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View From The Top: Mathias Von Heydekampf, Managing Director, Synthax, Inc.

Having always been “fascinated” by music and audio, Mathias von Heydekampf—managing director of Synthax Inc., handling distribution of RME, Ferrofish, Alva and myMix in the Americas—has been involved in sonic pursuits throughout his career, beginning in his home country of Germany.

Having always been “fascinated” by music and audio, Mathias von Heydekampf—managing director of Synthax Inc., handling distribution of RME, Ferrofish, Alva and myMix in the Americas—has been involved in sonic pursuits throughout his career, beginning in his home country of Germany.

“[This fascination] might have had something to do with the fact that one of my father’s companies dealt with car hi-fi,” von Heydekampf recalls. “I have never done anything but sound. My first car was equipped with my father’s self-rigged car audio system; it had 36 speakers built inside so you could hear me come from miles away. After college, I started in the consumer field, working for Bose in Germany, where I learned a lot about marketing… just as my father told me I would.”

At one point during his time at Bose, von Heydekampf was assigned to work with legendary drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, starting at Frankfurt’s colossal Musikmesse trade show and followed by a series of drum clinic tours. “I was a chauffeur during college, so Bose assumed I would be good in handling VIPs,” von Heydekampf continues. “I enjoyed this a lot, and Vinnie really opened my eyes to the power of music. By hearing all the different tones on the drums, I soon began hearing music differently. He actually tried to teach me to play the drums, but eventually gave up after recognizing I was a lost cause.”

After some time in Bose Germany’s marketing department, von Heydekampf moved into sales and was eventually recruited by Harman’s consumer audio division in France. “That was very interesting,” he explains, “because I went from a one-brand company to a ‘many’ brand company. Even though [my early employment] were [in] consumer divisions, I was able to experience the ‘pro’ scene, which I was drawn to for its intimacy—everybody knew everybody! So when I was approached by Mark IV to handle their European subsidiaries and sales, I accepted the offer immediately. This position evolved into me becoming president of Pro Audio for Telex worldwide.”

Over time, von Heydekampf ’s love and frequency of international travels has informed his work. “[It] has given me savviness about different cultures and how business is done differently in other parts of the world,” he offers. “I am very passionate about everything I do, and so I love that I can bring this to an industry that is equally as passionate. I can see that the industry continues to become more and more commoditized, sometimes at the cost of creativity. But at its core, our industry is filled with people who are passionate about good audio, and I love this.”

“I remember one time, at a distributor meeting in Dubai, we were presenting a new speaker line,” von Heydekampf continues. “We set the system up the night before and the engineers and the product managers were listing to pink noise until 5:00 a.m. until they got it right! I love this passion. I would hate to work for a company that relies on marketing to make their products look good even though it may not be good for you—as may happen in, for example, the pharmaceutical industry. If we in pro audio do our jobs right, everybody benefits. A good live concert gets everybody on their feet; an emergency P.A. system that people can hear and understand saves lives; a musician who has control of his own sound is the happiest guy alive. These are all reasons why I can’t see myself ever working in different industry!”

Today, von Heydekampf resides in Fort Lauderdale, the headquarters of Synthax. “As long as hurricanes don’t hit us, we very much enjoy the Florida weather,” he notes. “[Our] R&D is done in Germany and we are the distribution arm. We’ve established an entirely new team over the last two years and have been very successful as we tune into our customers and their needs. I only hire passionate people! Even our warehouse guy is a drummer and loves to chat with our customers. Our key goal is to educate our customers as much as we can, and for this purpose, we installed a [world class] demo room that we use for education and training. I have never understood why people are willing to spend so much money on smartphones but not on their audio interfaces, [though] what I have learned is that people are actually willing to pay for quality if they are educated about the added value that a product provides. Education is key!”

Being adaptable, explains von Heydekampf, is central to being successful in the pro audio business. “Nothing is as stable as change, and therefore you must always adjust to new things,” he waxes prophetically. “The one thing that remains true, and where we refuse to compromise, is on ‘good audio.’ People tend to follow trends and price points; and [while] we are not opposed to this practice, if it is just for show, we won’t do it.”

One example of this philosophy, shares von Heydekampf, is in RME’s lack of lower-channel count Thunderbolt devices. “Thunderbolt is good for lots of data, such as for video streaming,” he explains. “In audio, though, this is normally not needed and can often increase latency. Most people may not realize this, but if you are below 70 channels—and most of our customers are—it doesn’t do you any good to use a Thunderbolt port. This is why we only have Thunderbolt in devices like the RME UFX+, which can handle 188 channels. Thunderbolt is not necessary for devices that handle only 30 channels. We know we could sell a lot more devices if we put a Thunderbolt port in these devices, but we refuse to because it simply does not add value. Synthax is very committed to doing what is right and not doing whatever is the flavor of the month.”

Synthax, Inc.