With news of Yamaha Corporation’s offer to acquire Nexo making headlines throughout the industry, we visit Paris to find out more about one of the most successful loudspeaker manufacturers in the world.
In the competitive world of high-end sound reinforcement systems, European manufacturers give the big American names a run for their money, and at the moment few brands are being spoken of quite as much as Nexo.
Not only is the French manufacturer renowned for maintaining its place at the top of the batting order for more than 25 years, but its current distinction as the focus of a takeover bid by Yamaha Corporation is only adding to its newsworthiness. So why all the attention?
Nexo has just moved into new headquarters – a wholly-owned campus that now houses the company’s entire manufacturing resources. Located just beyond the suburbs of Paris, the large site is surrounded by open fields in an area widely tipped for big industrial expansion. Nexo owns the campus outright, and the buildings it has erected there are designed to expand and grow in size.
There’s a huge amount of space available to the operation. Francois Deffarges, Nexo’s head of product development, says the company can build whichever way it likes, “including up”. Meanwhile, the fields behind the offices are ideal for testing line arrays in real ‘festival’ conditions. To give you an idea of the space available, consider that within the capacious R&D offices, Nexo is building a lecture theatre. Right next door to its vast anechoic chamber.
With all this evidence of high-level investment in the manufacturing operation, we asked managing director Denis Baudier to give us some insights into Nexo’s current market position.
“Nexo is different to most of its competitors because we launched our first arrayable design for music clubs and theatres, a sector of the market that offered huge potential. To date, this has been proven by the success of the GEO S8 which I believe is the best-selling line array system worldwide. After six years, we are still without true competitors in that particular niche.”
The GEO S8 was the first of Nexo’s GEO family speakers to implement Nexo’s patented GEO Waveguide Technology, a set of patented engineering principles that produce a wide range of waveguides. Where conventional waveguides use boundary walls and, occasionally, phase plugs to control the dispersion of sound, a GEO wavesource uses an acoustic reflector, derived from a rigorous set of geometrical transformations, for this purpose. GEO reflective wavesources are: very accurate, capable of perfect array coupling, very compact, and extremely versatile.
The PS Series, originally released in 1994, includes some of the most successful loudspeaker products in history and still sells well. And Nexo’s Alpha boxes are still a big seller, appealing to a new generation of bands and rental companies because of their phenomenal return on investment. Baudier suggest two more reasons for Alpha’s continued prominence in Pacific Rim territories. “There is absolutely no SPL limitation in Asia, and the Alpha is a powerful speaker, so they can play it as loud as they want!”
In 2005, Yamaha acquired its first shareholding, buying 10.22% of the company. How has Nexo’s relationship with Yamaha evolved in the last three years?
The NXAMP, launched last year, was the first synergy of technologies between the partners, boasting DSP that not only managed the speakers’ system, but also relayed data on how the amplifier was performing. Francois Deffarges calls it “a brilliant example of what Yamaha and Nexo can do by exchanging information.”
But there is a bigger picture, a longer term outlook. Deffarges outlines a digital future. “Since 1999 when we released our first digital controller, the NX241 TDcontroller, we have realized that the digital domain would play an important role in the evolution of the sound reinforcement industry. We quickly understood the benefits of having one box that would have all the presets of our cabinets but we also saw the potential for machine-to-machine communication. We were the first major speaker manufacturer to apply for an EtherSound license. At the time, our only problem was that there were no manufacturers producing EtherSound cards that could go into our controllers. Today we work very closely with companies as Auvitran who allow us to apply the capacities of EtherSound into the sound reinforcement domain with our ES monitor software, that allows us to develop digital networks and analyze the performance of the PA.
“In the past 3-4 years, we have seen a big shift in both the touring and installation market with our end users readily taking advantage of the EtherSound capabilities of our controllers. For large installations such as stadiums, EtherSound is hugely helpful in identifying the performance of the PA installation.”
The congruency between Yamaha desks and NEXO systems is primarily based around NEXO’s EtherSound-enabled digital TDcontrollers.
“Our two current digital controller models, the NX242 and the NXAMPs, allow our end users to connect directly from our digital controllers into Yamaha desks that are EtherSound-enabled. With this technology, we offer them the ability to develop digital networks that give them total control of their amplifiers and speakers. With our new NXAMPs, those end users will be able to analyze, in real time, the performance of their PA equipment from their computer, have device-to-device communication and ring topology. NEXO wants to make the job of sound engineers easier, and we feel that, with the EtherSound protocol, we are providing a platform of control for small and large applications.
“Today we realize that we are only just beginning to exploit the capabilities that the digital domain offers us, and we are really looking forward to the future to see how digital technology can be further implemented and utilized within the sound reinforcement industry.”
It is true to say that, in less than 10 years, line array technology has come to be utilized in an ever broadening scope of applications. Nexo’s product portfolio reflects this in four different generations of GEO products.
Says Deffarges, “today we feel that we are in situation where our GEO family can cover any kind of application that requires a vertical or horizontal array system. One of the keys to its success is the rigging and hardware that is customized to each GEO product. Our rigging and hardware engineers work very closely with our acoustic engineers to develop systems that not only provide a system that is safe to use, but also a rigging system that greatly reduces the amount of time required to hang a system. We put great emphasis on trying to make the rigging and hardware as much as possible a part of the actual cabinet.
“With our 4th generation GEO product, the GEO S12, we have developed a large range of accessories that are predefined for either touring or fixed installations. Which allow the GEO S12 to be used for nearly every application, whether used in stand alone format, vertical line array, or horizontal array. We are currently working hard to make sure that, every time we release a new product, that the actual cabinet is surrounded by a whole system of rigging solutions that permits the cabinet to meets its full potential.”
Nexo’s latest loudspeaker design, the GEO S12, is already on course to be a best-seller for the company, and represents a synthesis of all Nexo’s philosophies of versatility, size and cost. The GEO S1230 and GEO S1210 are the latest additions to the GEO S Series of tangent-array loudspeakers, designed for both fixed and portable installations where high-performance cost-efficient foreground reinforcement is required.
Paired with NEXO’s proprietary design software GEOSoft2, the new building blocks in the scalable GEO S Series offer absolute predictability, and full integration potential with EtherSound networks. Although the new cabinets are aimed principally at the design and installation market – outdoors in stadia and arenas, indoors in nightclubs and live venues – they also offer mobile deployment options to PA companies, opening up new possibilities for the GEO S Series.
The GEO S1230 can be used as a stand-alone cabinet, arrayable horizontally or vertically, a plug-and-play unit of impressive power and outstanding sound quality, backed by a professional’s range of accessories for all applications. Even waterproof versions can be ordered, fully CE compliant. It can be flown, using crossbow flying hardware, and ground-stacked with subwoofers. Rigging options for all fixed and mobile applications will be available. The S1230 is perfect for single box deployment in “distributed” applications, for example near-field foreground music in bars and clubs, or situations where high SPL paging is needed, such as train platforms, heavy-traffic concourses or walkways.
Since its creation in 1979 as a private company by Eric Vincenot and Michael Johnson, NEXO has specialised in the fabrication of professional acoustic speaker systems.
The beginning of the 1980s saw a rapid development of NEXO’s activity.
NEXO recorded its first commercial and technical success, notably at Theatre du Gymnase in Paris for a production by Grand Orchestre du Splendid.
Launch of Integrated System, a compact professional Audio System.
The company rapidly established itself as one of the primary independent professional speaker manufacturing brands in France.
First national tour with CharlElie Couture utilising the Integrated System.
First export success to Italy and Belgium.
First prestigious installation at the Maison de la Culture in Grenoble.
Launch of the PC model line, a middle powered system destined for theatre and conference centre market.
Strong export growth primarily in Europe (Italy & Belgium) and Singapore.
Exports represent more than 50% of the activity.
NEXO acquires its primary supplier, CAB Industrie.
NEXO obtains large contracts in France: Opera de Bastille, Patinoire Olympique de Grenoble and further expands its exports.
Launch of the high-end TS system, a high-powered speaker system, destined for touring market in large venues.
NEXO creates a subsidiary in Singapore, NEXO Far East Pte Ltd, to further expand NEXO’s presence in the Asian market. During this time, NEXO manufactures approximately 1500 speakers per year, primarily its high-end models.
Launch of PS10 speaker, the first product in the PS Series, destined for a wider clientele: theatre, conference centres.
The success of NEXO’s high-end product line further consolidates NEXO’s reputation on the world market.
Successful launch of the PS15 speaker, mid-powered cabinets, that to date is still NEXO’s best selling product.
June 30th NEXO becomes a limited company.
Launch of the Alpha speaker line, replacing the TS models, a high-powered system destined for large applications.
Because of Alpha, NEXO wins a large contract with the number one European rental company: SSE Hire UK.
After a public tender, where NEXO was in direct competition with the biggest speaker manufacturers in the world, the company obtained a contract to equip Le Stade de France with the Alpha system.
For NEXO, these two events represented the most important occurrences during 1996 and 1997.
NEXO created a sales office in the UK under the direction of Michael Johnson.
NEXO experienced a spectacular 78% increase in revenue, manufacturing 8000 speakers per year.
The media success of the 1998 World Football Cup in France further consolidates the NEXO brand around the world and contributes to its sales performance.
In August, NEXO launched the AlphaE system, a system configured at a level below the Alpha line, destined for a larger market that includes activity parks, fixed installations in theatres, and discotheques.
The growth of activity in Europe (Spain, UK, and Germany primarily) permitted NEXO to absorb the decrease in sales in Asia that resulted from the Asian financial crisis.
In October, the NEXO UK office officially becomes a part of NEXO SA/ Limited.
In the second half of the year, the directors of NEXO prepare to open a US subsidiary.
NEXO’s growth further accelerates and NEXO gains some of the top rental companies in HK and Japan as primary clients.
The company creates a distribution subsidiary in the US, NEXO USA Inc. which starts its activities in January. Quickly NEXO USA gains prestigious clients such as THUNDER AUDIO in Detroit, Michigan.
In July, the company launches a digital processor that is destined to replace the analogue speaker processors. That product is the first in a digital product line from NEXO. The digital processor permits NEXO to consolidate its position as one of the technological leaders of the loudspeaker manufacturing industry.
NEXO launches the PS8 speaker, the smallest of the PS Series, intended for the multimedia and AV market with the aim of achieving a larger market share of the sound reinforcement industry.
High market growth in the USA. In September, NEXO is chosen from a group of seven other speaker manufacturers for a PS15 installation in Disney World. The Alpha system develops its market awareness in the USA and, in December, wins the Live Sound for “Arena System of the Year” award.
NEXO becomes a public company with an IPO of 10% of its shares on the Marche Libre of Euronext. The capital raised from the IPO permits NEXO to further continue its development of innovative sound reinforcement products.
Some of the year’s highlights are: a full NEXO installation at the Olympic stadium in Istanbul, the Alpha system gaining renown with the some of the most important rental companies in the States, and the Detroit Symphonic Orchestra equipping itself with an Alpha system.
In March and after three years of research, NEXO presented its GEO line technology at Frankfurt to much acclaim.
Production of the first GEO system started in April with the first demonstration of its performance capabilities at a production of “Cats” in London. In December 2002, the first shipments of GEO T start and its success is immediate.
The GEO T system is very well received around the world with a number of international rock ‘n’ roll tours (Oasis, David Gray, etc) and festivals such as Glastonbury utilizing the system.
In March, Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas equips itself with a large quantity of PS speakers.
NEXO further increases its market share internationally and opens an office in Argentina to oversee sales and technical support in South America, Central America and Mexico.
2004 is a record year in NEXO’s operations with the success of the GEO T system. The GEO T system has made NEXO one of the leading companies in the sound reinforcement industry, especially for large touring applications.
The NEXO distribution network is further expanded internationally, and NEXO opens an office in Asia.
The primary event of the year is the signing of a strategic technological alliance with Yamaha Corporation of Japan. The alliance leads to an accord whereby YCAS becomes NEXO’s exclusive distributor for the USA markets.
NEXO sees its recognition growing with the installation of NEXO systems at Disneyland Paris and in the Stade at Reims in France.
The Yamaha alliance is consolidated by an agreement making YCAS the exclusive distributor of NEXO products in Canada, and NEXO adds to its international network new distributors in India and Bangladesh.
NEXO launches the GEO D system, a mid-range line array system that meets with immediate success on the world market.
2007 has been a busy year for NEXO. The latest product offering from NEXO’s GEO Technology line is the GEO S12 system. The GEO S12 system is revolutionary in the sense that it can be configured in multiple ways, making the system extremely adaptable for touring and installation markets.
In September, NEXO launched two more revolutionary products. NXAMP is the first product offering from NEXO’s strategic alliance with Yamaha. NXAMPs are revolutionary because they use just one DSP to control the digital controller and the amplifier. The amplifiers have been configured to fit perfectly across all of NEXO’s product lines and the 4×4 model is considered to be one of the most powerful amplifiers in the industry.
The third revolutionary product launched in 2007 is NEXO’s patent-pending RAY Sub Technology. The technology is derived from pushing the capabilities of LF control. RAY Subs are the first subwoofers to offer complete LF control and omni directional polar patterns from a single cabinet. First to market is the RS15 subwoofer, comprised of two 15 inch transducers, which provides ample performance for small and medium system configurations.