Always remain connected

An open-air rock concert. Expectant high spirits. Things are happening on the stage. A beam of light and the musicians are suddenly there. First guitar riffs mix with thunderous applause. The music triggers a multitude of emotions.

Open air and genuine musical enjoyment – is that even possible? “It certainly is with us. When it comes to audio perfection, the right light or picture clarity, our products are most likely being deployed,” says Marcel Gstöhl, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Neutrik AG. “And if Neutrik plugs are not being used, your ears will notice,” he adds with a smile. “It is fascinating to note that our technology is used by the best and most famous musicians around the world!”

The mobile entertainment circus

For nearly 45 years Neutrik has provided the world with professional connectors and systems that are used in the entertainment industry as well as in special industrial applications. The company divides the market into audio technology, lighting technology, television or live broadcasts as well as large LED walls, with a focus on mobile applications at all times. “If reliability is required, then we are involved,” stresses Gstöhl. Back when the electrical engineer originally joined the company, Neutrik was just celebrating its 20th anniversary. Today he chairs the Board of Directors. “In 1995 I encountered a company that was striving with innovation, quality and above all with passion to achieve market leadership in the field of connection technology for audio, video and lighting systems,” he recalls. “In the interim, it has achieved this. The NEUTRIK brand enjoys a high profile and is hugely admired.” A recent anonymous survey of professionals has shown that Neutrik is the most recommended brand in the industry worldwide. “Even in Japan we have a higher recommendation rate than the local competition. And in our view the competition is really good. This is an amazing asset held by Neutrik!”

Neutrik AG

  • Founded 1975 in Liechtenstein

  • Production facilities in Liechtenstein, UK and China

  • Further branches in the USA, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Switzerland and Japan as well as distribution partners in 99 countries

  • Approximately 1000 employees around the world, of whom 220 work in Liechtenstein

  • Neutrik AG manufactures professional connector systems for the mobile entertainment industry (audio, video, light and LED walls) as well as other industrial applications. The global market leader sets industry standards and is known for innovation, outstanding quality and continuity.

More than just a connector

Neutrik AG can trace its origins to the Olympic Winter Games of 1964 in Innsbruck. Audio signals were often lost at this event, because the connectors used were unable to withstand the weather conditions. The acoustic engineer Bernhard Weingartner knew that the more reliable XLR connector from the USA was expensive and rarely available in Europe. So he began developing a more cost-effective, but high-quality equivalent of an XLR connector. In 1975 Weingartner founded Neutrik AG in Schaan together with Gebhard Sprenger and Josef Gstöhl, with the aim of developing innovative products for interface connections between mechanical and electronic components. 

The passion and astuteness of the founders continue to characterise the company to this day. Although Neutrik has continued to expand in this conservative sector, and now has nearly 1000 employees, it has managed to maintain its start-up mindset and structure. Marcel Gstöhl is firmly convinced: “Despite our size, we need to remain entrepreneurs and not be overwhelmed by structures or excessive organisation. That would overly constrain our flexibility and agility.”

Fun fact: The perfect pitch

Only 1% of the population and 20% of professional musicians have perfect pitch. These people can identify a tone with precision and can classify this irrespective of chords. This ability can only be learnt – if at all – consciously or unconsciously at the age of up to 6 through musical experience. People with normal hearing, with so-called “relative pitch”, can only identify whether a tone is loud, quiet, higher or lower than a certain reference tone.

Being international and yet close to home is not a contradiction in terms

The customs union with Switzerland and membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) mean Liechtenstein-based companies benefit from easy access to around 520 million customers. Neutrik also benefits from this competitive advantage because, despite the high purchasing power of Liechtenstein's almost 40,000 inhabitants, the domestic market is inevitably very limited. Almost all companies, regardless of their size or industry, operate internationally with their products. Neutrik likewise ventured into the international arena right from the outset: The very first delivery went to the USA in 1975. The ability to listen as well as to take up and realise customer ideas led Neutrik to set global industry standards from the very beginning, enabling it to consolidate its leading role in the technically and qualitatively demanding professional audio industry.

Chart Import/export most important trading partners

Since 1923, Liechtenstein's economic union with Switzerland has placed it in one of the world's most stable economic regions. The Principality’s economy was further strengthened by its accession to the EEA: Since 1995, local businesses have enjoyed all the benefits of the EU/EEA internal market, such as the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital. As a member of the European Free Trade Association EFTA, the Principality also benefits from one of the largest networks of established free trade agreements in the world.

Exports by continent

Exports and imports of the largest trading partners by country 
(Figures 2018, in CHF million, due to the customs union, trade with and via Switzerland is not recorded)

Although an international focus was extremely important for Neutrik from the outset, Marcel Gstöhl thinks that a company’s choice of location has to do primarily with the regional roots of the people. Neutrik has remained true to Liechtenstein.  Product development benefits from the process-technology expertise of suppliers that is available throughout the Rhine Valley. “When it came to the development of a new TV camera connector, we searched worldwide for a suitable partner, only to find the best candidate here in the vicinity,” laughs Gstöhl. “Our export ratio is probably 99.99%. Despite this, we are determined to be an attractive employer and well-known on the local market,” he continues. Neutrik appreciates the willingness of people to work in the production field. For highly automated machines produce 1.5 million connectors in Schaan alone – week in, week out!

Proximity to the International University of Applied Sciences in Buchs and other universities is also valued. Not least as an employer, as Gstöhl explains: “You don’t have to be a musician or a sound engineer to work for us.” Inspiring people, exceeding the expectations of customers and being part of big events is what drives his people. The Chairman of the Board of Directors is firmly convinced: “No matter where you go, you will encounter our products. This is something that makes us very proud.”

Fun fact: It’s worth it for us

"We use the brand NEUTRIK because it is the industry standard and it works very well. The products are more expensive than ‘stuff from China’, but so much better that it is definitely worth it. In this sector, you need to be able to rely on your equipment. And with this manufacturer you can. Because if a connector is not right, it can take ages to fix. So we pay for quality, even though we are still a very young business.” (Perfect Illusions Veranstaltungstechnik GmbH, Munich).

Setting standards and combating product piracy

For Neutrik there has always been only one direction – apart from temporary downturns caused by recessions: “To be precise: upwards,” emphasises the Chairman of the Board of Directors. “Our innovations and high-quality products, which meet the requirements of our customers, have made the company what it is today,” he continues. However, product piracy was clearly not taken seriously enough in the early days, and is now a problem. “The most potent competitors are either former employees or companies that start with a copy of one of our blockbusters and improve it on their own,” explains Gstöhl. “They can grow with lower overhead costs, and compete with us above all in the high runner field. Neutrik needs to do a great deal more to protect intellectual property. “Innovation is expensive and well-endowed search fields in the research & development domain are indispensable for an innovative company. “But R&D is always associated with an upfront outlay that many SMEs shy away from,” explains the engineer. Because innovative exporters are the backbone of Liechtenstein’s economy, strengthening export capacity is an important component of its economic policy. In order to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to establish ongoing research and innovation activities, the Innovation Cheque constitutes start-up support that allows SMEs to leverage the know-how of the best universities and research institutes for their own ideas and projects. Export Cheques can be used to cover fee-based services such as market analyses, search for sales partners, individual consultations or taking part in leading international trade fairs.

The wireless challenge

Artists love wireless – it facilitates greater freedom of movement. Sound engineers, by contrast, take a slightly different view. Even though clean and professional wireless transmission is less complex to install than a wired solution, it needs rigorous frequency planning. Because in a hall or a stadium containing 40,000 mobile phones, setting up a secure wireless connection is a real challenge from a frequency perspective.

The future of digitisation – staying connected

“Our customers know the needs of tomorrow. We strive to identify what will be needed even further in the future, and develop products accordingly,” explains Marcel Gstöhl. He explains that digitisation will continue to increase, meaning that ever larger volumes of data will have to be transmitted. In the field of live entertainment, when permanently updating large amounts of data such as ‘autonomous driving’ or in conjunction with high-resolution cameras that can see more than a human eye. “Copper is no longer sufficient for the transmission of such volumes of data, and fibre-optic connectors need to be used instead,” states the Chairman of the Board of Directors. “Consistent global electricity distribution is also very important for the industry.” Because wherever data is generated or processed, electricity is needed. Yet Neutrik turns its attention not just to new products. New business models are also a key topic. In Marcel Gstöhl’s view, the most important task facing managers is to make their companies fit to succeed on the global market over the long term. “Longer than the professional life of a manager,” he emphasises. “I’m certain that we will continue to produce standards in the future. Not merely in the field of connectors. We already have hardware and software or apps in our product range today,” continues Gstöhl. “As the saying goes: If the car has no traction it will be pushed, and we don’t want to be sitting in the passenger seat.”

5 questions for Marcel Gstöhl

Do you have a favourite product?
Yes – always the most recent. I am a technology freak and love everything new!

Which use of a Neutrik product are you particularly proud of?
When the Pope speaks into the microphone at one of his big masses and you see the white Neutrik connector, that’s great. By the way, the Pope always attaches great importance to white connectors.

What do self-fulfilment and development mean to you?
A great deal. This is probably true for everyone at the top echelons of a company. This will become even more important for future generations, and we need to create appropriate opportunities within our innovative environment.

For which failures are you grateful today?
Failures and setbacks are – just like successes – integral parts of life. That’s simply something you have to live with. The important thing is: If you fall down, get up, learn something from it and move on.

What tip would you like to pass on to the young?
Travel abroad (USA, China, ...) to discover that there is more beyond the mountains than us here in our country. And then come back with a great deal of experience, determination and ideas, and make a difference here in Liechtenstein!

Earwig?

The video shows the American trombonist Fred Wesley. He's already been to the​​​​​​​ Little Big Beat Studios in Eschen, Liechtenstein, and inspired the audience with his Live Studio Sessions. ​​​​​​​More music and more about Fred Wesley can be found on the YouToube chanel of the Little Big Beat Studios. 

Liechtenstein Marketing

Äulestrasse 30, Postfach 139
9490 Vaduz, Liechtenstein
+423 239 63 63
business(at)liechtenstein.li

Michelle Kranz, Managing director
+423 239 63 60
michelle.kranz(at)liechtenstein.li

Marlene Engler,
Business director

+423 239 63 08
marlene.engler(at)liechtenstein.li

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