Last year at SXSW, thanks to a hook-up from High Brew Cold Brew Coffee, I found myself at the VIP Roadie Lounge at the Historic Scoot Inn in Austin, Texas. The bands onstage were top notch, and the exclusive party we’d gained admittance to featured all kinds of goodies and special opportunities. Present at this party was, of course, High Brew Coffee, as well as Ultimate Ears, some fancy whiskeys, and pro audio leaders Meyer Sound. At the Meyer Sound display, there was an iPad and a friendly rep named Caitlin who encouraged me to enter to win two top of the line Amie studio monitors.
I figured, hey, why not? I hadn’t heard of them yet, but a chance at some free monitors seemed worth the trade of getting on their email list. I told Caitlin that my band was getting ready to record our next record and that we’d be excited to try out their monitors if we won.
The party went on, we stuck around for White Denim who were absolutely ripping it up that night, and then we all walked back to the house we had rented for the week that included giant cockroaches but no furniture (we brought our own air mattresses and stocked the fridge with High Brew and Elysian Space Dust).
A week or two later, still on tour, we found ourselves broken down on the side of the highway with what we thought was a busted carburetor (it turned out to be a melted catalytic converter, but the boys rebuilt the carburetor anyway). Standing in the dirt just barely off the exit outside of Castle Rock, we prepared to be towed to a mechanic who said he would try to help us. I pulled out my phone and saw an email. “Congratulations! You are the Meyer Sound winner from the Roadie Lounge at SXSW”
Wait, what? Really? “You guys, check this out! Is this real?” It was too specific to be a fake, I thought, sitting on the red bench seat with the side doors open to the wire fence where David was sitting on his guitar amp plucking at his electric. I showed him and he looked up the speakers online. “Heather, those are very high end studio monitors”. “You’re kidding me!” Maybe the broken down van wouldn’t be the most interesting part of the day after all.
When the speakers showed up to the Beacon Hill house where we had begun tracking demos for the album, we set them up and plugged them in right away. We picked some of our favorite music and huddled around saying things like “Whoa, I never heard that guitar part before” and “Do you hear how clear that is?” and “These are serious monitors”.
Some of my friends told me to sell them. “Think of what you could do with the money” they’d say. Or “You don’t really need speakers that nice for what you’re doing” (as if what I’m doing isn’t building a lifelong music career dependent on making great-sounding music!). But I had a feeling about this opportunity.
Sure, the speakers themselves are worth a good chunk of change. But when else was I going to have the opportunity to own a piece of gear this nice? What if it’s more valuable to be able to use these speakers and share with others the enormous difference it makes to have quality gear? And then, wouldn’t it be more valuable in the long run to instead pursue a relationship with this company that could extend into the future in ways that could be collaborative and supportive?
Last month I stopped by the Meyer Sound booth at NAMM and told them all about how I had won the speakers and how floored we were with the quality. I asked where they were based, and when they said Berkeley, I said “Oh, I’ll be in the Bay Area next month!”
They offered to show me on a tour, so yesterday I got to see how the speakers are manufactured, tested, and I got to hear them in full demo mode, from symphonies and cinema to Metallica and even heard my own songs in a new way through their most accurate speakers, the Bluehorn System.
Here’s what I gathered from my visit: Meyer Sound has been around in the Bay Area for decades and is focused on very clear sound and scientific innovations that directly address issues in the sound world (instead of trying to compete with other brands’ products). Because of this, they have an incredibly high standard for quality control. Their process is very hands-on, and there is very little automation. Parts are tested by people at every step along the way, and they have a distinct focus on tracking each part from start to finish to be sure that if any problems do arise it’s possible to find out where or why they occurred.Having been at a handful of manufacturing sites for numerous different parts of the industry, I was surprised by the distinct lack of chemical smell in every location of the building. This is because they say they are building products “for the future” and won’t use any glues or resins that are harmful to their employees or the environment.
Their wood is locally sourced from sustainably harvested forests that they’ve been investing in for decades and when parts need to be disposed of they are not trashed, but are broken down to their component pieces which are re-used in-house. They also are obsessively focused on making parts that will last a long time, and EVERY SINGLE part is put through serious heating and cooling, tested and re-tested at every step of the way, plus their warranty is such that if you bought a product from them, they’ll take care of it if it needs repaired or replaced. But everything is weatherproof and super durable, so that’s probably not much of an issue.
Aside from being a high-quality American manufacturer, I also got the sense that people there both enjoyed the work they did and cared a lot about the music they’re helping bring to people. The walls were covered in signed posters and awards, and I even got to meet Helen Meyer herself. Everyone was kind and they also seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing as well, even offering to connect me with other Meyer Sound people around the country, in venues and studios they knew I’d be interested in while visiting other cities.
I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to meet the people at this high caliber company, and I’m glad I held on to those monitors, even though it was tempting to cash in on them before I left Seattle to pursue this wild trip around the country. I still think it would be cool to let some Seattle engineers try them out while I’m gone, perhaps if anyone wants to take me up on using them for the year in exchange for some studio time when I get back to town. Although, I have to warn you: you’ll be spoiled and want some of your own when I decide to take them back, so be sure you’re really ready for an upgrade! If crystal clear sound is what you’re after, though, it’ll be well worth the investment, as these speakers will likely last you the rest of your career and significantly up your game.
Thanks Meyer Sound for showing me around, I’m glad I get to share with others what I found through what seemed at the time to be a totally random raffle! But nothing is really random, and I am grateful I was chosen to receive such a generous gift.