How Abt Electronics is Resurrecting M&K
Chicago-area retailer Abt Electronics was M&K's largest customer until the speaker manufacturer closed in 2007. Now M&K Sound is back and Abt is the exclusive U.S. distributor.
MK Sound 950 speaker system gives consumers a taste of professional-grade surround.
Feb. 22, 2007 was a sad day for M&K (Miller & Kreisel) fans. That’s when the company closed shop after 34 years of building audiophile-grade speakers and subwoofers.
Although it was founded to serve the pro audio market M&K, now MK Sound, anticipated the home theater movement early and pioneered the satellite/sub design concept that is today’s standard in residential surround sound.
“We loved the line,” says Abt co-president Mike Abt. “It sounds good, it sold well and it never got returned. People love to own them.”
Perhaps they love to own them because MK speakers are used by some of the most prestigious production companies in the world, including Dolby Labs, Lucasfilm, Paramount, and Walt Disney pictures, to name a few.
“That’s what Blu-rays are mixed on,” says Abt, noting that Sony purchased M7 speakers from MK for three Blu-ray editing bays.
When Denmark-based industry veterans Lars Johansen (consumer president), Per Becher (CFO) and Asger Bak (pro president) acquired MK Sound, they turned to Abt to help rebuild the speaker brand in the U.S. Abt jumped at the opportunity to become both a customer (again) and the national distributor.
The new chiefs examined the MK product line and found there were way too many SKUs. So the first thing they did was to pare down the offerings, keeping (and improving) all of the best products from the past and eliminating the marginal items. The house cleaning helped the new M&K ship products within six months of the acquisition.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., the Abt family set up a company called Dolphin Group to run the MK business. Abt would draw on its existing resources to provide warehousing, logistics, warranty and repair, and technical support - plus the hands-on experience that only comes with installing, integrating and using products in the field.
Still, despite the brand’s heritage, MK had a tough road ahead. Bart Greenberg, national sales manager for Dolphin, acknowledges the bitterness of former dealers who had invested in the brand. “The last few years it was difficult to get [MK] products, but there has always been a real love for the brand,” he says. “Many dealers had to replace the line. Since traffic is slow now, it’s harder to switch gears. … We’re starting with ex-M&K dealers and proving we have the same or better quality and a great infrastructure. We can ship the same day.”
In addition to MK’s flagship models such as the S150 and S750, the company has added a few new products recently, like the MX-350 MKII THX Ultra subwoofer with custom-built dual 12-inch drivers, featuring MK’s trademark sealed enclosure and a new 400-watt amplifier.
The new 950 THX surround system ($4,794 retail) features compact LCR speakers with high-frequency drivers recently introduced in MK’s top-of-the-line professional series.
“They’re very manageable to carry in the field,” says Greenberg. “Dealers can see the new cabinetry – it’s a big improvement in fit and finish – and hear the improved sound performance with the new professional twetter.”
In the seven months since Greenberg joined the company, MK Sound has signed 11 reps and Dolphin is looking for three more firms.
Bart Greenberg (center), national sales manager for MK distributor Dolphin Group, flanked by MK CEO Lars Johansen and CFO Per Becher.
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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