What Does the Gibson and Onkyo Marriage Mean?

Gibson seeks to acquire a majority stake in Onkyo USA. What will the two companies do together?


Gibson's Digital Jukebox circa 2004

This reminds me of the old Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups commercials—two great tastes that taste great together. The famous guitar company is getting together with home audio maker Onkyo. Gibson is buying a majority stake in Onkyo USA and will be the second largest shareholder of Onkyo Japan.

In the press release, it’s stated that the marriage will serve as a boost for Gibson’s Pro Audio division, which currently also includes brands KRK, Cerwin-Vega and Stanton. However, I’m wondering if this is also a move to get Gibson more involved in the home entertainment gear market.

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Way back in 2004, Gibson was trying to launch its own home music server/media player, then called the Wurlitzer Digital Jukebox (named after the old Wutlitzer jukeboxes—another brand owned by Gibson). The device was a stand-alone music system that included two separate Klipsch tower speakers, a CD player, 80-GB hard drive and a removable hand-held controller that worked over Wi-Fi. It won a CES Innovations Award that year. I’d seen the product demonstrated several times and even met Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz to talk about it. The company also had a tabletop version in the works.

As the market changed, that product eventually never launched, but Gibson kept looking at integrating more technology into its lineup, including the very cool Robot Guitar. Currently the company offers a small line of A/V and computer accessories.

But what about for the home entertainment market? Does getting Onkyo under roof signal a plan to expand Gibson into other markets or will the two stay completely separate? I don’t see any sense in revisiting the Digital Jukebox concept—there are so many other options now that didn’t exist in 2004 (see this article on media servers), but maybe there’s room for something. One thing for sure, the Gibson brand is well-known among younger, musically inclined consumers. It’s probably a lot better known in that demographic than the Onkyo name. Perhaps Gibson/Onkyo branded electronics would appeal to young rockers. What about some Les Paul headphones? These are some questions I’ll be asking at next week’s CES show.


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