New Group for Audio-Console R&D May Deepen Connectivity

Last week’s announcement that three UK audio-console manufacturers have formed a professional group pooling their R&D capabilities also stressed that each of the three would maintain its distinct brand identity. However, that will not necessarily preclude their implementing some level of cross-platform capabilities. Although DiGiCo, Allen & Heath, and Calrec plan to remain individual brands, they have the potential to develop audio- and data-signal connectivity between them, according to DiGiCo Managing Director James Gordon.

“It would make sense to have enhanced inter-console–connection capabilities; that would definitely be a benefit,” he says, noting Calrec’s Hydra networking protocol and DiGiCo’s various networking interfaces, such as Optocore. In addition, all three brands have licenses to employ the Dante digital networking system.

Gordon, who has also been named group CEO for the joint venture, points out that Calrec and DiGiCo consoles are often used together for broadcasting at major sports events. He cites Wimbledon and X Games as instances when Calrec Apollo desks have been used for the main broadcast feeds while DiGiCo SD9 and SD10 mixers handle submixes, such as effects audio, or mix the audio feed from secondary locations on event campuses.

“That would have very beneficial implications for the workflow of customers who use both kinds of consoles,” Gordon says.

He adds that he does not expect any conflict between the brands when it comes to sharing technology developments. In fact, the pooling of certain resources will be a familiar process for some of the companies. Under the aegis of D&M Holdings and Electra Partners, respectively the previous and current owners of Allen & Heath and Calrec, the two console manufacturers operated as sister companies, sharing some R&D activities. (ISIS Equity Partners maintains a controlling interest in DiGiCo, along with previous owner Matrix Private Equity Partners.) In addition, several major broadcasting companies use more than one of the brands. NEP, for example, deploys both Calrec and DiGiCo broadcast consoles.

“What we’ve really created here,” says Gordon, “is the world’s largest console-research and -development team in the world.”

He notes that DiGiCo, which makes consoles for both broadcast and live-sound markets, can act as a “bridge brand” between Calrec’s specialty of high-end broadcast products and Allen & Heath’s mid-market target of live and installed sound applications.

However, he stresses, each company’s sales staff will remain focused on its own brands and products, and a cross-sales strategy is not being implemented. “We’re not going to centralize sales, but it’s up to us to make the connectivity [between the brands] so compelling that the customer will want it.”