Relevant Power



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 Macro-Tech.

Tell me a bit about the Macro-Tech Series.
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 applications?
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, or power.
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 in mind.

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.

Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications