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Back on the show floor at PLSG 2020

Back on the show floor at PLSG 2020

Back on the show floor at PLSG 2020

Sue Su reports from the China Import and Export Fair, Guangzhou, as the first major AV tradeshow since early 2020 goes ahead

Prolight + Sound Guangzhou (PLSG), which opened its doors on 21 August for four days, was the first international exhibition to resume after the impact of Covid-19, and an important indicator of how future events might take place.

Under the motto “Beyond lighting and sound”, the 2020 edition had refined its product categories to focus on digital experiences and technological convergence. “The positive feedback that we received from buyers and exhibitors suggests that the positioning of the fair and its expansion into new product categories closely matched the needs of the market,” said Judy Cheung, deputy general manager of Messe Frankfurt (HK). “This is something that we hope to maintain at the next edition in May, where the industry will once again have the opportunity to explore the latest technologies and development trends.”

Although the number of exhibitors and visitors cannot be compared to the crowds of previous years, most exhibitors reported that the show exceeded their expectations, and that despite a decline in visitor levels, the overall quality had improved.

Visitors had to scan codes and have temperatures checked before entering the show
Visitors had to scan codes and have temperatures checked before entering the show

Most imported audio brands were as usual concentrated in Hall 5.2. This included Harman, Bosch, Ruisheng (TW Audio, RAM, Martin Audio), Tempo (Coda), Vue Audiotechnik, IAG Group (Xilica, Wharfedale), EAD (Alcons, Xilica, Ashly, Digigram), ST Audio (XTA, MC2, EM Acoustics, ARX), Bose and Peavey. Given the severity with which the market has been hit by the pandemic, and the fact that much international travel is yet to resume, many former exhibitors chose to not to participate in PLSG this year, including DMT (SSL, DPA, Clair Brothers, Avid, dBTechnologies, PMC), d&b, Real-Music (Adamson, Next-proaudio), EZpro (Allen & Heath, EAW, Powersoft, Symetrix), Phoenix (Funktion-One), PCI (QSC, FBT), MYC China (Kling & Freitag), SE Audiotechnik and KV2. Unlike the large crowds that descended in the mornings of previous years, most visitors attended during the afternoon.

While exhibitor participation and footfall were down, PLSG 2020 still filled eight halls of Guangzhou’s China Import and Export Fair, covering 80,000m2 of exhibition space. Perhaps the most eye-catching of foreign brand participation was Harman’s 720m2 stand, with seven zones for its core partners.

“As a market leader, Harman must support the show during the pandemic,” said David Lu. “The first day was better than we expected. Many people said they would not come because of the pandemic, but it was actually quite crowded. Our partners used to have their own booths, but this time we’ve gathered them together, with Harman at the centre, so that customers can have a one-stop experience of the Harman ranges. The pandemic has had a big effect on some markets, such as cinema, but other markets have grown more rapidly such as audio and video conferences and education, so we are concentrating on these areas.”

The Harman team
The Harman team

Opposite Harman, Bosch had taken an improved stand to show its brands including Electro-Voice and Dynacord. “Our business in the first half of the year was greatly affected by the epidemic, but we have seen some hope and opportunities in recent months,” said Yang Hua from Prosound China. “International sports events to be held in China, such as the Asian Games and AFC Asian Cup, will drive the construction and renovation of large stadiums in cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.”

Vue Audiotechnik China had a demo room to showcase its speakers, including an installation version of the al-8, and a 7.1 setup. “We estimated there wouldn’t be too many visitors, but the people who have come to see us are enthusiastic, and half of them may be end users,” said Gu Jiren.

Ruisheng exhibited the new TW Audio Ella6 6.5-inch cardioid micro line array as well as the Martin Audio Adorn and DDX series for which it has been appointed exclusive dealer by Martin Audio's new distributor, Guangzhou Guidance. “I’m seeing fewer customers at the show than I thought – maybe only about 40% compared to previous years,” said Ruisheng’s Stanley Yau. “However, those who have come are more targeted and want to discuss things in more detail. Going forward, the show organiser should arrange more activities to attract a bigger audience and bring confidence back to the people.”

EAD Digital, which established Alcons China in 2019, had planned to hold a ceremony at the scheduled time of the show in February. “Compared with previous years, there are only 30–40% of visitors, but this has exceeded our expectations,” said Szeto Kwong Man from EAD Digital. “Since the establishment of Alcons China, we can plan future strategies better, and participation in this show is an important part of our marketing and branding strategy.” EAD Digital was also exhibiting Digigram, Ashly, Altair and Xilica.

Xilica was exhibiting different products across three stands, including Neutrino (EAD Digital), Solaro (AIG) and the CM series (Yukon Audio). “Xilica attaches great importance to the Chinese market," continued Szeto. “Systems integration projects started coming back in June and July, and sales are reaching 60–70% of previous years.”

L–R: EAD Digital's Deng Yonggang and Szeto Kwong Man with Xilica's Willson Cheung
L–R: EAD Digital's Deng Yonggang and Szeto Kwong Man with Xilica's Willson Cheung

Located opposite EAD Digital, ST Audio was showing MC2, XTA, ARX and a flown EM Acoustics HALO-A system. “There are definitely fewer people than last year, but more visitors came to our premises to listen after the show, and the quality is better,” said Chen Yongmin from ST Audio.

Compared with Hall 5.2, Hall 4.2 seemed busier this year, maybe because of its focus on conference and communication – a market that has grown during the pandemic. Located at the entrance of Hall 4.2, Taiden recently announced a cooperation with Alibaba Cloud to create a smart conference solution featuring speech recognition. “In general, the pandemic has had little impact on us,” revealed Zhou Qingdong, general manager of Taiden. “Domestic sales have even increased in the last 3–4 months compared with the same period last year. There will be an impact on overseas sales, but it is not very large. Online conferencing will become a normal way of working, and this is an opportunity for us.”

K-array’s staff came down from Beijing to participate in the show. “The show is a good chance for us to maintain face-to-face communication with customers after a period of time,” said Jason Zhao from K-array China.

Relacart was showing the new ConferX 64-channel digital automatic mixer and UR wireless microphone series. “We have met quite a few customers, and the number of visitors has reached about 50% compared to the past,” said Tim Wu.

Notable by their absence from Hall 4.2 this year were microphone brands including Shure, Audio-Technica, Mipro and beyerdynamic. The new Shure SLX-D digital wireless system, launched in August, was exhibited on the stand of dealer, Ray Long. “There has been a very positive response to Shure's new product,” said Liang Yujian, from Ray Long. “Livestreaming has become a hot topic, with more customers from that market, as well as from the consumer and home studio sectors, and fewer people from live sound, broadcasting and theatre. The show traffic is much reduced, but better than we expected.”

Staff on the K-array stand
Staff on the K-array stand

Mipro also chose to show its products on other stands including Tasso Audio, while Audio-Technica used its livestreaming platform to showcase products. “There is still uncertainty surrounding the epidemic, and so our choices of marketing activities are more cautious,” said Zhang Yali about the company’s decision not to participate in the show.

In Hall 4.2, EZpro dealer Wsound, exclusive dealer of Allen & Heath’s SQ series in China, was also showing the EAW Radius series and Mackie AXIS console. “The show is slightly better than we expected,” said Liang Weijie. “The flow of people is certainly not as good as before, but people have come with sincerity and purpose. China’s club market has developed very fast in recent years, with investments of millions of RMB, and we have done quite a lot using EAW’s Radius.”

Audinate, together with seven partners and the organiser of Prolight + Sound, launched the Dante course and system experience zone. Biamp’s distributor Tico used last year’s celebrations at Tiananmen Square on the 70th anniversary of National Day to illustrate the use of Dante networked audio in large-scale sound reinforcement projects. “The attendance rate during my lecture was about 80% compared to usual,” said Aaron Lu. “Of course, there are fewer people at the show than before, but it is better than expected. People can see there is hope of industry recovery.”

“I feel that the traffic in Halls 4.2 and 5.2 is reversed this year,” said Audinate's Steven Cai. “I don’t know if this is due to the increased demand for conferences and the decline in live performance. In the past, we’ve held seminars in the aisle outside the exhibition hall but, to obey the requirements of epidemic prevention, it has been moved to the innermost part of the hall. I thought people would not find us, but the attendance rate of our lectures has reached an average of 80%.”

Liang Weijie from EZPro dealer, Wsound
Liang Weijie from EZPro dealer, Wsound

Located at the entrance of Hall 3.2, SAE was launching new products including the Soundard C1300Q and C3500Q amplifiers and the MEGA2500 power amplifier which provides two 2,500W power at 8Ω. Domestic sales of SAE’s Verity brand are now handled by Haona, which also distributes L-Acoustics in the club market for Rightway. “The number of visitors has dropped significantly,” said SAE’s Bill Lee. “The epidemic has had a great impact on foreign trade, especially the Indian market, and we can only hope that the East Asian market will improve next year.”

Another domestic manufacturer, Lingjie Enterprise, had moved from Hall 6.1 to Hall 3.2, where it showed new conference, sound reinforcement and home theatre products. “The traffic has been 30–40% less than in previous years, but many customers were high quality,” said Zhang Pingfu. “Of course, there are very few foreign visitors. But the domestic market is moving in a positive direction.”

Chinese brand TD Taichi, also located in Hall 3.2, was inviting visitors to its nearby factory. “Our stand is mainly for meetings, and demos are being conducted in the factory,” added Lei Dinggang. “Visitors to the show are fewer than in previous years, but more people are going to the factory to have a listen. They are very targeted.”

This year, only two overseas speaker transducer manufacturers participated, both Italian brands, with Lavoce in Hall 5.2 and B&C in Hall 3.2. While Italy has been seriously affected by the epidemic, it may have presented an opportunity for Lavoce. “Our design, production planning and quality control are all led by Italy, but production is carried out in China, so our shipments and R&D have not been affected too much,” said Chen Bin.

Added Kevin Lin of B&C’s distributor, Bai Sheng Audio: “The traffic in the first two days has reached 80–90% of previous years. Most of our customers are in Guangdong and will attend the show, but there are fewer people from other provinces. In March and April, when Italy was affected by the pandemic, it had an impact on our logistics, but now things are almost back to normal.”

SAE brand Verity is now distributed by Haona
SAE brand Verity is now distributed by Haona

PLSG’s offering of educational programmes included the PLSG Annual Training Course, the Acoustic Block Forum Opportunities and Challenges of Audio Technology in Artificial Intelligence, the 10th Advanced Audio Forum and a Carving Art Exhibition. To help industry practitioners in the post Covid-19 era, safety topics dealing with the reopening of live events were added to the programme.

Live coverage of the exhibition, including presentations of the industry’s latest products and technologies with around 75 participating brands showing new products online, was broadcast on the online trade media platform, Forums and training courses were also livestreamed. Together with the PLSG WeChat platform, which livestreamed the PLSG Annual Training Course, the two platforms attracted 165,000 views.

The epidemic enforced mandatory regulations for visitors in line with the government's Covid-19 prevention requirements. Attendees needed to register on the official WeChat account before entering the venue, and apply for a code developed by the government to show whether individuals have visited places affected by Covid-19. There was a QR code for visitor registration and original ID cards had to be shown when entering the hall. Once onsite, temperature scans, frequent sanitisation of facilities and distancing measures were also implemented.

A total of 20 brands took place in the outdoor line array demo, which was split into two separate areas, with participating companies including Alcons, Coda and Turbosound and domestic brands such as ZSound and Admark. “We estimated that the number of people wouldn’t be too large, but those customers who came will have projects ongoing,” said Stephen Mao from Coda distributor, Tempo.

L–R: Stephen Mao and Vicent Ko from Coda distributor, Tempo
L–R: Stephen Mao and Vicent Ko from Coda distributor, Tempo

Among external activities taking placing during the show, the official opening of the Rightway Education and Training Centre was held at the distributor’s new office in Guangzhou on the afternoon of the first day, attracting more than 100 people. Artsound held a dealers’ award banquet at a nearby hotel for around 200 people, including partners, Sennheiser representatives, industry professionals and media. Awards were handed out to 37 companies during the banquet, at which Sennheiser’s 75th anniversary was also celebrated.

Speaking at the conclusion of the fair, Cheung remarked: “In light of the ongoing global pandemic, we are pleased to have received full support from the industry. In keeping with the trend of digitisation, this year we channelled additional resources to facilitate business online – helping exhibitors market their products more effectively and easing the sourcing process for buyers. For the first time, the entire exhibition, including new products, training courses and seminars, was broadcast. We hope this new ‘offline + online’ experience made it easier for industry players to network, learn and explore business opportunities in the resurgent market.”

Li Nanying on the stand of Sennheiser distributor, Artsound
Li Nanying on the stand of Sennheiser distributor, Artsound

The first AV tradeshow in Guangzhou was held in 2003, prior to its acquisition by Messe Frankfurt and right after the SARS epidemic was defeated. After 17 years, it has become the largest show for pro sound and lighting in China. Once this difficult year is over, it is hoped that PLSG can once again lead the industry to another peak of development.

2020 dates: 21–24 August 2020
2021 dates: 16–19 May 2021
Venue: China Import and Export Fair, Guangzhou
Total exhibitors: 677
Attendance: 41,556

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