Things I Learned In Frankfurt

Having recently spent two and a half days at Prolight & Sound show in Frankfurt, I have learned a few things… 
There is an astonishing array of pro audio products on the market. From very very big 
to very, very small  
I fail to understand the difference between the many, many small 10/12 inch format black boxes that adorn aisle after aisle after aisle. Is there really enough business out there to support this many manufacturers who are all producing pretty much the same thing, aimed at the same users? I am astonished that there are so many people making pretty much the same product, displaying them alongside each other in long rows of indistinguishable stands. There seemed little reason to me to stop and talk to any of them, as there seemed nothing much to say.
The large format PA manufacturers are a bit (lot) more interesting, and the Concert Sound and Live Sound Arenas (not sure what the difference was) made for interesting listening. Each manufacturer got 10 minutes to show off their products in an open square, and had to compete with a stiff breeze much of Wednesday, which was a good test that some passed and others did not. The new 32” sub from Funktion One had people trying to climb inside it (it is indeed big enough to make a comfortable bed for one inside) and that combined with the new Evo system got the only round of applause that I witnessed. I also finally got to hear the Danley’s that I’ve heard people banging on about. They certainly had an impressive depth of field, very very different to the line arrays it was up against, and I had a good chat with the european distributor – after which I need to do some research as their definition of “point source” is a bit different to my understanding. Some systems sounded good, many sounded very average indeed and a couple sounded just plain bad. The average ones were all average in their own unique way, and I found myself wondering who buys them. It was pretty amazing to see how many more manufacturers there are than I ever knew about before – is there really enough business to go round? Are many of them relying on a low price-point more than sound quality to make a sale? How do buyers choose between the somewhat average brands? I wonder if, in the end, it relies on the skill of sales people more than the quality of the product itself. And also makes me wonder at why humans will set out to make an average product in the first place.
One of the fun things about trade shows is the rumour-mill. Will we find out next week that Behringer really has bought L’Acoustics???
After a lot of anticipation, the Funktion One Vero system has been launched – I can’t wait to get to a show where it is deployed!
Another fun thing about trade shows is the social side. It’s one of the few times in a year when the industry gets together and you remember what each other look like! It’s all very well existing online but to meet up in person in order to talk is very useful indeed, as human beings do well face to face, and having a beer or meal with each other is a really good thing. We are really just great apes after all and all that bonding behaviour works for us too.
PRG stole the show a bit with their uber-display of lights and projections in the Festhalle. That was worth seeing!
Having had sound measurement techniques on the mind since Febryary and the Merlijn van Veen seminar, Klippel were an intriguing bunch to meet. Their very cute (possibly sexy?) measurement robot is designed to make close measurements and extrapolate these into a large distances. The idea being that loudspeaker developers can use one of these guys instead of having to use anechoic chambers. At €40k a pop, I am told this is cheaper than hiring said chambers. Now that’s an interesting fact!
The best stands have beer 
Another newcomer, hailing from Berlin, is Holoplot. Now this is intriguing, even if the lack of symmetry in the speaker array did disturb my minor OCD a bit. They have created a wall of small speakers that are intended to be highly steerable (hence the non-symmetricality of the wall of little drivers) and also to deliver very consistent levels over distance. They seemed to work rather well, and whilst they claim you could do largish concerts with them (I am skeptical) I think they are awesome for museums, galleries, and applications where a high degree of directionality and separation is required – like having an explanatory sound track in four different languages.
Frankfurt itself has some charm, especially the river, with it’s lovely walkways and tree-lined banks.
I highly recommend travelling to Frankfurt by train!
All in all – I learned that Prolight & Sound is a great show and should be attended if possible!

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