Stephen Morris –
Crown Audio’s market director talks about the longtime
glory of Macro-Tech and fresh new sheen of CTs.
By Elisabeth Gibbons
First Crown Audio brought forth Macro-Tech,
a line of heavy-duty amps designed primarily for touring applications
that found favor among nightclub installers a decade after
their initial release, despite their high cost. Then came
the Com-Tech series, which some club types found to be underpowered
and too large for their purposes. But now there’s CTs,
a new line of flexible, efficient, powerful, and affordable
amps that will fit into any nightclub just fine.
If you hear Stephen Morris tell it, Crown’s market director
of installed sound, he’ll point out that the sudden
acceptance of the Macro-Tech line coincided with the birth
of the “superclub” – the large-scale, well-funded
dance space that could afford and put to good use such high-performance
pieces. The CTs line might be an indication that the high
expectations of these equally highbrow clubs have trickled
down to the nightclub community at large; that even clubs
without five different rooms and six-figure sound systems
need high power and considerable reliability.
Morris himself knows about lot more than just amplifiers.
He began his career with the CV Lloyd Music Center, where
he worked on a regional concert touring system. “I went
from being a snot-nosed kid out of high school, to jumping
on the road and learning the school of hard knocks of audio,
to running the contract division within that same organization,”
he remembers fondly.
But living in the college town of Champaign, Illinois, his
forte soon became nightclubs. Through CV, Morris was involved
in almost every club install in that area – be it through
the design, the installation, or the maintenance contract.
When he had a chance to join the Crown team first as a product
manager, Morris jumped at it. “I wanted to make a difference,
to try to influence some of the products I felt were necessary
to satisfy the applications that were out there, specifically
in installed sound. That’s where my background really
played in strongly,” he said.
We picked Morris’ brain about the development of the
new CTs Series, as well as the popularity of old, reliable
Tell me a bit about the Macro-Tech
The Macro-Techs were pre-Stephen. They were introduced in
1986 and intended for touring. The product was built because
the industry was in dire need of an amplifier with a high
power density – meaning duller watts per rack space.
Power and power density were in high demand for touring companies
that were having to make due with much smaller amplifiers
and packages from other companies, including Crown, which
did not have anything over 800 watts per side. What Macro-Tech
did was immediately provide the power for those applications.
In just a few years, it became standard for touring, what
it was designed for.
Did it ever become popular for other
Today, over 60% of every Macro-Tech sold is into an installed
sound application, as opposed to a touring or portable one.
If you were to say ten years ago that Macro-Tech was going
to outsell any other product we had in installed product applications,
we’d say you were crazy. The trend for high power in
installed sound wasn’t there. The NFL, NBA, MLB and
those major sports facilities, and nightclubs for that matter,
were not requiring that much power. This was because the loudspeakers
weren’t available, and the system designs weren’t
conducive. And they didn’t have all the entertainment
they have in the sports facilities today, which require sizable
sound systems with appropriate power.
When did this trend club with the
Macro-Techs arise then?
I would say with the rise of the trendy, high performance
nightclub. It’s been within the last six years specifically
along the eastern seaboard, starting with the Avalon in Boston,
Nation and 5 in D.C., and then Bleu Room Experience in Detroit
– those are all Macro-Tech powered.
Which is your favorite?
My favorite club install with Macro-Techs would be the main
floor in Webster Hall in New York City. It’s crude,
it’s old, but those are original Macro-Techs that go
night after night after night. It’s that reliability
that system designers know the clubs need. The designers who
are spec-ing them, the contractors who are capable of building
that kind of nightclub, were involved in live sound reinforcement
somewhere. They had experience with Macro-Tech at some point
in their career and can now say, “Look I use this every
night, it is the most reliable product. It goes in and out
of trucks, round the world, night after night, and it’s
the highest powered and best sounding amplifier and the most
reliable. Use that in your nightclub.” That’s
why Macro-Tech became the name for not only nightclubs, but
also installed sound everywhere.
If the Macro-Techs were so popular,
what prompted the creation of the CTs line?
The CTs line is a response to the nightclubs that are
taking a more vested interest in their sound, but don’t
always have a lot of money. Now they have an option. Macro-Tech
was priced higher than the market would bear, because the
competition started building product that supported those
power ranges at lower cost. The CTs line provides Macro-Tech
power and performance at a fraction of the cost, so you’re
not compromising quality, reliability, sonic performance,
If you like Macro-Tech, I love you, keep buying it. But if
you like it but can’t afford it, there’s another
option now, equal in sonic performance, but at a fraction
of the cost.
What sets the line apart?
It’s the efficiency of the product, especially when
we’re talking about it in a nightclub installation.
We draw a fraction of current from the wall, but deliver the
same, if not more power out of the amplifier. We’re
able to do that because of our power supply and our BCA, or
Class I design. The power supply and our output stage design
married together have proven to be the most efficient product
we have ever built. We can power the same amount of output
power with about 2/3 of the amount of current drawn.
Plus, amplifier designs typically provide graduating power
levels as the impedance drops. In some cases this can be a
costly constraint when your design calls for higher power
at 8 ohms. With most of the CTs models, we provide similar
power at 8 or 4 ohms. This makes the design very simple, allowing
you to focus on the required power range, then choose the
300-watt amp, the 600-watt amp, the 1000-watt amp, or the
1500-watt amp. We give you appropriate steps in power, with
just six models. And with its flexible power range, CTs will
satisfy any power requirement for highs, mids, lows, and subs
in one product family.
Which products in the line will be
best suited for nightclubs?
The higher-powered two-channel amplifiers will be targeted
specifically at nightclubs, providing 1000 watts, and 1500
watts @ 4 ohms. These tend to be very popular power ranges
that line up very well with the power requirements of loudspeakers
made by JBL and other manufacturers. The CTs 3000, which is
the highest power model, actually provides more power into
4 ohms than a Macro-Tech 3600VZ at a fraction of the price.
It weighs less, runs cooler, and it is built with our BCA
or Class I topology. It’s a sleeker design. And it’s
built for the environment, which was understood in the run-time
testing we’ve done, to make sure these amps will run
24/7. Nightclubs are one of the more strenuous applications
on an amplifier, based upon the duty cycle. The CTs line was
designed for any installation, but specifically with nightclubs
Do you think CTs will affect the nightclub
experience of a non-professional?
It definitely will in the low end. The same output
stage used in our K Series is being used in the CTs 2000 and
3000 high-powered units. The sonic performance is smooth and
elegant. And because of the high dampening factor –
we have an even higher dampening factor at lower frequencies
on the CTs than we’ve provided on the Macro-Tech family
– you’re going to be able to get incredibly tight
low frequency response at high power levels.
What do you see in the future for
the CTs line in the nightclub market?
The CTs multi-channel amplifiers are perfect for themed clubs
that have more than one environment requiring zoned outputs
at lower power levels. Outside of the dancefloor, you will
often see distributed systems using smaller powered constant
voltage or 70V loudspeakers for the bar, beer garden, hallway,
or VIP rooms. Because of flexible power range at both low
impedance and 70V outputs, CTs will satisfy them all in one
product family. These amps don’t care what you plug
into them; they’ll work.