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Monsoon is a brand of loudspeakers, originally automotive speaker systems and later computer speakers. Monsoon was originally associated with OEM-sourced automotive audio speaker systems, notably supplied on a number of General Motors products and then later expanded onto other manufacturers such as Volkswagen. The brand name was also licensed to Sonigistix, a Richmond, B.C., Canada company, and applied to their line of computer multimedia speakers.
Sonigistix started out as a project out of the UBC Electrical Engineering company and existed for two years on the UBC campus. Its founder was Brent Bolleman and its first raison d'etre was to refine and market an electrostatic computer product based on the design of Quad Electrostatics. Electrostatic speakers have their own problems due to the need for the membrane requiring high voltage, which is dangerous and has the requirement of a step up transformer, which is costly. The ultimate desire was to have a speaker that looked great and sounded great, so the conversion to planar magnetic design, which had problems of it own but easier dealt with, most notably was the need for rare earth magnets, which were expensive. Much of the focus of the transition focused on how to reduce this cost element and make the speakers more appealing to a larger pool of consumers. The early unnamed company started sent out prototypes to United Technologies. Through this the company made contacts with Woody Jackson a high end audio products expert based in Little Rock Arkansas, and Dave Clark an audio engineer who had ties to Delphi based in Detroit. Clark the task of designing the subwoofer part of the package. Another challenge as the planar magnetic design had a bottom end of 100Hz and it was key to make the crossover design seamless.
By 2000, Sonigistix expanded its product line and the Monsoon brand into the then burgeoning consumer computer multimedia market, developing a solid reputation for their flat-panel speaker designs that were popular with computer users keen on obtaining quality high fidelity from their computer hardware. Monsoon's speaker designs were based on planar magnetic technology, licensed from Eminent Technology who developed the original concept. However, despite the brand's popularity among computer users – or perhaps because of it – within the next couple of years the assets of Sonigistix were purchased by Eastech, an Asian technology company that also focuses on providing consumer products in a variety of audio-based markets.
As for Sonigistix, a privately held company by that name currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.A. An online company profile on goliath.ecnext.com lists this Little Rock company, being Woody Jackson as being in the home audio/video industry. An owner's manual for the MM-700/iM-700 Flat Panel Audio System with a copyright of 2000 shows the Monsoon Multimedia Sales office address as Little Rock, Arkansas.
The ultimate end of the company began with the arrival of the MP3 and MP4 formats which compresses audio and renders the idea of high fidelity, the sonic range between 10Hz and 20kHz, moot. Much effort was extended in achieving both ends of this sonic range. The arrival of this music format enraptured listeners and allowed them to have more compressed music on their players, whether handheld device or hard drive in exchange for Compact disc plus for a short time free via companies like Napster upset the market dynamics that allowed Sonigistix to survive on its periphery and allegiance to high fidelity. Ultimately it came down to delivery vs. content and the market place chose to side with the music. Music, which essentially and philosophically exists in its own life which is relevant and true no matter whether it comes out of a cheap transistor radio or the top of the line high fidelity system.
Sonigistix was a company ahead of its time, behind its time, and in conflict with its time--trying to find common ground within a marketplace that was shifting beneath its feet. As a metaphor this is how all cool ideas live and die...or dismantle and move operations overseas where the labor is cheaper.
Monsoon-branded products continued for a time under Eastech (under the Level 9 name), but by late 2004 Monsoon computer speakers had essentially disappeared from the U.S. marketplace. By 2005, Eastech no longer sold Monsoon speakers.
Monsoon-branded speakers, whether sold by Sonigistix or Level 9, have developed an almost cult-like following due to their perceived high sound quality and accuracy, particularly uncommon (at the time of their run) for the personal computer marketplace. Dedicated owners of Monsoon flat panel speakers will often go to great lengths to keep their old Monsoons running, primarily because it is assumed that replacements made and sold by other manufacturers may be inferior. When the Richmond, BC, factory closed, a loudspeaker repair shop in Vancouver, BC, obtained the remaining stock of tweeters, midranges and woofers as replacement parts. The replacement parts were exhausted by 2008, leaving the use of salvaged parts as the only options for units that have failed. The most common issue with midrange and tweeter elements is corroded NeFeB magnets. Sadly, this corrosion is a terminal condition and cannot be reversed or repaired.
As for the Monsoon brand, it remains a trademark of Delphi. This allows GM to exploit the reputation that the Sonigistix products developed, by using the Monsoon brand for their current in-car entertainment products, although made by several other companies. Currently Monsoon in-car audio is optional on several GM cars.
- "The original Monsoon flat-panel systems were arguably the most accurate computer speakers ever sold", Level 9 Monsoon PlanarMedia 14 review by Don Labriola in Pcmag 2003-06-17, retrieved 2009-03-11