Gemini Sound Products Corporation History
Edison, New Jersey 08837-3735
Telephone: (732) 738-9003
Fax: (732) 738-9006
Sales: $60 million (2001 est.)
NAIC: 334310 Audio and Video Equipment Manufacturing
Our Mission: To be the world leader in the design, manufacture, and sales of professional audio products. To excel in product innovation, product value, and the creation of proprietary technology and to provide outstanding customer service and support. To act in the best interest of our customers worldwide.
- Ike Cabasso founds Gemini Speaker Systems.
- DJ division is formed.
- The company attends its first National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) tradeshow.
- The company's first international office is opened in France.
- Company headquarters are moved to Edison, New Jersey.
Gemini Sound Products Corporation, based in Edison, New Jersey, is a family-owned business specializing in the manufacture of high quality audio products aimed primarily at the professional DJ market. Customers include disc jockeys providing recorded music for parties and other events, in lieu of a live band, as well as rap artists who have made an art form of "scratching"--manipulating a turntable to produce a musical effect. Gemini products include complete DJ systems, mixers, CD players, MP3 players, turntables, amplifiers, speakers, microphones, cases, accessories, and rack-mounted gear. Not only does Gemini have a reputation for producing innovative, reliable equipment, it also offers a full three-year warranty, which the company maintains is the best in the industry. In addition to its worldwide headquarters in New Jersey and sales offices in Florida and Chicago, Gemini maintains international operations in Amsterdam, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Gemini products are sold in more than 100 countries
Ike Cabasso Launches Business Career in 1960s
Gemini's founder, Ike Cabasso, grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and was fascinated by the audio revolution that took place in the years following World War II, when technologies like stereophonic tape and discs, FM radio, and acoustic-suspension speakers emerged. While his friends and family were drawn to the textile industry, which would erode significantly over the ensuing years, Cabasso devoted himself to the growing field of electronics. At first, he used his car as a base of operations, selling and trading equipment out of the trunk. His major break came in 1962 when he learned that the government was selling off high-quality surplus audio tape. Working out of his parent's basement, Cabasso repackaged all of the tape he could afford to purchase, then sold it to major discounters. From the outset, the business was a family affair, as Cabasso employed one of his sons, Artie, who was only four years old, to put tape in a box at a penny apiece. Soon the business was prospering, and Cabasso was able to open a 35,000-square-foot plant in Edison, New Jersey.
Cabasso began to look for new opportunities in the audio industry, which underwent rapid change in the 1960s. He targeted the speaker business, believing that there was a niche in the market for an affordable, attractive, good-sounding speaker. In 1969, he sold his tape business and formed Gemini Speaker Systems, operating initially out of a 4,000-square-foot location in Brooklyn. His sons, Artie and Alan, were employed in the woodworking shop and also drove the company's delivery truck. His retail outlets continued to be discount chains such as Radio Shack and Lafayette Radio. One of his customers in the early 1970s suggested that Cabasso consider making mixers, an idea which he reportedly dismissed by replying, "Sorry, I'm in the speaker business, I don't make appliances." A few days later, however, he began to reconsider the idea after he investigated the noise his teenage sons and their friends were making in the basement. He discovered they had patched together two turntables and a crude mixer in order to spin records and play DJ. Informed by them that DJ-ing was going to be "the next big thing," Cabasso analyzed the market and saw some potential. Moreover, he suspected that the speaker business, already cut throat, was only going to get more competitive and concluded it would be wise to develop a new and underserved market. Recruiting Alan to design the first mixer, in 1974 Cabasso created a new division, Gemini Sound Products, and a month later entered the DJ market with the company's first mixer, the DJ-1, which retailed for $149.
The speaker business continued to be Cabasso's main enterprise, with mixers serving as a sideline, but that emphasis would change within a few years with the emergence of disco and rap music. The 1977 film Saturday Night Fever helped to make disco popular and also introduced the concept of DJ-ing to a worldwide mass audience. At the same time that disco was gaining widespread, albeit short-lived, popularity, another style of music, one that would prove more enduring, emerged from the battle-scarred street of New York City's South Bronx: rap. Aside from the distinctive rhythmic and gritty chanting of the rappers, the form also relied on DJs to provide a musical background. Seeing themselves as artists in their own right, DJs mixed in "found" sounds, which evolved into the concept of sampling, whereby sections of other people's music were blended together for a collage effect. This development was credited to GrandMaster Flash in 1976. Two years later, DJ Grand Wizard Theodore introduced scratching to rap music. As a result of these developments, the demand for DJ equipment soared, and Gemini, because it had entered the market early, was well positioned to take advantage of the trend.
Music Stores Take on DJ Equipment in 1980s
Artie and Alan Cabasso joined their father in running Gemini as soon as they graduated from high school. The company made an important connection to the rap scene when it signed GrandMaster Flash to help design a new scratching unit, which proved to be a major success and established Gemini as the premiere provider of DJ equipment. Aside from the growing rap market, the company also benefited from the increasing acceptance of DJs and recorded music as a replacement for live music at a wide range of social events. In fact, music stores in the late 1970s did not sell DJ equipment because they felt it was a threat to their business involving live music. Instead, it was the specialty consumer electronics stores that sold the merchandise. At the start of the 1980s, however, the retailers switched positions: the specialty stores decided they did not want to be associated with the rap customer and the music stores eagerly stepped in to pick up the business they had earlier disdained. At first mere accessories carried by music retailers, DJ equipment soon commanded separate departments. To strengthen its ties to the music store channel, Gemini began in 1984 to participate in the annual tradeshow of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).
As DJ products became more sophisticated and varied, Gemini moved beyond its early rudimentary designs, which could be easily produced by outside manufacturers, and established its own in-house research effort as well as investing in its own factories. Research was imperative in the industry simply to keep pace with the rapid changes in the electronics' field. In 1989, recognizing that vinyl records were rapidly being superceded by the compact disc, Gemini launched an effort to develop a professional-quality dual CD player for the DJ market. After solving a number of problems, in particular the cuing of a CD player, the company introduced a line of double players (as well as single players). The result was a pair of instant-start, frame-accurate CD players that allowed DJs to mix CDs the way they had always mixed vinyl records. Transport was also greatly improved. Not only were the rack-mounted CD players much lighter than turntables, the discs were also far less cumbersome to carry than vinyl records. However, because scratching remained a core element of rap music, a feature that CDs could not emulate, turntables continued to be a viable product line for Gemini, and vinyl records continued to be pressed, although not by major labels. As was the case with its traditional mixers, the CD products were clearly designed with working professionals in mind: turntables could not be turned off by accident, nor could CDs eject while playing.
Another new product for Gemini was the wireless microphone. The company launched a wireless division in 1993. The following year, Gemini introduced the Lyte-Quest line of professional lighting products. As with its other lines, Gemini lighting equipment struck a balance between price, innovation, and ease of use. At the same time that the company was branching out into new areas, it continued to introduce cutting-edge DJ mixers and maintain its ties to the rap market. In 1995, Gemini shipped the PMX-2200 professional mixer series, signed by DJ Jazzy Jeff, known for his collaboration with actor Will Smith (rapping under his Fresh Prince moniker). The fastest selling product in company history, the PMX-2200 offered such features as a talkover switch, removable fader, and phone slide controls, two phone and one mic inputs, cuing, left and right VU meters, and a headphone jack.
Expansion in the 1990s and Beyond
Demand for quality DJ equipment was not limited to the U.S. market. To serve its growing overseas business, Gemini began to establish company-owned distribution operations, the first opening in France in 1994. Over the next several years, further units were launched in Amsterdam, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, additional sales offices were opened in Chicago and Florida. In 1997, the company moved into a new 135,000-square-foot facility in Carteret, New Jersey, three times the size of its previous building. The new operations featured state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment as well as additional space for sales, marketing, administration, dealer training and service, and warehousing. The extra space also allowed for the expansion of the company's research and development center. In addition, Gemini installed a new main-frame computer system to provide timely information about orders for dealers and warranty repairs for consumers.
In 1998, looking to strengthen its line of lighting products, Gemini acquired Ness Imports Inc., a 21-year-old special effects lighting manufacturer based in Hackensack, New Jersey. At the time, lighting accounted for just 10 percent of Gemini's revenues. Although the Ness deal doubled its sales in the segment, Gemini soon began to have second thoughts about the lighting business. The company faced increasing pressure in its core business, as a number of competitors entered the growing DJ market, including such major companies as Pioneer and Denon. Lighting was also a service-intensive business. Gemini ultimately decided to exit the lighting field and concentrate on its audio products, thereby providing an immediate improvement in the handling of warranty claims and repairs for audio products. In addition, the company decided to move its cabinet woodworking operations offshore. As a result, maintaining a large operation in Carteret was no longer necessary, and in early 2002 Gemini relocated again, this time to an 82,000-square-foot headquarters facility in Edison, New Jersey.
As Gemini moved into a new century, it continued to invest in research and development, and despite its lack of size compared with much of its competition, it was able to maintain its edge by keeping a thumb on the pulse of its market and adhering to a time-tested formula of offering innovative, high quality products at a reasonable price point, backed by superior customer support. On the design side, Gemini focused its efforts on meeting the dual desires of DJs and club owners: more high-end features in a cosmetically appealing package. As had been the case from the start, Gemini continued to address the constant changes in the electronics field. As it had faced the challenge of the CD player in the 1980s, the company now adjusted to the new MP3 compression format, brought on by the rise of the Internet. For years, CDs had relied on .WAV files, which were much too large for quick transfer over the Internet. By using MP3 technology, a music file could be compressed to just 4 percent of its original size, meaning that a single CD could hold more than 150 songs. By carrying a small case of MP3-encoded CDs, a contemporary DJ could easily carry what would have amounted to cases of heavy vinyl records a generation earlier. To take advantage of this potential, Gemini introduce the MP3000X, which it billed as the world's first dual transport compact disc player that was also capable of reading and playing standard audio CDs, CD-Rs, CD-RWs, and computer burned MP3 CDs. A large jog wheel on the unit allowed the user to locate any spot on a CD and pause it for instant start as well as enabling movement from track to track. Because an MP3 disc could hold as many as 999 tracks, this navigability was invaluable for DJs working with MP3. As a result, they now had 150 songs available on each transport, 300 in total, without changing CDs. The MP3000X was just one of a number of products Gemini introduced in 2003 as it continued to maintain its position of leadership in DJ products.
Principal Subsidiaries: Gemini Sound Products Ltd. (United Kingdom); Gemini Sound Products GmbH (Germany); GSL France; Gemini Sound Products S.A. (Spain); Gemini Benelux (Amsterdam).
Principal Competitors: Harman International Industries, Inc.; Pioneer Corporation; Shure Inc.; Yamaha Corporation of America.
- "Gemini Sound," Music Trades, April 1, 1999.
- "Gemini Sound and the D.J. Market," Music Trades, October 1994, p. 74.
- "Ike Cabasso, Gemini Sound Founder," Music Trades, October 1, 2000.
- "New Headquarters and Focus for Gemini Sound," Music Trades, February 1, 2002.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 58. St. James Press, 2004.