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Simon Jones: outcome-driven innovation at Line 6

Paul Watson catches up at NAMM with Line 6's vice president of new market development Simon Jones to discuss the manufacturer's expanding digital wireless system and the new potentially game-changing StageScape and StageSource products…

Almost two years after the release of Line 6’s digital wireless microphone system, company vice president of new market development Simon Jones talks to Paul Watson about the manufacturer’s latest pro-audio offering, StageScape and StageSource; and how its digital mic range is continuing to evolve…

I last spoke to Marcus [Ryle, company founder] at ProLight + Sound 2010, where he told me he had a definite pro-audio ‘vision’ for Line 6. The company has already come a long way since then in the sector; is this where you expected to be at this stage, or have you surprised even yourselves?

That’s a fairly big question [Smiles]. We’re quite pleased with our growth in the category. Fundamentally we’re an innovation driven company and that pushes us forward. In a short amount of time we have accomplished quite a lot in the digital wireless space. That said, I think we have only just begun to realise the potential of our technology platform, and moving forward we’re going to continue to aggressively seek new market opportunities.

You’ve already expanded your customer base, and there’s a brand new addition to the digital mic range, the XD-V75…

Yes. As you know, microphones was the first thing out of the gate; and we launched the digital range 18 months ago. Feedback from the customers since then has enabled us to continually evolve our offering and launch the XD-V75, XD-V55, and XD-V35 systems, so we are definitely progressing, and we want to continue to make better solutions.

And what does the XD-V75 bring to the table?

Well, all our systems are naturally encrypted, but the 75 also has an extra layer of encryption, for applications such as corporate presentations; and there is a wireless environment scanner on each of the 75’s 14 channels. In all there a number of features designed to assist the professional user in managing and optimising operation and multi-unit system designs.

It must be encouraging to see major manufacturers showing interest in your digital transmitters for their efficiency and affordability…

Yes, absolutely. Since the initial launch, very well known microphone companies that don’t have their own wireless solutions have approached us. The extended frequency and wide dynamic range of our digital wireless platforms allows third party microphone capsules to realise their full range of sound. Also, engineers become used to certain capsules, and fortunately we have a standard on our transmitters which means they can actually use their favourite mics and also benefit from our transmission quality, of course.

Let’s look at the new products you’ve introduced at NAMM; they look like opening a totally new door for you…

That’s right. The initial idea came to us because we knew as a music technology company that we could apply technology to a broader range of specific customers, so we asked ourselves the question: “what are the needs of the performers that are not yet being met?” And we researched any sort of angle or channel to find out the answer.

And what were the results?

Oh, an absolute litany of things such as feedback, the fact artists regularly can’t hear themselves in the monitors well enough, too much hum on channels, non-efficient cabling, not being able to plug the right cable in the right place – loads of this kind of stuff.

If you actually went to a customer and asked: ‘how would you design a mixer differently?’ or ‘what’s missing from a mixer?’ then you wouldn’t really get to the essence of the problems that we we’re trying to solve. It was really outcome-driven innovation; that’s what the technique’s called – listening to the customer and learning about the specific outcomes they’re trying to obtain, which in the case of a performer are primarily emotionally based.

And this ultimately led you to your new Stage products, right?

Yes. It’s about reducing the friction of operation, and our customers are performers and musicians, so whether it’s a guitar tone or a sonic live presentation, they know they want good sound; but their main priority is performance – and to perform well, to capture it and make a great recording. These products are designed to give control to the band – the interface of our StageScape M20d mixer is a touchscreen and it’s very intuitive and simple to use. It also uses recognisable icons such as mics, guitars and drum kits, rather than knobs and faders, which we believe is part of its appeal; and it’s got dedicated DSP audio processing for each of its icons, our metaphor for channels.

We’re hitting brand new product categories that we haven’t been in before. All of our products share a theme; it’s all about digital innovation.

In addition to our mixer entry we feel with our StageSource loudspeaker, we’ve managed to provide something that has enough musicality for an intimate environment, from a one-speaker system if required, all the way up to a 10,000-watt FOH rig, solving a fundamental issue. As there’s little emotion in buying a loudspeaker, the selection comes down to: ‘will it serve the purpose and be a good investment for my current and future gigs?’ 

This sounds fairly revolutionary…

Well, we now we have mixers and speakers that integrate and operate seamlessly in their own digitally connected Line 6 LINK ecosystem, but it’s important to remember that these are standalone products – we don’t want people to think there is an inter-dependency with the two. However the meta value is huge using them together: simple set-up, scalability and control. Bringing control of the mix and live performance to an artist is all about the emotional attachment and delivering an emotional experience to the audience.