JL Audio, think global, but act local

Silvio Pupino, Vice President of International sales at JL Audio,  and Giacomo Degl’Innocenti, the founder and Ceo of the Gammalta Group, the firm’s Italian exclusive distributor, set out their future vision for the american company

by Barbara Borgonovo – photo by Andrea Muscatello

Wherever we are, sound and music are extraordinarily important for the development of our vital functions, including on a boat. The ability to reproduce sound at the highest possible levels tends to be reserved for companies with oodles of passion and a long history of research and experimentation. JL Audio was founded in the 1970s by two schoolmates, Jim and Lucio, and the firm expanded in the 1980s, offering a wide range of services including installing professional audio systems in cars. The turning point came when Lucio decided to build his own low-frequency drivers. In that period, JL was making a name for itself for its high-quality products, and in the 1990s it began to operate across the USA.

JL Audio entered the home audio market in 2003, when Carl Kennedy, a highly experienced loudspeaker system designer, and studio engineer, joined the firm. The following year, it launched a range of marine audio products. The company’s mission was to sell top-quality sound and to obtain this, JL Audio invested a lot of money in converting the business from international to multinational.

The JL Audio story began when schoolmates Jim and Lucio built loudspeakers, which could withstand the sun and sea conditions of a beach during the summer holidays.

Silvio Pupino, Vice President of International Sales, explains what this means: «There is a fundamental difference between the two: international companies make a product for one particular market and also sell items abroad, while multinational companies make investments abroad that allow them to sell globally without any issues». In 2020 it opened a warehouse in Shenzhen and another in Rotterdam, meaning it could supply its distributors much more quickly, without having to wait for shipments from the United States.

As Giacomo Degl’Innocenti, the CEO of Gammalta Group, JL Audio’s Italian exclusive distributor, notes: «The most important benefit of this was that it allowed us to shorten the supply chain and offer much better performance when supplying shipyards. It is one thing serving a single installer on a retail basis, and quite another drawing up a strategic framework agreement where the shipyard has chosen you for your build quality and the performance of your product. This new company structure allows us to supply our clients following set timescales. Particularly at a time of scant raw materials, we cannot afford to tell shipyards – which have invested in all the various product ranges and made holes in the fiberglass to our precise dimensions and depth – that we can no longer supply the product».

GAMMALTA
The Gammalta Group is becoming increasingly specialised as a distributor of audio-visual products for the marine market. It has opened new premises with a floor space of over 1,000 m2 in Pisa and has signed a new sales agreement with Samsung. It has mechanisms tailored to the marine market and international monitoring systems and is developing a complete package to offer shipyards and particularly installers working in the marine sector the best possible range of options: ultra-high-performance, very reliable products covered by a global support service. This avoids a shipyard having to send someone to the Bahamas to carry out servicing on a 50-meter yacht, which would be incredibly expensive. The third area it is working on is international visibility. The firm aims to be the leading distributor of audio-visual products for the Italian marine market, and it is pursuing this through major investments and through JL Audio, the company’s core business brand with which it is developing in parallel

The warehouses’ geographical proximity is crucial for dealers if they are to operate successfully and spread the word about the brand. And this is precisely what Silvio Pupino has been working on over the last two years. But dealers are never left on their own. «We have to give our distributors the support they need to go to the market and promote the brand». Every market is different; there is no single product that can meet every need. Dealers, therefore, submit requests to the business, which often develops new solutions in response. As Pupino explains: «At JL we work on a global scale, but we have a hybrid approach that stems from the fact that every market is different». It is the optional extras and the products’ appearance, as well as how people spend time on their boat, that involve the biggest changes.

JL Audio opened the first retail store called “Speaker Warehouse” in the 1970s, selling home loudspeakers, DIY speakers kits, and DJ speaker systems.

One example of this is the stunning, brightly colored speakers of exceptional quality made for the American market, designed for a certain type of very small and dynamic fiberglass boat used for sport, where an aggressive, sporty look is ideal. But these are no good for the Italian shipyards producing 25-meter-plus custom boats, where an elegant, clean appearance is essential, so they had to be adapted. As Giacomo Degl’Innocenti recalls: «The JL team was fantastic in this regard. They turned my requests into something tangible, and, starting from an identical base, they created a product with incredible attention to detail, without losing any performance or quality, giving rise to the Lux range».

THE COMPANY’S MISSION IS TO ‘SELL GREAT AUDIO’. THE BUSINESS’ SUCCESS STEMS FROM ITS TALENTED AND PASSIONATE STAFF

JL Audio has over 600 employees, the majority of whom are engineers. New products require around five or six years of development before they reach the market, because all spaces onboard a boat are different, and demand specific research into their acoustic attenuation. Just creating a speaker grille at the right angle can take two years of work. The secret of JL Audio’s success is its constant striving for perfect sound quality, even in the difficult conditions of the cockpit of a boat: outdoors, constantly moving, and with potentially extremely challenging and corrosive weather conditions. The firm’s ability to adapt to new demands led Silvio Pupino to coin the motto Think global, but act local. They allow distributors to develop an idea or a product, or to devise a marketing campaign that suits their clients.

JL Audio has also signed a licensing agreement with the Japanese Clarion brand for development, production, and sale all over the world to keep up with demand from all market segments. JL Audio took the Clarion product, optimised and improved it, and marketed it for smaller boats.

Trying to improve the sound is a very difficult goal to achieve, particularly in the cockpit of a boat.

The company’s mission is to improve sound quality. It achieves this by improving both equipment and people’s behavior, and by explaining that a system will work even better if it is designed by a specialist and installed and calibrated in a certain way. The challenge is encouraging owners to appreciate the beauty of the sound and on-board audio, immersing them in music that stirs the emotions, including an amplifier that drives the loudspeakers and a subwoofer that works constantly on the bass frequencies to ensure the higher frequencies sound their best. And perhaps even implementing the frequency cuts required to ensure there is no delay in the sound when moving from one part of the boat to another. JL Audio has highly specialised engineers who can work in any situation. In this case, the distributors focus on logistics and are little more than box movers.

(JL Audio, think global, but act local – Barchemagazine.com – February 2022)