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John Sciacca Writes...

Features, Reviews and a Blog by John Sciacca

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Random Thoughts (Blog)

Escient: RIP! iPod DID kill you

Posted on April 7, 2010 at 10:14 AM

This morning I received confirmation of what I suspected a month ago (my original post follows this...): Escient is dead. (Something I didn't foresee was the simultaneous death of speaker legend, Snell, as well.) In an e-mail from D&M Holdings announcing their end of year 2009 fiscal statements and looking forward 2010 strategic focus they wrote the following:

Regarding the Consumer business, going forward, we will be focusing on our core consumer brands—Denon, Marantz, McIntosh, and Boston Acoustics—and we will be rolling out new products throughout the year.  As part of the focus on these four core brands, we will be repositioning our Escient business model, discontinuing Escient branded products in order to utilize all of the company’s expertise toward incorporating its innovative technologies into our core D&M brands.  During this transition, Escient will deliver necessary software upgrades for its existing products and will continue to support its dealers and customers by honoring warranty repairs and maintaining customer service. Additionally, in order to keep the focus on our core brands, we will be discontinuing the operation of Snell Acoustics. The changing landscape of the speaker industry has made it extremelydifficult for Snell to remain a viable business.  The advanced loudspeaker technologies developed at Snell, however, will be leveraged by other D&M brands.

So, maybe, just *maybe* we'll see Escient technologies reincarnated Phoenix-like and incorporated directly into Denon and Marantz receivers; an idea I proposed like 3+ years ago! Kevin (Zarow) I don't expect the about just a little shout out in the owner's manual for creative consulting?

So, today we lose two more technology greats. Tip your 40's and observe a moment of silence. Respect, Escient. Respect, Snell.

(Below is my original post, dated March 9, 2009)


Just got the most recent dealer price list from Escient, and it is being polite to call it thin. (Thin like I just spent 39 days on Survivor eating coconut husks and a daily tablespoon of rice. And I went into the game pretty anemic to begin with.) Even the e-mail that accompanied the price list couldn't prop it up any. "Please note that quantities are limited on all items except for the FP-1 & ZP-1." So, Escient pretty much has two products left. 

Escient (along with ReQuest) pretty much created the concept of music and movie management. Back before hard discs and MP3s were a gleam on Jobs' eye, Escient was managing mega-disc CD and DVD changers, looking up artist, album and track metadata and cover art, giving folks with giant CD collections an easy way to find what they wanted to listen to.

But when iPod came along, a 160-Gig Escient piece for $2000 didn't seem like such a hot deal. (Even though you're getting way better sound quality, can import FLAC and don't need a computer.) Escient responded with the FP-1 (one of the products that is remaining if you're interested, and one that I reviewed here...) giving you the same slick on-screen interface with content stored on your iPod. But at $600, it was about 2-3 times the price of the Pod itself and probably not a huge seller. (New price is $500....)

Then many in the industry had high hopes for an Escient rebirth with Vision. This was supposed to be their new platform, entirely built around 1080p with DVD ripping and Rhapsody and a way slick GUI. I was actually one of the very first (only?) reviewers to get a sample after months (and I mean MANY months) of being pushed back. The sample had quite a few problems (crushing black/white levels, poor scaling, poor remote control range, etc.) but it definitely had promise and potential. But about two weeks from my review deadline I got a phone call that Escient was canning Vision and to stop publication of the review.

With Escient in the D&M camp (who also owns Denon, Marantz, McIntosh, Snell, Boston Acoustics) I once proposed to Kevin Zarrow (over a terrific wine tasting dinner at CEDIA in Denver. I mean this dinner was epic!) why not embed the Escient GUI and management system into higher end Denon and Marantz receivers? You already have the video switching and the A/V processing, so put an extra RS-232 port on and drop the Escient brain onto a chip and get some synergy between the brands. Also, give people buying a $1500+ receiver a real incentive to do so!  Right?!?

Escient, if this is to be the end, I salute you for what you accomplished. And if you're only getting lean-and-mean in preparation for a giant come back, well then I look forward to seeing you on the other side.


Categories: Electronics, April 2010

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