d&b audiotechnik do things a little differently to other manufacturers, which is one of the reasons they’re the market leader in touring PA. The way they interact with their customers is also refreshingly unique, and their regular international Partner Meetings are a cornerstone of their strategy. Jason Allen spent the day with d&b at their second Australian Partner Meeting at Melbourne’s grungy but beloved Festival Hall…
Hosted by Australian d&b audiotechnik distributor National Audio Systems, this second Australian Partner Meeting drew existing and potential d&b customers together from touring, production, venues and integrators around the nation. Cannily timed to coincide with tradeshow Integrate running down the road at the MCEC, the day was a mixture of new product demonstrations, insights into future releases, listening sessions and education. Gert Sanner, German by way of England and Regional Application Support and Education Manager for d&b, was flown in to run proceedings. His co-host was recently relocated Brian Vayler, ex National Audio Systems, who has taken up a positon with d&b as Technical Sales Specialist.
Brian Vayler (Left) and Gert Sanner (Right)
The big new product news of the day was the V-Series point source range. The range consists of two top boxes – the V7P and V10P, which both house two 10” drivers in a dipolar arrangement, a rear-mounted 8” MF driver attached to a dual chamber horn, and a single 1.4” exit compression driver with a constant directivity horn. The V7P has 75° x 40° (h x v) dispersion while the V10P has 110° x 40°. The top boxes are complemented by the V-GSUB subwoofer, a cardioid sub with an 18” driver in a bass reflex design facing towards the front and a 12” driver in a two-chamber bandpass system radiating towards the rear. All three models have a wide range of rigging options, as well as an installation model variant (Vi7P, Vi10P, Vi-GSUB) with installation specific rigging.
These are relatively small, lightweight boxes. The V7P weighs 33 kg, and measures 70cm x 30cm x 46cm (H x W x D). However, as you’d expect from d&b, the output is impressive, at a quoted 142dB (max. sound pressure at 1m, free field, test signal pink noise with crest factor 4). The V-Series will be at home in a huge range of applications that appreciate quality, from small events and touring to premium installs.
The educational portion of the day’s proceedings gave us all an insight into what’s going on under the hood of d&b’s ArrayProcessing line array optimisation software. ArrayProcessing is an option available within d&b’s ArrayCalc predictive software, and aims to provide the same level and tonal balance to everyone in the coverage area, even making arrays of different models sound the same. Gert talked us through the development of the software, including a lot of details on the dead ends and results that didn’t meet expectations the engineering team experienced which eventually lead them to the final product.
The proof, however, is in the listening. NAS and d&b had rigged one hang of J Series covering the centre of the hall and one hang of Y Series covering the bleachers to the side, with a bit of overlap of their coverage. Gert first let us hear the J unprocessed, and we walked the room listening to how level or tone changed as we got closer to the back or the front. He then demonstrated different optimisation settings, including equal level to the whole area, louder at the front, and louder at the back. The software does exactly what d&b set out to do. The most impressive achievement to my ear was hearing a Y and J optimised to sound the same. We walked across the boundary of the two arrays as they played tracks unprocessed, noting the differences in tone, level and coverage. Gert then hit the switch, and the transition became totally seamless; the two models sounded exactly the same and there was no discernible boundary in the sound field.
The Social Network
Between sessions, coffee and conversation flowed freely, which is a major feature and attraction of the d&b Partner Meetings. “We aim to hold a Partner Meeting every two years,” explained Shane Bailey, Managing Director of National Audio Systems. “I find the most benefit for the attendees is the social side. People mill around and talk over the whole day and catch up. Bruce Johnston just told me he’s caught up with some people he hasn’t seen for years.”
Bruce, legendary FOH mixer and owner of JPJ Audio agreed. “I like the Partner programme. It gives you an overview of everything that’s going on with the products. For example, the other day we were talking about buying more Q, but now we’ve had a good look at the Y, that’s where the future is. We’ll be buying that and maybe some V. It’s good to be able to hear them, too, and do things like walk behind a PA during a cardioid demonstration, which you don’t normally get to do.”
While I had Bruce’s ear, I asked what had drawn him to the brand. “The first time I heard the d&b J-Series I was mixing Oasis,” he recalled. “It gave me incredible vocal quality at loud volume which, with Oasis, I had generally struggled with. It made the vocal brutally clear. From my point of view, it was like a big studio monitor. It didn’t seem to colour the mix like other PAs. On that tour, we picked it up in every country; Japan, Europe, USA, South America and Australia. We had no problems getting it and it was all identical.”
In The Family
In bringing the d&b message to Australia, Shane Bailey values the role the Partner Meetings play. “Staying connected to customers is what we’ve hoped and strived for,” he confirmed. “d&b have always had a family vibe. It’s the way d&b present in Germany, and we try and emulate that here. It works really well, and now the range has expanded into installation products, we’re finding that at the Partner Meetings there’s system integrators as well as production and rental partners.”
“We do these all over the world quite regularly,” said Gert Sanner, d&b’s Regional Application Support and Education Manager. “We show our next generation products to our current partners. We want to share ideas, and often get them involved very early in the process, so we can use their feedback in R&D.” This reinforces the message that d&b are heavily focussed on developing better products for their customers. “d&b are a technologically driven company,“ agreed Shane Bailey. “Their products come from an innovative base. They’re not trying to release ‘just another loudspeaker’, it’s always about thinking laterally. Their marketing has always been product driven, and that’s a good thing.”
Fly In, Fly Out
Making the trip over from SA and ACT respectively, Andy Gayler, Managing Director of AJ Sound, and Darren Russell, Managing Director at Elite Sound and Lighting, talked shop while catching up on new tech. “In the audio realm, d&b do this kind of event better than anybody,” said Darren. “I’ve attended international Partner Meetings, and now Asia Pacific and Australia, and they’re a very good thing. We’ve networked with other users and generated business out of Partner Meetings in Germany. We’ve developed relationships with other businesses and they now cross-hire from us.”
“You can tap a broader wealth of knowledge and experience,” added Andy Gayler. “That helps guide you towards what suits your local market.” Having recently deployed ArrayProcessing to solve technical challenges on a major event (see sidebar), Andy sees a change in strategy necessary to upsell clients to the superior results the technology offers. “The new challenge for us is to try and educate our clients to understand the benefit of this new technology,” Andy illustrated. “Doing the actual work is becoming the easy part. Selling the sizzle is becoming the challenge.”
Andrew Gayler & Darren Russell
Currently working in Nailsworth in the UK, d&b’s Brian Vayler updated us on their plans for an Asia Pacific subsidiary. “For 2016, the plan is we build a subsidiary office in Singapore,” said Brian “It will house a team of sales and technical people, a service centre, and a warehouse, like our other offices in Germany, UK, Japan and the USA. We’ll service all of the Asia Pacific, including India and China. We’re in the process of choosing a location.” Once it’s established, Brian will relocate again, and will make regular appearances servicing his home country.
First published in CX Magazine (October, 2015)