Pro Audio at NAMM Show Targets Sports-Venue Needs
Traditional music expo features installed, portable sound systems
Music and sports have been intertwined since “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was new on the charts in 1908. The recently concluded NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA, is focused squarely on the former but has more than a few implications for the latter when it comes to the sound systems that sports venues have been investing in.
Flagship brands like L-Acoustics, d&b audiotechnik, and Meyer Sound Labs, all of which have departments or personnel dedicated to the sports-venue vertical, had sizable demo rooms in the North Hall, which was added to the convention center three years ago to accommodate the expo’s steadily expanding pro-audio segment.
But given that sector’s growing number of global brands targeting the lucrative U.S. market, the NAMM Show also hosted its second-annual Loudspeaker System Showcase, where 14 companies — Alcons Audio, AXIOM, FBT, Martin Audio, RCF, Verity Audio, and VOID Acoustics among them — exhibited both installed and portable systems.
Some Notable Exhibits
- d&b audiotechnik demonstrated its SL-Series product line and new A-Series, combining point-source cluster technology with extensive control of a line array.
- L-Acoustics showed its evolving L-ISA immersive live-sound technology, now able to scale immersive hyperreal experiences for live events in large venues, including arenas and stadiums. Presentations included addressing such challenges as loudspeaker-system design, implementation, and calibration; spatial-rendering algorithms (audio objects positioning, virtual acoustics); and object-oriented mixing techniques for live sound.
- Electro-Voice introduced its first powered floor monitor, the PXM-12MP, but perhaps more striking was its demo room, which was brightly lit and draped in white, rather than dressed as the dark, black-curtained space usually used for audio demonstrations. Looking more like an event space (or wedding hall), it offered an alternative environment that helped its products stand out. Darkened demo halls — which also emulate lighting conditions in sports arenas — ostensibly help visitors focus on the sound by limiting visual distractions. But E-V Creative Manager Guy Low counters that, with venues becoming more multipurpose, sound systems for sports venues need to sound as good as concert systems and, in an increasingly Instagrammed world, also have to be visually pleasing as well. “And our loudspeakers do look good,” he says.
A Showcase for New High-End Products
Live-sound consoles also were in abundance at NAMM 2020. The most spectacular product launch in the category was DiGiCo’s Quantum 338 desk, whose ballyhooed debut was scheduled for 3:38 p.m. Thursday afternoon (although technical hiccups brought it in closer to 3:40). The console, targeted at the sports-sound market among other verticals, offers 70 individual TFT channel displays, and the floating Quantum chassis features 38- x 100-mm touch-sensitive faders laid out in three blocks of 12 fader banks, plus two dedicated user-assignable faders, each complete with high-resolution metering.
According to Matt Larson, VP, professional audio products, DiGiCo, the 338, which is priced between $98,000 and $142,000, was the company’s most successful product launch ever in terms of initial orders. He adds that the NAMM Show, which even a decade ago was better-suited to small mixers, has become one of the best trade-show venues at which to introduce high-end audio products, including those aimed the sports market.
“Music and entertainment in general have been interconnecting with sports at levels we’ve never seen before,” he points out. “The NAMM Show is in Southern California, so it’s close to the broadcast industry, the music-touring business, and a ton of major sports venues, all of which are constantly upgrading their systems, and many of them were here at our booth at the show. This has become a show to reach all of that.”