By now, you’ve probably heard the news that Rashid Skaf-led Biamp is buying Audioprof Group International, which is the parent company of Community Loudspeakers (based in Philadelphia) and Apart Audio (based in Antwerp, Belgium) from 3d Investors of Gent, Belgium.
Bruce Howze founded the company in 1968, which was first named Community Light and Sound. Today, Community Loudspeakers builds large, high-end commercial, leisure, stadium and large venues speaker systems. Most recently at InfoComm 2019, Community Loudspeakers introduced the new L SERIES LVH-900 Beamforming Venue Horn, continuing its tradition of innovation. Here’s a video we shot of it at the show:
Apart Audio, on the other hand, makes stuff for small and mid-size venues (and meeting rooms) including retail, food service, education, and small offices. While Community is mostly serving the North American market (well over 80% of its sales), Apart has a well-established business in Europe and just entered North America in 2018. Here’s a video we shot of their new stuff at InfoComm last month:
So, why would Biamp do this? Simple, they are AIMING SQUARELY at QSC.
Biamp CEO Rashid Skaf came from AMX — remember them? At one time, AMX was not only the second-largest control system company on earth but, they were also a full-service turnkey provider of AV room systems, switching and accessories — this was all under Rashid’s watch; then he left. AMX has floundered since. QSC has filled the AMX void with its Q-SYS control platform and a full line of room switching and signal management products. Although not number two, like AMX once was — fourth behind Crestron, Extron and Kramer — Rashid aims to rip away the QSC momentum.
In fact, the last time I spoke to Rashid he said to me that I would see them grow via both strategic acquisitions and organic product growth. At InfoComm, Biamp added a dozen or more new products — the most popular was one aimed directly at QSC:
So, while everyone else sees Biamp as “that audio company,” I see them as quickly becoming a formidable competitor to QSC — even potentially backing QSC against a wall where they may have to eventually merge or sell to Biamp. Joe Pham, the president and CEO of QSC is one of the nicest guys in AV, but QSC’s TJ Adams is focused on engineering (not marketing), and Rashid Skaf is now set up to potentially leapfrog them.
According to the press release, Community Loudspeakers and Apart Audio will join Biamp as product families within the company’s portfolio, with business functions gradually blending to form a single Biamp business.