Outline CEO Giorgio Biffi reflects on the company’s illustrious history

Phil Ward casts an eye over Italian pro audio giant Outline’s illustrious history with CEO Giorgio Biffi...
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For 45 years, Brescia-based Outline has defined Italian quality in sound reproduction and has grown to challenge any of the global names in the technical details of point source, line array and now DSP and networking. CEO Giorgio Biffi joined as sales director just three years after Guido Noselli had founded the business, and up to Noselli’s death in 2006 they were the twin forces behind its success. Now working alongside Noselli’s sons Michele and Stefano to continue that legacy, Biffi presides over one of the most inclusive and hospitable sales communities in pro audio.

What’s the most Italian thing about Outline’s loudspeakers?

The originality of the design. Our products have their own distinguishing style, which adds some performance improvements inside the box as well as having ergonomic benefits.

If Outline were a wine, which grapes would it use?

Hmm. Powerful, like a Brunello di Montalcino red, which fills the mouth when you drink it but at the same time is clear and crisp like some bollicine – sparkling – Franciacorta whites.

How did you meet Guido Noselli?

He used to be my customer when I was a regional rep for Harman Kardon and other leading hi-fi brands – he ran a high-class hi-fi shop in town. Soon after he started Outline he offered me a significant part of the shares to take care of regional, and later, national sales. As soon as the product range was appropriate, I began to look after international sales. I still do.

What was the first ‘super disco’ to install Outline?

The first top-class one was L’Altro Mondo Studios in Rimini, but what made us the top brand in Italy’s club scene was La Baia Imperiale on top of the hill facing the Adriatic in Gabicce Monte. It was the most iconic disco in the country, with the best DJs and sound and lighting. Both these clubs are still open and doing fine after more than 30 years.

What was the breakthrough event for Outline?

The MTV Awards in Verona, in the late ‘90s, with local rental company Musical Box Rent. The biggest ever was Labour Day on May 1, 2011 in Rome, attended by more than 500,000 people and broadcast live on national TV channel RAI 3.

When did you realise Outline could become an international force? Why was that important?

The Butterfly line array system was the game-changer. In some countries, professionals knew the name Butterfly better than the name Outline. The most important feature was the very long throw in the open air, with amazing consistency across the full frequency range – including the top end and not just the bass and mid, like most line arrays still.

What is Guido’s greatest legacy?

His passion, just like mine, for hi-fi and therefore the highest quality of music reproduction.

What distinguishes your line array today?

It’s still the Double Parabolic Reflective Wave Guide [DPRWG] – the way it made Butterfly reproduce the mids and highs so beautifully, with the best consistency and throw with very low distortion and a very crisp sound at the top end of the frequency range.

Why is manufacturing in Italy so important?

Because Italians do it better! This is not just an over-used slogan; it’s the truth. We never give up. Most of the workers are passionate about the work and enjoy achieving good results to be proud of.

Does Superfly follow Butterfly or GTO?

Superfly is the evolution of Butterfly, as it shares the same waveguide as well as the V-shaped horn, thus ensuring long throw as well as a regular horizontal dispersion. Three of the five components of Superfly are also used in GTO – both of the 8” mids as well as the 3” compression driver – while the dual 10” woofers are the latest from B&C, the sole supplier for these models as well as for all the GTO family models,

How do Outline products fit into a rental inventory?

Capital Sound, for example, was looking for premium quality, small, lightweight, good long throw capability and the most natural sound ever. Superfly was a natural choice for them. It fits the gap between the large GTO C12 rig and the small Mantas-28, featuring a pair of 8” woofers, intensively deployed by Capital Sound in large arenas, open air festivals and small theatres. It’s on the current Australian Pink Floyd Show European tour, and they were amazed to realise that it easily covers the largest venues they play – up to 7,000, where they expected to use C12 or other brands.

Is networking bringing you closer to other brands?

Of course. It hasn’t been designed specifically for Outline loudspeakers. It’s not just a loudspeaker management system, despite this being one of several applications it may get in the near future. Its control goes way beyond that. As usual we’re doing things differently, and we proudly claim to have our own view. It’s interesting to note that most of the Newton units sold so far have gone to production companies with no Outline loudspeakers in the inventory.

Indeed, some are touring with French, US or German loudspeaker brands. We foresee that most of the mid-size or large production companies will purchase and deploy Newton processors because they fix several problems that occur when you need to match products with different communication protocols.

What’s next?

Newton is our future. For me, tonight, it’s an excellent bottle of Amarone.

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