Emotionally exhausted

The organiser’s marketing phrase for this year’s ProLight + Sound was Creating Emotions and after four days and four nights of serious hall bashing Chris Fitzsimmons finds himself emotionally exhausted.

An inescapable truth of the Frankfurt Messe is that it’s a very big place, and as soon as I made the classic blunder of entering the show by the main entrance on the first morning, I knew it was going to be a long week. However this year’s planning was significantly better than last year’s so there was far less sprinting between halls 8.0 and 4.1.

It has to be said that this year, I really didn’t see any new products that set the world on fire. But that’s not to say there wasn’t anything worth seeing. On the contrary, there were a massive number of new products of interest to the audio contractor, system integrator or designer. However, this year’s big news stories are undoubtedly the deals that are going on behind the scenes, and in the open.

Telex / EVI’s Matthias von Heydekampf surprised much of the listening press by rounding of a fairly typical barn storming statement about the future of Telex / EVI in the Bosch group by announcing his resignation as President of Pro Audio and subsequent departure from the company. His comments prior to this focused on reassuring customers that the soul of Telex would not be lost by its recent acquisition and that the company was as committed as ever to quality products and expert sales.

So, we move from the fallout from one significant acquisition to the announcement of a few others. Prior to the show, Martin Audio had raised not a few eyebrows by selling up to Loud Technologies. It’s clear that the motivation from the Martin side is almost entirely financial, but what it will mean for Martin’s customers and dealers in the mid term remains to be seen.

Elsewhere XTA Electronics and MC2 Audio announced their merger along with Quested Monitoring Systems. This fusion of amplification and processing expertise is sure to lead to some interesting products in future, although it will proceed without XTA co-founder Andrew Grayland who goes his own way.

The final high profile acquisition story of the show was the previously announced purchase by the Proel Group of Turbosound. At the Turbosound press gathering very little was made of this other than to say that it would be business as usual with the bonus of added investment.

However, the tone set by these four deals is clear, our industry is consolidating. One side of the argument says that this is a good thing because larger companies, such have the Bosch group or Loud Technologies have more clout to invest in R&D and therefore better products. The other side of the coin is less choice, less competition and therefore less price pressure. How will this pan out? Time will tell.

Before leaping into the line arrays and loud speakers that inevitably dominate the headlines it’s worth looking at a few of the other things on offer. Taking the time to look at some of the smaller stands present, not only is it possible to hear oneself think, it’s also likely you’ll find some real gems. Gems such as Waves System’s range of products for interactive exhibits or shops including the new Flash MPX player which can play MPEG4, MP3 and responds to various relay stimuli. On the horizon for this is also an interface extension, which will allow it to be controlled by RS232, IR and DMX.

Another small product, admittedly from a larger company is the new concept from Vieta. New compact, DIN rail mountable amplifiers, connected via VietaNET allow the contractor to install a multi-room system whilst using the minimum of space for equipment. The system can be expanded up to around 90 zones and be controlled via IR remote or Ethernet.

Induction loop specialists Ampetronic used the show to introduce a new tool for integrators. The handheld Field Strength Meter gives the user a quick and simple method to determine the performance of an induction loop in relation to the IEC 60118-4 regulations.

On the loudspeaker front there were new line-array units from Nexo, which launched the Geo S1210 and Geo S1230 components to the Geo series as well as the Geo S12-TD controller, and from L’Acoustics, which launched Kiva a new ultra compact array. L’Acoustics also debuted LA4 and LA8, two new amplified controllers made in partnership with Camco and featuring modified Lab.Gruppen amplification.

More new amplifiers were announced by Martin Audio, in the shape of the MA6.8Q and MA4.8Q high power amplifiers and MA18K, MA12K and MA9.4K very high power amplifiers. The latter three also cater for optional DSP cards. From G+M Elektronik came the announcement of a new digital amplifier for 100v applications, boasting an efficiency of over 90%.

Self powered supremos Meyersound also had several new products on show including the new UPJunior – the latest addition to the UltraSeries range. Whilst only 19” on its longest dimensions UPJunior a demo listen to it shows quite a punch for its size.

Tannoy and Community both announced completely new lines of speakers with the former unveiling the DI-Range and the latter giving a European debut to Veris, a new line of installation speakers. Tannoy also brightened its booth up with a water feature, in the shape of an all weather series speaker. Goldfish too next year please.

IC Audio had a number of new products on its booth including new ceiling speakers, water tight versions for the cruise ship market and new paging mics and zoning amplifiers for the PA market. Fellow PA/ VA player TOA was also present with a total of 33 new loudspeaker products and its new network based PA matrix system.

The conference market was also well served at this year’s show. Beyerdynamic’s award winning Revoluto conference microphone made its Prolight + Sound debut along side new variants including a stand alone and chairman units. Taiden was ever present, with various additions to its range of conference and IR wireless interpretation ranges.

Purveyor of fine whine, cheese and audio products RCF launched the Forum 2000 simultaneous translation system employing digital wireless technology to provide up to 10 languages of translation per unit. It can operate as a stand-alone system or in conjunction with the other members of the Forum family.

Wireless microphones and the sell off the RF spectrum were hot topics at the Sennheiser announcement. On the one hand prophesying the doom of live performance as we know it, and on the other launching the new EM 3732 receiver.

So there we have it, another feast of new products, bar snacks and just the occasional Caipirinha is over. Overall reaction from the floor was very upbeat despite the suggestion that the isles didn’t seem quite so busy as in previous years. Booths were still bustling for at least three of the four days, whilst Saturday provided a good opportunity to tie up loose ends and meet with folk who had been busy for the rest of the week.

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