Q&A: Bose director David Schierman on his time at JBL and being president of the AES

PSNEurope talks to David Scheirman, now with Bose, who recently became president of Audio Engineering Society…
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DAVID SCHEIRMAN AES podium[1][6]

Now director of global concert and rental business for Bose’s growing professional division, David Scheirman went to school in Oklahoma City and has been further educated at Caltech, Stanford, the University of Washington and MIT – yet when asked how he would explain pro audio to his old classmates, his reply is refreshingly simple: “The pile of black boxes in front of the band that can get really loud!” So is his summation of the top priorities of a live PA system: “That it makes, and keeps making, sound.”

Maybe it’s this basic, piercing logic that has propelled him through four decades of touring and installed sound professionalism, including 17 years with JBL and Harman, developing management and training responsibilities in a complex organisation and an even more complex world. His trusted colleagues stretch from Rio to Russia, and it’s this network that can now match their respect for him to a new global perception of the AES...

Were you in a band? Or at the side of the stage with a screwdriver?

Both. I played in a neighbourhood garage band doing school dances, and I was also in the AV club in high school because we got hall passes to get out of class all day long.

What were the real big product breakthroughs of the JBL years?

That time frame was a really productive period for JBL Professional in various market segments, from recording to cinema, to installed and portable sound products. In the Professional Division, the JBL EON helped establish an entirely new product category for compact powered portable speaker systems. And the innovative ScreenArray system for the cinema industry, which contributed to JBL’s Technical Grammy Award, was quite a benchmark product. Leveraging the trend to line array type loudspeaker systems, JBL’s VERTEC product portfolio became extremely successful. The powered versions of these systems, using DrivePack technology developed in collaboration with dbx, BSS and Crown, could be considered a breakthrough from a systems integration perspective. In 2005, the JBL VT4888DP-CN was perhaps the very first powered line-array system with networked digital audio that was software-compatible with other audio product categories like wireless mic receivers, DSP hardware products, discrete ‘smart’ power amplifiers, and the like. Beneath it all, JBL’s component innovations, such as Differential Drive cone loudspeakers and dual-voice coil high frequency drivers, were significant innovations.

What were your most personally rewarding projects at JBL?

I’d have to say, helping lead the new-product development team for the JBL VERTEC VT4889 full-size line array in 1999-2000, and introducing that system to the global sound reinforcement industry was both challenging and rewarding. Back then, JBL had such a fantastic, well-integrated team of electro-acoustical designers, project managers, manufacturing engineers and such. Seeing those systems still in use for projects as diverse as Rock In Rio, the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, along with top-tier concert tours and installed systems for major venues like Los Angeles’ Staples Centre, is quite gratifying.

How does AES67 help find a balance between proprietary solutions and open file exchange?

Proprietary solutions help create protected franchises and generate revenue for their developers on the front end of a technology development curve, while open solutions often emerge over time to provide broader access to superior features and capabilities. Any technical standard for the audio industry – such as AES67 for audio-over-IP, or even AES14, the seemingly simple XLR connector wiring standard – can help all players to focus their efforts on end-user requirements.

However, to shift an entire industry in any particular evolutionary direction that involves integrating software, firmware and networking technology – along with various audio equipment components – takes more time than the initiators often anticipate. The most important issue is that ‘proprietary’ and ‘open’ standards are not enough of a distinction. An open proprietary standard is very different from an open-source or open non-proprietary standard: in this respect, industries much larger than ours have many lessons to teach us. It is wise to remember that proprietary protocol-based commercial offerings typically rise and fall over time.

What prompted the move from JBL to Bose?

I retired from JBL to assist with some pressing family matters. Once these were resolved, I was contacted by Bose Professional with a unique and exciting new opportunity, and I’m having a great time thus far. I was very keen to find out what would happen if Bose was to apply its very stable business platform and its advanced R&D capabilities – especially in light of its connections with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – to some of the current challenges in professional sound reinforcement. And I liked what I saw.

How do you get people to switch to Bose?

Rental company owners must be good business people if they’re going to be successful, and they are typically smart enough to make their own decisions. One does not ‘get’ them to do, or switch to, anything. If they are surviving and growing, then they understand the importance of solid long-term value, global support and technical innovation – probably in that order. Bose is in it for the long haul, with the resources and the innovation to move effectively in any direction it chooses – plus the wisdom of patience, as opposed to expecting an urgent response from trendy marketing gimmicks.

The market is not homogeneous and is highly nuanced, although it will always prize true value derived from the investment given.

How do you feel about the latest moves towards
so-called immersive speaker configurations?

Ever since the consumer electronics industry began pushing ‘surround sound’ decades ago, there has been an increasing number of channel counts, loudspeaker positions and even fresh new content platforms to feed into such multi-channel audio systems. Remember 3.1? 5.1? 7.1?

As the cinema experience gets scaled down into smaller residential venues, and as the ‘immersive’ audio experience scales up to meet the needs of larger-scale, live audience events, it’s interesting to see traditional sound reinforcement equipment suppliers migrating over to pro-sumer markets.

It’s a very engaging and compelling listening experience, and to have some of the more modern and capable large-scale tools employed in that space is a fascinating new development for the entire industry. Bose would certainly be capable of achieving innovations in that area, but the practical implications are huge.

I remember the unique 1980-81 concerts by Pink Floyd for The Wall – an amazing experience for the audience but also a tremendous additional burden and responsibility on the crew and venues to re-create those multi-channel special effects, live.

I also saw and listened to a permanently-installed 200-channel, immersive audio multi-source system designed by Dr Wolfgang Ahnert at the Kremlin Palace, Moscow – all the way back in 1991!

So new trends in ‘immersive audio’ are not about just branding, it’s more about adopters – the paying customers – really understanding that this is a system design paradigm that needs more investment, more complex deployment and very careful signal-path management. Are we ready for that on a universal basis in the sound reinforcement realm?

What does being the president of the AES mean to you?

I first joined the Audio Engineering Society (AES) when I was 22 years old. It became a point of entry into the professional audio industry, and I can honestly say that the most interesting, profitable and prestigious projects I’ve done in my career as a professional engineer have come from referrals by contacts and colleagues within the AES.

Now, as president, I enjoy sharing that opportunity and experience with others.

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