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Cynthia Wisehart on d&b audiotechnik’s New Facility

Wednesday night before NAMM, I braved the 5 freeway to Long Beach (in California we say “the 5”. Sailors call their ships “she”; we call our freeways “the”).

I was going to meet Amnon Harman, CEO of d&b audiotechnik, where I joined a crowd of my colleagues at the ribbon-cutting of d&b’s new facility.

It’s nice on the inside—simple, sophisticated Euro-style design, clean (so far), big ceilings, and spare, furnishings that match. On the nickel-tour, my friend and d&b marketing VP Marc Lopez was in demand from passersby, reaching out for a handshake or a quick word. So I wasn’t really ready for the big reveal.

We turned a corner and arrived unceremoniously at the door of the onsite Soundscape theater. Or should I say the portal? Maybe it’s the theme park designer in me, but I was definitely stopped in my tracks. Sure, it was lit up all fancy for the party, but it would still be a jaw-dropping demo room even on an ordinary day.

Now the distractions fell away and we talked about what this was for: that audio expertise is in a kind of leadership position again. It’s part of that “experience” thing, beyond where hardware and mechanical physics take us and into the area of software and electro-acoustics. In their way, these technologies have as much potential as hardware has had to shape sound, and with it, human emotion.

Harman had talked earlier about the company itself in emotional and experiential terms. He’s in year six of his tenure, having come in from another industry. Throughout our conversation, he emphasized the team voyage he was mapping and facilitating— and how he was trying to fortify and connect the company. He seemed to be aware that most of the audio technology community were already veterans of that journey—albeit with hardware. Over the years, that experience has spread and fanned out with a great deal of nuance and history. Harman sounded like he was reaching to re-gather all the threads and name them as common values. Indeed, they are values many of us have shared through the hardware decades: passion, quality, and what Germans call Wir gefuhl—a team ethos by another name.

Yep, these can sound like corporate buzzwords, and maybe they are. But in conversation at least, Harman seemed to recognize the long history and details that roll up to those concepts. I don’t know. I just met him. But the numbers show that d&b has grown under his leadership. And I agree with him in spirit. Sound will move the senses and the space around us again in new ways. It’s always been thrilling, and it’s always been hard. We should regroup as a team, and reconnect to our beginner’s mind—just to curiously ask ourselves, what if? With that in mind, I hope we can all find our place and our contribution to make in the new decade, whether facilitator, disruptor, solver, or dreamer.

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