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Game, set and Match: In conversation with Bose’s Akira Mochimura

Phil Ward talks to the Bose Professional general manager abouts its assault on the summits of live sound

Developed for what is referred to as the fixed installation market, Bose Professional’s RoomMatch and PowerMatch series are part of something new: the blurring of distinctions between ‘fixed’ – permanently installed, basically – and ‘touring’ sound reinforcement. The higher specifications demanded by venues of every type today are creating an entertainment technology landscape in which, put simply, it looks like the rental company has left the PA behind after the gig.

There are even those – Bose’s Akira Mochimura among them – who believe that the optimal installation loudspeaker also represents the best that touring can get, if it meets all the requirements of consistency and trustworthiness longed for by the live community. RoomMatch, as the name suggests, posits the notion that fixed installation speakers need to be as adaptive to their surroundings as anything more portable and, once they are, are a priori suited to a life on the road. So in the end the only distinction is, literally: some stay put; some get shifted.

The other obfuscation is that prestigious venues of the ‘bow tie’ fraternity like a bit of very high end these days, as long as it’s tucked as far away as acoustically possible from the suspicious minds of the organic classes. These places are the natural hunting ground of the finest brands in the business, especially if those brands were borne of rock ’n’ roll and have something to prove beyond a business haircut. But they’re also perfect for Bose, especially in Europe where heritage has a longer beard.

Perfect, that is, if it weren’t for the fact that those other brands got there first. “Almost everybody we demo RoomMatch to, and PowerMatch, recognises the technical advantages they provide,” Mochimaru says. “We have no difficulty in convincing people of their performance potential. But when it comes to switching from one brand to another, we find that they already have a product that they feel comfortable with. They’ll have been using it for many years, and will have almost no issues with it. At first sight, it seems like there’s no reason to change.

“Having said that, some people are investigating the technical advantages of RoomMatch in more detail, and are finding some things that nobody else can offer: for example, the consistent tonality within the coverage, enabled by such precise coverage control. The Boston Opera House really appreciates this feature – they heard about RoomMatch and the production manager came to Bose. What impressed him most was the level of configurability that other line arrays just can’t achieve, and since he was quite close to closing a deal on a different system, he organised a kind of shoot-out at the Opera: over several months, he trialled first one system, then the other, inviting all his production colleagues and contacts from as far afield as Broadway. He also hired an acoustic consultant, in the interests of objectivity.

“He used the other system for three months, on real shows, and then asked us to install RoomMatch, which he used for another three months – asking the same people, and the same consultant, to make their appraisals. As a result of all this, I’m very pleased to say, Boston Opera House is now using RoomMatch. Looking back, it was a very clever way of eliminating any resistance from visiting productions before actually installing the system permanently, especially considering that very few Broadway producers and engineers have heard of Bose in this context.”

It’s been a long time coming. Mochimaru has been discussing high-end sound reinforcement with colleagues for nearly 20 years, and it’s 30 years since Bose first proposed Modeler, its acoustic modelling software package. Of course, the company has been busy establishing a commanding consumer empire, while at the same time siphoning a lot its electro-acoustic expertise into well-meaning educational and joint-development spin-offs. The fruition of complete, branded products for the open professional market has had to wait until Mochimaru was able to find a window of opportunity to project-manage his way onto this playing field but, with the stars aligning as stars do, live sound has ripened perfectly in the meantime to welcome him.

“We’re inviting many high-end system integrators, audio consultants and FOH engineers to our headquarters here in Framingham, Massachusetts,” Mochimaru continues, “because the only way to really convince people is with a full demo and a face-to-face conversation. We’ve been very proactive in that direction. Last year, for example, I think we invited a minimum of six large groups from around the world, on different occasions. They came from Germany, France, Japan, the US… you name it. We’re doing it country by country; I don’t think it’s appropriate to mix groups together when they’re spending two or three days at the HQ, visiting Boston Opera and enjoying the whole experience.”

One such beneficiary of this hospitality was Archie McIntosh, Mama Group’s property director, responsible for The Forum in London’s Kentish Town, among other venues. As mid-range rock ’n’ roll credentials go, they don’t come much more impeccable than this. Bose Professional’s team in the UK was instrumental in wooing McIntosh to one of these Boston beanos and, whatever his bar bill, it was worth every cent: RoomMatch is now permanently installed at The Forum.

“We’re also leveraging the people who are advocating us, whose influence really matters,” adds Mochimaru. “Archie was neutral when he came, but after two days he was completely convinced and very comfortable about spreading the word. The other main target is live performance events where we can showcase the products: the US rock band Foreigner was using our L1 system for acoustic gigs, so we invited and ‘demoed’ the FOH team. They then used RoomMatch for two nights at a 1,000-seater in Atlantic City, even though RoomMatch is not designed for rock touring, and were very happy.”
So be careful if you accept an invitation from Bose to Boston. You might just have to let that perfectly good house system go.