Although McIntosh has been one of the world's most revered audio brands since it was founded more than 70 years ago, folks who consume most of their music from behind the wheel have only had a relatively small window to enjoy the brand's signature sound. Fortunately for audio lovers, that is about to change.
The company announced today that the McIntosh Group is returning to the very hot high-end mobile audio world. The luxury audio brand and sister company Sonus faber, the Italian speaker designer, have entered into a partnership with Alps Alpine that will enable the McIntosh Group to get back on four wheels for the first time since the mid-2000s.
Home Theater Review was invited to do an exclusive interview with McIntosh Group Co-CEO Jeff Poggi, who took time from his busy schedule to offer insights into the new venture and share his thoughts and a bit of McIntosh history. The interview is followed by the complete McIntosh Group announcement.
HTR: What was the impetus behind McIntosh's return to the automotive space?
Jeff Poggi: For over 70 years, the McIntosh mission has been to deliver a consistent, high-quality listening experience in any environment. We felt this collaboration with Alps Alpine was the best way to reenter the automotive space, believing it will allow us to pair our core sound expertise with Alpine's flawless end-to-end execution and set new standards in audio performance in a mobile environment. We were drawn to Alps Alpine initially for their outstanding 50-year track record as a Tier 1 supplier to the Automotive industry. Their impeccable execution and integration into vehicles will ensure the highest quality car audio available in select vehicles.
HTR: How long has this partnership with Alps Alpine been in the works?
JP: We have been exploring a partnership with Alps Alpine for nearly five years. It's been a long time in the making, and we are thrilled to see years of planning come to fruition.
HTR: When did McIntosh last provide auto sound systems?
JP: The McIntosh journey into car audio began in the 1990s, designing amplifiers and head units for a burgeoning aftermarket. The early success of these products led to the development of integrated audio systems for car manufacturers and culminated in the mid-2000s.
HTR: How does Sonus faber play into the partnership equation?
JP: Every audio system in select vehicles features specific Sonus faber characteristics, such as Silkdome Tweeter and Voice of Sonus faber (VOS) speakers positioning, in order to stay true to the Sonus faber philosophy. When developing Sonus faber products, we strive to achieve the "human touch" in sound reproduction by using natural materials. And thanks to the specific Sonus faber tuning, the sound will be natural, clear and detailed, giving the listener the ability to distinguish between the different instruments and vocals.
HTR: What do you hope will distinguish your products from some of the other great mobile audio sound systems?
JP: We expect simply the very best out of every product we bring to market. We have been doing that successfully for decades; seven decades for McIntosh Labs and three for Sonus faber, to be exact. We are confident that our technical expertise and patented technologies will create an unparalleled listening experience for consumers through this collaboration. The automobile presents a number of challenges in maintaining such standards, but we're excited to meet those challenges head-on with these new integrated audio systems.
HTR: Do you have agreements yet with any automakers? If so, can you name them?
JP: This is still confidential. What we can share is that the automotive sector represents a large piece of our company's strategy going forward, so we have a long-term commitment to the automotive industry. As of now, we are full-force with the partnership, completely focused in order to make these vehicles sound extraordinary. If the future brings other opportunities, we will carefully analyze them, taking into account a multitude of critical factors.
HTR: Do you expect the McIntosh Group/Alps Alpine systems to be "off-the-shelf" audio solutions or custom-tailored to specific car models when these models are designed?
JP: All McIntosh and Sonus faber audio equipment has been carefully designed to the specific dimensions, interior, and layout of each individual vehicle. To ensure the equipment meets the stringent automotive standards, we have partnered with Alpine Alps to build these systems for our OEM partners. Make no mistake, McIntosh and Sonus faber have provided vital engineering guidance to ensure the audio characteristics and high sound quality expected from such brands remain wholly intact.
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Here's the big announcement made by the McIntosh Group this morning:
McIntosh Group Inc. and Alps Alpine have teamed up to deliver transcendent audio systems to the automotive industry.
The collaboration entails a technical alliance between Alps Alpine and McIntosh Group audio brands McIntosh Laboratory, Inc. and Sonus faber for select vehicles. This will bring extensive knowledge and expertise from both companies to create an unparalleled listening experience for consumers. The outcome will be truly worthy of the McIntosh Laboratory and Sonus faber home listening experience.
McIntosh Laboratory and Sonus faber have been gold standards in audio equipment for over 70 and 35 years, respectively, blazing a trail in top-of-the-line home audio systems. Meanwhile, Alps Alpine has more than 50 years of automotive experience and can build to McIntosh Laboratory's and Sonus faber's exacting standards. Known for both individual components, as well as fully integrated automotive audio systems, Alps Alpine knows how to deliver in-vehicle audio with emotional impact. The combination of the companies' expertise will elevate the in-vehicle listening experience.
"Alps Alpine has a long history of delivering excellent sound and value to its customers. Our partnership with McIntosh Group allows Alps Alpine to build on that legacy and elevate our offerings," said Koji Ishibashi, Vice President, Display & Sound Business and Engineering. "We're confident that, together, we will set a new standard for performance and execution of factory-branded automotive audio systems."
Alps Alpine will be leading the system integration with OEM partners while adhering to and precisely implementing the acoustic signatures that have made McIntosh Laboratory and Sonus faber equipment so instantly identifiable and revered by consumers. Alps Alpine will design and develop speakers and amplifiers with McIntosh Laboratory and Sonus faber patented technologies incorporated, ensuring a listening experience that is true to McIntosh and Sonus faber.
To exemplify luxury home audio sound, reference rooms in Alps Alpine facilities in Europe and North America were fitted with McIntosh Laboratory and Sonus faber's top-of-the line audio equipment. Engineers from McIntosh Laboratory & Sonus faber and Alps Alpine will collaboratively work on tuning the sound systems to recreate the authentic sound quality of each brand in the respective vehicles.
"We expect simply the very best out of every product we bring to market," said Jeff Poggi, McIntosh Group Co-CEO and CEO of the Sonus faber brand. "It's the reason we joined forces with Alps Alpine to ensure our exacting standard of excellence will never be compromised. And now, consumers can enjoy our luxury audio experience in their cars, everywhere they go."
Charlie Randall, McIntosh Group CEO and President of McIntosh Laboratory, said, "We felt this was a perfect partnership, since Alps Alpine and McIntosh Laboratory share the same values regarding in-cabin sound reproduction. Our strategic teaming with Alps Alpine is the perfect avenue for McIntosh to take for making its long-awaited return to car audio. We are ready to transform your car into your next great-sounding listening room."
Vehicles equipped with McIntosh Laboratory and Sonus faber sound systems as original equipment will be available in 2021.