Berwick, PA-Jeffery Knorr might be one of the youngest system integrators in the industry, but he was bitten by the sound bug at the age of 16 and hasn't stopped buying audio gear since. Now, 10 years later, Knorr is the owner of Cobra Sound, a Central Pennsylvania company that focuses in installs and live production.
Cobra Sound ran FOH for the Bloomsburg Renaissance Jamboree.
In 2002 Knorr started Cobra Sound through his desire to learn more about electronics. Knorr explained, "I've pretty much always been trying to push the envelope and increase the quality for live sound events. Now we see how far we can take that."
Knorr runs a small shop-usually there are two to three employees available, but for the live sound work that Cobra gets during the summer especially, he often hires freelancers. "In terms of staff, it's anywhere from one to six but it's primarily myself and I recruit other freelancers and part timers as necessary," Knorr said. "We do live sound in the summer a lot, so at that time we usually need extra hands. It's very seasonal in PA."
One of the new technologies that Knorr has gravitated toward is digital consoles. Knorr expanded, "I learned early on that digital has a lot of cost advantages. I've always been a big fan of digital consoles and DSP, because it enabled us smaller companies to compete with larger ones. What it comes down to is that they're less to carry, less to transport, and they have a faster set up time than a traditional analog board. They've definitely enabled us to have some advantages over some of the more conventional companies in the area. We also make use of DSPs in a lot of our installs because of their increased versatility and reliability. And the sound quality is just better."
Knorr has also started doing more work with Cat-5 and fiber. "We recently did an install where I used fiber to do a VGA video extension. I've also done some work with Cat-5 and the digital consoles. I'm a big user of networking and computer technology."
Cobra Sound installed this rack at the Mifflinville United Methodist Church for its services.
Most of Cobra Sound's integration work is in the house of worship market, but it's also done projects in schools. To keep the business fresh for a smaller company isn't easy. Knorr has explored several options to keep business flowing. "Networking is the biggest thing, talking to lots of pastors and parishioners, seeing what they want. That's how we expand in that market, word of mouth. We've tried things like the Yellow Pages and such, but they didn't work out as much. The internet has been great-we have a pretty decent site that we're always adding features and images to. We try to get our name out there and network with our current customers in other markets as well. About 75 percent of our business is word of mouth, so we try to keep a good rapport with our current customers, and try to keep them happy."
Like most of integrators, Knorr has had to train his clients on their new equipment, often a daunting task. Knorr said, "With our installations, training is key to make sure that the system is used to its full capacity. We always do several hours of training for each job and often have follow-up meetings to touch on key points. That's probably something that gives us a competitive advantage from other companies. Some of us in the shop have a training background, so teaching the equipment is very natural to us. It definitely helps the client's confidence to make sure they can get everything out of the new system that it has to offer, and that it'll work the way they're anticipating."
Knorr has begun working with technology outside of sound more often with the advent of additional networking equipment. He explained, "We've been doing more video projectors at some churches and some digital signage applications as well. Digital signage is something we want to grow into-it seems to be an emerging market, and something we can leverage with our projector work. We'd like to really increase our systems integration business more, that's going to be our biggest source of revenue."