MADRIGAL AUDIO LABORATORIES: What happened?

Robert Crain writes ...

Founded in the early 80's by Sanford Berlin as an distributor of audio products some of which were sold under the Mardigal name. Entered the audio manufacturing business in 1985 when it purchased the assets and IP of Mark Levinson Audio Systems and restarted the manufacture of some of their best known products and a year later introduced the first Mardigal developed products under the Mark Levinson brand in the form of the Nº20 Reference Amplifier. While these were high end units the Nº20 and subsequent products took a very different design and production philosophy to the earlier Mark Levinson products, the original company manufactured minimalist hand made products that made no compromises toward ergonomics if it was felt that they impeded in any way on sound quality while the Mardigal designed products had convenience facilities and remote controls etc. and the company invested in mass production techniques.

The trend towards convenience in use and production increased as time went by and by the mid 90's most Mark Levinson branded products bore no resemblance to their earlier counterparts except in name. Mardigal introduced the Proceed brand in 1989 with the introduction of the PCD CD player in order to provide a lower cost alternative to Mark Levinson branded products, the company also used the Proceed brand to introduce new technologies to the market before releasing them under the Mark Levinson moniker, for instance the first AV product from the company was the Proceed PAV home cinema amplifier in 1993 but soon thereafter we start to see home theatre amplifiers based around the technologies used in the Proceed products released under the ML brand.

In order to expand it's operations the company got an investment from Harman International in 1993 and by 95 Harman bought all outstanding shares in the company. Mardigal's own brand survived in the Madrigal Imaging name which they used for video projectors that were designed and manufactured by Joe Kane Productions and Christie Digital Systems and introduced in the latter half of the 90's, further exanishion into the world of home theatre electronics came in 1996 when the company took over the Audio Access company, and in 1998 when they acquired the Revel loudspeaker manufacturer but that company was best known for their multichannel systems.

In order to emphasise that the company was by now mostly an home theatre company rather than an audio one they started to use a new advertising slogan : "We define products for your ears, eyes, and mind." In 2000 the company dipped it's toes into the car audio market with the introduction of "Mark Levinson Premium Sound Systems" which were sold as an option with Lexus cars and a year later some of the more upmarket Lexus models featured a ML branded audio system as standard. A decision was made to drop the Proceed name in 2003 and integrate what was left of the product range into the Mark Levinson range in order to simplify their operations,

however later that year Harman decided to solidify their ever increasing high end home AV assets into one company under the control of the Lexicon management and all production, design and sales operations from Mardigal were moved to Lexicon with the exception of the AudioAccess brand which was moved to JBL and the company ceased to exist.

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