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The Path to Perfection - an Interview with David Croxton of KV2

6/5/2020

 
 
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Sales director Dave Croxton talks about the evolution of KV2 Audio and why he believes point source will always remain the winner.

KV2 AUDIO IS A PARTICULARLY UNIQUE COMPANY AMONG the many manufacturers of black boxes that make up the pro audio industry, consistently bucking the trend, but not without sound logic and reason. Where others have been increasingly extolling the virtues of line array solutions and digital technologies, KV2 is a purist at heart. And while not a newcomer in the market, KV2 purist methodology is undergoing somewhat of renaissance in the saturated world of large-scale line arrays. Keen to dig under the surface and find out exactly what makes the company tick, Pro AVL Asia sat down with long-time employee and KV2 director of sales, Dave Croxton.

 

For those not familiar with KV2, what differentiates the company from other pro audio manufacturers?

There are a number of things that differentiate us but I guess the most important one is our no-compromise approach to sound quality. That may sound presumptuous given I am sure other manufacturers have similar ideals, but the reality is that if you are using DSP, you are compromising sound quality.

Furthermore, during a period that has seen sound reinforcement move strongly towards line arrays, we have stayed with the point source format. In doing so, we have not struggled with the phase issues associated with combining multiple sources and hence have been able to deliver more consistent, intelligible sound over large areas. Generally, there is a misconception in the market that adding more boxes will increase output but, as the frequency range goes higher, the opposite is actually happening. If you have 10dB of cancellation happening at 10kHz (which is not uncommon in a line array system) then you will need 10 times the power to produce the same output as a single driver. Put simply, 10 drivers are putting out the same output as one.

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The company has continued to grow organically, primarily based on people’s listening experiences. I would say over 80% of the people using KV2 equipment have heard our systems somewhere and felt that was the sound they were looking for. The other 20% have come to our door, often sceptical, after they have done their research into sound quality and performance. This is true from small PA operators right through to Broadway sound designers.

Traditionally, in what sectors has KV2 performed best in?

KV2 has grown strongly in certain market sectors, in particular the smaller production company market and the theatre market. In the small PA market, where bang for the buck and ease of setup are crucial, we offer solutions that cover more people with less equipment. This means savings in transport, labour and, most importantly, capital investment. The theatre market has also grown rapidly for us again for similar reasons, in that the capital investment is lower due to the lower equipment requirements for point source systems, but also because of the extremely consistent, high quality coverage our point source solutions deliver.

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Where does the inspiration behind the KV2 philosophy come from?

The driving force behind KV2 is George Krampera Senior. George has spent more than 50 years developing and engineering all aspects of sound system design, from electronics and amplification through to transducer development and acoustic design. George studied electronics in the Czech Republic as a young man and built amplifiers for his friends’ bands through the 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1980s, George and his family escaped from the Czech Republic, which was at the time under Russian control. The family got refugee status in Canada and George commenced work with Yorkville where he redesigned most of their MI amplifiers.

He then started to develop PA systems for the company and, through this process, became involved with RCF. In 1991, George was offered the chief of engineering position at RCF, where he made big advances in transducer technology and developed a number of speaker systems including the extremely successful ART Series. The ART300A was heralded as one of the first plastic box systems that could be used in professional applications. Many of the engineers George trained at RCF are now leading the engineering efforts at other companies, such as Andrea Manzini at B&C. This connection gives George the unique position to discuss transducer development with B&C and 18 Sound at a special level.

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Another of the engineers George worked with at RCF was an American, Marcelo Vercelli. After leaving RCF to return to the Czech Republic once the Russian occupation ended, George teamed up with Marcelo to develop a large-scale active system called Fusion. This system pricked the interest of Greg Mackie, who had at the same time purchased RCF. Greg engaged Marcelo and George to release Fusion through Mackie and develop a complete range of sound reinforcement speakers for the Mackie brand. In 2001, George and Marcello parted ways with Mackie and established KV2 Audio – the ‘K’ being for Krampera, the ‘V’ for Vercelli and the ‘2’ representing the fact that it was their second company. Their focus was on building high-quality point source systems. George’s experience to that point in electronics, transducer development and acoustic design led to the holistic approach that goes into every KV2 system, ensuring that the signal path is not compromised at any stage.

Would you say it’s George’s technological experience that makes KV2 special or is it more than that?

The fact that the company continues to grow organically makes it special. The people who support KV2 are not just customers, they are evangelists. They know they are using a system that truly connects the audience with the performer and that is a great feeling. They are astounded on an ongoing basis as to what these systems can do and the depth of  detail they can produce. It’s like putting your favourite record on each night and hearing new parts in the mix. I joined the company 10 years ago as international sales manager after being involved as a distributor since the company’s inception, and really what I promote today is not speaker systems but the customer experience. If you want to deliver the best-possible experience to your audience, no matter what the application, KV2 can provide a solution that will do that.

Why do you consider digital processing to be detrimental for live sound?

Our biggest challenge today in delivering that customer experience is poor-quality source material. With the event of digital technology, the quality of sound reproduction has declined dramatically. This is mainly due to the fact that DSP simply can’t process sound fast enough to capture all of the harmonic information contained within a complex waveform. Hence, we are only getting a small portion of the original sound with limited harmonics, which reduces the overall sound stage making the reproduction flat and one-dimensional.

KV2 has developed several unique technologies. What are they and why are they important?

Our systems are built holistically, ensuring that every part of the signal chain from amplifier input to the speaker output is optimised. In doing so, we use certain technologies that are not used by other manufacturers. For instance, many of our speaker components use what we call AIC (Active Impedance Control). We call these components Transcoil, as they have a secondary coil mounted in the magnet assembly that is wired out of phase with the connections to the main coil on the cone. This secondary coil provides a proportional resistance to the voltage being fed to the main coil and eliminates any inductance, dramatically reducing distortion.

Secondly, as I have already mentioned, we stay completely in the analogue domain. All of our crossovers, filters, equalisation, limiting and protection is done with high-quality, discreet analogue circuits. The only digital format we use is a PDM (Pulse Density Modulation) delay to time align the components in certain boxes. We run this delay at 20MHz, as that was the speed our engineers felt was required to match analogue reproduction.

In what respects do you consider point source methodology to be superior to the deployment of line arrays?

KV2 Audio has stuck to point source theories for one reason: multiple sources interact and create problems and inconsistency over the area they are covering. There is, in every line array system, a large amount of destructive interference going on, especially in the high frequencies (HFs), despite misconceptions they are limited in their capabilities to deliver HFs over distance. When the crowd arrives and the air heats and rises or the wind blows, this problem is only heightened.

The other problem with multiple source systems is the multiple arrivals of the sound to the listener at different times, reducing the overall impulse response of the system. Any engineer worth their salt will tell you a good impulse response equals good intelligibility. Line array manufacturers are focused on output and they can move a lot of air. In some cases, people are looking for that type of impact in a system but, when it comes to intelligibility, we feel point source will always remain the winner. With the new VHD5.0, we have been able to create that high impact level for large audiences in a point source system by combining a number of boxes to create a large point source system. The VHD5.0 runs 32 speakers for the low/mids, which certainly matches most line arrays for low/mid punch. The VHD5.0 is definitely a big step forward in large-scale sound reinforcement and a strong focus for the company over the coming years as we roll this new technology out.

What is the main focus for KV2 moving forward?

The focus for KV2 in the future is to continue to refine the overall signal path to ensure we are raising the quality of the sound and the listener’s experience. Many of our systems are tuned by engineers using digital processors, which suck the life out of the sound. We are currently developing a digitally controlled analogue processor that will give engineers full control of the sound domain while still maintaining signal quality. Rest assured, whatever KV2 develops in the future, the focus will always be on sound quality. And by following this path, our growth and survival are somewhat assured, as whatever we deliver from a small cube speaker through to our flagship VHD5.0 system, the sound remains the same, true to the source.

Source: PRO AVL ASIA May - June 2020

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