7 minute read

SPEAKING UP IN A BIG WAY

A great way to generate great sound for the masses is via pro-audio speakers. Clearly, consumers agree, with the pro audio speaker market continuing to grow rapidly. According to ResearchandMarkets.com, the pro-audio speaker industry is expected to generate revenues of more than $2.2 billion by 2023, led by growth in music concerts, exhibition, trade shows, and film and motion production.

A separate study, conducted by Futuresource Consulting, expects the pro-audio speaker market to grow by $1 billion year over year by 2021, definitely not bad for what the firm called a “mature industry.” “The portable sound market, where compact systems are a growth product, holds great opportunities for a consolidated offering, as does the touring market, where matching up pro speakers, amplifiers and digital signal processing [DSP] devices is a core requirement,” stated the research firm.

Hence, as an MI retailer, although music may be your bread and butter, plenty of other industries could be looking to purchase the pro-audio speakers you sell, compared to an instrument, which may provide a smaller audience for your products. We will discuss this a bit later. To help sort out the industry, we asked two great resources and placed the rest of this story in their hands. Joining us on our panel this month are Viktor Wiesner, senior product manager, pro audio, Adam Hall GmbH, and Steve Hendee, director of sales, Yorkville Sound Inc.

We started off by asking our respondents about the aforementioned research and if they are seeing strong growth on their end. “Yes, the Adam Hall Group [enjoys] continuous growth,” said Wiesner. “And we are confident about the future. However, in order to generate economic growth today, it is not enough just to compete on the existing market, with the latest technologies and considering our competitors. Instead, our aim is to create innovative and user-friendly products that offer our customers a significant, obvious added value. This might result in reduced set-up time, in transport or in a highly flexible handling.”

“We are absolutely seeing growth on our end from established and new accounts,” responded Hendee. “Within the Yorkville Sound family, we have more options than ever before. Portable, battery-powered solutions are on the rise, in addition to renewed interest in pointsource systems. Within the last year, we have taken on HK Audio distribution for North America. Our two brands complement each other. We now have products from HK Audio that Yorkville may not have and vice versa. This has given us a unique opportunity to expand our reach and open more doors to varied dealers. Overall, our stock levels are good, and we are looking forward to a great year.”

Regarding how to achieve growth, using speakers for live experiences and portable products are two potential avenues to achieve success. We asked our panelists about both. Let’s start with live experiences and if they are providing growth for our panelists’ respective companies.

“Absolutely!” noted Wiesner. “We need to keep one thing in mind: Despite the huge impact of digitalization and global networks, people are gathering for events to celebrate great moments and share emotions. The constantly increasing number of events of all kinds and sizes illustrates this desire.”

“We have the sound-reinforcement solution for any live experience,” said Hendee. “The DJ market is showing strong growth and has taken interest in our product as a result of our reputation for fidelity and durability.”

Now, on to if portable products are also providing growth.

Steve Hendee

“Every user, whether you are a musician, a performer or even a speaker, wants to share his content with the audience in the most comfortable and efficient way, as well as with the best possible sound. A cumbersome transport, a complicated assembly or a complex setup can be real performance killers. That is why we put so much effort into the flexibility of our products. With the MAUI and the CURV 500 series, we defined new standards in this field,” stated Wiesner.

“Portable products have been a growth driver for Yorkville Sound,” relayed Hendee. “Out of the gate, we came out with our EXM Mobile portable, battery-powered speaker. It weighs in just less than 20 pounds, has three inputs and is Bluetooth compatible. Right away, it was embraced by the busker community and public speakers, which opened up our usual MI customer base. With the success of the EXM Mobile, we are releasing the EXM Mobile 12; a 12-inch portable, battery-powered speaker perfect for gigs where power is sparse.”

Speaking of products, it can be difficult when coming up with new ideas for pro-audio speakers. We asked our panelists how they innovate. Do they use analytics and data, focus more on end user feedback or take a different approach when generating ideas?

“New product ideas at Yorkville come from three different areas: our sales and marketing department, user feedback and the engineers themselves,” Hendee stated. “Listening to user feedback has always been an important guide to making new products and [decidfore ing] what specific features they have. Many times, new products come directly from the engineers themselves, which is encouraged at Yorkville. Each engineer is allowed a certain amount of their time designing new products that they feel are worth exploring. When ready, those products are reviewed by our sales and marketing team, and a select group of end users. From there, a decision is made to pursue them [or not]. Many of the most popular and groundbreaking products in Yorkville history have been created this way.”

“Our primary goal is to offer our customers significant added value,” said Wiesner. “It is there- crucial to talk to as many users as possible and to ensure that the best ideas translate into new developments. This is our key to success: listen to the customer.”

Now let’s check in on some of the fruits of these labors. What are some new pro-audio products both panelists’ companies have released recently?

Viktor Wiesner

“There are many new products,” responded Wiesner. “One thing to highlight is our ultra-portable, battery-powered column PA system, the MAUI 5 GO, which is based on the successful MAUI 5, but can be used even more flexibly due to its battery operation. At this year’s Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt, Germany, we also launched our new in-ear monitoring systems, the U500 IEM Series, designed for bands, musicians and rental companies who value excellent and reliable audio performance.”

“The Synergy Array Series is a truly revolutionary, active pointsource system with unmatched flexibility, power and directivity control,” noted Hendee. “The Synergy system offers users unrivaled simplicity without sacrificing sonic performance. Consisting of the SA153 full-range powered cabinet, along with the SA315S powered subwoofer, Synergy is the ultimate point-source speaker system, scalable for club gigs of all sizes, outdoor festivals, inclined seating venues and arenas. Never before has a large point-source system with this much output and sound quality been this easy to set up and use.

“Also, the EXM Mobile 12 is a lightweight, 12-inch, batterypowered speaker with a oneinch horn driver. For decades, sound solutions for events in wedding tents, outdoor gigs or non-traditional venues needed to take external power into consideration. The EXM Mobile 12 puts the days of renting power generators for specialty gigs behind us,” added Hendee.

New at NAMM

In January, The NAMM Show added a new wrinkle, the Loudspeaker System Showcase, so manufacturers could demonstrate products for retailers and others alike. We asked our respondents if they liked this addition and if they would like to see it at future NAMM Shows.

“Definitely!” said Wiesner. “We design, engineer, and sell speakers and related audio products. And despite the tremendous digital possibilities, it’s still vital that products can be heard, felt and touched, especially in the audio sector. A trade show like The NAMM Show still remains a major factor when it comes to this.”

“We participated in the first Loudspeaker System Showcase at NAMM,” responded Hendee. “This happened to coincide with the release of our Synergy Array Series. The Loudspeaker System Showcase gave us a forum to really showcase Synergy at a powerful volume, and while comparing it to 12 other manufacturers on a level playing field. Synergy is just too powerful to demo in our booth or demo room and show its full capability.”

Of course, at future NAMM Shows, expect to see plenty of new speaker technologies. We asked our respondents for a preview of what may come down the pike.

“The development clearly follows the possibilities of digitization. The former, multi-part and voluminous hi-fi systems today can almost exclusively be found in the high-end market and have been replaced by Bluetooth loudspeakers. In addition, the equalization can be controlled via an app, and the entire system can be controlled via voice assistants like Alexa, OK Google and Siri,” said Weisner. “At its heart, however, the loudspeaker itself is still a physical diaphragm with a matching amplification system. Due to the related developments in recent years, however, it is necessary to redesign this unit and adapt it to new application fields.”

“Moving forward, the trend toward smaller, lighter and higher-output speakers will continue, but, of course, there are physical limitations that cannot be overcome,” said Hendee. “The integration of loudspeakers, processing and amplification all into one package will for sure continue, as this is the most userfriendly and quickest way to set up a PA system for a big portion of the market. There is a resurgence of the point-source array as the line-array craze is slowly losing speed. The vast majority of applications are better suited for properly designed point source.”

Advice Column

To wrap up our annual proaudio update, we checked in with our respondents regarding advice for MI retailers when selling their products. As a new addition, we also asked if the advice is any different when it comes to selling to non-musicians interested in purchasing speaker products at MI stores.

“The key to selling pro audio is demo, demo and more demo! Anyone can read specs and brand names, but it all comes down to the experience. Allow end users to compare and contrast and let their ears make decisions,” relayed Hendee.

“From my point of view, customers don’t necessarily want to know every technical detail down to the very last feature of a product,” said Wiesner. “Instead, it’s crucial to understand the needs of customers in order to be able to provide and promote products that make the everyday musical experience of people more comfortable, leaving them more time to enjoy music and entertainment.”

Added Wiesner, in regard to selling to non-musicians: “Basically it’s the same: Know your customers and their needs. Do not start from your own expectations, instead change the perspective.”

“A new speaker system can be intimidating for someone outside of the MI industry,” stated Hendee. “These days, it doesn’t have to be. For example, our

Synergy Array series looks and sounds huge, but it is incredibly easy to set up, plug in and use. We have a tremendous amount of sound-reinforcement solutions for every situation.”

Both Hendee and Wiesner added one final note. “The growth we are seeing is directly credited to our dealers and end users. Thank you for your support of our company and products, but also for the two-way dialogue we’ve established. Your feedback has resulted in new products and the evolution of our industry,” Hendee said.

“When it comes down to serving our users, including sound professionals, musicians, DJs, speakers and the like, we want to not only provide them with a quality product, but also we want to give them their freedom,” concluded Wiesner. “The freedom to express and share, the freedom to realize their own sound ideas, the freedom to be mobile, the freedom to make intelligent choices, the freedom of simplicity, and the freedom to electrify audiences with excellent sound that inspires in an attractive design.”

By Brian Berk