New technologies and platforms as well as products help AV makers and integrators expand market reach
You could be forgiven if upon entering the Las Vegas Convention Center last Wednesday you thought you’d wandered accidentally into a DJ convention. The EDM was pumping through some EV speakers under the edifice’s canopied entrance at 9 a.m. and was picked up inside by a DJ spinning from a booth topped by flashing LEDs overlooking the venue’s main concourse. It wasn’t one of The Strip’s storied nightclubs running really, really late (or one of its dayclubs starting especially early), but rather the InfoComm Show 2018, a conference and expo dedicated to installed AV systems in comparatively staid verticals like corporate, healthcare, education and hospitality. However, just as the boundaries between those categories have been blurring for the last few years — sports venues now host university graduation ceremonies and new-model car introductions when footballs aren’t flying or pucks not skimming the ice, all with their own unique AV demands — audio and video manufacturers are using this annual expo to show how their wares can be as flexible as the times.
Several companies were using the InfoComm Show 2018 to help develop new markets. For instance, Bose Professional, which has been doing well in sports and house-of-worship verticals, was there to show how its EdgeMax distributed-audio speakers could do as well in a boardrooms as they’ve done in sanctuaries, while the Telos Alliance TV Solutions Group was doing the same with the Telos Infinity IP-based intercom system, which has found good traction in radio and television markets. “We’re leveraging our existing technology, like the ControlSpace DSP, for other markets and applications, because integrators have been asking for it,” explained Diane Koziel, the company’s channel marketing manager.
The InfoComm Show 2018 also reflected other shifts in the AV industry, not the least of which has been the ongoing series of mergers and acquisitions amongst both manufacturers and integrators, such as Samsung’s buy of Harman Professional last year and the announcement at this show of the acquisition of UK integrator Digitavia by Diversified, the latest in a series of acquisitions that in the last 24 months has also included integrators Portland, Oregon-based CompView and Atlanta-based Technical Innovation. And last week international AV integrator AVMI announced the acquisition of UK-based Focus 21. In the last year or so AVI-SPL acquired Canadian integrator Sharp’s Audio Visual whilst MI retailer Guitar Center acquired commercial and residential integrator Audio Visual Design Group (AVDG to bolster its Business Solutions Group. The barristers have been as busy as the blokes pulling the cables lately.
In another consolidation, the Avnue Alliance, the advocacy consortium behind the AVB audio-networking format, announced Milan, AVB’s new marketing initiative, which promised to “streamline” the format’s testing and certification of format-compliant devices. Major supporters of the initiative include d&b audiotechnik, L-Acoustics, and Meyer Sound, AudioScience, Avid, Biamp, and AV networking specialists Luminex.
Getting It Live
Diviersified’s portfolio covers all of the major verticals in AV, including sports — they recently installed sound and video for MLB teams the Los Angeles-Anaheim Angels, Philadelphia Phillies and Colorado Rockies — and the explosive economics of sports globally but particularly in North America is a big part of what’s behind the increased numbers of sound-reinforcement providers targeting the U.S. sports-venue market. That’s part of what drew 23 exhibitors (of the 245 companies in the show’s audio category) to InfoComm’s Audio Pavilion demo rooms, the most so far, with what was also the largest contingent of overseas SR vendors so far, including d&b audiotechnik (Germany), L-Acoustics (France), D.A.S. Audio (Spain), CODA (Germany), Renkus-Heinz (USA), Martin Audio (UK) and RCF Audio and K-Array (Italy).
The live-sound market (further frothed by the music industry’s shift in revenue from recordings to concert tickets) has also driven sonic quality to a new peak — listening sessions in the demo rooms used master-quality recordings as reference sources, playing Steely Dan tracks and classical recordings done at 96/24 through systems designed to fill arenas and stadiums and making a good show of it. That’s making system differentiation by buyers based solely on sonic quality increasingly difficult, Guy Low, content & creative manager at Bosch subsidiary Electro-Voice, which was auditioning its new Evolve 50 portable column system and new flagship amplifiers from Dynacord, readily agreed. “We’ve reached a point in pro audio where large-scale PA systems can sound like hi-fi systems,” he observed.
Thus, the show reflected new technology that audio manufacturers are developing, such as software-based system management platforms, that will become additional criteria to influence purchasing decisions. For instance, L-Acoustics’ Soundvision, a 3D, real-time acoustical simulation program that allows sound designers to define target SPL and will calculate the optimal speaker angles to achieve it, applying DSP settings for system optimisation. The L-Acoustics Network Manager real-time system control and monitoring software performs tasks like integrating temperature and humidity information from sensors on the comapany’s new P1 AVB processor that adapts system response to changing atmospheric conditions.
More Meta Than Beta
It’s worth noting that this is the first InfoComm Show since the organisation changed its name to AVIXA, the Audiovisual And Integrated Experience Association, a new identity that reflects an era that will emphasise AV technology’s ability to create user experiences such as immersiveness and 360 connectivity.
But even as InfoComm, the organisation, evolved, it maintained strong links to its heritage, as evidenced by its awarding this year’s Adele De Berri Pioneer of AV Award to QSC’s founders, Pat Quilter, Barry Andrews and John Andrews, commemorating their contributions to AV technology, such as the Q-SYS audio networking platform, as well as the company’s own 50th anniversary.
As one left the convention center for the airport, where TSA agents waited to confiscate water bottles and one-armed bandits to appropriate whatever was left of attendees’ cash, that DJ in the concourse was still spinning. It was a reminder that the InfoComm Show is ultimately a meta of itself, (which when in Vegas has perhaps the best demo room of them all on the Strip itself); an expo about sound, vision and lights that uses all three to proclaim itself, to communicate its message, and advance the fortunes of its constituents, all wrapped in a noisy, strobing package, that this cohort will happily flock to again next year, when it takes place in the equally climate-challenged city of Orlando, Florida where this $200 billion-plus industry will keep its juggernaut rolling merrily along.