COMPANIES TO WATCH
|A family tradition: (l-r) Jeff Long, v.p., sales & marketing, Long & McQuade; Jack Long, founder, Long & McQuade and Yorkville; Steve Long, president, Yorkville.
A banner year for product intros delivers “the ultimate point source speaker system."
SPEAKER CONFIGURATION sounds complicated, but turning a box upside-down doesn’t—which is one reason the new Synergy Array Series turned into one of this year’s highlights for Yorkville Sound. Founded 56 years ago in Pickering, Ontario, Yorkville has since rolled out a prodigious lineup of pro audio gear including many previous active (and passive) loudspeaker systems. Until the Synergy Array Series, however, it had never found a way to combine premium power and versatility with a form factor that almost anyone can customize for the venue. First shown at the 2019 Winter NAMM Show and billed as Yorkville’s largest and most powerful point source system to date, the series comprises a three-way full-range active cabinet, the SA153, and an active subwoofer, the SA315S. Patented Paraline Lens and Synergy Horn technologies, developed by the renowned audio engineer Tom Danley, have refined the “under-the-hood” design. Onsite at almost any performance venue, though, it further impresses by becoming most any kind of system you need it to be. Placed directly atop the subwoofer, the top box yields a vertical asymmetric coverage pattern that can be reversed by simply turning it upside-down—or turned horizontal by laying it on its side. Employed on its own, or stacked together in multiples that can each be oriented any which way, the Synergy Array Series becomes a shape-shifter that adapts to most any type of venue, large or small. “Throughout the first year,” says Steve Hendee, Yorkville’s U.S. director of sales, “Synergy has proven to be the ultimate point source speaker system.”
For Yorkville, the Synergy Array Series will go down as one of the notable introductions of 2019, but it won’t be the only one. The company also emerged this year with the EXM Mobile 12, a follow-up to its compact EXM Mobile battery powered speaker. A lightweight 12" battery-powered speaker with a 1" horn driver, the EXM Mobile 12 features three inputs and up to six hours of battery life—making it a user-friendly cordless option for outdoor venues especially. Since hitting the market, it’s become a favorite choice for wedding tents and various non-traditional venues where external power might have been a problem. In another debut product, Yorkville expanded its respected Elite family of loudspeakers with the ES21P, a 21" active subwoofer with the wattage for some serious levels of low-end output. An alternative series of passive speakers, for installations and venues with existing power amps, was also introduced in Yorkville’s EF10P, EF12P, and EF15P.
Recognized for years for its portfolio of distributed brands as well as its own line, Yorkville extended a key partnership this year when it was named distributor of Aston Microphones for all of North America. Widely considered a high-quality mic line with appeal for professionals as well as hobbyists, Aston had been distributed by Yorkville in the Canadian market for the past three years. “The product itself is well-paired with studio equipment such as monitors and mixers in Yorkville’s family, giving retailers opportunities to bundle and upsell end users with world class studio solutions,” Hendee says. “Extending distribution to the U.S. market is a natural progression for both Yorkville Sound and Aston Microphones.”
Still based in Pickering, Yorkville was established by Jack Long—father of current President Steve Long—and his colleague Pete Traynor in 1963. Its name came from the sign on the nearest street corner. Founded in a back room of the original Long & McQuade store, the pro audio manufacturer has long since built an identity of its own: From its first product, a p.a. cabinet, and its second, a bass amp, it’s dug deep into both categories while expanding into a complete range of Yorkville brand gear: from mixers to amplifiers and active and passive loudspeaker cabinets, as well as lighting. The entire line is created, from the initial concept through the finished product, at the company’s 150,000-square-foot facility in Pickering. Tube and solid-state instrument amplifiers from the Yorkville-owned Traynor brand are built at the same location. Yorkville also designs and distributes the Applied Research and Technology (ART) brand, which it acquired years ago, and designs and sells the Apex line of studio tools, microphones, headphones, and accessories. In addition, Yorkville is the North American distributor for brands including Hughes & Kettner and HK Audio, as well as Aston Microphones.
“Installers have a variety of choices,” says Steve Long. “It’s our job to make sure we’re solving their sound reinforcement needs with durable, affordable, and great-sounding product.”
A Canadian institution, Yorkville can trace some of its heritage back to Jack Long’s first company: the Long & McQuade retail chain that he cofounded in 1956. It was a few years after that when Pete Traynor, a store repair tech, was asked by a customer to build a pair of portable p.a. speakers for him. Pete’s product became the first-of-its-kind YSC-1 6x8" p.a column, the main catalyst for the launch of Yorkville Sound a few months later. At the time, Steve recounts, the folk boom and the advent of rock ’n’ roll had made vocals more important than ever, yet the market hadn’t yet caught up with effective products to amplify them. “This appears to have prompted one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments,” he says.
As the company came into its own, management drew a bright line between Yorkville and Long & McQuade: To this day, Yorkville products are offered to Long & McQuade on exactly equal terms with every other Canadian dealer. The association between the two companies did, however, leave a lasting impression on how Yorkville products are engineered—and it all has to do with Long & McQuade’s longstanding rental business. Wanting to build a line that could survive the wear and tear of repeated rentals, Yorkville studied rental-fleet products to find out which components were most likely to break down and designed its whole manufacturing process to double down on durability. “While our company is not the largest,” says Steve, “we have always made a big commitment to engineering.”
For Steve, who studied engineering in college and worked as a gigging musician afterward, joining the family business was a chance to combine his interests. In more than 35 years with the company, he’s now done almost every job it has to offer. As president, he heads up a company that, despite its size and scope, is still known for its tight-knit, good-humored company culture. Asked about the pros and cons of running a business in Canada, he explains: “Operating primarily in Canada, which on a worldwide scale is not a large market, we need to make sure that we consider every customer to be important, and do our very best to make sure we have the best products for our unique market.”
On another note, he adds that tariffs and exchange rates are a constant concern vis-à-vis Yorkville’s dominant customer base in the U.S., while the built-in costs of manufacturing onsite will always be considerable. But on the whole, he says, customers keep voting with their feet that the value proposition is worth it. Besides the U.S. and Canada, the Yorkville line is now sold in more than 20 countries in Asia, Latin America, Oceania, and the Middle East.
“Building manufactured products in Canada presents a challenge in the worldwide export market,” Steve sums up, “but our dedicated distributors continue to support us.”