Backstage Past

November 5, 2013

I suppose it’s because I’m a sucker for nostalgia, but in these days of networking protocols, cloud-based media storage, and iOS- and Android-based control interfaces, it was nice to step back and pay homage to the founders of CEDIA– those who created an industry that has given so many of us careers in what is literally an entertaining business.

As I was unwinding backstage after presenting CEDIA’s Electronic Lifestyles Technical Awards this past September at the CEDIA EXPO banquet, industry pioneer Tom Doherty enthusiastically pointed to a TV monitor showing the Product Hall of Fame portion of the ceremony taking place out on stage.

“Those products are the reason why there is a CEDIA,” Doherty said enthusiastically, as the Audioaccess’ PX-4 and PX-6 multi-room control systems were inducted into CEDIA’s shrine. Audioaccess veterans Chris Stevens (himself a founding father of CEDIA) and Helma Paulson (who played a pivotal sales role at Audioaccess for many years) were on stage joyfully accepting the award when a louder-than-usual cheer erupted from the audience.

“See? They understand,” Doherty said of the crowd’s response. “The audience knows how important those products are.”

I knew a little bit about Audioaccess, but mostly from the years following its acquisition by Harman in the early 1990s and its more recent years under the ownership of current caretaker, Amplifier Technology Inc. But, I hadn’t known as much as I should about the brand’s earliest years, especially contextualized in such grand historical terms.

“Everyone who formed the early leadership of CEDIA met each other while attending Audioaccess product training,” explained Doherty, who eventually co-founded CEDIA, and later launched the music management category with Escient and spawned the CD database aggregator Gracenote. “We were all there. That’s where we all got to know one another, and out of that grouip came a plan for forming CEDIA.”

Doherty reminded me that Audioaccess was founded in 1987 by a custom installation company run by Stevens. Those early integrators recognized that their clients needed an easy-touse, high-quality, and functional whole-house music system with a wall controller designed to control entertainment in a more intuitive way.

Their first products, the PX-4 and PX-6 Multi-Room Control Systems, allowed a homeowner to access and control his or her audio components from any location in the house via a simple and elegant keypad. This was a huge improvement over the use of simple volume controls or very expensive customized solutions. The PX-4 and PX-6 became hugely popular with custom installation specialists not only in the U.S., but also throughout the world.

Leaving me to bathe in that warm glow of reminiscence, Doherty darted out on stage to hug Stevens and Paulson and to thank them on behalf of all of us who continue to make our living in this business.


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