On the back of a 30-year birthday and the latest addition to the company’s landscape with the opening of the Audac Experience Center in Hasselt, Belgium, PVS founder Patrick Van de Sande spoke to James McGrath about the progression of company and its future plans.
What made you want to start your own professional audio business?
From a very young age I’ve always been fascinated by electronics and acoustics. The event that actually triggered this fascination was when I was six and a technician came to repair my parents’ television. Watching him working left a huge impression on me. I can still remember being very proud of building my first crystal radio receiver at the age of 11.
What started as an interest developed in my parents’ attic became my own repair shop that I ran after the hours of my day job. By the age of 26 I had started my own audio shop. At that point I was not only doing repairs and selling the audio systems myself, but I was also installing a lot of systems
After five years we started doing the distribution for several audio brands. Since then we have always paid a lot of attention to our partners and their feedback on the products we are producing. This was also the reason for starting up our own brands more than 20 years ago.
How did your background contribute to your ambitions?
As you can now already imagine I have had a very technical background and that is also where my heart is. This is why investing in research and development is an inherent part of our company.
On a more personal level, I came from a family of five children and my father was a mineworker. This upbringing made me realise that I needed to work very hard to be able to get somewhere.
How has the industry changed over the 30 years? What has got easier; what has become more difficult?
There was a time when there were only a handful of players on the market. So at that time you did not have so many options. This resulted in our company building a lot of custom products for larger installations to meet the client’s specific need.
I must say this did not make our work very boring but nowadays this would not be very cost-efficient.
Also the user interfaces of devices have changed so much in these years. All Audac multizone systems now have a web interface, smartphone and tablet apps, advanced wallpanels and so on. This is all down to the switch from analogue to digital audio, something that Audac stands for today.
The digital era has also brought our level of communication to a whole new level. I can still remember sending out faxes, whereas these days we can send out a mass of emails in one day and panic if we don’t receive an answer the same day. So everything is going much faster on every level compared to when I first started.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the professional audio business in the 30 years you have been operating?
There was never one biggest challenge for me – it has always been a sequence of challenges. But if I must name one I would say the start-up of our R&D department. Finding the right people has never been easy and I must say that we have a very strong team today that possesses a lot of knowledge of audio technology and also exchanges this with each other.
You recently opened your Audac Experience Center. We’re definitely seeing a trend towards more and more companies opening up demo facilities – why would you say this is?
Of course this depends on what type of product you are selling, but in our case where you have advanced audio products you need to be able to provide more than just a picture on the web or a short description at a tradeshow. By showing these products in an environment like the Audac Experience Center you are able to not only convince the customer in the product itself but also in the brand in general.
I can imagine that a lot of brands like us, that are specialised in digital audio technology, feel the need to inform their partners in the best possible way about all the technology their devices contain. And as I mentioned before, our partners are really key as they are the ones that will assist in the installation of Audac products. That is also the reason why we have built not just demo rooms inside the building, but also several training facilities which can be used throughout the year to optimise our partners’ knowledge and give us the most accurate feedback possible.
How has this been received by your partners?
From the beginning we clearly informed our partners of the purpose of this building. This is not just the company’s experience centre, but also theirs. This allows even the end customer to experience the brand in a unique way.
We still cannot believe the great feedback that we received during the opening event, not just about the building but also about the idea behind it: providing a range of training sessions, welcoming any Audac client or prospective buyer together with our partner and providing them with the necessary information on the product in a unique way.
How do you expect to develop your audio technology further in the coming years?
More than 20 years ago I made a drawing of what I believed an audio system should look like. Up until now we have not been able to build it. We can see that not only ourselves but also other brands are growing towards this vision but we do believe that we have always been one step ahead. An example of this is when Audac brought out the first multizone audio matrix and amplifier that contained a webserver more than 12 years ago.
What can we expect from you at ISE in February – is there anything you’re excited about?
Yes there is: Audac will be introducing our brand new SMA and SMQ digital amplifier series.
They consist of three two-channel models and three four-channel models, so the customer can choose between a 350W, 500W and 750W version. What makes them so special compared to the ones already on the market is the controllability you get and their very high efficiency. With a 2.5in screen on the front side it’s really simple to change any advanced setting, thanks to their powerful DSP.