Exclusive Interview: VP Costa Lakoumentas On Behringer’s New Eurocom Systems Contracting Division
Commentary and details from a key player in a significant new venture addressing installed systems

June 07, 2010, by Keith Clark

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At the 2010 InfoComm show in Las Vegas, Behringer is launching Eurocom, a new division exclusively dedicated to the systems contracting marketplace.

The venture is captained by Vice President of Installed and Commercial Sound Costa Lakoumentas, a 25-plus year veteran of the systems market with a significant background in product development, manufacturing and contracting facets of the business.

I caught up with Costa prior to the show to get his insights on what to expect from this new enterprise.

Keith Clark: What is the genesis of Eurocom?

Costa Lakoumentas: I’d been spending a lot of time in China the past few years, working on product development and manufacturing, and during that period, was introduced to Uli Behringer (Founder and Chairman of parent company the MUSIC Group). Uli explained that he wanted to expand into the installation market, but I wasn’t clear on the company’s ability to move forward. Frankly, the brand didn’t seem positioned for it.

But Uli and I stayed in touch, though, and I finally had the opportunity to visit the production facilities in China - and was blown away by what I saw. More than 3,500 employees working in 1 million square feet of production and office space, and a lot of attention to quality and detail, such as Six Sigma production processes and Kaizen Lean Manufacturing in place.

This is backed up by an in-house R & D group with about 160 engineers, an in-house UL-certified test lab, and in-house RF test chamber - about $1 million in test equipment alone. The whole place is geared toward rapid design, verification, manufacturing and delivery of product. It just so happens that the products up until now have been MI and retail oriented.

I realized that this was a true machine that could take great product definitions and engineer and build them for any level of the market, any application, with a guarantee of quality, performance and value. This is what got my attention and ultimately led me to come onboard.

KC: What segments of the installation and commercial market is Eurocom initially focused on?

CL: As we all know, it’s a pretty broad market. That said, there are two segments that we’re most focused upon right now: what we call engineered systems and specialty systems.

On the engineered side, for example, there are independent contractors who are designing and installing systems that combine vocal reinforcement and music reinforcement in live sound style applications, such as a house of worship. Or they’re providing mixed-use vocal reinforcement and playback systems at sports facilities, conference centers, meeting rooms, hotels, and so on.

On the other hand, the specialty side are systems for retail outlets, hospitality functions, bar/restaurants, that sort of thing. These two segments have been the focus of Eurocom product development effort.

At the same time, we have studied our current products that are already being utilized in some installation applications. Frankly, a lot of contractors in the U.S. and abroad are already using our products in fixed installation. For example, the XL3200 console is a great value for houses of worship, community theaters and other places.

So the overall strategy is to go into the installation market with products that enable our existing supporters to build out systems based upon our products, and to appeal to other contractors who may not feel we have been offering enough core products, say, for example, for 70-volt systems, distributed loudspeakers, to get their attention.

It’s very easy to come out and make grand proclamations, saying, well, we’ve decided that the world has just been waiting for Behringer to arrive on the scene with the next generation of DSP that’s going to connect the world together. And that would get us nowhere.

You’re not going to come out of the chute and immediately convince people that a company that was largely providing an MI/retail line should be first in line for the next 200-zone airport system that comes along. Let’s be honest about it.

Rather, we’re entering the market with solid, well-defined product lines, and with a value proposition that’s attractive for contractors to adopt. We first must prove that we are a reliable, credible supplier of the right kind of product.

KC: What types of products we will see initially from Eurocom?

CL: We’re introducing approximately 60 products that are focused 100 percent on the install business - no crossover with MI/retail. At the same time, they can be combined with some MI/retail products to fit certain applications.

KC: Are these products truly new?

CL: Our customers are far too intelligent to fall for the same products being branded differently. We’re in a very small community here in the pro audio industry, so just putting a different brand on the same product won’t fool people, and it also doesn’t resolve the channel conflict of selling something in MI/retail and also contracting.

So if a contractor is buying Eurocom product, it has been exclusively developed for the install market, from the ground up, with features, form factor and technologies that are unique.

We’ve reached out to partners and experts in the systems business and worked closely with them, strongly encouraging them to share the functionality and feature sets they want. We asked them what it is that they really need from a specific product for a specific application.

A unique tenet of these products is a devotion to energy efficiency. For example, if you look at the current state of the market in 70-volt packaged amplifiers, for the most part you see linear power supplies, Class AB topology, big transformers on the output section, and so on. By the time you work out the efficiency, it’s at less than 40 percent.

We took a ground-up approach to efficiency. Staying with amplifiers, this means switch-mode power supplies, Class D design to drive high-impedance loads, and so on, to present an amplifier with efficiency of well over 80 percent. This is a notable advancement, not only in terms of energy and cost that mean real value, and also in terms of the impact on the environment.

KC: What’s the initial scope of the product line? 

CL: Eventually it will be every component in the signal chain, from microphones through loudspeakers. But when you’re just getting going, you have to start somewhere, so we’re beginning with products in a few key categories.

One line is high-performance live sound reinforcement loudspeakers for fixed installation, with the type of dispersion, pattern control and frequency response contactors demand, and an aesthetic that is absolutely acceptable in any environment.

Another line is distributed loudspeakers, both in-ceiling and on-wall models. A lot of the current loudspeakers of this type seem to be one copy after another, all look and perform about the same, but ours are unlike anything else. They are immediately distinguishable as Eurocom products.

There are also power amplifiers with onboard DSP and Ethernet networking aimed at fixed installation. The technologies and efficiencies we have in house allow us to deliver a 3,000-watt dual-channel power amplifier with DSP and Ethernet control at a price that is a fraction of a lot of similar products.

And another line that is probably the thing that people least expect from us: about 15 models of integrated mixer/amplifiers and stand-along amplifiers to serve the 70/100-volt market. These contain numerous unique features as well as presenting styling that will take this type of product “out of the back room,” so to speak.

KC: Is Eurocom prepared to meet the service and technical support needs of the systems market?

CL: The value on this component is not lost on us at all. From the top down, we understand it very well. The worldwide infrastructure of our support network is already in place, and now we’re adding the personnel with the specialized expertise to provide the necessary highly intelligent level of support. Repair depots and fulfillment locations are established, and right now we’re setting up same-day shipment of any replacement part.

The world moves quickly, there’s no shortage of product, and there’s also no shortage of people hammering at systems integrators for their business. Our role is to be there to meet their needs as they arise, to help them solve specific problems and produce a better overall system result.

KC: How do Midas and Klark Teknik factor into this equation?

CL: Midas and K-T are brands that stand for something, and it is something substantive and something real. It would be absolutely negligent of us to put their label on a product that isn’t worthy of their brand. That would be criminal, so it will never happen.

There are synergies, however, and in fact, I was just talking to John Oakley (Midas/K-T Managing Director) and his team this morning about some technology concepts. We both benefit from each other’s experience and each other’s research, and if we come to the same conclusions independently, then we can leverage our mutual strengths to take advantage of economies of scale, which is all good for the customer in terms of both performance and price.

I’ve seen synergies go badly and go the right way, and we’re focused on doing the latter.

KC: Where does the Eurocom name come from?

CL:  It reflects the company’s legacy in Europe, and in fact, it’s already been utilized in certain product names over the years, such as Eurodesk consoles and Europower amplifiers. When it came to discussing a name to distinguish the installation products, Eurocom was a natural.

It allows us to define and differentiate ourselves while really connecting us with the heritage of the company.

Keith Clark is Editor In Chief of ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International magazine.

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Exclusive Interview: VP Costa Lakoumentas On Behringer’s New Eurocom Systems Contracting Division