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Companies to Watch in 2020, Part Two

We spoke with dozens of audio industry leaders to compile the 2020 edition of Companies to Watch. Read on for part two of our series.

Last month, we began our rundown of pro audio manufacturers to keep an eye on this year. Speaking with executives and industry pros, we discovered that many companies were building on momentum gained in 2019, and were planning to make the most of that velocity this year. That’s certainly the case with numerous companies we spoke with for our second installment of Companies to Watch 2020.

For instance, AMS Neve distribution manager David Walton notes, “2019 was a growth year with our current product range, especially the Genesys and Genesys Black consoles, and with constant development and improvement via customer and market feedback.” As a result, the company kicked off 2020 by releasing its RMX16 500 series module digital reverb, and Walton hints, “Later in the year, you will see several products launch, all new and aimed at several markets. We’re already looking forward to a busy and enjoyable 2020.”

Companies to Watch in 2019, by Clive Young, Dec. 6, 2018

In January 2019, Ashly Audio ambitiously told Pro Sound News it would launch 60 new products in the next 24 months; the company is right on track to meet that goal. 2019 found Ashly focusing on integrated offerings with the mXa-1502 Mixer Amp, AquaControl software and numerous power amplifier lines. In 2020, the company introduced multiple lines of speakers at NAMM and ISE, and 30 more products are on the way. “2020 will be a seminal year for Ashly Audio as it continues to redefine who we are and what we provide as a company,” says Noel Larson, vice president of marketing and business development. “Our goal with this invigoration of innovation has been to work collaboratively with our integrator partners and end users on what we can provide that makes life better for them.”

Immersive Audio was big in 2019 and shows no sign of cooling off in 2020. Some of that has to do with companies like U.K.-based ATC, which launched its SCM12i installation series monitor in 2019, and then followed that up by participating in a high-profile Dolby Atmos installation featuring a large-format 9.1.6 system at Blackbird Studio in Nashville, TN. Aleks Bars of ATC says that such moves lay the groundwork for what’s ahead: “With more multichannel audio production facilities featuring ATC monitors coming online and the plan to introduce more installation focused products, ATC is positioned to help create the next generation of immersive audio in 2020.”

Studio Showcase: Blackbird Studio Takes Immersive to the Next Level, by Steve Harvey, Aug. 28, 2019

These days, no conversation about audio networking gets far without Audinate’s Dante protocol coming up. With hundreds of licensees offering thousands of Dante-capable products, Audinate would have had a big 2019 even if it did nothing—but the company didn’t sit still. Instead, it announced Dante AV, which brought a visual layer to the Dante protocol; unveiled software offerings like Dante Embedded Platform for Linux-based AV devices and Dante Application Library for PC/Mac applications; updated Dante Controller and Dante Domain Manager; brought Dante Virtual Soundcard to virtual machines; and even got a new CEO—its co-founder, Aidan Williams. According to senior vice president Joshua Rush, “This is the year that pro audio will connect with the world of AV and IT on more levels and in increasingly impressive ways. We’re incredibly excited about the stories we’ll have to share in the year to come.”

Bose Professional introduced more than 50 pro AV products in 2019 across the numerous markets it serves, from live music to conferencing. “Looking at our Installed Sound Expansion family of products, we increased the range of our offering so system designers and installers can deliver Bose Professional sound to more spaces than ever, regardless of the size,” says Amanda Roe, manager, global public relations. “There are more options for loudspeakers, amplifiers and digital processors to choose from. We have a single-minded goal: provide solutions that deliver complete systems to deliver the best sound experience possible…. 2019 was just the start. The best is yet to come.”

For UK OEM loudspeaker manufacturer Celestion, 2019 was part of a multiyear build-up that continues onward. The company launched six speaker models in the last three years, for example, and has introduced products like 2019’s Axi2050 wideband compression driver after years of investment in research, development and technology. At the same time, it has steadily expanded its digital portfolio of guitar speakers as impulse responses—downloadable software that closely emulates speaker tone. “Our movement into the digital domain is the perfect example of the company’s constant innovation,” comments sales director Andy Farrow. “Celestion is a 95-year-old speaker manufacturer with a long, rich heritage—and we are now making software! It amply demonstrates that we are ever-changing to adapt to new marketplaces and develop future technologies.”

Back on this side of the pond, Chris Countryman, president of Countryman Associates, notes, “Last year was very big for Countryman Associates. In addition to ramping up production of our H7 Headset and A3 Halo Podium Microphones, we have just about doubled our engineering staff. The energy is fantastic, and we are pursuing a wide variety of projects across the whole product line in the new year.” Case in point: Countryman Associates just introduced the portable Countryman Phantom Power Supply at the NAMM Show in January.

Some companies have feet firmly planted on both sides of the Atlantic, like DAS Audio. “The year 2020 represents a milestone for DAS Audio of America, as we are celebrating our 25th anniversary. As part of this milestone occasion, we are introducing several products that we believe will be well received by the target markets,” says Jaime Villegas, general manager of DAS Audio of America. DAS kicked off 2020 by introducing two lines at NAMM: E11even Sound for the club world and the DAS Icon Series for the line array market. Villegas adds, “Equally notable, our parent company, DAS Audio Group of Valencia, Spain, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, and as part of that, we expect to bring several more important product introductions to market.”

D.A.S. Hits the Gym, Feb 21, 2019

Another European pro audio manufacturer with a global footprint is DPA Microphones, which was busy in 2019 as it unveiled three major products over the course of the year: the 2028 Vocal Microphone, 4097 Choir Microphone and 4560 Binaural Microphone. “We look forward to seeing the true impact of these products as they get into the hands of more and more customers,” says Jarrod Renaud, marketing and communications manager, USA. “As a solutions-oriented company, DPA continually strives to develop products that fill a need in any of its wide array of markets, and in 2020, we look forward to unveiling even more groundbreaking microphones and accessories.”

Sometimes a new year provides an opportunity to shake things up a bit, and that’s what Earthworks Audio plans to do. “Everyone knows Earthworks Audio for our measurement microphones, but only a handful of artists and engineers know just how great our mics sound during live performances … but that’s about to change,” says chief operating officer Gareth Krausser. NAMM saw the company introduce wireless capsules for its SR314 vocal microphone and debut the Gravity Series, an entirely new line of instrument-mounted mics. “We’ve mastered the polar pattern and that we own the time domain,” says Krausser. He adds, “2020 will be the year that you see Earthworks everywhere.”

Eventide has spent much of the last few years bringing new features and added value to flagship products, and 2019 was no exception. “The H9000 has proven that hardware has a place in modern production workflows driven increasingly by plug-in tools,” says Eventide president Tony Agnello. Built on an ARM-based, future-ready platform, the H9000 multi-effects audio processor is the latest generation of Eventide’s Harmonizer series, and its little brother, the H9, leverages similar technology for the EFX pedal market. Eventide jumped feet-first into a busy 2020 at NAMM by introducing a full Pro Tools interface and interoperability for the H9000, and giving the H9 its 52nd algorithm, TriceraChorus.

Real-World Review: Eventide Instant Phaser and Instant Flanger MkII, by Mike Dwyer, Nov. 18, 2019

Orleans, France-based FLUX::Immersive may be 20 years old, but 2019 was a year that saw the plug-in and immersive audio software developer lay the groundwork for the years ahead. Unifying its branding under the FLUX name, it found new partners for its software engineering and technology divisions, founded FLUX::Immersive Consulting Group in Montreal, Canada, and saw its immersive Spat Revolution software used for a number of high-profile projects. “We see 2020 as the year where Spat Revolution will step it up in live production workflow,” says Hugo Larin, director of business development. “We’ll be introducing our new Waves Field Spatialization synthesis, giving more studios and creatives the opportunity to adopt the Spat Revolution environment for creation of immersive content.”

For Genelec, says Will Eggleston, Genelec USA marketing director, “2019 was a year that benefited from the product advancements announced in 2018—specifically the S360A Main Monitor and the accompanying large, 3×15” 7382 subwoofer.” Along with its The Ones series of coaxial 3-way monitors, the new products were part of numerous immersive audio installations in 2019, both corporate and independent, that used the brand’s offerings. “2020 will continue in this direction,” says Eggleston, “but another technology recently introduced will address another rapidly growing market. Genelec Smart IP products introduced in 2019 will answer the market needs for customers in the fixed install business. Businesses like museums, restaurants, and health and fitness centers are all riding the digital wave and are looking to improve the quality of audio for their clients. Smart IP incorporates PoE (Power over Ethernet), Audio over IP, and Control in a single cable interface. Smart IP makes installation vastly simplified and improves the quality of audio for this ever-evolving market sector.”

Mercer Music at Capricorn: Revitalizing a Studio for the Next Generation, by Steve Harvey, Feb. 7, 2020

When it comes to its products being used to create high-profile entertainment, Lectrosonics’ 2019 was big, as its RF gear was used on films like Ford v. Ferrari and Breaking Bad: The Movie; Broadway and touring theater shows such as Frozen, The Lion King and Beetlejuice; TV shows like Netflix’s Lost in Space; videogame titles like Gears of War; and even concert tours by members of Whitesnake, Great White and Pink’s backing band. Product-wise, the year was just as solid, with the introductions of the D Squared digital wireless microphone system and the DCHT portable digital stereo transmitter, signaling the company’s shift to digital wireless, even as products like D Squared remain backward compatible with its Academy Award-winning Digital Hybrid Wireless systems. For 2020, the company plans more expansion into digital for all its products.

Things moved quickly last year for Metric Halo, from deploying its new MHLink technology to receiving a TEC Award nomination for its ULN-8/3d product, to shipping its 3d hardware and upgrades. The 3d units were used for recording everything from massive festivals in Thailand to George Clooney’s Catch-22 on Hulu, and the Metric Halo Production Bundle was used on recordings by the likes of Ariana Grande and Leslie Odom, Jr. B.J. Buchalter, vice president of R&D, reports, “Over the course of 2020, we will deliver new products built on the rock solid 3d platform—new EdgeCards, new drivers for Windows, new processing and some other new stuff that we can’t talk about yet. It is a really exciting time to be a Metric Halo user.”

Dusty Wakeman, president of Mojave Audio, notes that “2019 was very productive for Mojave Audio,” citing strong sales and the addition of industry veteran Colin Leibich as a new partner. Since Leibich started working with Mojave in September, he’s focused on the company’s marketing, sales initiatives, social media functions, trade shows and other events. Wakeman explains, “As a new partner, Colin brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective that we expect will enable Mojave Audio to find new opportunities and elevate its position within the industry.”

Review: Mojave MA-1000 Large-Diaphragm Tube Condenser Microphone, by Russ Long, June 4, 2018

Back in 1999, some predicted the end of the world, but for MXL Microphones, it was just the beginning. Of course, that means the company celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, marking two decades of bringing microphone technology to studio audio and AV/UCC markets worldwide, and it’s still looking ahead. “In 2020, MXL is excited to embark on a fresh decade with new offerings tailored to the latest trends in UCC, networked audio and recording studios, while addressing emerging opportunities in telemedicine, automated systems and more,” says Trevor Fedele, sales director, MXL Microphones. What’s more, the company kicked off the new decade at NAMM by introducing the new MXL Revelation II tube microphone.

New offerings are in the works at NUGEN Audio, according to CEO Paul Tapper: “We have a groundbreaking new plug-in scheduled for release later in 2020 [that] will use a patented, unique technology to revolutionize a common audio process—more to come on that later in the year.” That news comes on the heels of a successful 2019, which saw the company’s Loudness Toolkit accepted into Netflix’s exclusive Post Technology Alliance. “We also saw an enthusiastic uptick in the number of Loudness Toolkit users, as well as for our surround upmixing plug-in, Halo Upmix. Both help post facilities to deliver pristine Dolby Atmos mixes,” notes Tapper.

View from the Top; Paul Tapper, NUGEN Audio, by Clive Young, July 29, 2019

For PMC Speakers, some of 2019’s highlights involved seeing its monitors installed in Dolby Atmos-certified facilities like Universal Music in Nashville, MSM Studios in Munich and Kraftwerk’s Kling Klang Studio in Dusseldorf, Germany. The year’s highpoint, however, was getting the Miles Davis Estate’s permission to create Atmos mixes of the classic Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain albums, says marketing manager Keith Tonge: “The material was engineered and produced at Capitol Studios by PMC’s Maurice Patist, Grammy Award-winning engineer David Rideau and senior engineer Steve Genewick. Miles Davis’ nephew, Vince Wilburn, unveiled the final mixes in our Dolby Atmos demo room at the High End Show in Munich, where they went down a storm with the audiophile community. We were so proud to be involved in that project and are looking forward to many more high-profile collaborations in 2020.”

Royer Labs has been undergoing considerable changes in recent times and has more ahead, according to president Rick Perrotta: “After over twenty years of focusing solely on world-class ribbon microphones, Royer Labs is expanding its product line to include products like the new dBooster in-line signal booster, and Custom Shop items like EMT reverb plate replacement magnet assemblies and auto-silencing guitar cables.” With that underway, there’s more intriguing changes ahead; co-founder/VP of sales and marketing John Jennings shares, “In 2020, Royer is expanding its shop and tapping into our extensive experience with ribbon microphones to offer re-ribboning and repairs to ribbon microphones made by other manufacturers—RCA, classic Shure mics and so on. This is a natural evolution for Royer, and the company plans on offering more exciting and diverse products and services in the future.”

Review: Royer AxeMount Dual Microphone Clip, by Russ Long, Dec. 2, 2019

Belgium-based Televic spent 2019 launching five offices in the United States, including Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Detroit and Washington, D.C. Their remit is to help the company expand its presence in North America’s Delegate and Discussion Microphone market. Dan Mitchell, business development, Televic North America, shares, “In 2020, Televic will be expanding beyond traditional audio delegate microphones to include HD video and audio through a single Cat 5/6 cable via Dante, with extensive API support for vertical markets, including corporate, education, hospitality and government. Also in 2020, our new Confidea Flex will provide a streamlined solution with easy upgrade paths for any industry—a single hardware SKU for design, with a one-time license fee to add advanced features without costly hardware changes.”

Lastly—alphabetically, at least—Waves had a busy 2019 and is already unveiling products at a furious rate in 2020. Last year saw the company release notable plug-ins such as its Abbey Road Studio 3; the CLA MixHub; and a trio of distortion plug-ins in the Abbey Road Saturator, Berzerk and MDMX Distortion Modules. Meanwhile on the live side, it debuted its Axis One and Axis Proton computers; the MyMon Personal Mixing APP; and SuperRack for live plug-in processing. In 2020, the company has already released FIT, an intuitive control surface for the eMotion LV1 mixer, and native processing support for Waves SuperRack and OVox, a voice-controlled synthesizer and vocal effects processor. In fact, the company hints, it will spend much of 2020 “predominantly concentrating on catering to the AV market via our unique SoundGrid technology.”