A day at d&b audiotechnik

Asides from the bright lights and bustling convention centres, our travels sometimes take us a bit further off the beaten track. But to be honest, these efforts completely dissolve into the background when there are such opportunities to meet with those who, like us, continue to follow a passion for all things sound.

In Backnang, a small town just a few kilometres from Stuttgart, lies the headquarters of d&b audiotechnik, one of the world’s most important and long-lived audio companies. Born in the early 1980’s, the idea was the birth-child of two sound engineers, both with the goal of “creating reliable products which reproduce the highest sound quality possible”.

d&b audiotechnik HQ Visit LightSoundJournal

With a fundamental idea clear from the beginning, the two engineers began to produce diffusion systems and amplifiers. They believed that in order to achieve optimum performance, all the components needed to work together harmoniously; a prerogative that d&b still holds today. Over the years the company has grown exponentially, and today it has a staff of around 450, with offices located all over the world.

Our visit, which we must mention was impeccably organised, was coordinated by Uwe Horn – Public Relations Manager. After greeting us upon arrival, Uwe entrusted us to Bella Staiber, Marketing Coordinator of d&b, who introduced us to some of the departments and facilities within the company (even letting us in on some secrets…) in order to carefully explain the entire production process. Soon after, it was time for an interview two key figures within the company: CEO Amnon Harman and Chief Marketing Officer David Claringbold.

d&b audiotechnik HQ Visit LightSoundJournal

The tour within the production chain – which occupies a series of characteristic red brick buildings – confirmed and strengthened a belief that we have long held for the company. This is a team that put efficiency and reliability above all else. If we had to find a keyword to describe the production chain, we could use “control”. Right through the process, from single cable to finished cabinet, everything is meticulously controlled, and the results are always of top accuracy. This goes hand in hand with Mr Harman’s conviction that “not having to spend too many resources or too much energy in repairing defective products is a result of optimising costs and economies of scale.”

Presented below is our interview with CEO Amnon Harman, who talked with us for almost two hours explaining the fundamental philosophy of d&b audiotechnik.

d&b audiotechnik HQ Visit LightSoundJournal

d&b audiotechnik CEO – Amnon Harman

LightSoundJournal: Mr Harman, let’s start with some easy questions. d&b is a company who are famed for the high quality and reliability of the products. What do you think are the aspects that allow you to remain at the very top of this category?

Amnon Harman: It’s actually simpler than you might think! Firstly, we try to offer our customers products that can simplify their job and this is something they appreciate a lot. We therefore create systems that can integrate and work best between one another, even over long periods of time. If a customer plans to change an amplifier, he knows that even with the new model his system will still work perfectly, without losing performance or making any compromises. Conversely, older amplifiers can still drive more recent systems. This allows for there to be a large set of “tools” that are provided by ourselves, and these constitute to what is for us the complete “turnkey” package. Another important aspect is the optimisation of the customer’s workflow which results in a saving in absolute terms and a low total cost of ownership. Take the Array Calc software: it is incredible useful for d&b users to plan and simulate the optimal system configuration in a venue or event location. It saves time and money, because you only configure what you actually need at the venue for the show. We continuously enrich the functionality of ArryCalc and this increases the value of the existing products that the customer has already bought from us.

LightSoundJournal: d&b’s touring systems are objectively some of the most appreciated on the market. In our opinion, in addition to technically sound products with a solid construction, there is also the need for someone who knows how to use the product properly. What strategies do you adopt to approach this?

Amnon Harman: We ensure that our clients are always appropriately trained. We have a team of technicians who arrange training that can be booked for free on our website. Our engineers don’t only teach how to use our products, but they also provide the basics of acoustics for those who are not so experienced in these matters. In more specific courses, however, we go into greater details on specific topics – for example, how to transport and rig the systems, how to set them up and how to optimise them. We spend a lot of time and money on this, but we’re very happy about it because every d&b customer is a qualified customer who can theoretically guarantee a high level of performance with the system.

LightSoundJournal: It can also be said that your products are amongst the most expensive on the market…

Amnon Harman: Yes, this is probably true, and we are very aware of this. However for us, quality is not just about the end product, but everything around it, starting from the software design, right through to customer service. As I said before, we provide a truly complete package. This means that the initial purchase outlay from the customer is probably repaid in not much time at all, saving on other costly aspects over time.

LightSoundJournal: NoizCalc has been very successful within the industry, Can you tell us more about this software?

Amnon Harman: NoizCalc is one of our newer enabling technologies. It was designed to simulate the sound emission in an highly accurate way. The software helps rental companies to plan large open air events and to make sure the sound emission stays into strictly defined limits. It takes data from the ArrayCalc simulation software in order to help simulate the far field noise emissions from one or more d&b loudspeaker systems. Estimates of the levels are made according to international standards. This allows our customers to save in both time and effort. It’s a product that immediately reflects our philosophy because it has been specially designed to improve our customers’ workflow and optimise their time-management.

LightSoundJournal: Another product called The d&b Soundscape just appeared on the market recently. Can you please tell us a bit more about this?

Amnon Harman: We’ve been presenting it around the world for some time now, although it is not officially launched yet. The d&b Soundscape is an audio matrix that allows you to enable 3D spatial placement. The software will operate on our new DS100 platform and will allow sound designers to have multidimensional sources, simulate acoustics in the environment, and process the signal matrix. All this translates into the ability to create a new experience for the audience, and we are convinced it will be something that will become more and more vital to users in the years to come. It’s a product that has pushed us more and more into the field of artistic sound design. The official launch is scheduled for February 2018, but we have the first installations in place already. I can tell you that so far this project has received a great deal of interest, not only from our customers, but also from the very creative side of the business that is experimenting with new concepts to excite their audience.

LightSoundJournal: Lastly Mr Harman, can tell us something about your international business activities, including those in China and the East. Are there other demographic areas in which are you expanding?

Amnon Harman: The Asian market accounts for around 20% of our activity and is continuously growing. More than 10 years ago we opened our first office in Japan, a real special market in Asia from many dimensions. I don’t want to define it as “isolated”, but it is certainly autonomous and very large. In early 2016, we also opened a new office in Singapore, which will be our headquarters for Asia. From there we will support our customer base in Asia and drive further growth. The other constant growth market for us are the Americas. We intend to grow our team and create more opportunites for interaction with new customers. We definitely are still in the take-off phase in this large market

After talking to Mr. Harman, we met with chief marketing officer David Claringbold, who provided us with a clear and consistent overview about what is to be the d&b audiotechnik brand.

d&b audiotechnik Chief Marketing Officer – David Claringbold

LightSoundJournal: In its history d&b has always taken care of its image and brand. Why do you think it is crucial to attribute such importance to these factors in addition to the products themselves?

David Claringbold: Corporate image and brand represent every element of a company’s services, personality and philosophy. What differentiates us from the market is that while we create a “focus” around the products engineering and workflow, we have combined this with also being a fun company in the way we have marketed ourselves. This is why we have been able to keep many loyal customers over the years. There is always a lot of curiosity about us and this combination of factors has created a perception of great brand value.

LightSoundJournal: How would you describe yourselves as a company in 4 words?

David Claringbold: Passion, Obsession, Quality and Creativity!

LightSoundJournal: Obsession?

David Claringbold: Absolutely, for attention to detail and for quality control.

d&b audiotechnik HQ Visit LightSoundJournal

LightSoundJournal: Compared with other companies in the industry, it could be said that product releases are less frequent but of greater impact. Is this a particular strategy that you have adopted?

David Claringbold: No, it’s the result of our philosophy. We create products that work on the same platform and don’t have short life cycles, but instead can even reach up to 20 years of service. This gives value and affection to our operation and to our brand. When we develop a new product, we try to understand what is needed from all of our customers for both that moment and in the future. We also test our systems for a long time – more or less secretly – before launching them officially. All this clearly requires time.

LightSoundJournal: The world of audio seems to have remained very static recently, with few real novelties released. What do you think that the future will hold?

David Claringbold: I came into this world as a sound engineer, and many of the technologies that I used then are the same ones we have now, they are just far more sophisticated these days. That said I believe we are at the beginning of an era in audio where the experience of sound will become a key value proposition for events and venues. Products like our soon to be released d&b Soundscape have the power to take away the “intrusion” of sound systems in performances and connect the audience with the artist in a way that is far beyond our present capabilities. This will open up infinite possibilities for sound reinforcement, artists, venues and even commercial brands to leverage sound as a part of how they customize the audience experience and connection. I won’t hide that I was very skeptical in the beginning, however, once I’d heard it in action, the feeling was as if the audio system had disappeared and yet the audio illusion it created was astonishing. With the d&b Soundscape the audience will have the opportunity to go beyond listening.

LightSoundJournal: I wonder if it will be easy to convince Sound Engineers to use this technology, considering that we have grown up and work with stereophony.

David Claringbold: In some ways it won’t be easy, but it is something that can be done by simply introducing people to it by listening to it. We are talking more on an artistic level than just a technical one, and this is the substantial difference…

Info: www.dbaudio.com

Alex Esposto
Aldo Chiappini


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