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Yorkville Sound founder Jack Long and his son, company President Steve Long.
Yorkville Sound
Pro audio experts keep pushing the R&D envelope
on Canadian-built products

Jack Long and his colleague Pete Traynor had a plan to start a company, but it didn’t have a name yet. Glancing out the window, though, they noticed that the sign on the nearest street corner said “Yorkville”—and that would be the company’s name for the next 55 years and counting. Founded in a back room of the original Long & McQuade store (now Canada’s largest music retail chain), 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, Ontario. 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 Dynaudio, Hughes & Kettner, and, most recently, HK Audio.

“Installers have a variety of choices,” says Steve Long, current Yorkville president and son of founder Jack Long. “It’s our job to make sure we’re solving their sound reinforcement needs with durable, affordable, and great-sounding product. There are definitely similarities between our products and some of the others available to them. The winning opportunity is to highlight the differences.”

Part of the Yorkville team for the past 35 years, Steve can recall doing almost every job the company has to offer. Involved in music all his life, he studied business and engineering at university and spent three years as a gigging musician after graduating. As he says now, “Yorkville allowed me to combine my education and my love for music.” Today, Steve 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, for instance, he jokes: “Maple syrup needs to be monitored, and time off work to watch the hockey game needs to be accounted for.” On a more serious 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. “Building manufactured products in Canada presents a challenge in the worldwide export market,” Steve sums up, “but our dedicated distributors continue to support us.”

For Yorkville Sound, the dates to remember are 1963, when the company went into business, but also 1956, when Jack Long founded his retail business with his friend Jack McQuade (who left shortly afterward to focus on his career as a working musician). 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. “Incredibly, no one seemed to be building portable speakers for public address, nor portable amplifiers, nor anything else. There were commercial p.a. amps that could be adapted for portable systems, but they were clumsy to set up and offered only one or two mic inputs—and who cares: there were no speakers to use with them anyway. Meanwhile, the systems built into most playing venues were awful antiques that squealed and distorted or didn’t work at all.”

As Yorkville came into its own, management became assiduous about establishing its independence from 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. “Our products are homegrown and manufactured in our countries of origin, while keeping attention to detail, fidelity, and cost,” says Steve. “We have tried to take advantage of the technologies available and incorporate them in our designs. While our company is not the largest, we have always made a big commitment to engineering.”

Still best known for its top-selling portable powered speakers and high-performance powered subwoofers, the Yorkville line is now sold in more than 20 countries across North America, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, and the Middle East. And as Steve says, social media and the sharing of images that goes with it have only made Yorkville gear more vividly real to potential customers everywhere. “It has become easier to establish a two-way dialogue with our end-users across the globe,” he adds. “End-users reach out to us via our social networks to show off their installs and ask for advice from us and fellow users around the world.” As for what comes next, he says, advancing technologies are making extreme portability ever more compatible with high-end performance. “Expect to see more battery-powered, lightweight, and wireless products coming from our factory,” says Steve. “We are working on the best sounding speaker system Yorkville has ever created.”


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