The current liquidation sale at Meadowlark Audio signals the final days of that now defunct company moving remaining A-stock inventories at 50% off. What happened? My guess might be just a little better than yours but overall, it's still a guess. Having worked for Pat McGinty many years back, I stayed in touch when the occasion presented itself and observed his move from California to upstate NYC from the distance. Incidentally, Pat was somewhere in the midwest when 9/11 occurred, his belongings stashed in a few trailers that were slowly moving East to Watertown. Not auspicious timing when you consider the impact the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had on our US economy.
McGinty wasn't the only manufacturer I knew who openly despised the review process as a necessary evil to gain visibility and peer approval. He felt that nothing but an over-the-top rave so much as had a chance to stand out from the ever-busy mill that stamps out monthly reviews by the truck load. Getting a rave depends on a few things, not the least of which is honest writer enthusiasm rather than a buttoned-down, excessively formal, stodgy, been-there-done-that approach. Without fail, even a very favorable review tends to find a few nits or complaints. Those are often the only items a prospective customer remembers when he's actually auditioning the speaker - if it even gets that far. Or the dealer you send this customer to might sell him on another brand he's financially deeper beholden to.
Then there's the fact that most reviewers have never worked audio retail or manufacturing to have true insights into that side of the equation which might put certain of their ivory-tower observations into perspective. There's review measurements where the tester openly disregarded clear manufacturing instructions (such as when the Zu Cable Druid was measured suspended in the air without a plate at the proper distance on its floor-firing opening which is essential for its box loading). There's test procedures and interpretations of such measurements that seem to be flexible depending on what is reviewed. There's reviews published so delayed past the original submission date of the product that the product itself has been discontinued by the time the review hits. There's all manner of stuff pertaining to the entire process that frustrates the hell out of manufacturers.
There's the excessively subjective nature of the whole beast - both on the review and consumer side of the fence. No matter how good your design, how well executed, how measurably superior on the bench, it all amounts to naught if the guys on the sales floor don't agree or the customer fails to see the light. You can't prove excellence in audio like you can acceleration or top speed or breaking distance with a car. If you're a competitive fella, that can drive you nuts. How to compete fair and square with any real chance at winning when the checkered flags are a completely unreliable moving target? Unlike the Nürburgring where there's only one winner regardless of how many spectators watch, on the audio ring there's as many winners and losers as there's spectators. Ditto for consumer insecurities before and after the sale. They're legion. Especially with speakers which interact with rooms, each sale can become a high-maintenance affair. Pity the audio maker who hopes to make something that instills universal satisfaction like a light bulb that screws in and works for as long as it says on the box.
How about the web where a new speaker model that hasn't even been shipped to the first dealer yet is already being discounted, offered used or commented on as a dud? How about negative consumer reviews penned by shills on a competitor's payroll? How about dealers discounting your merchandise who aren't even on your dealer list? How about customers telling you how much of a profit you deserve to make to keep the doors open? How about competing with cheap Chinese labor? How about sucking at sucking up and playing the game? How about banking on superior product and solid customer service selling themselves? How about an overcrowded market, lack of interested dealers, lack of dealer loyalty, lack of dealer liquidity to even inventory or show what they're franchised for?
Audio has the impolite habit of squashing Field of Dreams hopes. Build it and they won't listen. Audio isn't about saving the world from bad sound. Audio certainly isn't about getting rich for all but the very few who were at the right place at the right time, who were smart enough to know it and never took risks that catastrophically backfired. Add up the various aspects hinted at above and you might get an idea as to why Meadowlark Audio closed its doors - why anyone in High-End audio does unless it's to retire as a fat cat to permanently move to Lake Como or the Caribbean. Yeah right. Let's face it - the only valid reason to stay in a business that metes out modest salaries and is getting harder with every passing year is that you love what you do.
How to keep that love stiff and pulsing when the enthusiast's nature of the affair has morphed into a business where x-number of employees depend on your wit, ability and good fortunes to feed their families? My guess is that at the end of the day, Pat's love for speaker building as a business had simply expired by being trampled on one too many times. Why continue clocking in at work only to face rising costs of doing business and compete with offshore production and lagging sales? Who needs daily reminders that manhood oughta consist of more than just eating shit because it makes you stronger? Knowing what I do about the business from a manufacturer's perspective, I'd say that after 11 years, McGinty probably had about all he could stomach of that diet and simply called it quits. There's more rewarding things in life than struggling against a tide that refuses to turn. That's not biting the dust. That's biting back when enough is -- finally and unapologetically -- enough. Best wishes for whatever your new endeavors might be, Pat & Lucinda!
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