Since its emergence back in July 2011, Adamson’s Project Energia has certainly caught the ear of the pro audio industry. With its three-phase-plan already making its presence felt across a number of major international events, combined with the air of mystery currently shrouding the finer details of the Project’s next phase, the coming months look set to be an eventful period for the Canadian company. With this in mind API’s Daniel Gumble caught up with Adamson CEO Brock Adamson to chat about both the history and future of Project Energia…
Around six months ago, Phase One of the Project commenced with the introduction of the E15 line source array, along with a period of mechanical field-testing conducted by a series of strategic beta partners from across the globe. Initially these included Eighth Day Sound (USA), Wigwam Acoustics (UK), Fluge (Spain) and Big Daddy Productions (South East Asia). A second round of beta testers includes Sound Image (USA), Norwest Productions (Australia), Atomic Professional Audio (USA), MPM (France) and SLS (France). Having since taken pride of place among the touring itineraries of an array of high profile acts, from Linkin Park to Duran Duran, and the launch of Class D amplification modules, Power Distribution and Ground Control systems, as well as a process of network hardware field testing in the pipeline, Project Energia has undoubtedly made a significant first impression with its initial outings.
So, what exactly was the driving force behind the genesis of the Project? “Essentially, the background is that you drive things by the need for a new product,” Adamson comments. “We wanted to create something that was truly a step aside from anything we’ve done before and, ultimately, we didn’t just want to reproduce one of our existing products with some added features. It is not very exciting to take the easy road.”
One of the key concerns at the heart of the E15 was the purity of the sound waves as they exit the speaker, with a keen emphasis on striking a balance that neither forcibly shapes the sound, nor simply allows it to flow without direction or precision. Adamson explains: “With line arrays one of the big issues is how to get the sound from the high frequency driver to exit the line array without getting beaten up too badly. Often in line array designs you can see some fairly severe things happening to the wavefront in order to get it to go where the designer wants it to go. However, just allowing the sound wave to take its natural shape doesn’t actually give you the best far-field line array performance. With boundary element analysis and finite element analysis we optimize in a virtual environment before printing prototypes on a 3-dimensional rapid prototyping machine. After many iterations, the result is a sound chamber design with very high performance characteristics. This is how we deal with the high frequency and mid range designs."
The same attention to detail has been employed in the development of the Project’s next Phase, taking the form of a Class D amplification module and an advanced control and distribution system. While remaining cautious over just how much information to divulge regarding the nature of the much-anticipated amplifier, Adamson is still keen to point out the company’s no compromise approach to its development.
“We are not compromising whatsoever in the design and configuration of this amplifier. I think there’s a healthy concern from end users that when people start powering loudspeakers, somehow they aren’t going to be able to deliver the same kind of amplification as what could be achieved with a top-notch rack-mount amplifier. Our design is unlike any module available in the industry. As we are not competing with other module manufacturers, we can simply build a workhorse, high powered device without compromise. We are also incorporating some very sophisticated elements, such as an on-board DSP chip and a full suite of diagnostic features.”
As is the case with the company’s E15 loudspeaker, Adamson was keen to analyse and address any potential problem areas with the new amplifier, whilst also aiming to add a touch of sophistication to a manufacturing process, which he perceives as being simple enough to complete, yet altogether more challenging when it comes to honing in on the best results. One particular issue faced with any Class D amplifier is the potential risk of increased distortion and unwanted noise; an issue Adamson is eager to iron out.
"It’s a sophisticated amplifier with a PFC power supply. Building a Class D amplifier is not so difficult; the trick is in reducing PWM dead band which causes efficiency loss, noise and distortion. A good Class D amplifier addresses these issues first and foremost. It is worth adding that placing the amplifier in a predictable and fixed relationship to the loudspeaker allows new approaches to managing that relationship. We have some interesting and novel solutions that resulted in the filing of a new patent."
Whilst remaining tight-lipped regarding just what said “interesting and novel solutions” are, Adamson was able to shed a little more light on the amplifier’s current status. “We are now moving into a beta phase with the Class D amplifier and it’s coming along nicely, along with the ground control structure and software management that goes with it. We will show this hardware at Frnakfurt and we will begin Phase 2 beta testingshortly thereafter. . But it should be noted that Phase 2 is much bigger than the introduction of this hardware alone. There is much more. And our beta partners will get a glimpse of it by invite in Frankfurt."
Should this be the case, the 2012 Frankfurt event promises to be a pivotal show for Adamson and the next phase of its Project. However, even if the industry is forced to wait beyond Frankfurt for Phase 2 to rear its head in the public domain, it seems fair to speculate that 2012 could well become a milestone year in the company’s history.