K-Array’s Unconventional Loudspeakers Provide Answers To Diverse Application Questions
HEADQUARTERS: Florence, Italy
DEVELOPMENT: Having established itself in rental, K-array has quickly diversified into the installation sector with designs that continue to defy convention.
For all those conference rooms where there is insufficient depth for a speaker enclosure of the right size, all those retail stores where sound equipment cannot use up vital display space, and all those museum exhibits where loudspeakers are just plain visually unacceptable…we need a company like K-array.
For the installation market, K-array has developed the KK series line arrays, the KT20 circular point-source loudspeaker which produces 101dB of maximum continuous SPL despite having a diameter of just 2.5 inches, and, perhaps most spectacularly of all, the new KZ10 miniaturized line-array element (pictured), which deploys a row of four 0.5-inch diameter drivers and has been designed to mount on any flat surface such as a wall or a table.
Formed earlier this decade by the directors of one of central Italy’s most prominent rental/staging and systems integration companies, K-array has grown rapidly on the back of some seriously innovative loudspeaker products. Initially these were focused on the rental market, with designs such as the KH4, the so-called ‘flat panel’ line-array boxes that require minimal depth above the stage, as well as minimal space when being transported from one event to the next.
“We consider ourselves doubly blessed,” said Alessandro Tatini, K-array’s youthful managing director. “On the one hand, we have been contractors and rental/staging people ourselves, so we are familiar with the problems they face and it’s easy for us to put ourselves in their position. That knowledge feeds directly into our R&D program. On the other hand, we are not tied to a particular technology and we don’t compete directly with the larger manufacturers.”
Having established itself in rental, K-array has quickly diversified into the installation sector with designs that continue to defy convention. These include the ultra-slim KK series line arrays, the KT20 circular point-source loudspeaker which produces 101dB of maximum continuous SPL despite having a diameter of just 2.5 inches, and, perhaps most spectacularly of all, the new KZ10 miniaturized line-array element, which deploys a row of four 0.5-inch diameter drivers and has been designed to mount—almost invisibly—on any flat surface such as a wall or a table.
“Our products enable high-quality, high-SPL audio to be heard in places where previously, because of a lack of space, or the lack of an aesthetically acceptable solution to the architect or customer, it would not have been possible,” Tatini stated.
The K-array brand made its U.S. debut last year when its recently appointed distributor, Sennheiser Electronic Corporation, supplied a mixture of self-powered KH4 midhigh, KS4 low-mid, and K070 subbass units to the Summerfest music festival in Milwaukee, WI. Success in the installation sector seems certain to follow, but Tatini conceded that the company needs to be canny about how it markets its products, in order to overcome contractor preconceptions: “Sometimes it can be difficult to assess how competitive we are, because we do not make boxes that have equivalents in the catalogs of the more established manufacturers. What we’ve begun to do is make cost comparisons on a project basis, rather than an enclosure basis. We look at how a job could be completed with our products, and how it could be done with other people’s, that’s the clearest way to make the comparison and show the contractor that there is a viable alternative to what they already know.”
K-array began by manufacturing its own loudspeakers at its current headquarters, but today most production comes from a range of facilities close to Florence. This gives the company the ability to keep an eye on quality control, without tying it to a particular production method, as Tatini explained:
Alessandro Tatini, K-array’s youthful managing director.
“If you make a big investment in CNC equipment, you inevitably look at ways to get a return on that investment, and that means designing more wooden boxes. The same would be true of injection moulding—that would oblige us to design more and more plastic boxes. But we don’t want to be wedded to wood or plastic. We like working with steel and aluminum, we feel they have a lot of potential. But ultimately, we simply want to design the best product to do a particular job, then decide how and where it can be produced.”
And there is no let-up in the pace of K-array’s activity, in terms of either business or R&D. On the back of 67 percent revenue growth in the past 12 months, the company is continuing to develop new products to fill market voids. Coming soon, for instance, is an installation speaker with builtin, DMX-controllable LED lighting, based on the KJ50vb variable-beam monitor that, ingeniously, can be floor- or ceiling-mounted. The idea to add lighting came from Italy’s sophisticated night-venue market. And, on the basis that such places tend to need more lights than they do speakers, K-array will even be marketing a speaker-less version of the product.
That might seem odd. After all, whoever heard of an audio company producing something that makes no sound? Yet it is utterly in keeping with the K-array philosophy of being free to do what the market demands, regardless of convention.