The D.A.S. Audio journey began more than 40 years ago, when a new enterprise named “Dynamic and Sound” was created by Juan Alberola in Valencia, Spain in 1971.
Alberola, with a serious passion for audio, began designing and manufacturing his own loudspeakers and components, initially for studio monitoring and home listening, and all built in-house.
Just a few years later, that focus also included producing larger loudspeakers for Spain’s thriving dance club, fueled by the country’s reputation as a European tourist hotspot. By 1979, D.A.S. Audio had earned a reputation for quality and was an audio manufacturer to be reckoned with, employing a workforce of more than 60 and presenting its loudspeakers for the first time at Prolight + Sound / Musikmesse in Frankfurt.
The 1980s saw the company gain a solid network of national and international distributors, as Spain’s music revolution – “La Movida” (The Movement) – led to a live music explosion, with pop, rock and punk gaining popularity across the country. The company developed products to meet the demands of the live sector, further growth which prompted the building of a new manufacturing facility in 1986 in Spain’s largest industrial park, Fuente del Jarro.
Through the 1990s, D.A.S secured its position as the leading Spanish manufacturer of sound reinforcement equipment with the launch of the Biflex 8, which incorporated an enclosure made from high-density structural polymers. This in turn led to the development of a complete line of small- to-medium-sized loudspeakers for an array of live and installed applications, with the DS-15 becoming the first injection-molded 15-inch loudspeaker system to be manufactured in Europe.
Robert Giner, director of marketing at D.A.S. Audio. (click to enlarge)
Moving On Up
In 1996, the company established a subsidiary in the U.S. known as D.A.S. Audio of America, and to this day. is one of the only European sound reinforcement manufacturers with a presence of such duration in North America.
The operation also expanded its manufacturing capacity, purchasing an adjacent warehouse that was duly converted into a three-story building and connected to the existing factory. This facility remains productive today, serving as the site where they company’s electronic and MI product lines are manufactured.
About 10 years ago, the company grew again, adding another adjacent building to its factory complex. Today, it houses the woodworking and painting departments, cinema systems manufacturing, and the theater/demo room that is cordially referred to as Apollo. It is also used for storing the plethora of wood cabinets created in woodworking.
Measuring a prototype in the on-site anechoic chamber. (click to enlarge)
A deep-rooted D.A.S philosophy has two primary tenants: export and growth. It’s something the company is particularly proud of, and stems back to the founder’s initial vision.
“From the beginning, it was clear that Spain was a small market, so export was always going to be of paramount importance; and the second part of Juan (Alberola’s) vision was to have solid growth over a long period of time as opposed to a rapid uncontrolled expansion,” explains Robert Giner, D.A.S. director of marketing. “A lot of importance is placed on manufacturing products here in Spain rather than outsourcing. This keeps our people employed, and learning how to build better systems.
“If this is sustainable in the future depends on numerous factors, some of them controllable, others that are not. I am sure the company will be smart enough to continue offering value and quality.”
Team & Technology
Strict Spanish laws require that factories keep operations as “green” as possible, and D.A.S. is no exception. All electronics, cardboard, wood and metal have to be disposed of properly, and the company has numerous contracts with a variety of firms that help take care of its recycling responsibilities.
“Wood suppliers that provide plywood operate under sustainable forestry principles, which manage their forest resources to meet the needs we have today without interfering with the needs of future generations,” Giner notes. “In the same way, all of our plastic is recycled via the companies which provide us with the plastic parts.”
Left to right: Aero 8A enclosures ready for grilles, Javier Navarro (left) and Gonzalo Arroyo working with prototypes, and robotic aluminum injection of loudspeaker driver chassis.
All product design is handled in-house by several engineering departments. Once the initial product concept is complete, projects are handed over to director of engineering Javier Navarro, whose team manages the process of bringing each product to life.
Power amplifiers, horns, cone and compression drivers – you name it – are all developed onsite, with liberal doses of rapid prototyping, rapid prototype machining, finite element simulations, acoustic modeling, and engineering programs aiding the process.
Complete units assembled in prototype form are rigorously tested, analyzed and tweaked. After that, they’re subject to intense beta testing and pre-production runs within their respective fields, until D.A.S is finally in a position to order definitive parts from its key suppliers.
Wood enclosures being carefully crafted. (click to enlarge)
“The majority of suppliers are our own departments: electronics, which builds the amps; woodworking, which makes the cabinets; the metal shop, which provides CNC produced parts; and the loudspeaker section, which has to build the specific components and drivers,” Giner says.
“Others, like wiring harnesses, aluminum and plastic injection, laser cutting, stamping and other precision metalwork, are ordered from outside suppliers,” he continues. “Parts are slated to arrive at specific dates in order to plan a production schedule, and from there, we start a slow production run, which is gradually ramped up to full-on production.”
Currently, the live market is shrinking in Spain, which is presenting some challenges. However, that’s countered by a demand for installation products that’s sufficient enough to keep the business ticking
nicely. On a more positive note, the manufacturer’s Aero Series of line array systems has proven to be particularly popular both for events and major concerts. At last count, Giner says, there are more than 20,000 Aero boxes in use worldwide.
A sizeable demo room where systems can be flown evaluated. (click to enlarge)
“The Aero 12A and Aero 50, which is the ‘big guy,’ have both been used extensively at numerous big events around the world,” Giner says. “In areas like North and South America as well as Asia, these systems are in use regularly in large live events. Recent examples include concerts with David Guetta in Pune India, Joe Cocker in Argentina and Spain´s own Alejandro Sanz in New Orleans.
“But we’ve also seen growth in Europe: 40 units of our Aero 12As were very recently installed into the Buesa Arena in Vitoria (in Spain), and were also used at the Dortmund Supercross, a very cool event in Germany.”
Also in demand is the new Road Series of monitors and subwoofers, with Giner adding that the Action Series of compact systems, introduced in January at the 2012 Winter NAMM Show, are helping to pave the way to new opportunities. Especially considering that Spain is a small and notoriously difficult territory, the company’s continued growth is impressive.
Aero line arrays flown to provide coverage at the recent Dortmund Supercross in Germany. (click to enlarge)
The workforce has literally doubled since 1979, with the 120-strong team now operating within a high-tech 270,000-square-foot factory space that is incomparable to anything else “pro audio” within the country. The company also has sales offices in Miami and Singapore.
Although the economic forecast may be unpredictable, Giner remains positive about the future. “We have an amazing facility here; we build our own boxes, we set high standards, and we’ll continue to do so,” he concludes. “I’m hopeful that our philosophy will stand us in good stead for years to come.”
Paul Watson is the editor for Europe for ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International.