Harman Consolidates, Layoffs Announced

When the news hit last fall that Samsung was set to acquire Harman International, pundits wondered how the merger would impact the iconic company whose history includes introduction of the first stereo receiver under the Harman Kardon brand in 1958.

It still remains to be seen how Harman’s activities in home audio will ultimately be impacted but last week Harman announced the consolidation of its Professional Solutions group, which will result in the layoff of 650 employees in the U.S. and Europe.

In a press release posted on AVNation, Harman International PR director David Glaubke said the changes are the “culmination of a transformation” that the Pro Solutions division has undergone over the last few years and aimed at better serving the company’s customer base, increasing their competitiveness, and accelerating new product innovation.

“We are now consolidating certain locations acquired through acquisitions over the years to leverage the R&D, engineering, design and manufacturing operations of our other divisions and speed up our time to market,” Glaubke said. Facilities targeted for closing include those in Elkhart, Indiana, South Jordan, Utah, and a few smaller locations that the company has acquired throughout Europe over the past decade, according to the press release.

After the closures, the company will operate out of three main facilities: Northridge, California, site of the world-class audio testing facility created under the aegis of Floyd Tool in the 1990s and now run by Dr. Sean Olive, for acoustics; Richardson, Texas, for electronics, DSP, and video and control; and Aarhus, Denmark, for Lighting.

In an era when audio quality is often lost in the shuffle of new technology, we’re left with the question: Will the Northridge audio testing facility remain intact or will its work be redirected somehow? We’ve reached out to Dr. Olive and will update this post when we hear back from him.

Related: 15 Minutes with Harman’s Audio Guru Sean Olive

drny's picture

We've been hearing the footsteps for over a decade, High end Audio relegated to a few independents almost mom and pop operations.
With the demise of Harman (yes, let's not kid ourselves) the final thump has been heard.
Portable Audio and Generic household audio has taken over.
We should all lament our great loss.
This will mean an overall price spike in dedicated separates (Amps, pre, Integrated amps, processors, and high end Receivers).
All for the benefit of Smart phone and TV display audio.
Yes, weeping and lamented is in order.

Billy's picture

I agree. I am glad I am of the age that I was able to purchase good stuff years ago that I still have. When our kids were at home and they would bring friends over, those friends were astonished at the quality sound of my stereo set up. Even our kids had set ups I gave them for their rooms made up of old 1970s stereo gear. That stuff sounds so much better then the stuff today. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the convenience of digital sound, and that interacts very nicely with better quality gear if you take the time set it up correctly. The poor young people today may never know what they are missing. I noticed a few other things in this story. Funny how the American and European sites are being closed. Just another shovel of dirt over the American economic grave. I remember a time when proud American companies ruled and made quality stuff, all the while, making good jobs for local men and women. All this merging of companies has got to stop. Where are our anti trust laws? Maybe our illustrious President should step in. Want to leave a legacy Mr T.? Try being like Teddy Roosevelt and breakup some of these big trusts, bring back competition and innovation to land. We broke up Ma Bell and with it we now have great phone communications, If not, we would all still have avocado colored wall phones with 10 foot cords on them on the kitchen wall and a large bill if we dared call farther then 20 miles away. Competition breeds innovation, I see no good innovation coming from this merger, only misery and lots of over pricing in the future.

Andy Wehmeyer's picture

While I agree that the audio industry is changing, I don't agree that the demise of high quality audio reproduction is here. The existence of commodity products and the focus of huge public companies on the proliferation of "good enough" has little to do with a niche business with enthusiasts as its target customers. This change just creates opportunities for companies scaled to do business in the high end and for consumers who are looking for better.

Harman's technical leadership for the past decades hasn't disappeared, it's still available in countless documents and from former employees whose understanding of their profession has been increased hundreds of times over thanks to the contributions of Sean and Floyd and hundreds of others.

drny's picture

My comment on the demise of high end Audio is focused on the cost for the actual equipment.
Less competition in the market always means less supply for the demand. The result is always higher cost for the end product.
Harman being the number one product producing Audio company being purchased for consolidation with Samsung (and their own goals) clearly detracts from the Audio enthusiast desire for high Fidelity and quality Audio at the least cost possible.