Companies to Watch in 2020, Part One We spoke with dozens of audio industry leaders to compile this year’s list of “Companies to Watch.”
By CLIVE YOUNG
The holidays are over. NAMM is over. Those new year’s resolutions? They’re probably over, too. But the rest of the year still stretches out before us, ripe with potential and ready for the taking. That’s the compelling attitude of many of the industry leaders we spoke with to compile this year’s “Companies to Watch” overview. Many built up momentum in 2019, and the year ahead will provide the opportunity to capitalize on those efforts.
Case in point? d&b audiotechnik. “2019 was a milestone year for our Americas subsidiary,” said Laurence (Larry) Italia, president and CEO, d&b audiotechnik. “We utilized a major investment from our parent company to significantly expand our staff, upgrade our Asheville headquarters, open a new West Coast regional office and training center, and make global introductions of the A-Series and additions to the SL-Series. 2020 will see continued investments in staff, facilities and infrastructure, an expansion of our Soundscape initiatives, and additional key new product introductions.”
DiGiCo general manager Austin Freshwater noted, “2019 was the first full year of DiGiCo and Klang working together as one team,” which resulted in the DMI-Klang, an in-ear mixing expansion unveiled at NAMM that provides immersive mixes natively from a DiGiCo worksurface. Meanwhile, the new Quantum 338 console, he said, “truly embodies DiGiCo’s bold, forward-thinking vision for the next decade … and is truly a console for the future that our customers are very excited about.”
An Avid spokesperson noted that 2019 saw the company expand its Venue S6L unified live sound platform, debut the S4 and S1 control surfaces, add Dolby Atmos integration to Pro Tools and more. She added, “In 2020, Avid will continue its commitment to delivering innovation in both software and hardware solutions for music production and audio post-production.” Avid is getting ready for Avid Connect 2020, which takes place just prior to April’s NAB Show, where attendees will explore issues including artificial intelligence, machine learning, delivering for OTT and streaming revenue.
Gary Boss, marketing director, professional markets, Audio-Technica, stated, “In 2019, we introduced an innovative line of modular gooseneck microphones with 72 different capsule, length and mounting options. We also debuted our ES954 hanging mic array. 2020 brings network-enabled monitoring and control to our popular 3000 Series wireless via A-T’s Wireless Manager software to help navigate the congested wireless spectrum—and we are just getting started.”
Trend-spotting early means being able to capitalize on industry shifts. Bob Boster, president of Clear-Com, pointed out, “In 2019, we saw a culmination of a trend that’s been happening over the last five years: the industry moving toward IP-based systems in response to their increasingly complex communications needs…. Clear-Com products—FreeSpeak II, HelixNet and LQ—have played a major role in the technological advances in theater, and in the transition to IP workflows. We also made significant product announcements in 2019 that address this trend with FreeSpeak Edge and the completion of our Eclipse HX system, now available as an AoIP matrix. We expect the industry to continue moving in this direction into 2020.”
Meyer Sound Systems Supply ‘Spellbinding’ Sound for Karen O and Danger Mouse Audiovisual Collaboration, by Daniel Gumble, Pro Sound News Europe, July 12, 2019
The Meyer Sound audio pros in Berkeley, CA, noted, “Meyer Sound marked 40 years as a company in 2019 and continues to lead the way as an industry innovator with a new generation of self-powered point-source loudspeakers: the Ultra-X40. In 2020, innovative and exciting products will be launched, including a new spatial audio tool for live mixing and a new compact point-source loudspeaker, and developments will continue in line array technology for live sound [along with Meyer Sound’s] industry leadership in the development of Milan for AVB solutions and collaboration on M-Noise as a new test signal.”
Another company with an anniversary in 2019 was Mackie, which turned 30. A spokesperson noted, “Mackie has long been known for disrupting the professional audio industry by producing great sounding, reliable gear. In 2020, we wanted to do something above and beyond, and completely re-imagined our flagship SRM series. SRM V-Class spares no expense and delivers the loudest, best-sounding and most advanced loudspeaker that Mackie has ever produced.”
Some companies have only just entered the pro audio market, such as longtime industrial computer manufacturer Arista Corp. Paul Shu, president, noted, “2020 holds great potential for Arista. After experiencing positive response to our Stealth Silent Audio Workstation, we’ve expanded our product portfolio. We’ve added the E-Vocal line of Dante converters and have been proactively recruiting manufacturer reps to help expand the company’s professional audio sales channels.”
Renkus-Heinz had a busy 2019, as co-founder Harro Heinz turned 90 and Matt Czyzewski was named president in April. Czyzewski expounded, “We expect 2020 to be the year of digitally steerable audio! By introducing accessible products and demystifying the technology, Renkus-Heinz is looking to enable a year of true discovery around what cutting-edge pro audio technology can do for a business. We will see new and impressive ways in which businesses are leveraging better sound, and we will see new ways in which professional audio is impacting businesses beyond the ‘traditional’ AV considerations.”
Glenn Booth, director of marketing, professional audio, Yamaha Corp. of America, remarked, “In many ways, 2019 was about network connectivity for both installed sound and live sound applications,” noting Yamaha’s Dante integration across all of its key product categories, including amplifiers, consoles, loudspeakers and network switches. “Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, we’ll continue to meet the changing needs of the pro AV market, increasing our emphasis on total sound system solutions, and focusing our new product R&D on enhanced AV over IP capabilities—especially as more pro AV system projects move to an IT infrastructure—along with a larger focus on products that do not require specialized, dedicated hardware, as well as more software- and enterprise-level computer hardware.”
Aerosmith Launches High-Tech Las Vegas Residency, Mix, May 6, 2019
In 2019, Aerosmith, alt-J, Bon Iver, Mark Knopfler, Ennio Morricone and Lady Gaga all used L-Acoustics’ L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal technology for live sound. CEO Laurent Vaissié plans to build on that success. He said, “As L-ISA makes its mark on even more tours and residencies—as well as major corporate events, multimedia art installations and performance venues—2020 promises to be the year that spatialized audio truly begins to emerge as the new gold standard.”
Tim Carroll, CEO of Focusrite, commented, “In 2020, Focusrite will continue to deliver solutions that cater to the demands of our customers, and that give them the flexibility to push boundaries.” Having added to its quiver of brands with the 2019 acquisitions of Martin Audio (see page 5) and ADAM Audio, Carroll noted they collectively plan to make good on “a shared mission to create the most holistic creative experience for all audio creatives.”
The Audio Engineering Society gained a new executive director in 2019, Colleen Harper, and doubled down on increasing the diversity of its membership and “service to an ever-growing body of audio practitioners,” she said, adding that 2020 will see the AES provide new AES Academy offerings, Dublin and New York conventions, an on-demand video portal and other new resources.
We spoke with dozens of industry leaders to compile this year’s “Companies to Watch.” Keep an eye out next month for part 2 for more of their insights, accomplishments and predictions.