PA systems and digitalisation

A look at the market and the future of the industry

Neither the digital transformation nor a global pandemic stop at the PA technology industry. What is the status quo of the industry and what does the future look like? We talk to experienced technical project manager Michael Krebbing about the status quo in the industry.

Hello Mr. Krebbing! In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a call for faster digitalisation went through the world of work. Are analogue solutions in the commercial audio sector slowly becoming obsolete, are digital solutions the new standard?

M. Krebbing, technical project management:

Analogue transmission technology is however far from obsolete, but it is no longer the only option. When it comes to the transmission of audio signals, however, it is becoming ever more common to use a combination of 100-volt technology and IP technology. The output signal is nevertheless always analogue. But IP solutions are far from being the standard in 2020. It is simply normal today that we are familiar with and weigh up both options. I assume that IP technology will become increasingly established over the next 5 - 10 years, also because prices in this segment will continue to fall. And in large projects it also makes sense that the use of technologies like DANTE® is slowly but surely becoming more common.

What large projects are we talking about that make Dante® worthwhile?


These are projects where long cable lengths are to be expected, in other words cable routes of more than 100 metres. This is where the installers can't avoid the use of audio-over-IP solutions. The classic scenario is a company site with several building complexes that require a comprehensive audio connection. Or an existing building where a new building will be added. If the customer wants a PA system but there is no corresponding cable between the buildings, we recommend network cables. Because they are usually available. We connect both buildings with network cables and Dante® converters. Especially for PA systems that span several buildings, it is significantly more cost-effective to transmit the signals via LAN. There is some scepticism about this, but digital technology is simply more cost-effective.

“We live in an age of fibre-optic networks. New buildings already have the IP infrastructure because companies move enormous amounts of data. An audio network is a perfect fit here. That wasn't an option in 2005."

But is DANTE® impractical for small PA application projects?

M. Krebbing:

No, it's not that simple. It can also be useful for small projects. I recently had a doctor's practice that wanted the new audio technology including PA system and music. We suggested Dante® technology to them, which is more expensive than 100-volt solutions. But for a 100-volt solution, we would have had to rip open the walls and the customer didn't want that either.

Then we'll ask the other way around: in which areas is digitalisation of the PA technology unworkable or impractical?


In small shops or for bakeries or small cafés, bistros and restaurants. Generally, any scenario in which the sales rooms are smaller than 200 square metres. As of now, there are simply no practical or economic reasons to rely on IP technology there. This is where the cost effectiveness of 100-volt speakers pays off, not to mention that PA amplifiers now have great features and impeccable sound for a low budget.

Which features are normal today that were perhaps unworkable or very exclusive in 2005?

M. Krebbing:

Cost-effective digital power amplifiers are one thing. Digital transformers on the 100-volt side are also a more recent development. And digital audio transmission is now possible with Dante® with almost no latency. There were already products in this area in 2005, but they all had to contend with higher latency and were not cost-effective.

What are the biggest changes to further development in the PA area over the last 15 years?


The PA amplifiers are all moving towards digital technology. Power amplifiers are becoming increasingly lighter, but are increasingly more powerful. Power consumption is also lower and lower. And even in 100-volt technology there are no longer any heavy transformers today.

“It’s not the case that only digital solutions are getting better. 100-volt technology is also continuing to develop."

Are there any particularly common customer issues or challenges with IP-based audio networks?

M. Krebbing:

That depends on how familiar the user is with IP technology. Many problems arise from the overloading of the network with different data, i.e. from video technology used in parallel to the transmission of larger amounts of data through ERPs. In the area of SIP technology, the main sources of problems are the programming of the microphone stations and the speakers. The installers have to enter IP data and values in the appropriate fields for it to work. With Dante, it's easier because all the devices are immediately visible and configurable in one Dante® controller.

Are there any particularly common misunderstandings or myths regarding audio networks?


There is an opinion that analogue sound is warmer, denser or more melodious. This is very subjective and has little to do with how the sound is transmitted, assuming that all components in the signal chain are of high quality and appropriately configured. Dante's® latency is also overestimated. We're talking about 5 milliseconds or less here, but in the area of commercial audio this is often irrelevant.

Will job profiles in the PA world also change as audio networks become more important?

M. Krebbing:

Definitely. Basic knowledge of IP technology is now fundamental. The interaction between the IT department and the electrical installer is becoming increasingly important. There is also a clear generational difference. You can immediately tell whether a craftsman belongs to a generation that grew up with the Internet and IP technology. There is simply less fear of contact because those customers know what a LAN network is. The younger ones may still need tutoring, but it's a different matter dealing with the Internet. The generation that did not grow up with LAN and IP technology acts very cautiously.

Are expectations of good sound in the commercial audio sector also increasing? Or are we getting used to background music of poor quality?


It depends on which building we are talking about. Users certainly expect the PA application in a golf club to be of higher quality than in a supermarket, where speech intelligibility is important. Today, good inexpensive full range speakers produce good sound. There has also been a clear development here in recent years.

To wrap up, how do you see the future of the industry in the next few years?

M. Krebbing:

That depends a lot on how the Covid-19 pandemic continues, naturally. You must know that many dealers and service providers notice when there is greater or less investment in the public sector. At the moment, we have the digital pact school, but there will certainly be more savings in the next few years. And if investments in public institutions decline, this will certainly also affect the PA industry.

Image source header graphic: © thodonal – Adobe Stock

Want to learn more about PA technology? Then browse through our magazine.

MONACOR INTERNATIONAL offers a high quality and perfectly adapts products to their target groups. Look on our respective brand website to find out what our product brands got in store for you.