'The French Connection': L-Acoustics' Christian Heil on the acquisition of DeltaLive UK

L-Acoustics recently acquired AV services and rental firm DeltaLive UK. Here, company founder and president Christian Heil tells Daniel Gumble what the deal means for the company
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L to R: Paul Keating and Christian Heil

L to R: Paul Keating and Christian Heil

L-Acoustics founder and president Christian Heil has described the loudspeaker giant’s recent acquisition of audiovisual services and rental company DeltaLive UK as “an exciting opportunity that presents us with the opportunity to explore completely new market segments”, in an exclusive interview with PSNEurope

Last month, on April 11, the French company confirmed that it had acquired a majority stake in DeltaLive UK (Delta Sound Incorporated (UK) Ltd.) in a deal designed to take the L-Acoustics brand's immersive audio technology L-ISA into new, previously unexplored markets. DeltaLive UK has been a long-standing customer of L-Acoustics as a member of the L-Acoustics Certified Provider Network. The partnership between the two companies had recently been bolstered by DeltaLive UK’s deployment of L-ISA in a number of high-profile events, such as the award-winning production of the BBC Proms 2018 at the Royal Albert Hall. 

According to Heil, the decision to acquire DeltaLive UK came about after careful consideration of how the two companies could work together to the mutual benefit of both parties, with L-Acoustics keen to broaden its presence in a multitude of new fields. 

“It’s quite unusual for a manufacturer to invest in one of its customers,” he told PSNEurope. "There is a risk associated with this type of move; we weren't considering it as an option for a while, as it was not our plan to acquire a rental company. However, we saw an opportunity. L-ISA has two different branches, one of those is professional, and it is demonstrating success in the market of live audio at different events running all over the planet. 

"We want to develop another sector that is completely different, a kind of private sector covering luxury sound, art, therapy, and architecture. This new market is very difficult to detect but it is quite present. There are a lot of people who seem to have been trusted to put sound, lighting and visuals into many different areas – exhibitions, architectural presentations, galleries, medical treatments, etc. – so these contacts we’re trying to develop are quite new to us, and for the past few years we didn’t make any progress. 

"Whenever we would meet these people they would be interested in a full package solution and we were not able to deliver that. This is what pushed us to consider acquiring the majority shares of DeltaLive UK. In recent years, I have been working with [DeltaLive UK founders] Paul Keating and Mark Bonner on various projects, and when I became aware that they were considering selling the company it started to intrigue me. This is a new path I was happy to explore with L-Acoustics.” 

Heil was keen to point out that DeltaLive UK will continue to operate independently with no change to its services or staff. 

“It will be business as usual,” Heil stated. “That means L-Acoustics will not be involved in the management or interfering with DeltaLive UK’s relationships with customers. I don’t want to go down that route. We will not interfere with any DeltaLive UK business. What I’m interested in is opening new paths in different sectors that present some kind of interest in us, and that it will also bring some new business to DeltaLive UK.”

For Heil, the acquisition will also be pivotal in introducing new customers to the company’s innovative audio solutions. 

“My big concern, when you are an innovative company like L-Acoustics, is that it is always very hard to convince users to adopt new technologies,” he elaborated. “L-ISA is a new technology and it is challenging for us as well as for our customers. In order to solve these challenges we have to increase awareness of our brand to decision makers, including artists, production professionals and many other people who are making decisions from the early stages. From the professional side, this has been achieved and we are happy with the results. But in other domains, if I talk to someone at Google or Amazon or people from museums and galleries, they have no idea who L-Acoustics are. So, that makes it difficult to bring them a new technology which has no name recognition for them. 

He continued: “I’m hoping that using our connection with DeltaLive UK, we will be able to raise awareness of the brand to these kinds of people. There are a lot of fields that need sound but are not aware of it at all. If you talk to an architect, for example, this is someone who is providing design and is bringing more and more lighting into their design. While an architect’s design now includes lighting, it doesn’t yet include sound. We want to bring awareness to these people so that sound becomes an important factor and not one that is disregarded or not considered.” 

The deal was also hailed by Hervé Guillaume, CEO of L-Acoustics Group, who commented: “Welcoming DeltaLive UK into the L-Acoustics Group of companies was a natural next step in our already productive relationship, but DeltaLive UK’s positioning within the group, and in relation to L-Acoustics Network of Certified Providers, is totally unambiguous. DeltaLive UK will continue to operate independently under the joint management of Mark Bonner and Paul Keating. 

“The medium-term strategy is for DeltaLive UK to venture into markets that have hitherto remained unexplored by L-Acoustics, with the commissioning of private and professional multichannel auditoria such as Island or Ocean, featuring best-in-class L-ISA technology under the banner of ‘L-Acoustics Creations’.” 

Meanwhile, Keating noted the opportunities the deal has to offer for DeltaLive UK: “Delta has always had a strong professional and friendly relationship with L-Acoustics,” he said. “Excuse the pun, but very much the French connection. This year is our thirtieth year and we felt it was time to move the business forward for the future. Nothing will change in terms of the day-to-day management of the company, and the excellent team at DeltaLive UK will continue to exceed expectations." 

He added: “L-Acoustics is a great fit. With the company’s leading technology and reputation for the highest quality audio products and performance, we are excited by our next phase of development. In particular, the revolutionary L-ISA technology will strengthen our specialist audio services to clients. At a personal level, I am really looking forward to the challenge ahead and working closely with L-Acoustics, growing their private, lifestyle and sound art sector. These are exciting times.” 

“The collaboration with DeltaLive UK will help L-Acoustics better understand the needs of the markets,” Heil concluded. “It’s a branch that is helping us understand what is useful or not to a user, and I see that as a benefit for all of our industry. Instead of blindly designing products secretly, we are more open to discuss what the next generation of product could be and what the challenges will be as well.”

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