Fohhn: Invisible Performance
Preview:/ Christopher Holder
High performance audio requires high performance systems that take space and need to be optimally placed so the listening audience can best enjoy the sound reinforcement.
In other words they’re the bane of most architects’ lives, who refuse to countenance their sleek interior design being blighted by brutishly ugly objects that perform a function.
Column arrays have been around for a very long time. Column speakers can be blended into the architecture and it’s easy to see why difficult acoustic environments such as cathedrals install them for vocal sound reinforcement — the vertical dispersion control of the column speaker helps with spraying sound up into the cavernous ceiling space and activating the 10-second RT60 of the room. But column arrays never had any genuine music reproduction aspirations.
Around 10 years ago, a new type of column speaker came onto the scene — beam steering column arrays. They look much the same as the columns of yore but with advances in DSP and amplification, each driver can be addressed individually, allowing for a more precise electronic manipulation of the sound dispersion.
Again, most beam steering column array manufacturers are going after the cathedral-type market, where it’s all about the vocal range. Or a system like flat-hanged EAW Anya where the column is the size of a concert rig, and performs accordingly.
FOHHN IT IN
Fohhn has for nearly 25 years been manufacturing speakers and amplifiers from its factory near Stuttgart. In 2008, Fohhn (prounounced: ‘Phone’ in your best German accent) started building beam steered line arrays. But rather than simply focus on the speech frequencies it decided to design a system with higher performing amps and speaker components that could handle high-SPL music performance and reproduction. The Linea Series was born.
Since then Fohhn has continuously refined its offering. The more recent Focus Series represents the state of the art in beam steering column arrays. The loudspeakers can all but disappear into the architecture of a venue such as a theatre. And thanks to the superior dispersion control can be electronically steered to address under balcony areas and the dress circle at the same time — a compelling feature for an increasing number of theatres.
Fohhn has developed a software package that allows system designers to model and control their loudspeaker system. It’s easy to change configurations in real time with the click of a mouse. In a venue setting this might mean turning a balcony section ‘off’ and redirecting all of the column speaker’s firepower at the rest of the room.
TIMBER & MARBLE LOOK?
Fohhn is also renowned for being particularly responsive to demands for customised colourways. Not only can the speakers be supplied in an array of RAL colours, Fohhn also offers a Texture Design service, with a bunch of decorative designs available, from stainless steel, carbon and marble, to a range of timbers — all with photo-realistic appearances.
Fohhn may be a well-established and respected audio name in Europe and elsewhere but is new to Australia. It now has representation and will no doubt begin to appear in some interesting installations around the country.