For a Fistful of Speakers
The speaker torture chamber has a lot to offer: Cola, salt water, broiling heat and icy cold in rotation – and only the fittest survive.
For the Italian speaker manufacturer Faital, such tortures have just been part of doing business for more than fifty years.That comes as no surprise, given that major car makers are the main buyers of the twenty million speakers that the company produces year after year. In this industry, such extreme quality tests are par for the course: The speakers are sprayed with fluids of all kinds, exposed to vibrations for hours at a time, or blasted with sand. The culmination of the procedure is a metal cabinet, know to insiders as the “Arctic-Arizona chamber”, in which the speakers are heated up from minus 40 to 110 degrees Celsius, only to be “put on ice” once more, at which point the whole cycle starts all over again, for hours at a time. Of course, speakers that have undergone such torture are no longer fit for use, but this ensures that the devices work under any conditions – anywhere in the world, in any climate.
Jürgen Franzen, Flavio Naggi, Bruno Naggi (CEO), Alessandro Morelli (Sales & Marketing) (l. to r.)
Because the automotive sector has been stagnating for a few years now, the Italian company is looking to supply high-quality material to the pro audio industry as well under the FaitalPRO brand.Faital started out in 1958 as a small, family owned and operated company that at first manufactured speakers for radios and later also for television sets. The big breakthrough came in the 1970s as a automobile industry supplier. This group of customers also explains Faital’s extremely high quality standards.
Faital also gained notoriety, however, as a supplier to famous names in the hi-fi industry. Flavio Naggi, the grandson of the company’s founder, created FaitalPRO together with his team of experienced engineering and marketing professionals and is responsible for the market presence of the new brand: He is convinced that diversification is important for the future of the company. Simultaneously, in the pro audio industry, FaitalPRO is able bring the collected know-how from fifty years of speaker manufacturing to bear in a whole new market. Area Manager Jürgen Franzen is responsible for the marketing structures in German-speaking countries and functions as a direct local contact. We interviewed him and Flavio Naggi at the company headquarters in the Milan suburb of San Donato.
Flavio Naggi, Overseas-Sales-Manager und Jürgen Franzen, Area-Manager D-A-CH
“Start-up within a group of companies”
An interview with Flavio Naggi and Jürgen Franzen
pma:What made you decide to get into the pro audio business? After all, Faital already enjoyed sales in the hundreds of millions, so this segment plays a rather tangential role. Flavio Naggi:In the late 1990s, we reached a point where we had gone as far as we could go in terms of sales activities. For this reason, it seemed to us that diversification was necessary. We decided to keep building speakers because we are very advanced in this field and have a wealth of know-how. It would have made little sense to turn to an entirely different branch of industry. This was the beginning of the FaitalPRO story.
pma:How do you assure product quality? Flavio Naggi:Down through the years, we have developed a quality assurance standard which ensures product reliability. In doing so, we have always used the automotive industry as a guide, because it expects our speakers to perform reliably even under extreme conditions. We use this same yardstick with our pro audio products as well. They undergo a battery of tests, such as heat/cold tests, humidity tests, vibration tests, and corrosion and erosion tests.
pma:What advantages can users in the pro audio segment derive from your company’s fifty years of experience in building speakers for the consumer and automotive segments? Flavio Naggi: The strengths of Faital and FaitalPRO clearly lie in OEM production. We can manage a project from the initial sketches to the finished product without having to so much as glance at a product from the catalogue. In the automotive sector, for example, this is standard operating procedure and taken for granted. The car makers even send us 3D models of the car part in which our speakers are to be installed. Pro audio customers can profit from this professional experience. The level of quality that we attain in the design, manufacturing, and inspection of our products is heretofore unrivalled in the pro audio segment.
pma:Do you plan to also produce your own speaker enclosures? Flavio Naggi:Absolutely not. That would be the wrong decision for a whole host of reasons. We expend a great deal of energy to be a reliable partner for our customers. If we were to start building our own cabinets, then we would suddenly be competing with our customers and that would send entirely the wrong signal. Moreover, our experience is in building drivers and not speaker enclosures. To do that, we would have to develop a number of capabilities that we simply do not have and are not interested in acquiring.
pma:Why does FaitalPRO almost exclusively use neodymium drivers? Flavio Naggi: We decided to equip the majority of the pro audio speakers with neodymium because of we one of the first manufacturers to use this material in other areas. So we know a lot about working with neodymium and invested in a lot of research having to do with this raw material. For these reasons, we chose to focus the FaitalPRO strategy sharply on neodymium. The main reason for this was that we needed some way to stand out amongst our competitors – otherwise we would have just been one among many. In the meantime, however, we are again developing a series of products that use ferrite magnets. Jürgen Franzen: Neodymium still has not pushed ferrite aside by any means. There are still applications in which ferrite clearly has the advantage. Consequently, neodymium still has not caught on in all of our markets. Because we also want to continue servicing these markets, we will continue to offer drivers with ferrite magnets and even expand our range of products that use them. Now as ever, however, neodymium drivers are our speciality.
pma:In the media, we read time and time again that various raw materials are becoming scarce, including neodymium. To what extent is FaitalPRO affected by this? Flavio Naggi:The scale on which the Faital Group purchases these materials puts us in a negotiating position that is the envy of many a smaller manufacturer. For this reason, the neodymium supply is not a problem for us. We buy tons of it every year. It is true, however, that the price is practically uncontrollable and fluctuates considerably. This may pose problems for many smaller manufacturers.
pma:How is the international distribution network structured? Flavio Naggi: The very first thing we have to do is make the products available all over the world. To this end, we have multiple production sites and distribution centres worldwide: In Mexico, in the vicinity of New York, a warehouse with quality assurance in Hong Kong. In Europe, we are represented in Spain, Hungary, and, of course, Italy. The pro audio products are manufactured solely in our factory in Italy. This enables us to cover the markets in Europe very well. In order to be as efficient as possible in the individual countries, we are currently establishing local and comprehensive networks.
pma:What are the advantages and disadvantages of a family owned and operated company? Flavio Naggi:In the coming years, my father will continue to run Faital as a family operation. Now that he has taken over the helm from his father-in-law, my brother and I will be preparing to follow in his footsteps. In addition, we have a highly qualified management team that will continue to look after the company’s interests in the future.
pma: Jürgen, you have been travelling the German-speaking countries on behalf of FaitalPRO for about a year now. What are your goals? Jürgen Franzen: My official title is “Area Manager for Germany, Austria, and Switzerland“. I take care of the OEM business, visit sound reinforcement system manufacturers, and introduce them to FaitalPRO and its products. Another primary focus for me is establishing a network of distribution partners in my countries in order to tap into distribution channels such as retail and MI.
pma: How do you envision the future of FaitalPRO? Flavio Naggi: In this respect, it is necessary to differentiate between Faital and FaitalPRO. Our goal at FaitalPRO is to become completely economically independent of Faital. Still, we are travelling down the same path as any other start-up company, even if we are doing so within a group of companies: at the outset, a great deal of investment is required that only pays off after a period of years. I could, however, well imagine that FaitalPRO will be the future of the entire Faital Group.
Statement: Markus Falter, Director Marketing & Export Sales Craaft Audio GmbH As a manufacturer of professional sound reinforcement systems “Made in Germany”, we are always dependent on suppliers who deliver exceptionally good components. We came across FaitalPRO some time ago and have been a staunch customer of these products ever since then. We have been using FaitalPRO speakers in some of our products, for example, the BANANA line array system, for around a year now. Since we have yet to record even a single malfunction, in this regard, one can legitimately speak of one-hundred percent quality at the highest level. The price is commensurate with performance and we are impressed with the professional distribution support, especially in the person of Jürgen Franzen. www.novacoustic.de
Complete information about FaitalPro products is available here www.adamhall.com/FaitalPro