Christian Heil, the founder of L-Acoustics, has made it his mission to develop the perfect sound.
At festivals such as Coachella, famous soloists, bands, and DJs soak up the adulation of hundreds of thousands of fans, but spare a moment for the unsung hero at such gatherings – the hardware, like advanced speakers made by L-Acoustics. Christian Heil’s company is ubiquitous at premium events worldwide including the BBC Proms, Hollywood Bowl, Olympic Games, Tomorrowland Festival, Philharmonie de Paris, or on tour with famous artists including Mark Knopfler, Lorde, Aerosmith, and P!NK. “You may not have heard of us – but you have heard us.” Christian says.
As a young man with a PhD in particle physics, Frenchman Christian’s journey to elevate the listener experience began with a chance encounter. He met an audio engineer at a party in the early 80s and says the conversation triggered something inside him; he was fascinated by the technician’s expertise and drive to improve sound quality at concerts and, over time, believed he could help by applying his scientific knowledge. Buoyed by this new quest, he dived headfirst into the industry and set up his own company, L-Acoustics, in 1984. From humble beginnings and two employees, it now employs 500 people with offices in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and Singapore and a network of certified partners in 80 countries
“There’s a misconception” Christian explains, “that sound is very subjective. In fact, sound and audio performance are characterised by very objective and measurable criteria if the goal is to achieve sound that is genuine.”
L-Acoustics has pioneered a series of leading audio innovations, culminating in the 2016 launch of L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound, a technology providing ultra-high resolution spatial audio which fuses naturally with any visual presentation. L-ISA has greatly improved the experience for over 12 million spectators at more than 6,000 live productions worldwide. The product’s success is built on the belief that sound quality and authenticity is fundamental to enjoyment.
“Sound is invisible and quite easy to forget,” explains Christian, “because we are constantly exposed to mediocre audio. But the future of sound, or perfect sound, already exists at L-Acoustics.”
Like any company working in the live events space, the coronavirus pandemic has been a serious challenge for Christian and his employees, but he speaks of their reaction to the crisis with pride: “Our teams responded with inspiring solidarity, courage, resilience, and resourcefulness.”
With 25% of its workforce devoted to research, development, and application, L-Acoustics immediately focused on solutions rather than problems. Among other initiatives, the pandemic has seen the acceleration of the new L-Acoustics Creations division, aiming to enable people to “bring the concert home.”
“We have barely begun to explore the vast possibilities of sound”
By partnering with American in-ear headphone specialists JH Audio, L-Acoustics has developed Contour XO, the first in-ear devices to replicate the vibrant L-Acoustics sound. This has made the company more agile and competitive in alternate marketplaces. L-Acoustics sound systems are now just as much an integral part of socially distanced entertainment as they are for huge live events. The company’s influence can be found in everything from livestreaming studios to drive-in concerts, to immersive virtual crowd noise systems for professional sporting events.
L-Acoustics has weathered the coronavirus storm and now finds itself in a healthy position as it looks to the future. Of course, with Christian at the helm of a passionate team of sonic experts, imagination and origination lie at the heart of its plans. In particular, these will revolve around what he refers to as “sound architecture,” so watch – or better yet – listen for this space.