Interview: ADAM Audio’s CEO on the company’s 20th birthday

Colby Ramsey speaks to ADAM Audio’s CEO Christian Hellinger about the Berlin-based company’s two decades creating professional studio monitoring solutions…

Tell us about how you first got involved with the company.

I’ve been at the company for two years now, so unfortunately was not here when it started 20 years ago! I guess I’m still kind of the new guy as many of the people here – especially in production – have been working at ADAM Audio for the whole time. Coming to this role from my long-term background in pro audio software, I have certainly learned a lot about how hardware companies operate.

How has the company’s ethos helped it to achieve its goals?

We’re always thinking about designing great products, and are constantly trying to push the limits of what a studio monitor is capable of. I think that’s the general approach of a lot of companies out there. We always try to harness the power of our excellent engineering teams as the key to achieving this goal and driving innovation, although we do often try to approach it from an end user perspective, rather than a technical one. It’s about trying to meet demand while also pushing the boundaries of what musicians, producers and engineers know is possible.

We offer monitoring solutions for a very wide range of budgets and experience levels, which I think makes us rather unique. From the quite methodical T-Series up to our flagship line of S-Series speakers – we are not boutique, and pride ourselves as being the manufacturer of studio monitors that many audio professionals rely on every day. There’s some awesome opportunities, because we are getting in touch with some totally different users out there and we like to follow them through their whole musical journey.

We are toolmakers, who like to get our hands dirty. Knowing what the users need and being able to adjust and develop our products is crucial to stay relevant, so keeping that in mind is more or less part of everything we do. I want to keep the passion going at ADAM Audio by staying very pragmatic and hands-on, while combining this with some very professional processes, structures and supply chains that can shift the company up to the next level.

How would you describe the company’s recent growth trajectory?

ADAM Audio has experienced all kinds of ups and downs. Around four years ago the company went into insolvency and the entire structure significantly changed. We now have investors on board who have made some major decisions in that we’re not doing hi-fi products anymore, and are instead really putting our focus on pro audio and our studio monitors. I think we owe our recent success in pro audio and significant organic growth to that decision.

What our shareholders did was heavily invest their time, effort and funds into the operations departments; supply chain, logistics, purchase, production etc. They put some solid structures and processes in place to allow for future growth, but still kept the spirit that I mentioned earlier – handmade gear with a lot of passion, based on a professional and reliable company structure.

Why is ADAM Audio’s 20th anniversary so significant for the company, and what are you doing this year to celebrate?

20 years in the audio industry is quite a long time, and we really have experienced it all, from great success to very tough times. The intention and the approach was always about the product and it has remained that way – the company has changed a lot but we still have the same people and the same passion. Because of the changes that took place around four years ago, it feels like the company is still in its early stages, despite being around for 20 years. It almost feels like a bit of a startup where everyone is hungry and excited for the next five years. We’re making progress in every aspect of our business and we want to maintain that.

As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this year, we also want to make it a celebration for our users and our business partners. We are going to be doing special promotions and activities every month, as well as a big party in Berlin for all of our dealers, distributors, staff and their families in the late summer. Under that 20-year banner, we want to do some limited editions of our products and donate any profits raised to some kind of social institution. It’s a big year for us and I can see that people are very proud, especially my colleagues who have been here since the beginning!

We will of course be at Superbooth again this year – it’s a show that’s really focused on the music and the passion. We exhibit there, but more importantly last year we supplied more than 60 per cent of the exhibitors with speakers and supported them. Events like this show that we are a company that wants to be close to the customer, always engaging in conversations with them.

How do you plan to develop your product ranges? Could you offer your thoughts on any particular industry trends that you’re seeing?

While we are always growing and developing our existing product ranges, I think there’s lots of opportunities for us in terms of horizontal growth, and I can see us playing a significant role in other areas of the pro audio environment. Headphones is of course a logical step for us.

We’re seeing so many interesting use cases in terms of immersive audio and Dolby Atmos on the installation side of the business. However, we are a small company compared to some of the others out there, so we have to make sure that we don’t lose our focus. For me, quality over quantity is important.

We’re still really keeping our eye on the move from analogue to digital, which is part of the reason why I came into the company with my software background. The speakers are becoming more and more software based with their big DSP engines, which is an important step for us, especially when it comes to our ideas about the solutions that we provide.

Users want to interact with their speakers and have them connected and embedded. It’s a case of looking at how we can translate the ‘smart home’ of the future into a ‘smart studio.’ We’re always looking left and right to see what else can make us a major player in pro audio aside from speakers, and it’s about trying to balance our core segment with research and development into the next generation of products. There are some extremely exciting times coming up and we’re in our best shape ever at the moment, so I think people are really looking forward to what we have planned for the future.