PLASA on a new level

The dust has a settled after another exhausting and largely successful show. The InAVate team braved flashing lights, booming bass and the occasional unnecessarily long power point presentation to bring you the highlights of PLASA 2007.

With its autumn date, PLASA has always occupied a happy halfway position between the other pro-audio shows. With NAMM in January, Frankfurt in the spring and PLASA in September trade show visitors and exhibitors have always had a steady drip feed of networking opportunities and new-product launches throughout the year.

However, the events market is in a state of flux at the moment as the arrival of new shows and the demise of older ones shakes things up. PLASA has previously attracted a truly international mix of visitors from across Europe and even Asia, but the feeling amongst many this year was that this is slowly changing. As more national shows develop in the fast growing markets of Eastern Europe and Asia those who would once have come to London, can now stay home as the manufacturers come to them. Whilst the numbers for PLASA will not be available for another week or so, the word on the stands was that Southern and Eastern European visitors and those from the far East were just not present in the same numbers that have been enjoyed previously.

The major upshot of this year’s new layout, which essentially involved scrapping the upper tier and extending the show into the second hall of Earl’s Court, was to mix things up a bit in the aisles. One of tricks at PLASA is to find the gems amongst the gobo lights and for the busy integrator or dealer it can be hard to see the wood for the trees without proper preparation for the event. Those that I spoke to this year that seemed to have got the most out of the four days were those who had busy schedules and in a lot of cases it was all about people, not products. “I’m here to meet people, not particularly to see new products.” Said Erik Falck from Moto Audio Sales in Denmark.

Whatever its faults, London is certainly a good place to network, making PLASA a great place for the entertainment and pro-audio industries to meet, talk and in more than a few cases drink.

Despite the fact that many of the “new” products on show have been announced, previewed or otherwise touted elsewhere earlier in the year, PLASA provides a first chance for many people to get hands-on with bits of kit they have heard or read about. It’s also not fair to say that there was nothing new at PLASA. Several companies did take the opportunity to unveil completely new lines or, in the case of Digico’s new SD7console, new concepts.

Nexo kicked off Monday with the announcement of NXAMP, its brand new range of digital loudspeaker controllers / amplifiers with built in DSP. The NXAMP4x4 and 4x1 contain Yamaha amplification technology and optional Ethersound networking. The product continues the emerging trend for combined amplification and DSP products seen at Frankfurt this year.

Elsewhere on the amplification front Lab.Gruppen introduced it’s PLM10000Q, the first fruits of cooperation with Dolby Lake. PLM 10000Q seamlessly integrates the functions of crossover, delay, equalisation, limiting, audio networking, and power amplification. Not contented with having its technology built into the Nexo product, Yamaha had brand new equipment of its own on display, including the TXn series amplifiers and a preview model of the company’s IP conferencing product, currently available in the Far East but not yet in Europe. One thing that Yamaha did not do, as Nick Cook was at pains to point out, was launch a new console. Something he intimated that various people had expected them to do.

Martin Audio, who always seem to have an excellent PLASA, and a busy booth - possibly due to the availability of free “proper beer” - made a major new launch: the Omniline micro line-array. Its scalable design means you can use from 4 to 32 modules in a wide range of architectural audio applications. It looks gorgeous and wins my “cool product of the show” nomination. There’s a massive amount of information about the product and the principles behind it on its own website –
PLASA isn’t just about audio though and Christie Digital emphasised this by launching its LX1500, which is claimed to be the brightest 3LCD projector ever, putting out a stonking 15,000 ANSI lumens. Elsewhere on the video scene, distributor Beyerdynamic UK had new touch screen products control products from Cue. The company also announced that it will now be distributing products from the newly merged MC2 / XTA group.

Falling into the almost new product categories were the LA8 controlled amplifiers from L-Acoustics seen at Frankfurt, the CPX3800 amplifier from Crest Audio, a first viewing in the UK for the 23 new loudspeaker and amplifier products that QSC have introduced this year and also Biamp’s new paging system, announced at InfoComm and presented at PLASA by distributor Beyerdynamic UK. Renkus-Heinz gave a European debut to RHAON, its networking technology, which was also first aired this summer in Anaheim.

Whilst exhibitors will obsess over visitor figures, it’s not necessarily the top priority for attendees. Plenty of them commented that perhaps the show felt a little quieter than last year, but that could easily be due to the increased amount of space. Certainly the number of people venturing into hall two was disappointingly low, although still more than the upper tier has been in the past.
Above all, PLASA is a networking show, its place in the hearts of much of the industry remains assured and they’ll keep coming back. It is to be hoped that the organisers can continue to provide them with valid reasons to do so. And one day perhaps they’ll realise that there’s no need to start it on a Sunday any longer. PLASA 2008 takes place at Earl’s Court on 7-10 September.

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