2016 will go down in history…22 December 2016
What a year 2016 has been – from the death of many greats, including legendary musicians David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen – to Boaty McBoatface, Brexit the Pokemon craze and Donald Trump being elected president in the US. But what happened in the pro audio world?
Acquisitions were a theme of 2016 with loudspeaker component manufacturer Eighteen Sound of Reggio Emilia kicking off the year by purchasing fellow Italian brand Clare of Senigalilia for an undisclosed fee.
In a good sign for the industry, new studios were also opening throughout the year, with the first featured in the January magazine, the Angel’s Wings Recording Studio & Arts Center (sic) in a villa immersed in north-eastern Italy.
But other studios were confronted with gentrification and the weather. Popular online was a story on the on-going battle to prevent an “iceberg basement” from being built in close proximity to London’s Air Studios, which received additional support from the likes of George Michael, Joanna Lumley and Brian May. While, York-based recording facility Melrose Yard Studios faced over £20,000 in damages to its facilities and water-logged equipment after the wettest December in the UK, with a GoFundMe campaign started to help it out.
Crowdfunding was all the rage this year with Remic Microphones the first in the new year to launch a Kickstarter campaign for its new W3000 mic for brass and woodwind instruments.
In a world exclusive, PSNEurope interviewed Steev Toth, the tour manager of Eagles of Death Metal, after terrorists attacked the Bataclan while the band was playing. Toth recalled the terrible night in November 2015, where he barricaded himself in an ante-room, how he was rescued from the bloodbath and how he was reunited with the band. He also posed critical questions on security measures for musicians and their audiences in the new wave of terrorism.
After David Bowie’s shock death in January, we looked back at some of his artistic highpoints and the collaborators, studios and technological advances that helped to make them possible. From 1969’s Space Oddity, which was rendered by the late Gus Dudgeon to the 1970’s, Visconti-produced The Man Who Sold the World, which was captured at London’s Trident and Advision studios, as well as Bowie’s greatest commercial success 1983’s Let’s Dance. Meanwhile, Blackstar – which was released two days before his death – was captured at The Magic Shop and Human Worldwide studios in NYC, with some of the finest young jazz musicians. David Davies summed up a decline that continues to be felt in 2016: “As the importance of recording in the overall music landscape continues to dwindle, David Bowie’s death is a sobering reminder of an era in which groundbreaking studio work was a weekly, if not daily occurrence.”
Also, little did we know that a story on Allen & Heath’s dLive console taking on a central role as 20 years of Pokemon game music made its European stage debut, would precede the craze that hit the world in July – when the augmented reality game was released and people went mad to hunt the creatures.
Avid announced changes to the company’s structure – including jobs cuts and “darkening underutilized facilities” – that were expected to yield over $68 millions (approximately €61.7 million) in savings.
On a lighter note, Calrec Audio engaged in some clever marketing by compiling 177 features of the ultimate broadcast desk into a periodic table of broadcast consoles. We also took a strategic look at the company, which is now under the Audiotonix group, and how it was emboldened by a new factory extension and a change of managing director.
The new studios kept coming with work starting on one of Belgium’s biggest recording facilities, named DAFT, while Abbey Road opened a training centre in Paris.
The rise of virtual reality began to emerge as a story explored a new CGI animated film debuting at the Tribeca Festival, which was exploiting object-based immersive audio – a theme that would come up throughout the year.
Another new studio appeared with recording engineer and producer Nicolas Stawski opening Miscendo Recording Studio in the western outskirts of Paris.
Companies continued to combine and consolidate with column loudspeakers and installation specialist ActIve Audio taking a majority shareholding in APF, while Dynaudio ceased production of its AIR series of reference monitors.
After a large exodus, AVB-promoting organisation the AVnu Alliance downplayed the exit of several notable players, including Audinate and Powersoft, while highlighting the boom in its industrial sector. But as project manager and RH Consulting founder Roland Hemming said: “The decline in audio interest is clear. It’s simply not worth it for audio manufacturers to currently invest in AVB when there is not market for it.”
Meanwhile, the market for professional headphones has never been stronger then in 2016, as the magazine’s feature story took a look across the range, from high-end headphones suitable for recording in the studio and on the road – to more personalised products reflecting the user’s personal style.
Adele came back with her third tour, taking the unusual step in the UK of engaging Berlin’s Black Box Music for PA supply, and for the first time she had been won over by Sennheiser’s D9000 wireless system.
In another exclusive magazine interview, – affectionately known as Dr. K – spoke about nearly four decades of groundbreaking R&D and the pivotal part he has played in Yamaha’s most important audio innovations from the VL 1 modelling synthesiser to the RIVAGE PM10 console.
In new ventures, Glenn Roggermann’s AED group opened its own museum of rental equipment and was the first outfit to place a substantial order for L-Acoustics’ new KS28 subwoofer and LA12X amplified controller. In May, the company had some 4,000 L-Acoustics speakers across its various European bases.
Popular online was a Q&A with Dr Andreas Sennheiser where the young co-CEO talked about the $50k Orpheus headphones, the restructuring of the company, the fiercely competitive marketplace and what gets him out of bed in a morning. Another story that had people clicking was on ex-Genesis drummer/vocalist Phil Collins’ entire back catalogue of eight solo albums being remastered by Grammy-award winning Nick Davis, along with Abbey Road mastering engineer Miles Showell.
Oh Brexit – this dominated the news for much of the year and there are no signs of it abating…. In the somewhat surprising result, the UK public voted to leave the European Union. Prior to the vote, industry figures who PSNEurope canvassed were, by a slim majority, in favour of remaining within the EU. In general, the feeling was that trade with EU member states could be hindered, whilst impact on future legislation and regulations would undoubtedly be dramatically reduced. But there were also plenty who felt that the well-documented inefficiencies and ‘democratic deficit’ of some EU institutions should override all other concerns. Post vote, uncertainty about the duration of negotiations required to arrange post-EU trade agreements and the future perception of UK-headquartered businesses, both in terms of manufacturing and touring/installation service provision, were chief concerns in the pro audio industry.
Sparking interest online was a story on David Bell, director of design house White Mark, and other high-profile signatories from the recording sector, writing a letter requesting an urgent review of the design and procurement process used to create educational facilities in the UK. Bell also called for improved building specifications to give more detailed guidance on what constitutes a recording studio.
Back to Avid’s restructuring and it was revealed it had shifted much of its product development, R&D and customer support overseas, expanding those departments with new workplaces in Asia and Europe. This included hiring 250 employees to staff new facilities in the Philippines, Taiwan and Poland, and a new administrative support centre in Florida.
In a revealing interview, Paul Jenkins, vice president Denon Professional-Marantz Professional, said that after acquiring the brands in 2014, the next year or two would see almost an entire changeover from older product to brand-new products, conceived and designed by the company.
Featured this month was editor Dave Robinson surviving the Amazon, where he wrote about the Jungle-Ized interactive audio experience after he wandered around an eight-square grid of streets, with his Audio-Technica ATH-M70x headphones plugged into a smartphone, listening to a jungle soundtrack created and mixed by a mobile app.
On the studio side of things, a full refurbishment of the Foundry Sheffield’s Studio saw the installation of the largest Audient ASP8024 mixing console ever built. Then after years out of commission, the Grand Cru barge started sailing again by providing world-class recording and mixing facilities from a new berth in London’s St. Katharine Docks with its ‘captain’, producer/engineer Myles Clarke.
Stories that captured attention online were the reopening of O2 Shepherd’s Bush venue after a six month closure and major refurbishment of the roof, as well as upgrading audio systems, the auditorium, bathrooms and backstage. Another was Peavey Commercial Audio returning to holding stock in the UK, following an 18-month absence, after new distributor agreements expanded the company’s presence across Europe. While Metropolis revealed it had survived a torrid time over the last decade and its record label will make more money then the studio business this year.
Looking forward to a well deserved break was Dynacord, Martin Traut, who was known for his legendary power amplifier stunts featuring heavy duty tools, and who retired after 34 years in the business.
Vinyl revival was on the out in 2016. To be a truly modern audiophile, the turntable was put away to make room for the reel-to-reel. It was analogue tape’s time for (another) comeback and Mulann Group had torches at the ready to carry it into the future.
Analogue tape was not the only thing being resurrected. After major setbacks at the seaside attraction – Hastings Pier – a historical place in the annals of rock music – was looking to regain its position on the gig circuit.
While Capital Sound – who went on to win the Grand Prix award at the PSAwards – had been busy in 2016, continuing its growth with a warehouse shake-up, investment in European equipment and a new strategy.
The new studios, makeovers and recoveries kept coming. Producer/engineer Fabrizio “Simoncia” Simoncioni opened his new venture D:PoT recording studio in Prato, Tuscany, while Livingston Studio 2 in Wood Green London, underwent a major refurbishment with a new tracking room centred around a brand new Custom Series 75 console powered by Neve. Suburban Home Studios, owned by Leeds-based band Hookworms’ Matthew Johnson, recovered after being devastated by Storm Eva in the UK in the December and after a devastating fire at NEP Visions’ UK base last year, the OB specialist introduced the first of four new trucks that support both HD and UHD TV production, making its debut at Wimbledon 2016.
One of our most read stories online for the year was about Apple dropping the industry standard 3.5mm jack from the iPhone 7 in favour of the Lightning connector and how pro audio companies, including Sennheiser and Shure, felt about the announcement. Joint Sennheiser CEO’s Daniel and Andreas Sennheiser summed it up: “Audio connections have always been continuously evolving. Digital outputs, such as Apple’s Lightning connector, will offer new opportunities to take a step forward and to further enhance the sound experience for the customer. For example, 3D audio technology using digital signals is just one possibility.”
Also well received online was a story on the world’s largest rock band, Rockin’1000, which staged a concert in Italy to 13,000 fans.
In a month of celebrations, Shure introduced an anniversary model of its most popular microphone, the SM58, to mark its 50th year, while Eve Audio reached its fifth anniversary and Ardent Studios its 50th.
Producer/engineer and recording industry stalwart Adrian Kerridge died of a heart attack.
While Focusrite founder Phil Dudderidge was announced as the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement at the PSAwards.
The acquisitions began to snowball. German intercom specialist Riedel acquired the Netherlands-based company, ASL Intercom BV, while Blackmagic Design brought the name, product line and intellectual property of Australian audio manufacturer Fairlight.
In good news, NAMM’s Oral History Program clocked a milestone by reaching over 3,000 interviews and loudspeaker giant JBL celebrated 70 years of speaker innovation.
Online people were interested in reading about Bose Professional launching its new Showmatch DeltaQ array loudspeakers, which gives the ability to change directivity or “Q” for each array module. It was described by the company as the next generation of array technology. While the near death experience that prompted John and Ruth Merriman to open Crown Lane Studios almost 10 years ago was also a favourite.
Interest was peaked online by a white paper, commissioned by Dante developer Audinate, which was released to provide an insight into the objectives, benefits and limitations of the AES67 AoIP networked audio standard.
Another acquisition was announced – the newly formed L-Group, parent company of French loudspeaker designer L-Acoustics, announced the acquisition of Camco, the German amplifier.
The news ventures continued with familiar ex-Avid audio sales duo Tim Hurrell and Ben Nemes creating a new online marketplace for trading digital consoles and control surfaces, called resurface.audio.
While more celebrations were in store, with Liverpool-based Parr Street Studios marking its 25th anniversary with a plan to record a series of documentaries over the next 12 months to mark the milestone. Another recording facility also opened, The Anexe Studio, in Exeter, UK.
Famous nightclub Fabric won a reprieve, after closing earlier that year and was going to reopen after Islington council agreed to strict new licensing conditions, including an over-19s policy and ID scanners at the entry to the venue.
Samsung buys Harman in an £8 billion cash deal.
Our exclusive interview with Gareth Fry revealed his magical task over the last 18 months: preparing the sound design for the West End debut of JK Rowling’s boy wizard and his pals – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Our report on UK broadcast and frequency regulator Ofcom speeding up the clearance of the 700MHz band to make frequencies available for mobile data operators by the second quarter of 2020 was popular online. This is 18 months earlier than originally proposed and could have serious implications for digital terrestrial television (DTT) broadcasters and wireless microphone users in the PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) sector.
One of the magazine features looked at audio interfaces and how it wasn’t so long ago that quality AD/DA conversion was of primary importance when choosing an audio interface. Today, quality conversion is expected of even the most budget-friendly models, and users are demanding a lot more from their boxes.
The Focusrite Group appointed Avid stalwart Tim Carroll to the role of group chief executive officer. Carroll will take over from Dave Froker (who also worked for Avid in the 1990s) when he retires at the end of this year.
As we look forward to 2017, Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year!
Picture: David Bowie. Credit: ChrisTaylorphotography.com