Meet Your Maker - John Nady

On July 6, 1976, John Nady started the company that brought his wireless revolution to the masses. Today, the sight of Broadway performers wearing head mics, guitarists levitating sans cords, and vocalists running across stages unencumbered by cables are so ubiquitous that it seems musicians always had the option to rock unwired. But that level of freedom was just a futurist’s pipe dream until Nady began fooling with the technological challenges back in 1968.

“When I first started, people would say things like, ‘You can buy a cord for five dollars, so why would anyone pay thousands of dollars for a cordless unit?’ But one of my ideas was to bring the cost of wireless below that of some high-end cables, so I’d say, ‘Look, in ten or 20 years, you’re going to see that wireless will be less expensive than cords.’ That was kind of my mantra 30 years ago. And, today, you can spend $100 for a Monster Cable or $69 for a UHF wireless.”

As the technology came down in price, the rewards for Nady were huge when the company had a near monopoly on wireless systems in the ’80s. But when the “big boys” (Shure, AKG, Audio-Technica, Samson, Sennheiser, etc.) entered the market in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Nady was faced with evolving its product line.

“The market muscle of a company like Shure—which had every music store in the world selling its audio gear—changed everything,” remembers Nady. “When they came out with a low-priced wireless system, they could tell dealers, ‘If you want to carry our SM58 mics, then you also must carry ten wireless units. Plus, there’s a natural draw from an established name such as Shure. But, I have to admit it bugs me when I talk to someone who believes Shure invented the wireless microphone.”

To address the new market climate, Nady—like fellow gear visionary Hartley Peavey—expanded his goal of bringing value to musicians. The new target was the pro-audio field.

“We looked at product niches, and brought in consumer-type margins,” explains Nady. “For example, we determined back in 2001, that we could manufacture condenser microphones in China for a raw cost of $15, and then set a consumer price of 100 bucks. Some bigger companies operate on margins of 80 percent or more, so there was an opportunity for us to sell a comparable quality level for far less. We weren’t the only ones doing this. Behringer has had great success doing some of these things—as have a lot of other manufacturers—and the result has been more affordable gear. But we were one of the first to offer that level of value in a quality line, across a number of products. We broke the $100 price barrier with rack gear—less than $99 EQs, less than $99 sound enhancers and compressor and limiters and so on. Basically, what we did was make audio products needed and used by musicians more accessible.”

Nady’s experience as a struggling musician in the early ’70s still drives his passion for developing audio gear. He also understands product lines must adapt to the changing climate of what youthful musicians want, need, and can afford, as “you can’t keep selling to 35 or 40 year olds who are hanging on to stuff they got 20 years ago.”

“The current brand consciousness of Nady is to sell 100,000 units of something that costs 100 or 200 bucks, rather than selling the same amount in dollars with less units that cost $1,000,” says Nady. “We’re more focused on making music equipment for the broadest range of musicians who are looking for totally professional and

satisfying performance, but at prices that are acceptable. I think that’s a noble undertaking. And, utimately, it’s not the brand name, and it’s not what you pay for it. It’s about what you see when you open up the unit and look at its materials and configuration—that’s

what determines quality. You also have to trust your ears. For example, in a known technology such as a ribbon microphone, you can pay $1,500 for the panache of a handmade model, or you can pay much less for a model with similar construction that will yield no substantial differences in final performance. Just because you pay more for something doesn’t mean it’s going to sound any better or hold up any longer.”