There are so many new products screaming "watch me!" that it can be hard to sift through the marketing hype and circus tent chaos.
My goal in going to this trade show was to:
#1 Engage with folks in person that I've only spoken with on the phone or online.
#2 Attend technical classes taught by some exceptional industry professionals.
#3 Check out the new gear available for church tech and professional audio systems.
Well, the show is over, and I can say that I've successfully accomplished all three!
There were two big surprises at this year's show for me
Surprise #1 - New mixing console (it's not what you think...)
Yeah, they're cool. But sometimes the price tag is just not achievable for some churches, or the operational workflow is too complex for the average volunteer.
So, what about quality products at a reasonable price including some really cool features - that AREN'T digital?
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the new Presonus StudioLive AR16 "hybrid" mixing console.
This thing has the look and feel of a traditional analog console - but there are some pretty cool digital features that make this a great board for small churches, youth groups, or even small portable sound systems.
Here are the quick highlights:
- There is a Bluetooth audio channel - so you can pair a smart phone or music playback device directly to the console.
- There is an on-board SD card slot and controls for local stereo recording and playback.
- And maybe the coolest feature (especially if you want to record your worship services) is a full multi-track output via USB. You can connect this to your computer and record ALL input channels from the console as separate tracks! Pretty cool for an analog-type console.
Surprise #2 - "Disruptive Technology" (and the smell of snake oil)
It is common to see a lot of "whiz-bang" gadgetry that will make you do a double-take.
I walked by a booth with an "ion" speaker system. Apparently this device doesn't use a traditional horn or tweeter for high frequency reinforcement. It uses little wire coils, fins, and electric lightning bolts to "charge" the air molecules to create high frequency sound. (It's more of a residential speaker, FYI.)
Hmmm. I'm going to research the technology a little more before casting judgement, but I did catch a slight whiff of snake oil in the air at this booth. Or maybe it was just the ion cloud...
However, there were two other technologies that could be complete "game-changers" for the church audio world.
Tectonic Audio Labs had their Distributed Mode Loudspeakers (or Tectonic Plates) on display and they sounded pretty great. I was impressed by the smooth frequency range reproduction from 600Hz to 7kHz (this range is critical for voice intelligibility and overall audio clarity).
I want to give these another listen in a more critical environment, but the concept is pretty cool, and it really could solve a lot of problems for a number of churches.
And one other piece of tech that seems intriguing is the fully networked audio system that Arria.Live is deploying. These are the guys that have a microphone with a Cat5 jack on the back instead of the traditional XLR.
It's still in "beta", but this could be a viable solution for churches that really want to simplify their live audio production infrastructure, while still having a lot of flexibility in how a system is configured.
I'll have a chance to personally demo and do some case studies on both of the systems just mentioned in the next couple months, so I'll definitely keep you posted!
So, there's my quick update from InfoComm 2016. It was a great show, with some pleasant surprises for my little sound geek self.