ISE 2020 Audio Report

Travel delays and health warnings could not stop the momentum for Integrated Systems Europe (ISE). The recent gathering, held Feb. 11–14, 2020, for the final time in the host city of Amsterdam, drew more than 1,300 exhibitors and 52,000 attendees, making it the world’s premier showcase of AV innovation and AV education.

Walking through the 15 halls of the Amsterdam RAI, it was clear that AV/IT convergence continued to inform product research and development for many audio vendors, as well as video manufacturers. Despite the general trend towards more native IP support, audio manufacturers still managed to deliver a refreshing diversity of sonic solutions. From surprising form factors, to unique approaches for integrated Dante and networking protocols, there were notable audio debuts from companies large and small.

Some key commercial audio trends at ISE 2020 included the push for software-driven ecosystems and streaming-ready speakers, balancing personalization with all-in-one functionality, and improved aesthetics. Here are a few new solutions and audio trends that caught audio fans’ attention in Amsterdam. 

Dante’s Domination & Dante AV   

Wherever you wandered in the RAI, it was hard to miss the influence of Dante and its multichannel digital media networking technology. With more than 2,500 existing Dante products available from 450-plus manufacturers, the licensed technology is the most popular networked audio protocol in the field.

Audinate, developer of Dante, utilized the ISE stage to share specifics about the Dante AV Product Design Suite (Dante AV PDS), the turnkey platform letting OEMs build an AV-over-IP endpoint for “visually lossless” results with low latency over a 1Gbps network. Dante AV PDS provides interoperability for audio distribution and control with existing adopters, delivering independent, synchronized audio and video streams. Based around the Dante AV module, it may be modified, branded, and differentiated by OEMs via software, control, and integration with other members of their product lines.     

The Dante AV PDS includes a complete implementation of the intoPIX JPEG2000 codec and offers end-to-end HDCP support. The new suite will be shipping in Q1 2020 to manufacturers who have ordered it to develop AV-over-IP products that already employ Dante.

Milan Modules for Solution-Layer AVB

Despite Dante’s ubiquity, the Avnu Alliance continues to make news as the AVB/TSN-based, open, Milan ecosystem grows in scale. Neutrik joined the Avnu Alliance, along with hallmark audio brands like Meyer Sound, d&b audiotechnik, and L-Acoustics, to develop the Milan media network. Milan builds on an open-standard networking technology to create a link between AV, IT, and silicon industries to offer a solution-layer and “enable a true IT convergence.” 

Henning Kaltheuner of d&b audiotechnik presents the the Milan product philosophy at ISE 2020.

Henning Kaltheuner of d&b audiotechnik  presents the the Milan product philosophy at ISE  2020. (Image credit: Avnu Alliance)

At ISE 2020, Neutrik AG announced the availability of its Milan Audio OEM module letting OEMs implement Milan easily into their product portfolios. A version of Neutrik’s Milan module, designed for encoders and decoders, will be available later this year.   


The standards news didn’t stop there. At ISE, the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) ProAV Working Group shared its Internet Protocol Media Experience (IPMX), a newly introduced set of open standards and specifications designed to enable carriage of compressed and uncompressed video, audio, and data over IP networks for the pro AV industry.  

According to David Chiappini, chair of the AIMS ProAV Working Group, "IPMX addresses the ProAV industry's need for a single set of common, ubiquitous standards-based protocols that ensure interoperability for AV over IP, and ISE 2020 provides an excellent forum for education and discussion of this important advance.”

Hear More, Work Better

Audio notably brought video into the conversation with new Bose Videobar VB1, an all-in-one conferencing device equipped with a 4K camera and auto-framing. AV pros can leverage the Videobar VB1 to connect to the existing network infrastructure and conduct remote updates, management, and monitoring as needed. 

Visualize and Control

At the Harman booth, attendees learned about the new JBL Digital Directivity Analysis (DDA) 5.1 software update, designed to work with JBL Intellivox products. It also works with any point-source speakers in the JBL portfolio using common loudspeaker format (CLF) data.

According to the company, “DDA software is a powerful simulation tool for electro-acoustic design. DDA enables sound designers to visualize and statistically predict direct SPL, total SPL, D/R ratio, STI, and delay spread.”

At ISE, Shure unveiled its highly anticipated IntelliMix Room software-based audio processing for AV conferencing. This is the first audio processing software fully optimized for Shure conferencing microphones. Users and integrators just need to download and deploy to in-room Windows 10 devices to get started. IntelliMix Room is compatible with the following Shure systems: Microflex Advance, Microflex Wireless, and Microflex Complete Wireless.

New Versatility 

The AudioControl CM Series 70/100-volt amplifiers were big news for the brand, and ISE 2020 marked the first time the units were shown with Dante. AudioControl showcased its three versatile CM Series 70-volt amplifiers that combine the DSP-based tuning capability AudioControl is known for, with Dante’s uncompressed networking technology.

Sophisticated Solution for Huddles

Kramer devoted a large portion of its ISE booth to audio, including its new XSPerience DSP audio family. The Kramer DSP-62-AEC, a mini-audio DSP solution, took home various awards, including PSNEurope’s Best of Show.

Yuval Kramer at ISE 2020

Yuval Kramer at ISE 2020 (Image credit: Kramer)

According to Yuval Kramer, head of Audio Division, Kramer, “Our award-winning ‘King of Huddle Spaces’ DSP-62-AEC, Kramer XSPerience leads the way in pro AV innovation. All prime connectivity options are catered for, with bi-directional audio via USB, dual HDMI inputs and one HDMI output with de-embedding to manage any type of presentation. DSP-62-AEC can support four analog microphones and an additional stereo audio input. Furthermore, DSP-62-AEC can route and mix any audio source, with a powerful DSP engine. Auto-switching HDMI, Class Complaint USB, AEC—it offers everything you need for any type of huddle space.”

Sleek Design and Enhanced Performance

Launched at ISE, shipping in early Q2, there’s nothing quite like the Sonance OMNI-6T. This omni-directional 70V/100V/8 Ohm full-range loudspeaker features a unique design of four by 1.25-inch wide-band drivers, in an array around the outside of the enclosure. The result: full-frequency midrange and treble with 360-degree horizontal dispersion.

“Our goal was to build a competitively priced, Omni-Direction outdoor loudspeaker with the fidelity that Sonance is renowned for,” said Simon Wehr, director of commercial products for Sonance. “By utilizing this unique design, we are able to deliver sonic performance that was not previously experienced in this category.”

QSC Halo Bar

QSC's AD-P.HALO (Image credit: QSC)

QSC wowed ISE attendees with stylish new design and performance in its new AD-P.HALO. The model is an integrated SUB/SAT pendant loudspeaker system with a 6.5-inch subwoofer and four 2.75-inch satellite transducers in a single enclosure. With the AD-P.HALO, there’s no assembly required and no compromise in performance.

Providing a new approach in environments with challenging acoustic characteristics, AtlasIED’s ALA line of space-saving, passive column line array loudspeakers were demonstrated at ISE. Delivering maximum pattern control in a minimum footprint, the ALA Series loudspeakers are tailored for applications that require top-quality speech intelligibility without compromising architectural integrity or room aesthetics.


Innovox Flex Video Micro Focus

Innovox Flex Video Micro Focus (Image credit: Innovox)

Innovox showed its Flex Video Micro Focus at ISE 2020. Besides great sound quality, what helps the new line-array solution stand out, according to the company's marketing consultant Kelly Perkins, is the slim form factor and attention to detail. “Our new Flex Video Micro Focus consists of two made-to-measure vertical line arrays that match the exact height of your video display,” Perkins said, “while the LF module and system electronics are hidden behind the display for very high-performance audio with discreet design.”

Compact Form Factor, Wide Coverage

Meyer Sound ULTRA-X20 at ISE 2020

Meyer Sound ULTRA-X20 at ISE 2020 (Image credit: Margot Douaihy)

Meyer Sound’s ULTRA-X20 self-powered, full-range loudspeaker brings advanced ULTRA-X40 point-source technology to a smaller, lighter footprint, ideal for installed and portable applications where size and weight are critical factors. Whether used as a compact main system or as fills or surrounds in a larger system, count on the ULTRA-X20 to deliver high power output, low distortion, and consistent polar response in any configuration.

“Meyer Sound’s new compact ULTRA-X20 point source loudspeaker offers exceptional versatility with a variety of rigging options and a rotatable horn suited for a wide range of installed and portable applications,” according to the company.

Built-in Streaming & Amplification

Monitor Audio shows its IMS-4 music streamer at ISE 2020. The four-zone product can be grouped to server up to 64 zones and is compatible with most major streaming services.

Lenbrook International’s Bluesound Professional launched two speakers to great acclaim—the BSP500 and 1000—both with built-in amplification and streamers. The new solutions are powered by PoE+ or ++, with native Internet connections or access to local media files.

Bluesound also announced its integration with Custom Channels, a commercially licensed streaming music service that specializes in curated music mixes for the hospitality, retail, and wellness industries. All BluOS-enabled devices from Bluesound Professional will be prompted for an update in March 2020, which will then enable Custom Channels as a streaming service option.

Custom Zoning and Segmenting

Created for applications such as retail, where clients want to segment audio by target audience or store layout, Biamp’s new P30DT 4.25-inch, two-way pendant loudspeakers deliver full-range music reproduction, while the PREZONE2 dual-zone stereo preamplifier ensures any user can select audio sources and control volume. Both of Biamp’s new solutions will ship in Q2.

This is just a small round up of the hundreds of new audio solutions on display and in the demo rooms of ISE. To keep up with the latest pro AV product news, subscribe to the daily SCN enews.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D., is a lecturer at Franklin Pierce University.