QSC Will Support Hales Loudspeakers, Says Brand's Founder

The fate of Hales Loudspeakers has been a subject of much concern and discussion among audiophiles since the shuttering of parent company Wadia Digital a few months ago. There is now considerable light at the end of the tunnel, as revealed by Hales founder L. Paul Hales in a telephone interview December 22.

Hales is now manager of loudspeaker research and development for professional audio manufacturer QSC. The Costa Mesa, CA-based company has acquired many of the assets of Hales Loudspeakers, among them designs, patents, and other intellectual property, including the right to the use of the Hales brand name. The good news for owners of Hales speakers (two models of which achieved Stereophile "Class B" ratings) is that QSC has also purchased some of the Hales parts inventory. Replacement drivers and grilles will be available to Hales owners through QSC customer service some time in the near future. "We have just started setting up customer service for the Hales brand. We expect to complete the process within a few weeks," Hales said.

The final contract determining the acquisition of Hales Loudspeakers wasn't finished until December 15, in a process Hales described as "delicate and protracted," explaining the lack of news on the development. "I did keep in contact with dealers about what was going on," he noted. "But we couldn't make a public statement until now."

An official notice about the replacement parts service will appear on the QSC website, as well as in a follow-up here. "We are trying to assemble a good inventory of the parts that anyone might need, and we'll sell them until they are depleted, at which point we will re-evaluate whether or not to restock. It's important to QSC, and to me personally, that these products be supported," Hales said, "but it's simply going to take time to establish." He asks that customers not call until QSC is ready to handle them.

The bad news is that QSC has not decided whether or not to honor warranties on Hales products. To do so on a defunct brand would be a positive public relations gesture on the part of QSC, but wouldn't make much business sense considering that the brand will probably not return to the audiophile market. A 30-year-old company, QSC is the dominant supplier of professional amplifiers worldwide—the privately-held company ships in excess of 100,000 units annually. The company plans to leverage Paul Hales' talents to produce "a wide range of loudspeakers, including a state-of-the-art touring product." Some QSC loudspeakers will derive from designs Hales was working on before Wadia backers Shared Ventures foreclosed last fall, but initially none will be aimed at the audiophile sector. "It's unclear at this point where—if at all—the Hales name will appear," he commented, adding that QSC has "no plans to sell off the brand name."

Hales emphasized that QSC wants to make a bold move into the professional and commercial installation market, a venue that absolutely dwarfs the audiophile market. "The numbers for the commercial market are just huge," Hales said, "and growing." If all goes according to plan, QSC speakers should make an official debut in the third quarter of 2001, he stated, adding that he is still assembling his engineering team.

QSC's expansion into loudspeakers with an audiophile designer at the helm is part of a growing trend toward the convergence of the professional and audiophile markets. Several companies, such as Nova Audio and Pass Labs, are building "crossover" products, while some, like Canada's Bryston, have always been strong in both sectors. Hales said he believes the two industries can learn much from one another, as he mentioned in a 1998 Stereophile interview, and that the outcome will be a "new synergy." He believes that "exceptional products" will emerge from QSC's new venture, "some of them of interest to Stereophile readers."

Regarding the bitterness that was expressed by a former Hales Loudspeakers executive over the shabby treatment he received in the decline-and-revival of Wadia Digital, Paul Hales commented, "The way Wadia went down was unpleasant for everybody . . . no one was singled out. None of us expected it to go that way." A simple reversion clause in the buyout contract between Wadia Digital and Hales Loudspeakers would have given control of Hales back to its previous owners in the event of a default, he mentioned, without speculating as to why it was left out. The result was the loss of both the company and the revenue stream its sale was expected to produce. Moral of the story: know exactly what you're signing before you put pen to paper.