Call me crazy, but I honestly thought the days of writing columns about Jeremy Burkhardt were over. Sure, I knew, being in his early 40s, that the former SpeakerCraft CEO was too young to stay “retired.” But I also wondered how someone who had been so deeply identified by one brand since he was a teenager could re-emerge in a relatively small industry wearing a different company’s logo’d T-shirt.
My meeting last month with Burkhardt could have taken place over the phone, but the opportunity to meet face-to-face was just too enticing. I needed to cut through the hype and see if his new company, Origin Acoustics, was for real and if Burkhardt was really coming back. So I flew to Austin, which is where the new brand will be stocked in a warehouse and training facility shared with Screen Innovations, to learn about a potentially unnecessary addition to the loudspeaker landscape.
When we met for dinner, Burkhardt greeted me warmly and seemed more at peace than I’ve ever seen him. Although we’re basically the same age, he was always the younger-than-his years extrovert to my reserved, “born old” introverted personality. Over the years, I’ve done my best to match Burkhardt’s energy, but this time, he was mellower, happier, and more legitimately confident, as he proudly, but humbly, described his new venture.
The next day we sat in the still-under-construction lobby of a big warehouse, where 500 pairs of 60 models of completely re-imagined architectural loudspeakers soon will be inventoried alongside SI’s screens. We looked at design drawing and photos only, but I got a strong sense of what Origin is doing differently with its in-wall speakers, and I have little doubt that we’ll see real product at the company’s Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired CEDIA EXPO booth this month.
It was clear from our three-hour chat that architectural audio is where Burkhardt belongs, but that he wanted to come back only if he could make a real difference in a mature product category. Along with his business partners, former SpeakerCraft owners Ed Haase and Ken Humphreys, he found ways to engineer 8-inch speakers into 6-inch in-wall enclosures, and 10- inch speakers into 8-inch enclosures. Origin did this by re-imagining the traditional dogleg mounting mechanism and by combining the most efficient loudspeaker elements available. Its in-ceiling speakers utilize ring radiator tweeters for better off-axis sound dispersion, its aimable tweeters are built closer to the grille for more pivoting range, and its Kevlar cones are prestressed for better acoustical performance.
Origin had no legacy designs to protect, so it could create everything from scratch. The company’s website and online order fulfillment and tracking system promises to be one of the best in the business, and its simplified sales incentive programs and pricing model will be appealing to its dealers. The proof is in the performance, however, and I have to wait, like everyone else, until CEDIA EXPO to take a listen to these new speakers.
It’s good to have Burkhardt back. Not because CEDIA lacked excitement in his absence, but because he knows what makes a good story, and I like telling good stories. I think his dealers will enjoy telling the story of Origin Acoustics, as well.