Another year, another Plasa…but not quite so this year. Oh no – this year it was all change at Plasa HQ with the imminent demise of Earls Court calling for a change of venue, and ExCel is where it’s at, post Olympics.[Apparently the requested listed status was overturned by an “structurally unsound” report – don’t let progress get in the way of preservation of iconic buildings, developers of London…]
The regular readers amongst you will have read the ExCel reconnaissance post about the trip we undertook late last year as the Plasa marketing department started their campaign in earnest to debunk as many ExCel myths as possible and get companies on-side for the new show location in 2013.
We were suitably impressed with the presentation, and decided to give the show a go and see how the new site would work out.
Any of you that follow us on facebook (and if you don’t why not?) will have seen the photos of build up and the resulting very smart stand that we shared with our UK distributors, Polar Audio.
In these austere times, and as we were hedging our bets about the success of the show somewhat(!), we decided on a theme this year that was application-centric as opposed to being product-centric. To this end, the main application areas we cover for both MC2 and xta, could be roughly split into three categories:
Live: Our bread and butter – covering concert hire, theatre, touring, events and festivals
Club: Often through our OEM partners this covers bespoke systems for high-end nightclubs and music venues
Install: It doesn’t end there – our gear also gets specc’ed into other more specialist venues and locations, such as cruise ships, sports stadia, NASA [no, really – read about it here and make sure you click on the bottom picture to be very impressed!]
So, the stand used these three categories across the board as Polar also distribute brands such as Aviom, Beyerdynamic and Mackie, so these could work for them too.
As for the show itself…well, despite the naysayers, there was a buoyant feeling to it all, maybe brought about by the novelty of the new venue as much as by the visitor numbers. There is still no getting round the fact that, as a certain magazine editor who shall remain nameless* asked – what does Plasa stand for? Pro Light and Some Audio? The balance has been shifting over the past few years and this change of location doesn’t appear to have done anything to redress this tilt towards lighting, lasers, smoke and fog.
As it was pointed out to me – audio manufacturers are at an immediate disadvantage in the show setting due to health and safety legislation (and general comfort of visitors), as it makes little sense for us to be setting up systems on stands in the middle of an open exhibition space and all blasting out sound. The reverberant build-up alone makes it pointless and generally unpleasant for everyone, even though the constant sweep, flash and blind of the lights is permitted…
Talking about “unpleasant for everyone though” – one comment that came up again and again was the subject of the temperature in the hall. We shouldn’t be moaning about having a few days of lovely weather in October, and indeed it made the time spent around and about the surrounding areas in the evening a very pleasant experience. However, combine mild evenings and warm days with a hall filled with big hot lights and suddenly you have a recipe for a sweaty (personally speaking of course!) uncomfortable atmosphere. A flick of the AC switch a couple of hours before the doors opened each day would have made a world of difference.
Enough of the moaning – so what could be done next year to improve the lot of the audio fraternity? I believe the AudioLab talks and presentations were well received at the show (covering interesting and diverse topics such as cracking Brazil (no nuts) – the untapped market in a country with more festivals than you ever thought possible, to handling comms at a huge sporting event full of balls (in this case Wimbledon). These lectures are great for customers and interesting for companies to attend, but in terms of B2B and B2C (please forgive these acronyms) they don’t help us showcase new gear or demonstrate our equipment.
Due to the way ExCel is organised and built, it doesn’t lend itself to demo rooms in the style we have been accustomed to with Earls Court and even Frankfurt, as the multitude of presentation rooms available are stud-walled moveable partition affairs, with suspended ceilings and glass all across the back. Great spaces for talks, not great for making a noise in.
We did have the speaker demo and shoot-out, with some concert format systems, club systems and portable systems fighting it out, but even that wasn’t the best organised affair – eyebrows were raised when it became apparent that switching between the smaller systems entailed quickly plugging/unplugging XLR cables during announcements – a little bit poor for a cutting edge audio technology demo! Note to PLASA – next year ask us and we will provide you with a slick iPad based switching system free of charge!
On the subject of the demos, it was interesting to see Pioneer enter the club arena with a lowered Vauxhall Corsa of a system, complete with “acoustic lenses” straight from the 80’s hifi boys:
Here they are in situ at the shoot-out:
Hard to miss that “acoustic lens”, and hard to understand how it was making things better, to be truthful. The overall presentation from them wasn’t as shonky (technical term – this is a blog remember) as I had imagined, and if they got that HF mush sorted out, these might be OK as they were punchy and actually quite focussed in the midrange. However, even moving into the “beam” of the “lens” didn’t miraculously surround me in lovely crisp top end – it more bathed me in a swooshy wash of slush. Our friends with their lovely purple boxes don’t have to fear just yet!
Finally, a couple of much less important photos that just had to be used…somewhere. So if you’ve read this far you will distantly recall the pictures of the Polar Audio stand and how good it looked with its bold bright graphics. How many times have you seen the “hands in the air” shots to represent the live gig or festival experience? Rightly so of course – it’s what most people equate with a crowded music gig and it’s all part of the fun. We have used this ourselves, and there’s no shame in it. For a vertical format banner though it does’t quite work – turn it on its side and it starts to look like a screenshot of audio capture (I wonder if anyone has explored that yet?!).
So we needed a few individual concert-goer shots of the “rock” hands to play with. And this is where Richard came in…I think the photos explain everything.
*thanks for this Ryan – you can tell *ahem* I have paraphrased him!