Project Energia: Inside Adamson’s New Multi-Phase System Project
The latest on Energia development, plus a conversation with Brock Adamson

May 08, 2012, by PSW Staff


Last September, Adamson Systems Engineering made public some of the details of Project Energia, which includes a new series of loudspeaker systems with networkable Class D amplifier modules, DSP, cable and power distribution, AVB network hardware with software integration of control, and 3-D simulation and diagnostics. The system will be under touchscreen control.

Adamson is releasing information about Energia in phases, each defined by close work with several leading sound companies who agreed to serve as beta partners.

Phases include: 1) Mechanical field testing; 2) Amplifier, power distribution and ground control field testing; and 3) Network and network hardware field testing.

Beta phase 1 actually began in July of last year, with Eighth Day Sound (U.S.), Wigwam Acoustics (UK), Fluge (Spain) and Big Daddy Productions (Indonesia) taking delivery of E15 line source loudspeakers, which were subsequently used on a variety of fall tours and large-format events around the world. Several other significant beta partners, including Sound Image, have since come aboard.

The Energia package has, at this count, four related patents pending. The E15 is built around the e-capsule, a surrounding module constructed in aircraft grades of lightweight aluminum. This skeletal structure provides an accurate and rigid frame for mounting the modular Autolock rigging system, while simultaneously housing a series of mid/high components on proprietary Co-Linear Drive Modules.

An individual E15 array element. (click to enlarge)

The e-capsule is flanked with two separate birch ply enclosures, each containing a proprietary Kevlar 15-inch woofer, capitalizing on the advantages of Adamson’s Advanced Cone Architecture.

Autolock is designed for a single technician to be able to set all angles on the ground, with no lifting involved. When connecting the flown section of the array to the next flyable section on the ground, the cabinets lock together automatically. Four E15 cabinets will ride in a dolly.

Briefly, the E15 is a 3-way system, with 2 x ND15 15-inch neodymium Kevlar cone drivers (2 x 8 ohms), 2 x YX7 7-inch Kevlar cone drivers (2 x 8 ohms), and 2 x 4-inch (1.5-inch-exit) Adamson NH4 compression drivers. Frequency response is 60 Hz to 18 kHz, horizontal dispersion is 90 degrees (-6 dB symmetrical), and vertical dispersion is 6 degrees (prolate-spheroidal sound chamber).

The cabinet, made of Baltic birch with textured water borne acrylic finish, measures 15.4 (h) x 51.4 (w) x 21.4 (d) inches and weighs 176 pounds.

Beta phase 2 is underway, focusing on the Class D amplification, DSP and ground control system that will provide diagnostics, control of individual bands in each E15, and more. Beta phase 3 will address the network management system, including a totally new software suite.

We recently talked with company president and CEO Brock Adamson to get further details about the concept, how it’s gone so far, and where it’s leading.

PSW: What are your observations, in general, of the current line array/loudspeaker market in sound reinforcement?

Brock Adamson (click to enlarge)

Brock Adamson: It seems that new product expectations have been lowered to the level of incremental transducer improvement. But, since the first line array entered the market, there have been enormous advances in three technology toolkits that should have a much greater affect on the evolution of the array element: engineering software, electronics and system software integration. Not enough of this is finding its way to the modern line array.

How did this drive the concepts of Project Energia?

We were motivated to put together the very best mechanical design tools found in solid modeling, finite element and boundary element analysis to expand the existing constraints of form and function of the array element. Then we looked to electronics for cost effective, lightweight power and communications. We are also developing system integration with the next generation of network and software tools such as AVB and Android.

What attributes differentiate Energia from your previous line arrays?

An Energia E15 array flying for a show in Jakarta. (click to enlarge)

Well, if we reduce all that to a set of attributes, it would start with “ergonomics” and end with “total solution,” “size” and “efficiency” somewhere on the list.

Why are you rolling out Energia in stages?  When do you project that the initial product family, group, etc., will be completed and in full production?

Our strategy was established to ensure reliability at each phase of release. Energia represents a big step for our customers and for the company, particularly in the manufacturing stage. We are currently testing amplifier and power distribution hardware and the various aspects of AVB technology are just converging, with another IEEE document yet to be finalized.

How are beta partners selected?

Like most partnerships, the prerequisite is mutual understanding and common goals.

The beta test program seems to be quite thorough. What, specifically, have they (beta partners) brought to the table in terms of refining the system? Has any substantive re-design work taken place as a result of the beta partner’s input?

During Beta Phase 1 testing of the loudspeaker system, there have been a few mechanical changes, such as a revision of an aluminum extrusion profile and some packaging tweaks, but more important, is the evolution of filter presets.

Even at the outset of Beta Phase 2, consultation brought on significant changes to the power distribution system that will allow a better fit with companies ranging from small to larger shows.

Let’s focus on the E15: What is the overall scope of this loudspeaker?

To begin, we established a rigorous routine of modeling, finite and boundary element analysis, followed by rapid prototyping and acoustic measurements. This was applied to both transducers and sound chambers.

When combined with our new concept in the physical structure, we achieved the resulting improvements we were looking for.

Simply put, the system comes in a smaller lighter package with more headroom, less distortion and better coverage.

At left, a look at the inner workings of the E15 from the front; at right, a rendering of the e-capsule, rigging and overall box design. (click to enlarge)

It’s faster to fly than anything on the market and it will offer advanced array processing and intelligent diagnostics.

They’ve been built around what you’re calling an “e-capsule” – can you describe that and offer further insight on the design?

The e-capsule is a rigid aluminum module that houses most of the technology. All rigging, electronics and mid/high waveguides are installed in this capsule. The woofer enclosures are then bolted on to each end. It offers a lightweight solution with the sonic benefits of wooden enclosures on the low and low mid bands. There are a number of patent applications that surround this technology.

How have the loudspeakers been designed to work with the other elements you’re developing – amplification and DSP/networking/interface?

This project is driven by the loudspeakers. The amplifiers have been closely tailored to the loudspeaker requirement, with the entire hardware and software package designed to complement the loudspeaker.

Mike Sprague (left) and Dave Shadoan with E15s in the Sound Image shop. (click to enlarge)

What are the notable technologies, i.e., waveguides, LF chambers, etc?

The core of the E15 is the e-capsule, with the sound chambers and drivers inside. We spent significant time refining sound chamber performance. Our Kevlar cone technology provides great transient response and in turn delivers very high resolution throughout the entire bandwidth.

Were drivers designed specifically for this loudspeaker? What are they, and are there any special aspects to them?

The YX7 midrange driver was designed specifically for this cabinet. This compression driver is more efficient than anything we have built in the past and it has very low distortion as well. As many mix engineers will tell you, most of the details are found in the mid band, and vocal headroom is crucial. This driver is designed to handle this job without question.

Please describe the rigging system and any independent certifications that it carries.

The rigging is designed by Adamson engineers and then reviewed by a German engineering firm. It meets the most rigid standards of BGV C1.

E15s deployed by Eighth Day Sound for Duran Duran on tour. (click to enlarge)

The beauty of the system is that a single technician can set all the angles on the ground before flying it. When it is lowered to the next group of cabinets, it connects automatically. This system has been met with incredible enthusiasm. 

Are there other features that enhance the portability (or other usage) of these loudspeakers?

Our dolly allows for three different packs depending on how they are arranged in transport. We wanted to offer a U.S. truck pack, European truck pack and a way to ship safely in a sea container.

Will you be using the beta partner approach with these aspects as well?

The existing beta partners will of course be carrying the flag on the introduction of power. In each phase we will have a period of beta testing. We are cautious and will only integrate the technology in a comfortable way for everyone involved.

Adamson Systems Engineering


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Project Energia: Inside Adamson’s New Multi-Phase System Project