Prolight + Sound 2010 - Includes video

Prolight + Sound 2010 - Includes video
Prolight + Sound had a lot to live up to this year in terms of attendance, the quality of the event and the technology on show. Chris Fitzsimmons was in Frankfurt to see if it came up to scratch for the installed sound community.

In my show preview for Prolight + Sound, I posed the question; Can the show can meet the challenge posed by Integrated Systems Europe in terms of offering visitor value for the EMEA integration fraternity?

I’ll start off this report but saying that it can, sort of. If you’re in the market for a compact line-array, new amplifiers or want to see the latest innovations in steerable column arrays, then Prolight + Sound is still the place to go. As you’ll shortly see, all of these things and many more, similar products were launched at this year’s show.

However what I predict we’ll see less and less of in coming years are the niche manufacturers. The makers of congress products, life safety systems, and induction loops will reduce their presence. Manufacturers of all of those products mentioned to me at various points in the week that the footfall was lower than they would have liked, and that international interest in their offerings at the show was considerably down.

By contrast, the show’s organisers claim an overall increase in international visitors – around 40,000, which they say is a 3% increase on last year. However there is no indication as to whether these visitors were for Musikmesse or Prolight + Sound.

My own, un-empirical judgement is to err on the side of exhibitors. I noticed relatively few badges with countries other than Germany on them.

What does that matter you might ask? Well, if international visitor numbers drop, certain manufacturers will look elsewhere to address the international market, leaving exhibiting in the hands of national distributors and choosing to launch new kit elsewhere. I’m not sure we’re all the way there yet, but we’re heading that way.

However, let’s be clear – there were still a large number of important launches across several key products groups.

Loudspeakers are always a favourite – and it seems the appetite for line-arrays is undiminished even if they are perhaps a little more compact than before.

Meyer Sound announced Mina, the smallest member of its successful Milo family. Founder John Meyer describes it as “a mature product focusing all of the advances we've made since releasing Milo: A new digital amplifier, a new manifold configuration based on the patented REM and new horn design, even improved rigging - into a package that meets the demand for high-quality sound in small spaces.”

L-Acoustics also announced a compact array system in the guise of Kara (What is it with girls names and loudspeakers at the moment?). Kara is slightly bigger than Mina, packing double 8’s instead of Meyer Sound’s 6.5” low-mid drivers.

D.A.S. Audio’s Aero 8A also made its debut. It is an active, bi-amplified package fitted with a single 8” for the low end, and a compression driver for HF reproduction.

Alcons Audio pitched up with a surprise in the shape of a complete touring solution – a new departure for the firm. Its LR24 system is a package including line array elements, subs and a Class D amplifier / DSP-controller with AVB connectivity built-in.

Martin Audio on the other hand, preferred to tease on the Middle Atlantic booth with a new product aimed perhaps more at its competitors than customers. All we know so far is its name (MLA), and that it had what appeared to be power connectors in the back. Although they could have been for the pretty flashing Martin Audio logos on the line array elements.

Ateis announced new powered column arrays in the shape of the G2, and is hoping to get around the issue of EN54-16 not catering for powered loudspeakers by submitting the loudspeaker as a complete system for testing purposes.

QSC’s major announcement of the week was a wooden version of last year’s K-Series of active, and EQ’d loudspeakers. The KW-Series is lighter that its predecessor, featuring the same 1000W dual-channel, Class-D amplifiers.

Amongst the “standard” products on show were a couple of gems of innovation. Yamaha was showing off a technology concept it is simply calling the “Thin light flexible speaker” at the moment. Kunimasa Muroi, the general manager of the company’s centre for materials and components technology, was seeking interest and possible application ideas. (For more details see This story)

Another flat speaker technology was being demonstrated by the Fraunhofer Institute’s digital media technology division (Fraunhofer IDMT). The sealed enclosure technology is designed to over-come the issues of backward-firing sound waves interfering with the forward firing emissions. The institute is seeking a manufacturing partner to take the concept past the prototype stage.

On the amplification front there were a number of interesting launches. Lab.Gruppen has rounded out its PLM series of Lake toting products with the monster PLM20000Q, which caries no less than four 5000W amplifiers alongside the powerful DSP package of twin Lake processors.

Camco also delivered a kick, with the V8 offering 8800W of power over a direct digital signal path.

Equipson brought more DMX related innovation to the party, under the Work brand. The company’s new BlueLine system is a complete audio, power and control over Cat-5 solution designed for multi-zone installations on a budget. The solution builds on the IC 6 Pro A active ceiling speaker, also DMX controllable, which won an InAVation Award at ISE.

In terms of DSP, there was more new product from MediaMatrix. Hartley Peavey put in an appearance to announce Control Matrix 2, a paging system host, and accompanying windows software as well as Nion N3, an audio and video media server. The company also announced NIO-AEC, a new acoustic echo cancellation processor card.

Electro-Voice revealed that it’s FIR-drive system will be coming to the more cost sensitive end of the market. The Dx46 fits it into a much more compact package at a keener price.

RCF, which incidentally must be congratulated for building its own hall at this year’s event, had several new products. There was a 3-zone mixer amplifier for small 100v installations, new products in the TT+ range, and a flush mount console for the Forum 9000 conference system, to name but a few.

Also on a zoning theme, was Audac’s R2 multi-zone audio distribution system featuring an 8x8 digital audio matrix. A real-time clock enables up to 256 pre-programmed events, both one-off and recurring, to be scheduled.

There were also several new launches and announcements to be filed under what can only be called the “other” category.

UMAN should have attracted more attention last year with its innovative media transport system. This year the company had its own booth in hall 9, and presented UNOS netOS, a piece of middle-ware designed to help integrate the networking protocols of various vendors, as well as supporting layer 2 protocols such as AVB. Check out a video of the company's Bobby Gurdan explaining the technology HERE.

Neutrik has entered pastures new, announcing its DIWA technology – digital wireless audio based in the 5 GHz band. Its initial offering is a simple send-receive set for four channels, which can be expanded to eight – the Xirium main unit is accompanied by mobile send / receive units for microphones or monitors.

Digico continued with its penchant for the theatrical with the announcement of the SD9 Red Snapper console to a captive press audience. The SD9 builds on the FPGA technology used in SD7 and 8, but in a much smaller footprint. The company says that it offers 80-channels of DSP, 16 AES or analogue outputs and 32 inputs. The unit is built from rolled aluminium and therefore weighs in at under 50kg.

Overall it’s hard to describe Prolight + Sound as anything other than a successful show in terms of launches. The hall re-organisation definitely paid off from an “everything in one place” point of view. I’m not sure how happy the inhabitants of hall 6.1 were though – there appeared to be a metre gap between booth and carpet in all of the aisles. It didn’t look great.

I think what we’re seeing is a slight adjustment of the boundaries between Prolight + Sound and ISE, a border skirmish if you like. The fringe products, such as congress solutions, networking technologies and system management may increasingly be the domain of Integrated Systems Europe, but the professional audio market will always have its heart in Frankfurt.

Prolight + Sound 2011 takes place in Frankfurt from 6-9th April 2011.

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