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Plasa '94

Article from The Mix, October 1994

The recent exhibition of the Professional Light And Sound Association at Earls Court promised to bring professional lighting & live sound to a larger audience than ever before. To find out if anyone knew their gobos from their robos, Roger Brown went along for an eye (& ear)ful.

Martin Professional's Roboscan was used extensively in their impressive computer-controlled lightshow at PLASA.

It wasn't all Thus Spake Zarathustra and the 1812 Overture at PLASA '94 this year, although the Ann Summers girls on the Batmink stand drew the anoraks (and raincoats? - Ed). For the first time, lighting manufacturers seem to have cottoned on to the fact that most of their products are being used in clubs where the music has moved on a bit since Saturday Night Fever. Thumping bass sounds and spacey trance tracks were utilised to display a retina-expanding range of lasers, gobos and various other mind-bending effects.

With over 350 companies represented on 170 stands, PLASA '94 was 20 per cent bigger than last year's Light & Sound Show. And this year, DJs and products aimed at the DJ market were pre-eminent at Earls Court. Any stand which featured a pair of turntables and a DJ spinning the decks was guaranteed an aisle-clogging crowd of enthusiastic train spotters eager to pick up a few hints and techniques. Purveyors of DJ accessories from slipmats to sample loop CDs also drew the crowds, while gridlock seized the Ultimate DJ Accessories stand for the whole four days, with many DJs stocking up on loop CDs and other essentials.

Its all in D-Mix: Soundcraft's new DJ mixer for semi-permanent club installations, on display at PLASA.

DJ products enjoyed a large presence on many other stands, with several manufacturers releasing new lines catering for devotees of the twin platters. Many new decks were released aimed specifically at the DJ, from Soundcraft's D-Mix 1000 - a modular approach designed for semi-permanent installation in a club environment and featuring two mono inputs and six dual stereo inputs - to Citronic's sampling mixers and entry-level dual mixers from KAM and Numark. Not to forget Pioneer's revolutionary CDJ-500 CD player, as reviewed in last month's edition of The Mix.

Vestax had a new DJ mixer with three-band EQ on all input channels, and a brand new pair of Vestax PD-5000 direct-drive decks to match. Not only did they look impressive, there were some imaginative and innovative touches. Watch out for an exclusive review in next month's issue. Everyone who tested them seemed sure that here was a serious threat to the hegemony of the SL1210.

Outside the DJ sandpit, Allen & Heath unveiled the GL4, their new 8 buss live/studio recording desk which looks set to give Mackie a run for their money. Urei on the other hand, use a modular system for their new platform, thus appealing to DJs as well as studio boffins. This American range consists of compressor/expander, EQ, computer control and output modules which can be purchased separately and patched together in a variety of configurations. It provides an impressive degree of sound shaping under full computer and/or MIDI control.

Hughes and Kettner were showing off their impressive Classic Art series of PA cabs with the lovely furry blue finish - shame they won't fit on the back shelf of the Cortina, John. These were paired with the rackmountable/flightcased Target Double 8 live mixer (watch out for a review in The Mix soon) and would make a very useful setup for the growing live-musician-plus-DJ combos that are assaulting your eardrums down the local.

The new Ephos 10:2 powered mixer combines a 250 + 250 watt amp, with a versatile mixer and built-in digital reverb.

In the same vein was Citronic's new powered mixer range, with nine Ephos models ranging from 8 to 16 inputs and a purpose-built amplifier capable of delivering 250 X 250 Watts of RMS output into both 4 and 8 Ohm speaker impedance systems. The mixer includes a 7-band graphic equaliser and a digital effects processor with 128 programs, and should prove a worthy addition to a growing niche in the market.

JBL introduced 3 new MPX power amplifiers with rated power output of 300, 600 and 1200 watts per channel and the 4655 and 4652 two-way loudspeaker systems, with performance characteristics that include wide dispersion, smooth frequency response with high power handling and low distortion. Just the thing for your local house of worship, the CJB permitting.

Cambridge's Pulsar had teamed up with Italian lighting company Clay Paky to present a cabaret show which featured human automatons demonstrating the Super Scan Zoom, a lighting system in which the lights themselves took on human characters. Not a feature that lends itself to description but definitely worth seeing. Blur used four of these beasties for their headline slot on the NME stage at Glastonbury, so there! The show marked the debut of Pulsar's Masterpiece Replay Unit, designed for pre-programmed control of up to 108 channels.

The Pulsar Masterpiece Replay Unit can form the nerve-centre for a sophisticated lighting setup.

Martin Professional also put on a presentation making extensive use of their Roboscans, including the new Pro 518 offering rotating gobos in a budget priced fitting. It also has up to 36 colours and a prism effect. The whole show was controlled by a series of linked 3032s referenced to SMPTE timecode. Also featuring on a separate stand and drawing much interest from the DJ fraternity, was the RoboColor Mobile Lighting System (as reviewed by Ian Masterson elsewhere in this issue), a budget system aimed squarely at the DJ collective.

There were an impressive array of lighting control consoles from manufacturers too numerous to mention, with the advances in software control making sophisticated programming of lighting effects a virtual doddle. I was pleased to see many more small computer systems interfaces appearing, bringing such finesse within the orbit of the small user, and proving that PLASA '94 really did have something for everyone!

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Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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The Mix - Oct 1994

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Chris Needham, James Perrett

Show Report by Roger Brown

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