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NAMM Refines Its Pro Audio Experience

By Steve Harvey. The 2018 NAMM Show introduction of its new pro audio wing was a hit, but there was room for improvement. A year later, new tweaks are in place.

Anaheim, CA (January 25, 2019)—The Anaheim Convention Center (ACC) opened its ACC North Hall just a few months ahead of last year’s NAMM Show, enabling the convention to group most pro audio equipment brands together, away from the noisy all-star jams and packed aisles of the halls dedicated to musical instruments. The move was not without its growing pains, however—not least the long security lines at the entrance to the new hall.

The NAMM Show is ever-evolving, as any longtime exhibitor or attendee can attest. When this writer first visited, in 1989, large areas of the show floor were covered in grandfather clocks and grand pianos, and pro audio booths were few and far between. And as NAMM president and CEO Joe Lamond recently told Daniel Gumble, editor of PSNEurope, “If we were to rewind to 1960, you would find two-thirds of the show floor featuring console television sets and radios. How crazy is that to imagine?”

Happily, NAMM has always been quick to evolve in step with the industry it represents, and to respond promptly to issues such as those patience-testing security lines. The association’s bringing together of music products, pro audio equipment and event technology at the NAMM Show—what Lamond dubs the “crossroads concept”—is an example of that evolution. Crossroads 2.0, as Lamond refers to it, began with the expansion into ACC North for the 2018 show.

“It was a long-sought expansion and could not have come at a better time,” he told Gumble. “We laid out the show floor having never seen the finished building, and we learned a lot about traffic flow and building logistics. This year, our guests will find more exhibits and improved convenience in locating and seeing all of the exhibits.”

“We started in the ACC North Hall last year,” said Ray van Straten, senior director of global marketing for QSC Live Sound. “It’s a great space and very modern. It’s great to have all the sound reinforcement manufacturers together in one place at the NAMM Show.” In addition to showing its range of loudspeaker, amplifier and digital mixing console products, van Straten said, “QSC will be launching a very special worldwide initiative at this year’s show”—an initiative that has turned out to be QSC’s global “Play It Loud” campaign.

Not every pro audio company jumped on the ACC North bandwagon last year, but this time around, several more have gotten on board. Yamaha Commercial Audio, for example, is exhibiting its products in the ACC North Hall for the first time at NAMM 2019. The booth features the company’s Rivage PM, CL and QL digital audio consoles, NEXO speaker systems and Commercial Installation Solutions (CIS) lines. In previous years, Yamaha’s pro audio products were showcased at the Marriott Hotel, where Yamaha continues to occupy a significant amount of space.

According to a statement from Yamaha Corporation of America, “With NAMM’s recent partnership with AES, the show has now become an even larger force in the commercial audio market.”

Yamaha Corp. of America general manager Alan Macpherson added, “The theme is ‘Creating Perfect Systems,’ and this will serve as an aspirational goal for the Yamaha team to exceed our customers’ pro audio system needs in terms of operability, network connectivity, system control and, of course, our legendary sound quality, reliability and support.”

Loudspeaker manufacturer Celestion is staging two booths at this year’s convention, including one in the center of the ACC, where the company exhibited last year. “The NAMM Show has always been about meeting with and talking to our customers in the MI sector, and each year is a successful platform for us to launch our latest guitar or bass speaker products,” said John Paice, marketing/artist relations. New MI product launches include the Celestion Ruby alnico magnet guitar speaker, G10 Creamback and VT Junior guitar speakers, and new Bass Impulse Responses.

Paice continued, “Celestion is also a major player in the development and manufacture of professional audio transducers. Following the successful introduction of the pro audio hall to NAMM 2018, it was important for Celestion to be involved in this. It enables us to continue our conversation with customers and potential customers in the sound reinforcement marketplace. A secondary booth provides us with an exclusively pro audio platform to talk about our latest innovations in this sector, right in the heart of the action.” Celestion’s pro audio product highlights include the Axi2050 axiperiodic wideband compression driver, CDX14-3040 neodymium magnet compression driver and the CDX14-2410 ferrite magnet compression driver.

Lectrosonics didn’t exhibit at NAMM 2018, but vice president of sales and service Karl Winkler visited ACC North, liked what he saw and arranged for the company to exhibit at NAMM 2019. “It’s fantastic that there is a new facility because NAMM had certainly outgrown itself. It was always super hard to get into Hall A, and super competitive to get good positions,” he said. “Having a hall dedicated to pro audio helps to increase the quality of the traffic, if not the traffic itself, so we’re looking forward to exhibiting this year.”

Lectrosonics is using the show to debut its ALP690 UHF log periodic dipole array antenna and the latest firmware release for the Duet2 digital IEM system. Oh, and for those audio pros who pine for the rock star vibe of the main halls, Lectrosonics is offering a busy schedule of appearances by members of classic rock acts including Whitesnake, Great White and Stryper.

While he arranged for Lectrosonics to be part of this year’s convention, Winkler nonetheless had his eyes open when he checked out the new ACC in 2018. “The logistics were a little tough. If you had to go from, say, Hall A or the Hilton to the new hall, it took a while. They had metal detectors and lines of people.” With that in mind, he noted, “You have to plan for it—be ready for the reality of the logistics.”

But as Lamond divulged to Gumble, NAMM organizers learned from last year’s show. While attendees last year had to pass through security to enter the main halls and then pass security again to enter ACC North, the problem has been acknowledged and (potentially) solved for this year’s show. “The security perimeter has been widened … so our guests will be able to move freely between the new ACC North and Halls A and B, which also include many exciting pro audio, lighting, video and event technology exhibits,” Lamond told PSNEurope. “This year’s improvements will really be felt by our guests, and I suspect they will have a really fun and productive time in Anaheim.”

Winkler, like many of his industry colleagues, is participating in various AES@NAMM sessions this year, leading classes on entertainment wireless, offering an update on RF spectrum issues and taking users on a deep dive into Lectrosonics gear alongside Kelly Fair, the company’s western regional technical sales representative.

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Winkler, like many of his industry colleagues, is participating in various AES@NAMM sessions this year, leading classes on entertainment wireless, offering an update on RF spectrum issues and taking users on a deep dive into Lectrosonics gear alongside Kelly Fair, the company’s western regional technical sales representative.

When the AES@NAMM program debuted in 2018 at the Hilton Hotel, Winkler said, attendance could have been better. “I think part of it was logistics and people not being able to find it. If the whole goal is to drive up exposure to AES, get people these resources and, ultimately, recruit people into the AES, then make it easy—and inexpensive.” Winkler reports that AES@NAMM organizers were responsive to his feedback about last year’s events: “I think they’ve made it easier to get in, and they said there would be more notice about the sessions.”