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NHT Ready To Roll Again

Benicia, Calif. — Home audio supplier NHT has new owners, and one of them is the industry veteran who co-founded the company in 1986 and stayed at NHT’s helm during all but three of the brand’s 22 years in existence.

Niwot, Colo.-based Vinci Labs, a former Flextronics division that designs DSP and surround processor chips and boards, sold NHT to a trio of people, including co-founder and ex-managing director Chris Byrne. The other owners are former NHT sales and marketing VP John Johnsen and Jim Pyle, a former owner of two logistics businesses and no relation to the founders of Pyle car audio.

“NHT will be owned by us and eventually, all employees will have a share,” Byrne told TWICE.

Vinci bought the brand in November 2005 from Rockford upon the car audio supplier’s exit from the home audio business, but Vinci “was looking for rapid, rapid growth” at a time when the “specialty audio market was still somewhat in decline,” Byrne said.

Vinci began searching for a potential buyer in the fall of 2007 and, by the end of October, laid off Byrne and “95 percent of the NHT employees who were there for five or more years,” he said. In December, Vinci’s investors then called Byrne about a potential purchase.

Despite the layoffs, NHT continued to ship products to about 200 active dealers and provide dealer support and product service, Byrne said.

Byrne’s new company, NHT Audio LLC, has begun hiring back personnel, concentrating first on building a staff of 12 to 13 people focused on sales and customer service. “Then after a year, we’ll start product development in earnest,” Byrne said. “We need first to get close to the market again.”

Byrne described NHT as profitable since 1990, “always self-sufficient,” and “not heavily encumbered with debt.” In six to eight months, he added, “we should be working on our own cash and pay off a line of credit.”

NHT will continue to offer in-room and custom-installed residential speakers as well as pro-audio speakers, but recently under Vinci, the brand closed out its narrow selection of component electronics, and it will now sell off its current DSP speakers before possibly reentering the market with later-generation technology.

NHT began life in 1986 as a co-venture of Byrne and speaker designer Ken Kantor. In 1990, the company was purchased by International Jensen, the home and car speaker company, which in turn was later purchased by Recoton.

In late 2002, Rockford purchased NHT from Recoton, which was selling off assets in an unsuccessful attempt to stave off liquidation.

In November 2005, as part of a restructuring plan to focus on the 12-volt business, Rockford sold NHT to Vinci. Rockford also sold off the home and pro audio inventories of its Hafler and Fosgate Audionics brands, and it sold its German-based MB Quart operation, which markets home, car and pro audio.