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Now Hear This: NHT Shuts Down

Co-founder says company is not bankrupt and will close doors on March 31.


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NHT (Now Hear This) Audio is closing its doors, according to Chris Byrne, co-founder of the speaker and audio manufacturer.

On Tuesday afternoon, Byrne sent out the following letter, announcing that NHT isn't bankrupt, but they're "going quiet."

February 23, 2009

Dear Friends of NHT,

It's time to turn down the lights: NHT is going quiet.

Over the next 60 days we're going to sell the remaining professional and consumer inventory through our existing dealers and distributors, pay our bills, and then spend time rethinking the future of NHT. However, you should know that we are not bankrupt. Everybody here is fine and no, the car didn't get hit by a train. In a way this difficult economy provided the right opportunity for the change in strategy we felt has been necessary for some time.

One thing that is for sure is that this is not about our love for or commitment to the brand. It isn't about the audio business, either. It's all about the realities of the world and how consumer attitudes are changing, and how we as a brand and an industry can best respond to the need for real invention. We're anxious to get moving. When we do, it will be in the right direction.

NHT has always stood for something more than a great speaker. Our philosophy has to do with a way of thinking – about value, about fair play, about paying attention to what matters, about integrity. For us, it's a way of life.

We have a colorful history that included our share of distractions, but we hope we have made the speaker industry a little more interesting and helped in raising the bar.

We believe March 31, 2009 is to be the last day of "regular" business, at least for now. We intend to offer customer service and repair services for both in and out of warranty, available ongoing. Keep an eye on our website (nhthifi.com) for more details and the occasional update.

Remember, this isn't good-bye, it's just "see you on the other side"

Thanks for everything!

Chris, John and the entire NHT gang

Stay tuned for updates as this story develops.




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Article Topics

News · Speakers · All topics

4 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  02/24  at  03:23 PM

Best wishes, Chris and the gang.

Posted by HiDef  on  02/24  at  09:00 PM

This economy is slowly eroding the quality manufactures in this industry and it’s just devastating to read stories like this.

NHT has always produced exceptional gear at a very reasonable price. I’ve personally owned many of their products over the years and have always been amazed by their build quality, support, and ability to effortlessly reproduce even the most difficult sound passages.

It’s a very sad day for the audio industry. NHT… you will be missed.

Posted by John Milton  on  02/25  at  12:47 PM

Well this is a hard pill to swallow.  My 1st vendor meeting ever at CEDIA was with The NHT boys in Indy. I thought, wow, if all the vendors are this cool and into their product, my interactions and dealings with them will be awesome.  I learned by the end of the show that NHT was a one-of-a-kind company who didn’t consider their company their work, but a passion long lost on many other companies in our CE world.
Chris, JJ and the crew, All the best in your endeavors.  Can’t wait to see what’s “on the other side”...JM

Posted by Will  on  03/13  at  01:51 PM

The title of this article is extremely misleading when reading information from other sources.  An exert from Stereophile states that NHT has no intention from exiting the business altogether, just restructuring and starting over:

February 25, 2009 — “It’s time to turn down the lights: NHT is going quiet.”
Thus began a February 23rd announcement from loudspeaker company NHT (Now Hear This) that it is temporarily closing its doors in order to revision its future.

Two weeks after informing its dealers, NHT, which is based in Benicia, California, spread the word in a simple, one-page letter that’s high in spirits if low on details. Jovially titled “Going Fishin’,” the message from company cofounder Chris Byrne, longtime employee John Johnsen, and “the entire NHT gang” explained that all remaining professional and consumer inventory will be sold over the next 60 days via NHT’s existing dealer and distributor network.

NHT’s final day of “regular” business is expected to be March 31, 2009. After paying all bills—the company is not bankrupt—Byrne and crew will spend some time rethinking their strategy in a world of changing consumer attitudes and economics. While they plot the next phase of operations, NHT’s customer-service and repair divisions, for products both in and out of warranty, will continue.

Speaking by phone from NHT’s offices, Byrne assured Stereophile that he wasn’t speaking from the Twilight Zone when he wrote, “Remember, this isn’t ‘Good-bye,’ it’s just ‘See you on the other side.’

“We’ve been looking at the audio biz for the last four or five years,” he said, “and seeing significant changes in consumer attitudes, applications, requirements, etc. We’ve wanted to do something about it for a while. But being a small company, we get caught up in day-to-day matters, and lose focus on the paradigm shift that’s required. Our business model needs to be reexamined. We don’t have anywhere the number of retailers we had in the ‘90s, and that includes home installers who can sit down with you and listen and go through the steps. Audio has changed, and home theater quickly became so complex that you have to hire an expert to come in and explain it.”

NHT has been profitable ever since Byrne bought the company back from the Da Vinci investment group in February 2008. Given the economic downturn, however, he fears that the audio business will be doing a fair amount worse through 2009 and well into 2010. Now, he senses, is an ideal time to take stock.

“We knew the need for change,” he says. “It seems prudent to give the company a nap while keeping the website up and keeping serving customers. We will hang on to the brand. We were afraid that if we tried to get through 2009, we’d lose the brand again, and that was intolerable.

“There’s a new business model needed. NHT has always wanted to provide high-end sound for people without a high-end budget. We can provide 95% of the sound you get from a $20,000 product while spending a whole lot less. But we’ve kind of gotten away from that idea. Our stuff has gotten more expensive, and we find ourselves all of a sudden with 38 models. Our day-to-day business has interfered with us seeing where we’re going. We need to step back.”

Byrne wants to refocus NHT on such breakthrough technologies as DSP correction for loudspeakers and wireless transmission. He also hopes to forge new alliances with other companies, as NHT did some years ago when it partnered with Power Physics of Los Angeles and DEQX of Australia to issue the XD system, a well-regarded speaker system with built-in DSP-realized crossovers and equalization.

The hope is that NHT will return to production in early 2010. Of the company’s current product lines, Byrne conjectures that the only model that may continue is the 12-year-old M-00 self-powered monitor, which he considers “a wonderful loudspeaker.” He also envisions a new, wireless, self-powered loudspeaker, manufactured in Benicia, albeit in a smaller space than the company now occupies.

“We aren’t done yet,” Byrne assured Stereophile. “We’ve sold a couple million speakers, and people love them. I think it’s because we love music. A number of us in the company play music; I play rock/blues guitar. We know what music is supposed to sound like, and we want to share what we know. We love this brand, and we love the business. We’re not ready to stop.”

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