Audio Design Associates (ADA), one of the most enduring brands in the CEDIA community and high-performance audio category, may soon go quiet for good. Owner Richard Stoerger is fighting to keep the music playing.
“In a terribly short time our operations will most likely have to close,” he shares with industry friends and associates in a statement. “Barring someone savvy enough to take a quick look and nearly similarly quick action, the likelihood of the continuation as the ‘The Brand of Excellence’ will fade into history …”
Stoerger tells me it was not a “singular incident” that got ADA to this point, rather a series of events including “failed negotiations with our landlord” and “financing not coming through.”
On a more philosophical level, he cites “a lack of imagination of what it now takes to tell one’s story in this day and age.” Heartfelt tales of integrity, craftsmanship and vision simply don’t sell like they used to.
“In the end, we ran out of time and the funds that it now takes to grow one’s business,” Stoerger says.
The company was doing well after Stoerger bought out ADA in 2016. Unfortunately, he says, the business stopped growing in part due to circumstances beyond his control, including the runaway growth of the DIY sector fueled by Sonos and a rash of new competitors. The dynamic was changing within the custom A/V sector, too, with the rise of industry buying groups — a movement that eluded ADA because of the company’s size, Stoerger says.
The dire situation today “ultimately goes to cash flow,” Stoerger says. “It’s a problem money could fix.”
After Stoerger bought ADA three years ago, the company continued to provide traditional, high-performance home theater receivers and multiroom amps, while developing next-generation home-theater preamps and networked multiroom audio systems “that we couldn’t muscle to market.”
There’s much to salvage of ADA – a 6,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Yonkers, N.Y., valuable physical assets, refreshed product line and roadmap that is nearly ready to roll, still-strong reputation for quality and passion, some intellectual property, and of course the man himself – Stoerger, the CEDIA whisperer.
“ADA still can be saved”, Stoerger says, but any potential rescuer better act fast.
My, How Things Change!
ADA has rocked the custom A/V community since 1977 with home-theater and multiroom audio systems over-engineered for quality by founder Albert Langella, who poured every last ounce of soul into his work.
Stoerger joined the crew in 1988 as the face of ADA (and such a face!) and became something of a Pied Piper to the nascent CEDIA movement. For the next 20 years or so, he pushed the custom community to stay focused on premium experiences, especially in the audio realm. Everything mattered: high-quality products, generous support, mad technical skills, and a sincere conviction that exceptional audio could intoxicate even the most apathetic listener. With all of these tools, plus awe-inspiring demos by skillful presenters … who could resist? The store wins a sale, and the client finds unimaginable joy for a lifetime. I personally, one of those aforementioned apathetic listeners, succumbed every time – before you could say Yanni.
The custom-A/V industry was jamming in the early days, unified by a common purpose — bringing amazing audio experiences to the consumer market. Manufacturers made really good products priced appropriately for high performance; dealers invested in showrooms that drew casual listeners; and the masters inspired the next generation of audiophile shop-owners.
The future of high-end audio looked good!
Indeed the category thrived for a good long time, even through the rise of MP3, iPod and Sonos. A good chunk of consumers still savored good sound. Important trade groups still pushed it, and our industry still swore by it. You wouldn’t dare admit to selling off-the-shelf solutions that most of the world wanted, even if it meant more business, happier customers, and precious little labor.
It all changed by 2016 when Stoerger took over ADA, but you could still do well making premium audio products and selling luxury experiences. You just had to do it in brand new ways that were 1) unfamiliar, 2) uncomfortable, 3) expensive, and/or 4) urgent.
You can’t proceed slowly and cautiously because everything else in the world speeds up. Marketing happens at the speed of a Tweet. Sales cycles shrink from months to minutes. Relationships hinge on information systems. Fads shift on a hashtag. Truth springs from nobodies and their anonymous followers.
“What I didn’t fully appreciate when I took over ADA is what it took to market yourself in this day and age,” Stoerger says. “I thought we would be able to tell our story like we did a generation ago.”
Otherwise, he feels good about the potential of high-performance audio, the team he assembled for ADA 2.0, the company’s progress towards a new product line, and a long, proud legacy in the custom installation channel.
“I feel positive about everything except the future of ADA,” he says.
Richard Stoerger’s Letter to the Industry
Dear industry friends (some long-time ADA family members dating back over 40 years):
It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to announce the likely closure of a company that I have devoted my adult life to (hire date: January 18, 1988). When you so believe in an ideal, a series of products, and the belief that your brand has maintained its promise as “the brand of excellence”, it is terribly difficult to announce that while the brand will survive our industry’s history, the dream may not.
In a terribly short time our operations will most likely have to close. Barring someone savvy enough to take a quick look and nearly similarly quick action, the likelihood of the continuation as the “The Brand of Excellence” will fade into history where our customers become the pyramids of what it meant to not just experience, but to live with an ADA Multi-Room and/or Home-Theater System.
Often owning an ADA system means that the components are older than your kids, older than the last four cars you owned, and way far older than any appliance or computing device you are now using. And unlike the evolution of architectural speakers where quality continues to exceed, the quality of the overall audio experience has decreased at near the same rate due to the electronics that are typically employed.
In our dream, we were convinced that we could use “aspiration” as our driving factor. Our failure was a lack of imagination of how difficult on an industry level it would be to defeat the noise generated on a public level. This is not to say that we didn’t recognize the massive influences on audio through innovations (music servers as well as terrestrial and streaming music services) as well as invention (iPod, iPhone, & Sonos). We did!
We were the first to introduce bi-directionally controlled multi-room, home theater and multichannel amplifiers. We were the first to introduce bi-directionally controlled satellite and HD Radio tuners as well as iPod docks and an iTunes based music server.
We are the first to introduce a Sonos based 8-Zone Power Amp (the PTM-1645-SNS – “SNS” for “sensing” and not just “SONOS” without the “O”s ;-).
And the first to introduce an Atmos capable amplifier, the SAK-16×150 Swiss Army Knife 16Channel Amp that in addition to 16 channel cinema sound can be configured in other combinations (like a 4-zone amp plus 7.1 home cinema @ 150 W/Ch. or two 7.1 home cinemas).
Most of these inventions are not just viable today they are also still killing it (the ADA way). As our rich history confirms via a convincing number of awards for a company of our size, we always imagined and embraced future technology, albeit from our own standards.
And we connected to the future while envisioning how to harvest its fruits. This is what ADA has been about and who we still are. We just ran out of time and money.
What a company our size simply failed to reckon with, is that in such a busy world, it is far more difficult and expensive to tell one’s story than it once was a generation ago.
Our problems are those that money can actually solve, but to date, I have been unable to secure the financing that can alter the future. That is not to say that there isn’t value in our story, our history, our factory, our inventory and our designs.
We have been prepared to introduce Dante based multi-room solutions and next-generation home cinema components that make the most out of the new way our customers consume media via binge-watching. We have a great amplifier line-up and a couple of other custom-installation solutions that, like many of our earlier innovations, are capable of changing our industry. But it needs to be said that the clock is ticking. For anyone that might read this letter with the means and/or connections to work with me, the time is now.
In closing, in addition to lessons that might be derived from our story, I hope that this helps as both an explanation and apology. I reflect on the moments when a manufacturer of our size was able to revolutionize and guide an industry we helped birth. While our mission and passion is tied in those efforts, our voices have fallen short.
I am in the process of making arrangements to provide both technical support and repair services in the event we are not able to move forward on our own. For the time being, any such request can be forwarded directly to me ideally via email. Rest assured that while our operations may cease, the ability to provide these services will continue.
My one hope is that although we may not survive today, that there are elements still relevant in our industry that will continue to push the envelopes of our field of expertise. I still do dream of a better day for audio experiences and hope that, if we are no longer there to make that promise, that others will continue to lead this charge.
With the greatest humility,
Richard D. Stoerger
6 Executive Plaza, Suite 147
Yonkers, NY, 10701
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