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Review of 2014: Part 1 – Merging technologies

Acquisitions, athletics, AVB and Atmos… we reflect on the year that was

Another year over, then. Another year of buyouts and buy-ups; of live music being under the kosh; of at least one paradigm shift in the technology of audio networks. And, of course, a Pro Sound Awards that was even better than before. This time around, we’ve broken down the major trends of 2014 into six broad subheads. Was it a classic year? See what you think…

The recent trend towards consolidation in pro audio – either by strategic alliance or acquisition – continued unabated in 2014, with a number of high-profile announcements in the live, studio, install and broadcast markets throughout the year.

After dramatically announcing its arrival in June 2013 with the buyout of live console manufacturer Allen & Heath, London-based private equity firm Electra Partners made further additions to its pro-audio portfolio this year – first with the acquisition of Yorkshire, UK, broadcast console specialist Calrec in March, then with a “substantial investment” in DiGiCo and subsequent formation, in August, of a new pro-audio group comprising the three brands, with DiGiCo’s James Gordon as group CEO.

Gordon confirmed that there would be a strategy “to share technology and resource across the group and allow some interconnectivity across the product lines”. “The combined R&D teams are about to enter a new world of possibilities and we intend to take full advantage of their resource, passion and experience,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for us, and just maybe the whole British pro-audio industry.”

Also on the buy was Yamaha, who on 18 March entered into a “definitive agreement” to acquire wireless conferencing brand Revolabs (reporting on which was this writer’s first assignment for PSNEurope, in fact). The acquisition filled yet another gap in the assets of the Japanese audio giant, which also owns Nexo, Steinberg and – since January – Line 6. Yamaha acquired the amp-modelling specialist in a deal signed in late December of last year, and under the terms of the agreement operates it as a wholly owned subsidiary.

Two of the biggest names in broadcast equipment and systems integration, TSL Products and IPE Systems, announced their intention to merge at IBC in September. (Pictured [L–R] is IPE’s Colin Judge, TSL’s Chris Exelby and TSL’s David MacGregor.) TSL, which owns microphone/audio processing company SoundField, also announced a strategic partnership with ARG ElectroDesign in April.

Other notable mergers and acquisitions from 2014 include 4HM’s investment in Bel Digital Audio, forming the Bel Digital Group; Richard Lienard’s Sound Hire’s acquisition by Plus 4 Audio; and Utrecht-based sales and rental giant Ampco Flashlight Group’s taking a controlling share in the Purple Group, a smaller Dutch operation based 40 miles to the south specialising in dance music events.