20 YEARS AGO IN THE INDUSTRY
Mar 1, 2003 12:00 PM
Editor's Note: As part of S&VC's 20th anniversary, our “20 Years Ago in the Industry” series continues this month with some perspective from Pat Brown who, along with wife Brenda, operates the well-known Synergetic Audio Concepts seminars. Pat and Brenda are also the editors of the Syn-Aud-Con newsletter and have run the company since taking over from founder Don Davis in 1996.
Q: What do you feel have been the major trends affecting our industry during the past 20 years?
The biggest changes have been in the areas of signal processing and loudspeaker design. The processes themselves are not new, for the most part, but they are now being implemented digitally. This offers an interesting set of advantages and disadvantages for soundpeople. The most notable advantages are lower cost and increased versatility while the most notable disadvantages include complexity and a greater need for users to really understand what they are doing. Loudspeaker innovation runs in cycles. Today we may have better materials and manufacturing processes, but we are basically still pushing air with pistons. Today's loudspeakers perform better than their predecessors because there are more designers who understand the physical principles that were well established before 1950.
Q: What factors have accounted for the changes in the industry?
I believe that the space program gets much of the credit for the digital revolution. The audio industry gets to come along for the ride. Today's typical sound system is an interesting combination of technologies that passed from the space program to the office environment to front-of-house. Some have even wound up in loudspeaker boxes. Today's loudspeaker technologies are essentially improved versions of legacy designs. Much of the credit goes to those who practiced the craft in the '30s and '40s. Today's really good loudspeaker designers have worn out copies of the old books on their shelves. The current generation deserves more credit for implementation than for innovation.
Q: How has Syn-Aud-Con evolved over the years?
Our evolution has closely tracked the changes in technology. We provide compressed courses on subject matter that should be spread over months or even years. Technology has helped us do that. Today's sound contractors have to learn it today and implement it tomorrow. They don't have time to read every textbook out there and figure out how to apply it. We give them a quicker path. While some of what we teach hasn't changed in half a century, the multimedia demonstrations that are currently available help people to get it much faster.
Q: What do you believe the future holds for the systems integration industry?
I would say that the future is bright for those who single themselves out as experts in what they do. This means acquiring the knowledge tools and the test equipment to properly install and troubleshoot technology-based products. The days of winging it are gone. It's not fair to the end-users nor to the audio industry for underqualified companies to get the contracts because of a lower bid. Anyone who has heart surgery expects that the surgeon is competent. The best audio practitioners are those who have a handle on both the art and science of sound system installation. And because competence in audio is not required by law, it is up to the individuals to qualify themselves.
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