What a busy year it’s been for EAW. Since the US loudspeaker manufacturer was acquired by Italy’s RCF Group in 2018, the company has been investing heavily in new staff and a fresh infrastructure that will bring all of its operational and administrative operations in-house. All the while, the firm has been spreading the word that it has a renewed sense of purpose and a mission to tackle the European market head on. In January, the company made the headlines again when it revealed that co-founder and former VP of strategic engineering, Kenton Forsythe, was returning to the company on a part-time basis, after three years away.
Forsythe's design, the mid-1970s vintage BH215 dual 15-inch bass horn, became the basis of some of EAW's earliest products, while its KF850 was the model that helped put the brand on the map. Here, he tells PSNEurope what coaxed him back into the business and his ambitions for the next generation of EAW…
What made you decide to return to EAW?
After a year of tending to my wife and I's “honey-do” lists, I was ready to get back into speaker work. I talked with a few organisations, then following the takeover of Loud by new investors, [EAW president] TJ Smith gave me a call one day in late March 2018. We cut a deal quickly and now I am back where I belong.
A lot has changed since you left the company. How have you found the process of returning to the fold?
Easy. The core group here is very desirous of returning to the days of greatness through technological designs and strong marketing.
What will your responsibilities be now?
I have the very good fortune of basically reporting to my son Jeremy, now manager of product development at EAW. I also work closely with Geoff McKinnon, who is doing a brilliant job as engineering director. We are currently working on three new ranges of installation appropriate designs.
What are your thoughts on the RCF acquisition? Did this prompt your return to EAW?
I have known and respected Arturo Vacari [RCF CEO] for 20+ years now, having first met him at RCF. I find the work he has done miraculous, following pulling RCF from bankruptcy by Mackie Designs/Loud. People love to work with him, as do I. RCF has made many key pro audio acquisitions recently.
How beneficial is it for EAW to be part of such a fast growing organisation?
The RCF Group has a very entrepreneurial leader in Mr Vacari, who made an additional strategical acquisition with EAW. Appropriate new resources have become available to use for advanced product development that will enable lower cost manufacturing and advanced technology, particularly on the electronics side.
Outside of the US, EAW has been perceived as something of a sleeping giant in the loudspeaker market. How do you plan to remedy that this year?
New products with advanced technologies. Several new product ranges are under development, and they will continue to move the state-of-the-art in loudspeakers forward. Several are based on the technologies we already possess, such as Adaptive, while others are more advanced implementations of more conventional techniques. We continue to look into improved manufacturing technologies as well.
How crucial are trade shows for spreading the word of the company’s rejuvenation? Major trade shows are very helpful in exposing EAW to current and potential users. We will continue to support such shows, with a noticeably larger presence than in the past. However, we may have a smaller presence in regional shows, or pass them by as others are doing. We do anticipate having regional EAW-focused events to bring our products to a wider audience.
What are you ambitions in 2019, both personally and for the company?
My personal goals are to complete the three ranges of new product within 2019, and to bring them to the market. I will be working with consultants and contractors to get exposure for the designs. We see ourselves on a major growth cycle, eager to regain ground lost since the first acquisition in 2000 and years of investment group management.
What do you perceive to be the biggest opportunities in the market for EAW in 2019 and beyond?
EAW continues to see many opportunities in the pro audio market. We see room for growth in our current market segments and in additional aspects of the market. High performance with advanced technology is always welcomed, even at the somewhat premium price such products must command.
And what are the biggest challenges?
The main obstacle is fighting to achieve aggressive growth targets. Hiring new key people is a great opportunity, however, it is also a challenge in finding the right people. We are fortunate in recent hires to have gained some very talented and skilled people.