CR Talks To...: Building on Build Quality
CustomRetailer: How did you become involved with AudioControl? Were you part of the company from the start?
Tom Walker: The company was started in 1977 predominantly by Greg Mackie, who had come from a company called Tapco, famous for small mixers. He brought a pro sound approach to AudioControl, which we maintain today. By that I mean you have to build product reliably, and you have to tell the truth to people who are using it because in the pro sound world, they’re using it for their living.
The company started with small equalizers. The first product was the 520, a “speaker fixer.” Two years later came the C101, a real-time spectrum analyzer/equalizer, all in one chassis. That’s important in the heritage of AudioControl because it was a combination measuring tool and correction tool. From that day forward, a lot of the products we built related to having measurement and correction. In 1984, I met Greg. It was just after the recession of ’82 and a lot of the hi-fi stores were struggling, and he really wanted to go back into the pro sound world. So I ended up buying in—one of the best decisions of my life.
CR: What benefits do you provide custom integrators and dealers through your product lines that they can’t get elsewhere? What’s different about your approach to the market?
Walker: We try to stay close to our dealers and integrators and see it from their side. A lot of the features we include [come from their suggestions]. One of the most valuable things that happens when we’re at a show is when a dealer says, “I use this product and it’s really great, but…” What comes after “but” are extremely valuable suggestions about what we can do to add to the product. All our products these days have switches on the back or features that are completely related to how the installer uses the product—certainly not how you’d build a product for Best Buy. We also put LEDs near the switches, so when an installer is in the back of a rack in the dark, he can tell if a button’s in or out without having to have a Maglite in his teeth.