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PLASA 2021 takes us back into daylight

PLASA 2021 takes us back into daylight

PLASA 2021 takes us back into daylight

Richard Lawn reports from Kensington Olympia

United Kingdom:

Welcome to the new normal: upon arriving at London’s Olympia, all visitors and exhibitors are obliged to provide a Covid-19 vaccination card or negative test result. Inside the majestic old hall, a few are wearing masks. Otherwise, PLASA seems to have taken us back to an age before live entertainment was put on pause. Business as usual, perhaps?

The stage was set under late summer blue skies. England commenced day four at the Oval trying to minimise the runs that India were freely scoring in their second innings, while the national football team prepared for a home FIFA 2022 qualifier fixture against Andorra. Meanwhile, those who play in the arena of entertainment technology descended upon Kensington, where a revitalised PLASA was attempting to make up for lost time.

Over the past 18 months, home recording, conferencing and podcasting technologies have boomed while digital console manufacturers, production companies and freelance engineers have had to batten down the hatches of the pandemic storm. Today, they could be excused from not having to observe social distancing rules, elbow bumps and restrained dialogue. Like PLASA of old, participants were here to celebrate a new chapter with old fashioned handshakes and hugs.

While product development for the world’s stages has stalled after NAMM 2020, notable launches on day one of PLASA 2021 included the Avolites New Diamond 9 lighting console, while L-Acoustics stuck to its road map, presenting the K3 long-throw line source speaker and also introducing the Creations residential speakers and Contour XO earphones. With the touring sector indefinitely closed, d&b audiotechnik focussed on its Soundscape immersive technology and the fixed installation sector, removing the wraps off the 44S dual 4.5-inch system and D40 amplifier.

When the bulldozers moved in to demolish Earls Court, PLASA traded in its West London roots for a three-year slot at the Excel Centre east of the city from 2014. While audiences declined, PLASA has retained its advantageous early September slot. The timing, coming after the Northern Hemisphere summer holidays, has always been crucial in maintaining the identity and lure of the exhibition. Manufacturers who missed the opportunity to promote new wares in Amsterdam, Anaheim or Frankfurt earlier in the year perhaps knew that an international audience would take note of their launch at PLASA.

Sennheiser UK's Lee Shuttlewood highlighted the app-controllable EW-D wireless platform
Sennheiser UK's Lee Shuttlewood highlighted the app-controllable EW-D wireless platform

Microphone manufacturers will admit that some products in their catalogues gathered warehouse dust at the height of the pandemic while others could not be produced fast enough. “It feels great to be exhibiting and seeing customers in person again,” remarked Sennheiser’s Lee Shuttlewood against a floral backdrop. “We recently launched the EW-D wireless system, a cost-effective wireless whose transmitters and receivers can be controlled with an app.” Reflecting on the past 18 months, Shuttlewood continued: “We have sold remarkable volumes of Neumann microphones and monitors for home recordists and podcasters in addition to the mini shotgun MKE200 and 400 models for videographers. At the show, we are daring to promote our e-series percussion, ew-G4 and Digital 6000 wireless mics.”

Shure has also continued to release new mics beyond the meeting and boardrooms during the same time period. Its highly distinctive booth displayed a similarly floral theme to host the ADX5D Axient Digital and SLX-D wireless platforms. “In addition to a UK roadshow that we are currently committed to, we’re hosting educational Wireless Workbench workshops here at the show,” commented Shure UK’s Dave Phillips.

The SLX-D wireless system blossomed on the Shure stand
The SLX-D wireless system blossomed on the Shure stand

The SSE/Wigwam/Solotech booth hosted several big-hitting brands including Riedel, which was demonstrating its Artist, Bolero and Mediornet technologies. DiGiCo unveiled the SD12T for the theatre featuring the new ‘T’ software, alongside the new Klang Konductor immersive 3D software and its S21 and Quantum 338 and 225 control surfaces.

Heralding from Maidstone in Kent, Glensound is a regular at broadcast exhibitions such as IBC and Broadcast Asia. Debuting the GTM dedicated eSports gaming interface for the first time, chairman Gavin Davis explained the rationale behind participating at PLASA for the first time: “Our audio solutions are increasingly sitting on IT networks such as Dante in live sound applications in addition to broadcast. There have been no other trade events to sign up for, so it made sense to come to Olympia in a bid to meet new customers.”

Under Olympia’s glass canopy, the sunlight mitigated the dazzling effects of manufacturers outputting lumens from their booths. Visitors to Robe were intrigued by SpotSystem, iPointe, iBar, iSpiider and the latest Forte and Espirite moving heads. Chauvet highlighted the Maverick Silens2 Profile and Ovation Reve E-3 fixtures in addition to the Chamsys Magic Q MQ250M console. Among an impressive selection of Source Four and Color Source fixtures, ETC presented the newly released Lone Star.

Robe demonstrated the SpotSystem on its booth
Robe demonstrated the SpotSystem on its booth

Highlighting and demonstrating the latest PM3 and PM5 additions to the Rivage family, Yamaha jointly shared its booth with French colleagues from Nexo, which was showcasing the iD14 4-inch and iD84 column together with the P+ series of loudspeakers. “We feel safe within Olympia with the safety measures in place,” explained Nexo UK’s Andy Simmons. “But you only have to travel on the Underground here in London to appreciate that it’s all relative. Only a few people appear to be wearing masks or social distancing on public transport.”

Located on a booth near the entrance with the FBT Horizon line array system taking centre stage, FBT UK’s Mike Roissetter summed up the mood perfectly: “I can’t stop smiling – it feels so good to be talking to our friends in the industry once again. We have managed to do good business in the fixed installation business, but now we can hopefully promote our live sound systems as before.”

DiGiCo's Tim Shaxson was busy promoting the Quantum digital consoles and Klang's Konductor immersive software
DiGiCo's Tim Shaxson was busy promoting the Quantum digital consoles and Klang's Konductor immersive software

Adjacent to FBT, fellow Italian manufacturer RCF highlighted and demonstrated the latest ninth generation of ART series and TT515A speakers. “Marketing our new products during the pandemic has been limited to social media and talking to dealers,” explained RCF MD Dean Davoile. “The time has now arrived to promote these latest releases by participating at an in-person trade show. The pandemic taught us to communicate regularly with our customers – perhaps we have all been complacent in previous times when the economy was favourable. Now that we’ve all been double-jabbed and are taking precautions, it feels right to be back at PLASA again.”

Both d&b audiotechnik and KV2 Audio had taken up residences in similar demo rooms to RCF to showcase Soundcape and Super Analog point source systems, respectively. The show floor – including the ABTT theatre hub, innovation gallery, PLASA and WME Stage – is set to welcome greater numbers of visitors on day two.

RCF's Dean Davoile and Chris Fearne presented the ninth generation ART series
RCF's Dean Davoile and Chris Fearne presented the ninth generation ART series


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