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JBL’s Paul Bauman talks V20, EON and, er, The Dik Van Dykes

PSNEurope talks to Paul Bauman, the JBL tour sound director who has opened for the Ramones...

Canadian Paul Bauman is now associate director, tour sound, at JBL Professional. With both Ayrshire and Yorkshire grandparents, and a home in Switzerland, Bauman is naturally attuned to the European psyche and was the perfect candidate to head up L-Acoustics’ technical support from 1998 to 2006. This followed stints with rental mainstay Maryland Sound and with Adamson, after a distinguished academic career in Sweden and Ontario.

His sound design credits range from Rock in Rio and Mamma Mia to David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel and, as if that wasn’t credibility enough, he is also the bass player in veteran Ontario punk darlings The Dik Van Dykes. He’s been directly involved with many of the most prestigious VerTec installations including LA’s Staples Centre and Walt Disney Concert Hall, and contributes regularly to AES committees and documentation. This summer he was in London to support Sound Technology’s rollout of the new JBL VTX V20 line array, in the European leg of a typically exhaustive programme…

V20 was unveiled at NAMM: how long do you spend on the road after such a big statement?
I’m not constantly on the road; I have to stay close to base to work on new product development, so I have to try and find the right balance between travel and Northridge. We have dedicated teams for launches and training in the US, EMEA and Asia, but I love to get out and meet old friends. I always collect new ideas and gain inspiration – on everything from new products to accessories and packaging.

What new ideas does V20 bring?
V20 features the same technology and performance of the V25, but in a smaller format, high power density 3-way system – complemented by a new suspension system that provides efficient transport, fast setup and precise configuration. Many people are just as excited by the rigging system as they are by the sound quality and output capacity of V20. The horizontal pattern control is extremely stable and results show accurate coverage and exceptional stereo imaging. Effective line source array coupling has been achieved in the vertical plane from 0°–12.5° degrees and V20 delivers linear, transparent sound up to surprisingly high output levels for its compact size. The key differentiating feature is a new small format version of the patented, D2 Dual Diaphragm Dual Voice Coil High Frequency (HF) compression driver.

Prior to this, what was JBL’s biggest single contribution?
There have been too many legendary product developments throughout JBL’s long history to make that possible to choose. Historically, JBL has had a huge impact in cinema and studios, both recording and broadcast, but if I had to pick one thing it would probably have to be EON for it’s groundbreaking technology when it was first released and the sheer number of EON speakers that have been shipped since its introduction – over one million and counting.

As a bass player, did the being-in-a-band thing lure you into pro audio?
Actually I came at it from the technician’s side. After graduating in Physics I felt I knew a lot about nothing in particular, so to be marketable I needed to specialise in something. I found a university with strong audio and electro-acoustics programmes; it was 1983, right when compact disc and digital audio were new; and I enrolled for a Master’s Degree and did thesis work on loudspeaker measurement and DSP techniques to remove reflections. My professor, Stanley Lipshitz, was a chamber music buff and recorded a lot of recitals that were then broadcast on campus radio, so I got very involved in all those processes. Of course I loved the excitement of live shows too so, on my own, I started recording punk bands!

Did that include The Dik Van Dykes?
Certainly: they were local to the University and my recording of one concert became a cult hit. We then recorded in Hamilton and, as they toured Canada, I stepped into the FOH shoes. When the bass player quit I was offered that job too, although I didn’t really know what to do. They just said, “learn every Ramones song, then learn ours”. Both of the albums we made reached number one on the Canadian campus charts, I’m glad to say – and opening for The Ramones three nights in a row was definitely a highlight.

Why manufacturing?
After getting to know him through the Toronto AES chapter, Brock Adamson called me up at the University and asked where he could find someone for some new research – and I said, “you’re talking to him”. We applied for a research grant from the Canadian Government and got funding to develop a digital crossover for a new-generation system. It was ambitious, and I eventually became chief engineer. I then gained rental experience at Maryland Sound [MSI], working shows, although my main mandate was still speaker design: it was before the transition from proprietary boxes to off-the-shelf factory systems. MSI was old school: a lot of heritage and the perfect grounding for understanding what touring companies really need.

Who sticks out as a defining customer from those days?
I would say Neil Young, especially as – oddly enough! – around the time I went from MSI to L-Acoustics was the time that Neil changed to V-DOSC. Pure coincidence, obviously…

There’s a recent Dik Van Dykes reunion concert on YouTube: could this be a threat to JBL’s product development?
Our lead singer told the audience: ‘We’re too old to be doing this and you *****s need to listen to some better music…’ So no, I don’t think so.