After two decades rife with economic crises and war, Serbia has begun formal talks to join the European Union. Throughout that same period, Novi Sad-based event specialists Audio Konstruktor has been fighting to raise production standards within the country, in order to attract more international talent to the region. “We were the first company to go digital for light and sound control, we have the latest digital consoles here and that is the vision for our company – to always be in touch with new technologies,” says Audio Konstruktor’s Mirjana Kovačević.
In Serbia, however, that’s often easier said than done. Case in point: in the summer of 2013, Audio Konstruktor, a 10-year member of the Synco network, approached long-time friend and the network’s founder Fred Heuves to assist in the purchase of a new PA system: a Synco Longbow by Martin Audio. (After years of relative quiet, both the Synco Network and Ampco are preparing for a comeback. Stay tuned for the March edition of PSNEurope for more). After an astonishingly arduous three months preparing the required documents for a bank loan, and a nearly three week hold of the equipment at the border (which was released with the help of documents sent from Martin Audio MD Anthony Taylor), Audio Konstruktor finally took delivery of its new kit. A long process, but ultimately, worth it. “I think it’s safe to say it’s the best sounding system in Serbia, and it meets the requirements of any band visiting the country who wants to have a state-of-the-art system,” says Heuves. “The first few shows have been astonishing. Everyone was really raving about the sound – not only the sound system but of course the capability of Sreten (Kovačević) as a sound engineer.”
It was Sreten who founded the company in 1989: ten years after his band, punk rockers Pekinška Patka (Peking Duck), rose to prominence in the former Yugoslav region and 20 years before they would reunite to perform alongside the Sex Pistols at Exit Festival – for which Audio Konstruktor is now a preferred supplier. The company was also the first privately-owned pro-audio distributor in the country. At that time, PA systems were generally copied from whatever was popular at the moment, says Sreten. “Martin Audio was one of the first rock ‘n’ roll PAs in the country,” he recalls. “There was a guy who knew someone there and asked if he could copy the speakers.” The response? Sure. “You can’t imagine how much effort was put into it… and nothing happened. I realised the technology behind producing speakers was very serious. That was a crucial moment: I vowed never again to try and make copies; you just don’t know what it’s all about. Then I called Martin Audio, told them I wanted to buy speakers and that’s it.”
@page_break@ That relationship began in 1995, when Mirjana and Sreten first heard Martin Audio’s F1 and F2 systems at PLASA in London. Over the years, the company added W8C and W8LC systems to its inventory. Today, Audio Konstruktor is also a distributor for Martin Audio, as well as DiGiCo consoles, which Mirjana describes as an “excellent business move, we are very happy. In combination with the Martin Audio systems, it’s perfect”.
On 13 January, its Synco Longbow by Martin Audio system was deployed for just the third time in Trg Slobode (Liberty Square) in celebration of Eastern Orthodox New Year. Headlining the free event was domestic superstar and Eurovision contender Željko Joksimovič. The concert was also broadcast via a satellite link from local network Novosadska TV. “People don’t have a lot of money to go to restaurants and luxury hotels for New Years Eve,” says Mirjana. “The city has done a very good thing to provide this event free of charge for them.”
The sound reinforcement system comprised eight Synco W8L per side with four Synco WS318X triple subs for the main PA, three Synco W8LC compact per side for both infill and outfill, and six Synco W8LC compact on delay. Sidefills comprised one Martin Audio VDQ and one Martin Audio WS218X per side. At FOH, Sreten mixed the event on a DiGiCo SD8, while monitor engineer Miloš Romić used a DiGiCo D1. “It’s the first year ever that the square had complete coverage,” says Mirjana. “Every street, every corner; everyone could clearly hear everything.” Prior to the Orthodox New Year event, Audio Konstruktor used its new system for a concert by Serbian rock band Bajaga at SPC Vojvodina arena, and again for the ‘regular’ New Year in Liberty Square. Like the Orthodox celebration, the 31 December event drew a crowd of over 25,000. In addition to Exit Festival, Audio Konstruktor’s regular clients include Muzička Omladina (Music Youth Novi Sad), the Novi Sad jazz festival, the Nišville Jazz Festival and the Kombank Arena in Belgrade. In theory, competition for these clients is fierce, with over 20 pro-audio companies within the country vying for contracts, but as Mirjana explains, “You may have some guy with equipment saying ‘I will do that for half price, but you have to give me cash.’ I can’t compete with him, and I don’t want to. We are trying to raise the standard here and we will not undercut price, or quality…If you set those standards, then people need to follow or else they won’t be around for much longer.”
Story: Erica Basnicki
Photos: Darko Dozet