Our Interview with Elipson’s Vincent Laigle on Expanding European Brands to Other Markets

Vincent Laigle is the Managing Director of AV-Industry, a company that owns seven consumer electronic brands including Elipson, Tangent and Norstone.  While many of the brands in the AV-Industry portfolio are well established in Europe and particularly France where AV-Industry is based, Laigle has a mandate to expand his brands globally.  Laigle, as a guest of his Canadian distributor, Gemsen, spent a recent weekend in Montreal attending the annual Audiofest.  We had an opportunity to meet Vincent Laigle in Montreal and to ask him about running brands with a global following.

Vincent Laigle, Managing Director of AV-Industry that own the brands; ATECA, Elipson, ELTAX, Highland Audio, Lumene, Norston and Tangent

Q: Some of the brands in the AV-Industry portfolio, like Elipson have been in business for close to 100 years, in fact, all of your six brands have been operational for at least two decades and all have a global following.  Share with us some of the differences you have experienced doing business and building a brand in North America, compared to doing business in Europe?

A: Doing business in North America is the most difficult for us compared to developing our brands in markets such as Europe, Asia or South America.

North America is an extremely competitive market with many brands already existing and established. Although Elipson has a 100-year-old history, we have to remember that Elipson had never been sold outside France, before we took over the brand in 2008. We then relaunched the first Elipson products with the PLANET series in 2010. It is really from 2015, when we have launched the PRESTIGE series, that many countries outside of Europe and especially outside of France were reintroduced to Elipson as a serious Hifi brand. So in some ways we have a hundred year old brand with a twenty year history!  It is remarkable how advanced Elipson was in the golden years of hifi audio which resulted in many patents for Elipson during the 1960s and ‘70s that are still active today.

The Elipson Planet L

Q: Your brands are distributed in 60 countries globally.  How often are you travelling? 

A: I am traveling around 35% of my time. We can’t travel everywhere and for some countries, we are mainly meeting during trade shows.

Vincent Laigle (L) poses with Leonid Yamborko, the owner of Altitude Audio, a high-end dealer based in Winnipeg and one of Elipson’s biggest Canadian partners.

Q: While there are cultural and regional differences doing business in different global markets, what do you find never changes from one market to the next?

A: Naturally human interaction and a love for music and the joy audio brings to one’s life is shared from one market to the next, even when what is listened to can vary significantly from one region to the next.  It is also rather remarkable how the big brands remain the same, with brands like B&W, Focal, Sonos and so on having a strong presence almost everywhere we visit.

However, we still manage to stand out from the crowd, by offering acoustically successful products with a contemporary design. This is what enables us to grow in all markets.

Q: You have built a diverse portfolio of brands that comprise, speakers, amplification, and furniture.  What segment do you see as the most competitive (and why)?

A: The most competitive segment is without doubt, the hifi speaker market. On a global scale, speaker manufacturing is a relatively small market, but includes with an incriminating number of brands from different countries which makes it very competitive not only in our local market but when entering new markets.

For Norstone, our range of audio-video accessories (hifi furniture, cables, etc.), the market is much easier to understand. There are fewer brands offering hifi furniture in a price range between 300 and 1000 euros, which means we can quickly establish ourselves in most countries.

Q: Can you share with us the relationship that AV-Industry, a French company, has with Denmark?  Did that come about with the acquisition of Tangent?  What’s the French – Dane connection?

A: Although Denmark is a small country, it remains one of the leading speaker manufacturers in Europe. Along with France and England, Denmark is one of the leading countries in the audiophile industry. In 2008, Tangent/Eltax were two very important brands for our retail website www.son-video.com, which is the largest online retailer in France. That same year, Tangent-Eltax went bankrupt and we took over Danish brands to breathe new life into them. This began our very strong relationship with Denmark and we still have a team based there today.

Q: While your headquarters are in a suburb of Paris, Saint-Fargeau, your production facility, is about 180km south of Paris.  Describe the town for us and what it is like to be manufacturing in a village with a chateau that dates back to the 17th Century?  How did you end up in Saint-Fargeau?

A: The decision to manufacture some of our ranges in Saint-Fargeau was really made by chance. 10 years ago, we launched our first vinyl turntables. While working on the development of this product, we collaborated with a mechanical engineer who lived in Saint-Fargeau. We asked him to take charge of our production site, which we set up in this small town and since then we have not only remained in Saint-Fargeau but have expanded to include other manufacturing in the AV-Industry portfolio.

The village of Saint-Fargeau 180km south of Paris where AV-Industry manufacturer’s their turntables.

Q: Having met you at the Montreal Audiofest, I get a sense that fashion and design are big influences on how you run your company.  Am I picking up on that correctly and if so, how do you balance great sound with great design?

A: Exactly. For us, a product must be aesthetically pleasing. Of course, sound quality is essential and a determining factor in the success of our products, but if the product isn’t perfect in terms of design, we won’t launch it. For example, we took a long time to finalize the Horus range, which we launched in 2023. It took us almost 10 months to be convinced of the range’s design, even though the product had been technically perfected for a long time.

The exceptional balance between style, design and function are part of the DNA at AV-Industry. Pictured the Elipson Legacy 3230 in a perfect setting with vintage Eames Lounge chair.

Q: Elipson, would be a great example of one of your brands that look almost like a work of art, with their spherical shape and paint finishes worthy of a Ferrari. Definitely not your same-old, same-old speaker!  Who is the Elipson customer and does that unique design attract a style savvy buyer?

A: We find there are two types of Elipson customers. Firstly, there is the Hifi or home cinema fans, for whom sound quality is the primary criterion when buying a new loudspeaker. Then there’s a large proportion of customers who, in addition to sound quality, pay particular attention to the speaker’s design. The Planet range remains one of our most important for us in terms of sales. A Planet L loudspeaker will cost 30% more than a Prestige 8B yet will sell just as well, even when the Prestige 8B is probably one of our most acoustically accomplished bookshelf loudspeakers. The importance of design is decisive in the customer’s choice. In addition to perfect sound quality, our customer needs to be able to integrate speakers easily into a well-designed living room.

While the Elipson Prestige series (shown above) costs less than the Planet series and arguably Elipson’s best speakers, customers are still willing to pay a premium for the unique spherical deign of the Planet L.

Q: Gemsen, your Canadian distributor is having great success introducing Elipson to commercial applications such as in high-end car dealerships.  Is commercial AV a big part of your business?

A: Yes, it’s a very important part. The traditional hifi market, with a dealer waiting in the store for the customer, is dying out. Today, Elipson is experiencing strong growth thanks to the integration and professional market. Our future developments are geared towards these fast-growing markets.

Lexus Vaughan recently installed sound system focused on Elipson Bell speakers.

Q: We recently reported that there are as many 22–35-year-olds buying vinyl as 55+ year-olds.  Probably like so much in 2023-24, a Taylor Swift influence!!  Elipson manufacturers turntables in France.  Is it still a good business category?

A: The turntable remains an interesting market and will always play a role in how audio enthusiasts enjoy music, but our long term strategy is to not develop new products.  We recognize that there are manufacturers who only specialize in turntables and moving forward we prefer to focus our attention on products that will better serve the custom integration market.

We are currently launching a significant range of electronics and connected speakers featuring AirPlay2 and Google Cast that tend to play a major direction in how most people globally enjoy music.

Q: Do your brands operate independently from each other, or do they share R&D and other overlaps? 

A: While each brand has a unique identity and cater to different demographics, it is the same people in R&D doing all of our brands, except some are more specialized in audio or electronics.

Q: You have two furniture brands: Norstone and ATECA.  How do they differ?

A: That’s a good example of how our R&D distinguishes from one brand to the next. ATECA is a brand we use for some big mass-market retail partners that are focused on aggressive pricing for furniture like our ATECA TV stands. That used to be a really big market around 15 years ago, when flat TVs were arriving in the market. Today, this entry-level market has decreased a lot. We are still using ATECA for some furniture priced between 100 and 300 euros, whereas Norstone is our high-end furniture brand with prices starting around 200 euros  and 1000 euros. Norstone is more orientated toward serious Hifi users, with Hifi racks, performance audio cables and dedicated speakers stands.

Norstone is AV-Industry’s higher-end furniture brand catered to audio enthusiasts

Q: There is a natural alliance between Canada and France through a shared language, especially between Montreal and Paris.  Did you enjoy your stay in Montreal?  Is Canada a good market for you?

A: I really loved my stay in Montreal. It is so nice for us to be in North America and be able to speak French!  I was also really impressed by the show which was very busy with a lot of nice products on display and impressive demos. We were very pleased with the reception that we received while in Montreal.