Employees are the main asset of any company, so the saying goes. However, at d&b the co-workers are the company, just people, with all their moods and merits, sometimes wide awake and sometimes jet lagged; it takes all sorts to make a great company. Nevertheless, there is one thing upon which everybody at d&b agrees: they are not just here to make another black box, they are dedicated as a whole to d&b loudspeaker systems.
A co-worker's insight story
Perhaps I should mention that I am really quite devoted to the Muses. Not that I think this is a special sign of quality, but, on the other hand, my presence here in a high-tech company does not necessarily speak for itself. I knew of d&b audiotechnik as a manufacturer of high quality products, so when I came to Korb for the first time in the middle of the eighties I was expecting to find a lot of industriously busy gentlemen in white coats, running around with calculators in their hands and important looking wrinkles on their foreheads. Instead, I found myself in slightly hectic but definitely casual surroundings, where work seemed to be rather a second priority.
Perhaps this is what fascinated me about this company from the very start. Although I was quite impressed by the meticulous precision with which the black boxes were made, I did not have the impression that the product was the sole concern of all activities. Every conversation, every technical description revealed clearly that the main task here was to make music sound good. And I dearly felt that this company had developed from a close-knit group.
The beginnings of d&b go right back to the inevitable garage. And to two hobby musicians who had experienced that the sound that leaves the system through the power towers is not always the same as that which goes in. And so they decided to introduce new impulses in audio technology, with the firm conviction that even larger and louder loudspeakers was simply not the right way to meet the electroacoustic challenges. Their utopian spirit was fed on practical experience. Jürgen Daubert, for example, had been juggling with transistors since his youth, developing amplifiers with increasing efficiency and output, and finally, as a sideline during his student days, had developed a new kind of amplifier electronics. Rolf Belz on the other hand, 'the ear', had trained his ears inexorably through all kinds of music and sound experiments. His claim to fame were two suitably calibrated measuring instruments, his ears.
A trio was formed when Werner 'Vier' Bayer joined their endeavours. He had already earned himself a reputation as audio mixer magician and knew that his work simply lacked good sounding systems.
This all happened at the beginning of the eighties. Punk had just arrived in Germany, simple pop songs came into fashion again and, in Korb, a tranquil Swabian village, the first prototypes emerged of what were soon to become legendary, controller driven sound reinforcement systems. By then, the team had had enough of optimising a good loudspeaker here, revolutionising a frequency crossover there and fiddling around with a new audio mixer somewhere else. Instead, all ideas, experiences and developed components were combined together and packed in a closed unit as a unified whole: the d&b system.
The courage it took to conceive integrated systems was soon rewarded with success: the products from Korb were welcomed with open ears. This of course meant leaving the quaint and cosy garage; an urgently needed production area, storage capacity and a larger team made it necessary to move into a former carpenter's workshop.
Rumour has it that the company flag is hoisted and the company hymn sung in the early morning; investigations have proved that this is untrue, but such rumours may well be nourished by the nearly tangible 'us' feeling among 'd&b-ers'. But this has nothing to do with magic oaths and rituals. On the contrary, this feeling arises from the definitely infectious, convincing involvement of all participants, their enjoyment in dealing with the product and their awareness of its quality. The concept was right from the beginning. No innovation, elaboration or change in the system could alter this fact. This applies not only to the system concept itself, which still provides the basis even for the very latest, thoroughly developed systems, such as the V-Series loudspeaker range.
It also applies to methods of production and quality control, which, although they have been refined, improved and simplified through the use of computers, have never been substantially changed. Administration proceedings at d&b have undergone a similar development. All of a sudden, the loudspeaker designers were confronted with corporate tasks, administration, long-term planning. New colleagues had to be integrated and new competences allocated. This development was quite difficult at times and confronted all those involved with problems that exceeded the task of simply making loudspeakers.
In the meantime d&b has turned into what people may call a global player and has therefore undergone quite a few changes. But none of these could obliterate the actual objective, i.e. to produce good sounding, well made audio systems, which are still built almost entirely by hand.
d&b was also quick to realise that a good system alone cannot create a musical sensation. For this reason there has always been a close cooperation with various users to investigate the behaviour of different combinations of systems in terms of stacking, room acoustics and in open-air situations, to name but a few areas of inquiry. The results of such investigations, if deemed of general interest, are made publically available.
For this purpose, d&b organizes seminars and workshops all around the world and publishes application notes; in addition, the news and application sections of this website are also used to report, not without pride, on projects in which d&b products have their own modest role to play.
After more than thirty years in the industry, some technical details are still strange to me, as at times is my (greatly appreciated) computerised workstation. The atmosphere at d&b today may not be as romantic as it was back in the early days, but even after our move to Backnang, the general feeling in the new, light rooms is as heartfelt and direct as ever. And my habit of wearing a suit and tie still makes me a somewhat exotic figure among my colleagues in their jogging pants or jeans and t-shirts.
And so, the garage today is used as a garage again, or has it been torn down lately? Oh well, the times they are a-changing. d&b is now in its third decade of breaching audio technological horizons. New innovations, as can be expected from d&b, are in the offing. The staff are all in a good mood. The coffee is all gone. lt is close to early morning, again. Only silence is sweeter.