For more than 36 years, Meyer Sound has been creating and supporting high-quality products for sound reinforcement and recording for professional audio practitioners. While the company is headquartered in Berkeley, California, some of its most advanced work is being carried out right here in Vernon, BC.
John McMahon is responsible for the Vernon-Berkeley connection. He started a tech company called Cadence Digital Audio, which ultimately merged with LCS Audio, in Vancouver in the early ‘90s. As that company grew from a small-time operation to one that was gaining traction by 1996, he moved it back to Vernon, where he was born and raised. He eventually set up shop in the Alpine Centre on Kalamalka Lake Road, where it is still located today.
LCS Audio specialized in designing and manufacturing products such as audio show control systems, mixing consoles and large-scale sound processing units. They’re used in a variety of settings: theme parks, Cirque de Soleil, Disneyland, cruise ships and Broadway shows, to name a few.
“In 2004, we started developing a product for Meyer Sound, and in 2005 they indicated they were interested in acquiring the technology behind that product,” says McMahon.
It turns out Meyer Sound wanted more than just the product. They proposed an acquisition of the entire company, which was realized in early 2006. “Since the acquisition, we’ve continued to grow and invest in the Vernon operation,” says McMahon, now Vice-president, Solutions and Strategy, in Berkeley. “We have some very sophisticated tools and equipment. We’re very leading edge for the audio industry.”
For example, the 15-person tech team in Vernon creates processor boards that are as complex as a Mac computer (they’re manufactured in California). They also specialize in cutting-edge technology such as high-speed networking, signal processing and loudspeaker alignment.
Asked why they chose to keep the R&D office in Vernon, rather than relocate it to Berkeley, McMahon says the possibility has been discussed. “It cuts both ways. There have been times where we’ve indicated we’d be interested in relocating, but there’s also a functional reason to keep things remote. It’s very unique from the mainstream work we do down here (in Berkeley). “They’ve (Vernon office) often been held as the model for how we want to do things down here. It’s a very talented group.”
Any talk of relocation has since been put to bed, as Meyer Sound recently committed to staying long-term in Vernon by buying their offices outright. A combination of the low Canadian dollar and sky-high real estate prices in Berkeley (they’re higher than Manhattan at the moment) helped make the decision easier. “Our dollar goes a long way, even without the dollar exchange,” says McMahon, of investing in the Canadian market.
From a logistical point of view, McMahon adds keeping the Vernon office doesn’t make much difference because it’s mainly used for design purposes. Modern communication makes it easy to keep everyone in the loop, and when needed, McMahon and other team members fly to and from Vernon for face-to-face meetings.
“It adds some overhead, but it’s a global company,” he says. “We’re OK with having remote developers, because you can these days.”
Global indeed. Meyer Sound employs more than 300 people and operates satellite offices in Nashville, Canada, China, Dubai, Germany and Mexico. “We have partners in pretty much all of the major centres in the world,” adds McMahon.
The quality of life in the North Okanagan means Meyer Sound’s Vernon office doesn’t experience a lot of turnover. And when it does, McMahon says they’re able to draw on the professional talent available in Vancouver and Calgary.
“It’s a great place where people want to move and start families,” explains McMahon. “You tend to get a very dedicated workforce that’s happy to be there. People are able to have an affordable lifestyle with four seasons. If you’re at all recreationally oriented, everything’s there for you.
“While it’s a bit of an outpost, it’s perfectly logical once you dig under the surface. We have terrifically happy staff that are dedicated and professional and constantly learning.”
For more information visit: Meyer Sound