.”

There’s a benefit in this for the customer, too, in that brands placing a greater emphasis on North America ultimately means there will be more options to choose from here. “There is an influx of European pro audio manufacturers introducing product to the North American landscape,” agreed Steve Hendee, director of sales for Yorkville Sound, which just became the North American distributor for German loudspeaker brand HK Audio. “As a result, U.S. installers have a variety of choice. It is our job to make sure they are aware of our product and we are solving their sound reinforcement needs with durable, affordable and great-sounding product.”

Yorkville Sound to Distribute HK Audio, June 26, 2018

Unusually, a few of HK Audio’s products compete with some of Yorkville’s own offerings, as Hendee noted. “There are definitely similarities,” he said. “The winning opportunity is to highlight the differences. Both Yorkville Sound and HK Audio manufacture product with their own distinctive features and benefits, so it all comes down to the personal taste of the end user. By offering both brands, we can serve our customer base thoroughly.”

If manufacturers are investing in making inroads here, it’s ultimately because they see a demand. “The U.S. pro audio market is primed for top-quality, top-performing lines of loudspeakers; we’re a consumer nation and we all want the best we can afford,” said John Krupa, who distributes Italian brand FBT as the president and owner of Italian Speaker Imports, which he founded in 2014. “I believe all credit is due to the U.S. marketplace’s highly intelligent, highly educated consumer. My job has just been to inform these people of the merits of FBT.”

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While different brands may have different levels of acceptance in the U.S. market, their rising presence here may help all of them as a whole. Krupa noted, “I grew up in this industry, which was once dominated by brands from within the USA. I vividly recall the preferred USA ‘boom and sizzle’ sound, then so prevalent—but tastes have changed. Pure, articulate midrange has become more acceptable, so what was once frowned on as a ‘European sound’ has now become more the norm.”