Business

Business

Audiophiles plug into town

MartinLogan ‘superfans’ tour plant

June 26, 2007

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MartinLogan Club members John Burke, left, of Chicago, and Ben Milne, Des Moines, Iowa, focus on some of the company's components during a tour of the company's campus in East Lawrence. About 25 club members finished their first National Get-Together by visiting the complex Monday.

MartinLogan Club members John Burke, left, of Chicago, and Ben Milne, Des Moines, Iowa, focus on some of the company's components during a tour of the company's campus in East Lawrence. About 25 club members finished their first National Get-Together by visiting the complex Monday.

Dave Blount shares what he's learned during his trip to Lawrence

Dave Blount, proud owner of two Vantage speakers and a Fresco center channel, shares what he's learned during his trip to Lawrence and - most importantly - MartinLogan's design and production campus south of 20th and Delaware streets. Enlarge video

Three questions with ... David Penrod, general sales manager for MartinLogan

David Penrod, general sales manager for MartinLogan, answers three questions about the workings of a $11,000 pair of speakers, potential secrets being shared with outsiders and the "pressure" of having audio addicts crawling through the company's design and production areas. Enlarge video

Three questions with ... Jeff Dearinger, who has worked at MartinLogan for 20 years

Jeff Dearinger, who has worked at MartinLogan for 20 years, answers three questions about the company and its place in the speaker world. Enlarge video

Three questions with ... Dave Blount, a member of the MartinLogan Club

Dave Blount, a member of the MartinLogan Club, answers three questions about the club, its first-ever pilgrimage to company headquarters and what's most tasty (or not) about Lawrence. Enlarge video

Martin Logan prepares to launch new speaker line

A maker of high-end audio speakers is looking to tune in to a well-to-do portion of the mainstream market. Enlarge video

Albert Pujols has a pair. As do Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Isaak and Lenny Kravitz.

But such A-list owners of MartinLogan Ltd. audio speakers don't rate the VIP treatment afforded to Tom D'Acquisto and two dozen of his fellow audiophiles, who earned a tour of the company's headquarters campus Monday in southeast Lawrence just because of who and what they are: plugged in.

"We're geeks - we're audio geeks," said D'Acquisto, who trekked 1,839 miles from San Francisco for the 2007 National Get-Together of the MartinLogan Club. "They have really taken good care of us. : This is the way all American companies should be. It makes me proud to be an owner, and an American."

For several hours Monday morning, club members enjoyed backstage access to a show few get to see:

¢ Peeking inside the engineering studio where ideas for the operation's signature electrostatic speakers are born.

¢ Sitting, with rapt attention, as leaders of the MartinLogan team pump Branford Marsalis' smooth saxophone through the company's Summit speakers - $11,000 a pair - in a demonstration room.

¢ And watching as experienced craftsmen assemble components to go into some of the 15,000 packages that will be sent this year to retailers both international and domestic, generating estimated sales of $20 million.

By the time Rob Zimmerman, an assembly leader at the plant, gets a chance to address a passing pack of club members, he knows he's facing a knowledgeable crowd. He talks of production schedules, quality-control measures and other technical details before letting the club in on a not-so-well-kept secret about the maximum level on the company's Descent I subwoofers.

"For those of you who don't know," he says, pointing to a knob with a straightforward delivery worth of Nigel Tufnel, "these all go to 11."

The "Spinal Tap" reference draws knowing nods and a few chuckles from the tourists, and the give-and-take between club members and many of the company's 80 employees continues.

Paul Schmidt, who's been working at MartinLogan for 15 years, said employees welcomed the enthusiasm of the club's members - "superfans," he calls them - who previously had been known only through their commentary at the club's virtual headquarters, www.martinloganowners.com.

"It's good to put a face with the person you've seen posting on the site," Schmidt said. "There, it's just sort of a monotone, and it all sounds the same."

Not anymore. And perhaps not for much longer.

D'Acquisto, an IT professional for a gourmet meats company in San Francisco, serves as webmaster for the exclusive club now 1,000 members strong, and he hopes to come back to town with more members in the future.

The site has no formal relationship with the company; D'Acquisto simply started it in February 2003 as a way to connect people with similar interests in what they consider to be the finest audio speakers in the world.

Count Dave Blount among the true believers.

Blount made the pilgrimage to this audio mecca - MartinLogan's design and production campus south of 20th and Delaware streets - to meet with fellow followers, share stories and worship at the site where $20,000 pairs of speakers are born.

"I'm an audio whack job," admits Blount, who owns Oakwood Transportation outside Philadelphia along with three MartinLogan speakers: two Vantages and a center-channel Fresco.

And he's not alone.

Comments

Sigmund 7 years, 11 months ago

For those that don't know about ML (hard to believe but you'd be surprised how many people in town have never heard of them) they are a great company with arguably the best speakers, in the world. At one time their sales outside the US swamped sales inside the US. I had a tour many moons ago and it was very, very cool, high-tech, high-end equipment. Yet no one I came across had the slightest hint of 'tude', even though they all knew that at the time I couldn't afford to buy a pair. I came away very impressed.

When I bought my current stuff I compared a ton of speakers but used the ML's as a reference to judge everything else against. The sound was so flat and crisp that every little nuance of the recording was crystal clear. That combined with the 3D sound staging and the ML's were simply breath taking. I've been in a crowded room with a pair of Martin Logan speakers and have the crowd grow silent afraid to make a even the slightest sound so as not to miss a single note. Afterwards people could not believe that just two flat paneled speakers could produce (reproduce, actually) all that sound.

Every now and again I'll see an older set of ML used and I keep thinking I'll pick them up but never have. Maybe someday ... sigh.

Shelby 7 years, 11 months ago

"Albert Pujols has a pair."

...indeed....

Charles L Bloss Jr 7 years, 11 months ago

I bought Klipsch speakers years ago from Kief's when I bought a Sony ES system from them. The speakers still sound awesome to me, and the system still works great. I knew about Martin Logan, but they were out of my price range at the time. I think it is great that the company has such a following. Nice to know that something that good is made my Americans in Kansas. Whoever said that the American work ethic is gone, should listen to Martin Logan speakers, or a Reuter organ. Great work people! Thank you, Lynn

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