Another View on Biamp Buying Community and Apart Speaker Brands

By James Kirby
Industry Analyst, Futuresource Consulting

Yet further consolidation has hit the professional audio markets, with Biamp’s acquisition of the Community and Apart loudspeaker brands. This follows a consolidation trend which Futuresource has being reporting on for some time, with pro audio moving further away from the independent, family-run industry it once was. This announcement follows another substantial set of acquisitions towards the end of 2018, including RCF’s acquisition of DPA microphones and EAW. It seems we could be witnessing record levels of acquisitions in professional audio. Even as we write this article, yet another acquisition has been announced — Focusrite Group has acquired Adam Audio — another great match, which is likely to bring Focusrite significant ‘bundle power’.

The Biamp acquisition last week has particularly turned heads in the industry — mainly due to the clear strategic fit for the three companies. Under Audioprof, Community and Apart already had a great dynamic themselves. However, adding Biamp into the equation fills a range of lucrative gaps for all the companies involved. For some time, Biamp has been tagging-on install loudspeaker products to its strongly leveraged market position in Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and audio networking. Nevertheless, investment in the Audioprof brands demonstrates an ambition to branch out into multiple new markets, offering a turnkey solution for a variety of verticals.

The acquisition comes after both sides made significant announcements at the June InfoComm show in Orlando – Biamp with a new range of install speakers and Community demonstrating a deeper relationship with Powersoft amplifiers. The immediate questions will be; what does this mean for the current autonomous nature of both the Apart and Community brands? In which Audioprof markets will Biamp hardware now be used and how will it leverage the brands towards its own new speaker ranges?

It looks as though the goal is to make the companies completely integrated over time, and the first step is making Community and Apart loudspeakers both product lines of the Biamp group. Presumably Apart will be the fastest to integrate further. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Community remain a separate product category for longer, due to its brand reputation as a higher-end specialist loudspeaker brand. The dropping of both the Apart and Community brand names may be a goal throughout all markets over the years to come, but the Apart brand name is at more immanent risk.

Whichever way the new group integrates, it will surely be a positive step. Many new markets will be opened for each side, but also Biamp’s growth in DSP is likely to drive significant opportunity for the longer term. For many brands that have both loudspeakers and DSP, DSP has been a key driver of company growth and the success of loudspeaker line-ups over recent years. Such brands have targeted retail, hospitality, stadiums and corporates. No doubt these are the markets that Biamp looks towards with this acquisition. Already having an effective DSP offering for these applications, Biamp has chosen to purchase two brands which are specialist loudspeaker providers for these markets.

Community has a strong business in stadia and sport venues – a very competitive area for DSP, currently hosting a race to provide the one-stop turnkey solution. Commercial brands chase the stadium bowl, meanwhile extensive portfolios continue to rule the concourse. Biamp now joins this race, aiming to compete with full solution providers such as JBL, QSC and more recently, Bose with the release of its ArenaMatch series. However, it remains to be seen how Community’s other markets will be impacted, such as Houses of Worship and live performance installs. It is unclear if Biamp will bring any immediate synergies to these applications, but they could well be on its radar for future expansion.

Biamp will again clash with the same three brands (JBL, QSC and Bose) through its acquisition of the Apart brand. Showing strength in retail and hospitality, the acquisition not only offers an established channel in these markets, it also offers Biamp the ability to offer additional speaker products where it already has a strong influence. This could possibly see Apart being pushed into the meeting room or other corporate environments – some of the fastest growing areas for professional loudspeakers as outlined by Futuresource’s new professional loudspeaker report. However, in this environment Biamp may use its own brand name but leverage the Apart manufacturing and design expertise.

This acquisition is likely to offer Biamp substantial opportunity across the install pro audio markets. However, the development of all the brands will likely show a more commercial audio focus. At the same time this means more competitive pressure in key growth verticals, and further increases the need for a large product portfolio when it comes to install projects. DSP, control and audio networking synergies will be positive for the group, and many brands will be impacted by the solid pairing of Biamp DSP with Audioprof’s loudspeakers. A specialist DSP and networking brand has just purchased two specialist loudspeaker brands, and no doubt this journey will continue to be watched closely by many of the largest pro audio companies.