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56 l March 2012 Recently launched liveinterview DENMARK D is for Denmark

You’ve probably never heard of Pascal A/S, but you’ve heard their amplifier modules in action in big brand powered loudspeakers. Dave Robinson talks Class D with the Danes

IF YOU WANT to build a loudspeaker cabinet, you’re faced with a huge choice of driver components from manufacturers in Italy, the UK, Japan, China, Spain, the US… The list goes on. However, if you want an amplifier module to power that loudspeaker, the decision is a considerably easier one to make, as the number of options open to you is dramatically reduced. Driver manufacturers tend to be 50-50 ‘we will/we won’t’ when it comes to revealing who they supply with components. But with power amp module makers, even the slightest revelation is frowned upon (and is no doubt a massive breach of a non- disclosure agreement). “We can’t name clients: that would hurt our business. But we have some of the largest loudspeaker manufacturers as customers, and some of the smaller ones too.” Lars Rosenkvist Fenger of Pascal reinforces the point… Wait! Pascal? Who? Not only do module makers not talk about their business, as entities they remain pretty anonymous too. Other than Powersoft (an Italian power amp brand in its own right) you have ICEpower in Denmark and Linea Research in the UK. And now, making themselves known to the wider pro-audio world, there is Pascal. Copenhagen-based Pascal A/S

broke away from ICEpower (itself a division of high-end hi-fi maker Bang & Olufsen) six years ago to focus on pro-audio amp modules. And this unit of 10 people (plus some manufacturing in China) has been working away behind the scenes to create a healthy, but low-key Class D amplifier development business. With the launch of the S-PRO2 “the smallest 1kW amplifier in the world”, Pascal has (finally!) decided

to take its message to the wider audience, because, quirkily, the company “can’t find a reason not to be optimistic”. While CEO Lars Fenger is

new to PSNE, Pascal sales manager Peter Frentz is an old acquaintance. “I was employee number eight at DPA in the 1990s. Like many other people: once you start in the pro-audio industry, you never leave…”

Who is Pascal? Peter Frentz (PF): We’re here to make loudspeaker manufacturers more competitive. We chose the name ‘Pascal’ because it is the [standard] unit of pressure, and we planned to do some high-power stuff!

You left ICEpower but are developing similar products: why? Lars Rosenkvist Fenger (LRF): We have always been passionate about pro audio, so we wanted to dedicate our business to that. Our products are different in being more powerful and dedicated for the pro audio industry.

You say you can’t find a reason not to be optimistic? PF: I think that is a Danish understatement! We are riding on the positive trends in the pro- audio

industry. One of these is that

loudspeaker makers don’t just want to be loudspeaker makers any more – they want to be systems manufacturers. L-Acoustics is selling loudspeakers, amplifiers and controllers; Nexo is doing the same with help from Yamaha. But it’s not only the big players: it’s also the mid-sized and small players because it is difficult today to be a manufacturer only selling loudspeakers, and only selling to your domestic market.

There seems to be a lot of amplifier technology where you come from… PF:We have a lot of the engineers coming out of Denmark, there’s a great history of technology at the University of Copenhagen. You remember Texas Instruments buying a Danish digital amplifier developer, Toccata, in 2000? In fact, we had a meeting with a client the other day, he said, ‘I heard that in Class D, the D stands for Denmark’.

“There is a clear trend to be global and to be selling only your own brand”

There is a clear trend to be global and to be selling only your own brand. Now, to become a system

provider you need to have development, DSP, amplification, assembly and integration under your own roof. This ‘mega-trend’ means there is an increasing demand for OEM amplifier solutions.

Good business for you, then. PF: Yes. And another thing: it’s difficult for new entrants to come into the [amp module] market because it requires huge investment. LRF: And, of course, we are seeing another trend, that more speakers are becoming self- powered.

entirely true…!

So why the push now, after six years? LRF:We are putting out new products into new markets. With the S-PRO2 module we are looking at sectors like MI and [smaller scale] pro-audio, where we don’t know all the customers. Secondly, we are addressing the BRIC countries where historically we have not had a presence.

How many different amplifier modules do you make? PF: Currently five. For the loudspeaker manufact - urer, it’s


they have as few module variants as possible which they can use across their entire product range, because this makes things logistically easier for them. They can tune the module to match their speakers. LRF: Our most powerful module is a 3-channel amp with a total power of 3.8kW. The new one, the S-PRO2, is 1,000W on a ‘slice of pie’… about 10 times more powerful than the amplifier in your hi-fi system.

Peter Frentz, Pascal LRF: [Laughs] That’s not

How powerful do your products need to be? LRF: Up to 5kW: beyond that it is a niche product. PF: The trend is to produce the same loudspeaker output in a smaller package. And drivers are being produced that can handle more power, so amp modules are twice the output with no increase in the size of the enclosure. In the future I think you will see that increasing: smaller but more powerful touring systems, now there are people like Pascal who can make the amps.

Sure, we are seeing the emergence of such compact systems, such as MLA, JBL VRX and the forthcoming Nexo STM. LRF: And amplifiers will be smaller too. We are probably approaching third- or even fourth-generation amplifiers now. Everything is being condensed: chip sets and mechanical parts.

Fenger (left) and Frentz: “Riding on the positive trends in the pro-audio industry”

You can make a 50W amp not much bigger than a credit card even now…

S-PRO2 1kW amp module

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