As a new year begins, it's a common sentiment to look back at the past 12 months' developments with a bit of nostalgia and scrutiny in an attempt to predict what the future will bring. The loudspeaker market, as always, provided plenty of opportunity and change, but what were the most important trends we saw in 2007?
There were a lot of hot topics in the loudspeaker industry this year. Steve Young, vice president of sales and marketing for Atlas Sound, noticed the push toward more high-end products in 2007. "I think we saw a nice swing toward higher end, better sounding products. The focus has been more on quality and less on price because of car audio and home theater systems improving. Everyone's standards are being raised, even in the commercial space."
One of the sectors that has helped push this desire for high-end equipment is the house of worship market. John Monitto, director of technical support for Meyer Sound, explained, "The church market is probably one of the fastest growing segments in the market. Mega-churches and medium-size congregations are looking to drastically improve the worship experience, demanding high-quality loudspeakers and the newest audio technology."
An interesting technology that Joe Rimstidt, Yamaha Commercial's loudspeaker product manager, noticed this year was the appearance of more cardioid subwoofers. "We have started seeing more manufacturers with cardioid subwoofers. I think companies are seeing some value in that product and our customers have found them to have a lot of advantages as well. I think we're all looking to reduce the low frequencies on stage."
For yet another year, the line array has captured the attention of the industry. However, more often than not, these speakers are finding themselves in the wrong applications, as Chris Foreman, associate product manager of Community Loudspeakers, noted. "They have become so ubiquitous everywhere. It's everyone's first choice anywhere for any application, even if it's not the right choice. They even have portable systems now on a pole stuck into a subwoofer. But when you take two line array boxes and do that they don't even work like a line array anymore. But you can call them that and that's the buzz now. They're being milked for everything they possibly can, and marketing-wise it's working. I think line arrays are a wonderful product, and they're another tool in the tool box, but it's like the old saying-to the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
With more companies developing acoustic prediction and speaker optimization software, hanging a line array has never been easier. Monitto said, "Software technologies allow sound professionals to accurately predict and optimize the performance of a sound system. Now they can quickly experiment with various configuration options to tackle acoustical problems in a venue." Rimstidt agreed, "I think those are critical for line arrays. You have situations where being off by one or two degrees on the angles of things can make a dramatic difference on if you cover the audience or not. I think the manufacturers have to provide these calculators to use their products effectively."
An important part of the market is digital technology, still a new concept in the industry, as Foreman expanded. "The impact of digital on the loudspeaker business is huge. Line array technology has been around for 50 years or longer, and yet, why is it that we didn't have steerable line arrays until recently? Because it's the digital technology that makes it practical and affordable."
However, digital allows for many more complications as well. The future of sound itself may depend on what we learn about digital in the next few years. Foreman summarized, "Digital has the ability to improve things in a lot of ways, but nothing can screw something up as well as a computer. We don't even know how to measure digital audio, much less use it. People think it's fairly mature technology, but it's just a baby. We're in the very beginning of digital audio. Stuff like distribution through CobraNet is just in its infancy, and because of that there's lots of opportunity for stuff to go wrong. How do you troubleshoot a digital system? Most people don't have the tools or ability to figure out why something doesn't sound right. In ten years, there will be standards for distribution and other aspects. But you won't see major improvements in quality from digital, they'll come from subtle things like better materials for high-frequency driver diaphragms."
New Speaker Products 2008
Yamaha IF2112AS, IF2115AS Full-Range Speaker System
The Yamaha IF2112AS and IF2115AS two-way full range speakers feature an asymmetrical horn resulting in clear and uniform high-frequency sound over a wide listening area. The speakers are versatile and can be installed vertically, hung from ceilings, placed on the floor as stage fold back monitors, or mounted on pole stands. The AS horn has a coverage pattern of 60-100 degrees by 60 degrees, which allows for a wider pattern up close and narrows farther back, allowing better coverage for a rectangular room.
Community Loudspeakers i2W8
An addition to the Community iBOX Series, the i2W8 is a two-way, full-range loudspeaker system that provides high quality music and voice reproduction with smooth, ultra-wide, horizontal coverage in a compact package. Engineered for use in distributed systems in entertainment venues, the loudspeaker enclosure and baffle are constructed of 13-ply Baltic birch, with low mass carbon fiber LF drivers and titanium diaphragm tweeters. All drivers are Ferrofluid-cooled. The 120-degree HF pattern control provides uniform coverage over the widest possible bandwidth.
JBL VRX932LAP Powered Line Array
Utilizing the JBL DrivePack DPC-2 amplification system, JBL Professional's VRX932LAP 12-inch powered loudspeaker and the VRX918SP 18-inch powered subwoofer are fully self-contained powered loudspeakers. Retaining all the features of the original VRX932LA and VRX918S, self-powered performance has been optimized through integrated DSP. Designed for use in arrays of up to five units, the VRX932LAP is the choice when line array performance is needed but the venue size does not call for the long-throw characteristics of large line array systems.
The new Electro-Voice ZXA5 powered 15-inch, two-way loudspeaker offers a combination of audio performance, versatility, aesthetics, and light weight. The powered version of the ZX5, the ZXA5's design features the new DVX3150, a 15-inch woofer with 500 watts continuous power handling, and the new ND2 2-inch voice coil, 1-inch exit neodymium driver. ZXA5 combines the performance of DVX and ND2 with a high-output, dual-channel integrated amplifier. Effortlessly delivering a continuous 250 Watts into the HF and 1,000 Watts into the LF, ZXA5 boasts a power to weight ratio.
Danley Sound Labs SH-50
The Danley SH-50, a high-output, fully horn-loaded, three-way loudspeaker that performs well in tight packed arrays to offer practically seamless overlap. The SH-50 amalgamates two unique Danley Sound Labs technologies, the tapped horn and the synergy horn, both designs for low-frequency pattern control, audio quality, array-ability, and low-frequency extension with solid response to 50 Hz. The unit combines a single 1-inch high-frequency driver with four 5-inch mid-range units and a pair of 12-inch woofers. It generates up to 132dB SPL program operating across the frequency range 50Hz to 18 kHz. Sensitivity is 100dB SPL.
Sporting a compact design and weighing less than 30 pounds, the new KIVA enclosure from L-Acoustics fulfills the five WST criteria in line with the scientific concepts introduced by the manufacturer in 1992 and shared by the benchmark WST lineage of V-DOSC, dV-DOSC, and KUDO. Ideal for both the fixed installation and rental production markets, the KIVA line source element has an operating frequency bandwidth of 80Hz to 20kHZ, and this response can be widened down to 50Hz via the addition of the LF extension KILO cabinet.
Atlas Sound AH Series Stadium Horns
The Atlas Sound AH Series Stadium Horns are available in 8-, 12-, and 15-inch 2-way models with varying dispersion patterns. Each model incorporates precision engineering and design for quality and reliability. The entire AH family consists of 10 models and are for large auditoriums as well as indoor and outdoor sporting venues. While each Atlas Sound AH model offer unique and specific sound distribution patterns, all offer maximum intelligibility and high sound pressure levels.
NEXO GEO S1210/S1230 SPEAKERS
The new NEXO GEO S1210/S1230 speaker cabinets are based upon a 12-inch low driver and three inch compression driver and intended to be a scalable building block that can be stacked or positioned in a horizontal or vertical array. The lightweight cabinets have high impedance loads reducing amp requirements. The NXStream DSP algorithms have been incorporated, developed for the GEOD10 and GEO T Series, to provide mid- and high-frequency response and increased control and protection of the low-frequency drivers. When using GEOSoft2, a NEXO 242ES digital controller, with sensing-protection, the models offer predictable coverage and comprehensive protection.
Meyer Sound Self-Powered MM-4XP Miniature Loudspeaker
Meyer Sound's new self-powered MM-4XP miniature loudspeaker is a compact product that exhibits high intelligibility and flat frequency and phase responses. MM-4XP is the self-powered version of the MM-4 miniature wide-range loudspeaker. MM-4XP is a choice for installations where space is limited or visibility is a factor. Containing only a single Meyer Sound-designed and manufactured 4-inch cone driver, the MM-4XP is capable of a 113 dB maximum peak SPL output and reproduces a wide operating frequency range of 120 Hz to 18 kHz at very low distortion.
Designed for a wide variety of sound reinforcement applications, the Tannoy Di5a is a compact, high performance, active surface mount loudspeaker system capable of delivering high sound pressure levels with extremely low distortion. Tannoy's 5-inch ICT point source driver ensures a wide controlled dispersion. A full bandwidth loudspeaker designed for commercial, professional, and residential applications where durability and high quality sonic performance are required. The Di5 speaker cabinet is available in either black or white with matching rubber trims or alternative colors are also available.
Martin Audio AQ Series
The unobtrusive AQ Series speakers are designed for high performance sound installation in conference facilities, theaters, educational institutions, houses of worship, museums, exhibition centers, and more. Six full-range enclosures are available ranging from the ultra-compact dual 5-inch ICT AQ5 to the high powered AQ15 with its 400W AES 15-inch direct radiator and high efficiency HF compression driver. Four dedicated, high power sub-bass enclosures are also available, ranging from the compact 400W AES single 12-inch AQ112 to the high power 1000W AES dual 15-inch AQ215.
QSC AcousticDesign AD-C81Tw
The AcousticDesign Series of installation loudspeaker products from QSC expands with the new AD-C81Tw ceiling mount subwoofer system. Designed to supplement audio systems with low-frequency extension, the new AD-C81Tw is acoustically matched to the entire AD Series. Rated for 100 watts continuous power handling and able to take up to 400 Watt peaks, the AD-C81Tw is a compliment to any of the ceiling mount or surface mount AD Series models. The 8-inch woofer is equipped with a polypropylene cone for protection in humid environments.