This is no hateful cowboy movie: this is the triumphant return of St Wendel’s finest, guns Dave Robinson
1. A comprehensive brand overhaul
HK Audio gave itself a complete facelift in January 2016 when it presented its new branding campaign: The Soundmakers. Two years in the planning, The Soundmakers represents a complete global overhaul of HK Audio’s identity, with everything from marketing materials to product design receiving a fresh coat of paint. “We want to provide an emotional home and a stage for everyone who is as fascinated with sound as we are at HK Audio,” says Nico Petit, the firm’s chief marketing officer. “The Soundmakers message touches all bases and target groups – from musicians, bands and DJs through to sound engineers, installers and even HK Audio employees themselves. We’re all Soundmakers, and we’re going to share our passion for great sound together in a global community. This is just the beginning…”
2. Introducing: Business Solutions
A totally new concept for HK Audio, Business Solutions was unveiled at Prolight + Sound 2016. The BS goal? To offer totally customisable installation solutions for clients in the hospitality sector. Systems are available in any desired colour, printed and engraved design elements can be added, different woods can be selected for cabinet housing, and special coatings can be ordered to make the speakers weatherproof for outdoor use. “With Business Solutions, we’re delivering HK Audio’s 30+ years of ‘Made in Germany’ pro-audio experience to customers who are not only looking for exemplary sound reinforcement, but who also want to be able to aesthetically integrate loudspeakers into sophisticated design environments,” says chief sales officer Markus Hermes.
3. Leading from the top
HK Audio’s radical changes in direction have been accompanied by a few key signings and major developments to the management board. Nils Stamer, son of firm co-founder Hans – and nephew of the other co-founder, Lothar – is now helping the second generation of the HK Audio company leadership take its first steps as a managing director. Meanwhile, CMO Petit’s first major project for the brand as CMO has been The Soundmakers, while on the sales side, CSO Hermes (himself a new hire in late 2015) is looking after the fresh Business Solutions team.
4. Revolutionary new technologies made in Germany
With one of the world’s most sophisticated Class 1 acoustics labs at their disposal at HK HQ in St Wendel, Germany (about an hour south of Frankfurt), HK Audio’s engineers have always considered themselves as being “at the forefront of developing new pro-audio technologies”. Pick of the recent bunch is the Multicell Transformer, a diminutive yet ingenious invention that makes the most of horns’ and waveguides’ physical advantages, with – allegedly – none of the drawbacks. The mouths of the MCT’s nine horn channels form a line array, with sound traveling down channels of different lengths to achieve different delay times. The result? “A perfect vertical curve, an extremely precise +5°/-25° pattern of throw and the performance of comparable horns and waveguides at a fraction of their size,” says HK. Bold claims indeed!
5. LUCAS NANO 608i: pro audio goes 21st century
Released to much fanfare at the 2016 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, the LUCAS NANO 608i is HK Audio’s gift to the 21st century performer who wants the whole shebang in one portable 16kg box. The first all-in-one PA to feature an on-board iPad-enabled mixer, the 608i “is hardware and software in perfect harmony,” says senior product manager Rüdiger Forse. “The app for iPad is so intuitive and valuable for every kind of performer, the way you can watch and touch your mix is revolutionising stages across the world. Plus, the 608i packs an astonishingly powerful sonic punch, despite its light weight and small size. It truly is the next generation of crossover PA, and it’s perfect for everyone from DJs and solo performers to acoustic groups, speech givers and more.”
6. LINEAR 5: a new performance class
HK Audio’s newest additions to the ‘Made in Germany’ LINEAR family continue the company’s lifelong pursuit of flawless sound reproduction at an achievable price-point. Thanks to technology lsuch as the aforementioned Multicell Transformer, the passive LTS mid/high unit and its active LTS A sibling are the first speakers to deliver genuine longthrow performance (over 50m) in an ultra-compact format, while the accompanying LINEAR 4000 (passive) and 4000 A (active) subs provide powerful and versatile low-end support. Stick them together, and you’ll save on truck space, time, and money on a system that’ll get up to 3,000 people in the mood. Nice.
7. Drumming up business with star power
Most people don’t necessarily associate boring black PA boxes with hard-hitting, million-selling drummers, but the HK Audio artist stable is proud to boast Iron Maiden’s bonkers but brilliant Nicko McBrain and founding Deep Purple member Ian Paice as long-time endorsers and enthusiasts. “I’ve been using HK Audio for 20 years, and there’s something in the way the systems are put together which for drums just seems to work,” says Soundmaker Paice of his CONTOUR-based onstage monitor system. “They pick out the depth and the sweetness and the clarity at the top end that you need. The drums just seem to stay in balance and the frequency response seems to be working perfectly for everything I need. When you’ve got that, it just makes the whole process of playing an instrument you can’t physically hear a lot easier!”
8. A record-breaking summer in Frankfurt
Summer 2016 has been a world record-breaking one for HK Audio, with a mammoth Cohedra line array system decking out Frankfurt’s cavernous Commerzbank-Arena for a six-week extravaganza of events. Live music, outdoor cinema programmes, the ESL One international sports gaming tournament and EURO 2016 public viewings all attracted crowds of thousands, and the world’s biggest ever orchestra – made up of 7,548 people – brought proceedings to a suitably grand close on 9 July. CMO Petit says: “It’s been an incredible summer in Frankfurt, and we’re proud HK Audio was able to play a part in it all. The Stadion Sommer has really helped get the Soundmakers message out to hundreds of thousands more sound enthusiasts, and that can only bode well for the future.”
Top picture: The world's biggest orchestra (7,548 players) gathered in Frankfurt to set a new world record in July 2016. PA by HK Audio, of course. Second picture: Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice is a big fan of HK kit. Third picture: Don't underestimate the power of the LINEAR 5. Last pic: Nico Petit, the firm’s chief marketing officer