Interview: Alto Professional Executive Director Jay Schlabs takes the brand to the states
(ShackMan | Posted 2011-07-04)
Talking with Jay Schlabs is like talking to the owner of the corner drug store that you remember going to for your bubble gum baseball card fix since you were only about “yea high.” It didn't feel like an interview so much as meeting an old friend who wanted to know all about my life just as much as I was curious about his. Ask him how he is, and he'll be all too happy to tell you: “I'm on the road for three weeks out of a month. I love this business. I love this industry. Being in this industry for over 15 years allows me to meet some of the greatest people, musicians, store owners, people who are passionate about music.” It was a pleasure to sit down and talk with him about Numark Industries' recent acquisition of Alto Professional sound reinforcement.
Fans who have been paying attention to Numark Industries' string of acquisitions over the past several years probably weren't too surprised when they found out that they had acquired the Alto Professional brand of sound reinforcement products. With DJ Equipment from Numark, Alesis' specialized brand of effects and recording equipment, and Akai Pro synthesis already making up several parts of the team, Numark had plenty of toys to make noise, but they couldn't speak by themselves. And to those who saw it coming from the beginning, Jay Schlabs, Executive Director at Alto Professional says, “You're absolutely right. Comprehensive sound reinforcement from Alto Professional was the missing link. Just this past year we revealed Alto Professional as a brand new sister company to Alesis, Numark, and Akai Pro and brought to market the top three dozen or so products that encompass what we believe Alto Professional should be.”
The first thing I wanted to know was exactly where Alto Professional came from. I'd never heard of the company and all my research could dig up was the name Alto Pro Audio and a forum or two in Italian (which I don't speak...yet), so that wasn't helpful. Jay cleared things up right away. “Alto Professional officially began in Italy in 2000,” he told me. “And it was under the name Alto Pro Audio or just Alto. They had over 400 products available, and we here at Numark Industries saw an opportunity not just to become a distributor of the products but to acquire the company.”
And now Alto Professional products are officially designed, tested, and owned in the USA. And just looking at the products they offer, from the portable MixPack PA systems, TRUESONIC powered speakers, ZEPHYR and EMPIRE Series mixers, as well as a line of built-for-the-stage keyboard MIDI controllers, all the way back to power amplifiers, all with some serious Class-D wattage. And I mean serious. I've said before that they definitely aren't skimping on power and headroom, and that's true all the way across the board. And they're packing it with some of the best frequency response I've ever seen at that price point.
Take the TRUESONIC speakers for example: 800 watts Class D power, some of the widest frequency response, all from a cost-effective injection-molded 15” speaker and 1” neodymium horn for light weight. Top that with the ability to use it as a monitor, on a stand, or on a fly, a metal grille, contour switch, two completely independent mic/line channels, and you've got a solid competitor for the powered speaker department. And then Jay finally told me what they were asking:
“We're looking at $349 for the 15” model, and $299 for the 12” model.”
Here's the other fun part: they're both rated at 800 watts, so it's not a matter of power – just speaker tone. And therein lies one of my absolute favorite things about Alto Professional. So often I'm forced to choose something heaver and bulkier for power or go up a model just for one specific feature even though I don't need 5 others. On many of Alto Professional's products, almost all if not all of the features are made available by the mid-grade level in a product line, and isn't that really the way our brains work when we're shopping? If we don't want all kinds of flash and zazz, we go for the low price point simple thingy-ma-jig, and if it meets minimum standards for what we're trying to accomplish and keeps our wallet from starvation, we win. Anything beyond that and we're looking for the most we can get out of every single dollar, and we are loathe to spend more just to get that extra mod wheel on the keyboard, the mid control on the equalizer for our mixer, because it means that the other features have way more than we need, and it usually comes with another $100 upcharge for all those extras, so all you often wind up paying for is a difference in speaker size, or some extra keys, or some extra channels on your mixer after a certain point.
Alto Professional fits right in with the Numark Industries brands, and as Jay has hinted, Numark is already considering several potential package deals with products from two or more of the Numark brands (Akai Pro, Alesis, Numark, Alto) as well as potential rebate deals in the future.
At the end of the day, he's just as excited about the new brand as he is about the music business as a whole. “We're invested in the future of sound reinforcement with the Alto Professional brand. We'll be leveraging technology that we have as well as technology that's available in the future. We've hired an incredible team of engineers and product management to make Alto Professional one of the growing companies in the industry.” And in an industry that can be a little overwhelming with the amount of growing, upstart companies out there, the Alto Professional brand and product lines already stand out from the competition. Jay adds, "Our new speakers and mixers just landed in stores this month so it¹s the perfect time for people to to try them and pick some up."
Check out full details on Alto Professional's complete line at AltoProfessional.com!
James Rushin is a bassist, keyboardist, writer, and composer living and working in the Greater Pittsburgh area. He has performed with Selmer artist Tim Price, Curtis Johnson, guitarists Ken Karsh and Joe Negri. His compositions have been featured in and around Pittsburgh, at West Virginia University and Valley Forge Christian College. He is currently performing with local songwriters Tim Ruff , Ben Shannon , and Nathan Zoob (who is going to have a website very soon).
Got questions? Comments? James can be reached as ShackMan in the Music Gear Review forums, or you may e-mail him at James.Rushin@MusicGearReview.com.