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Editorial and references

*Extract from Pro Audio Middle East 2004
Driving ambition (extract from Pro Audio Middle East 2004) Having built a strong reputation for its speaker designs within Europe, Switzerland's Delta Loudspeakers has recently set its sights on the world market

With its picturesque lake among breathtaking mountain peaks, the city of Lugano in Southern Switzerland is an unusual setting for a loudspeaker manufacturer. However, it is the home of Andreas Lange, founder of Delta Loudspeakers who, having spent the best part of a decade going about his business on a relatively local scale, is now taking his growing range of products to the European, American and Asia-Pacific markets. The loudspeaker market may be congested, but there is always demand for technological innovations, reliability and superb sonic qualities.

After providing hire speaker systems, such as Altec Lansing, for parties and events during his schooldays, Lange developed a passion for loudspeaker design. ‘It all really started when I bought a pair of Altec A7-8G theatre speakers and took them apart to see how they worked,' he says. From here it was a small step to founding Delta Loudspeakers in 1992. ‘I had the confidence to build a long folded horn with a 15-inch woofer with lots of bass, which sounded OK and this gave me further impetus to take my passion further,' he explains.

But Lange realised he couldn't market a loudspeaker without the support of a specification sheet or any verifying data. ‘I saved up and invested in testing and measurement equipment, which is very expensive, but you need to accurately calibrate your equipment in large open spaces. I bought a Neutrik 3330 audio analyser and, in 1993, I developed the 9318, which for its day was ahead of its time.'

Indeed, the 9318 went on to become Delta Loudspeakers best-selling product to date. Offering up to 140dB peak SPL, the 2kW 18-inch driver uses a 100mm voice coil and is housed in an 18mm Finnish birch cabinet. ‘There is no way to obtain high energy at low frequencies unless a significant mass of air is moved, so I designed low-frequency horns around the drivers that can move a huge volume of air with the 18-inch, 21-inch and 24-inch range.'

In the meantime Lange extended his low -frequency horn range with the 21-inch and 24-inch models using the same parameters as the 9318. ‘My greatest challenge was developing the higher frequencies, but after a great deal of research concluded that a 1-inch compression driver would perform better than a 2-inch version. A 1-inch driver is extremely sensitive at 18kHz and that's the point where I want the pressure if I want high SPLs. I didn't want to incorporate phase plugs in the horns - it's very complex and not enough air can move in the horn within cut-off frequencies. However, if you remove the phase plugs, you can take the frequency response down to 300Hz. With a new horn on the 10-inch driver, the mid range can be extended to 2.6kHz.'

Following a speculative request, Lange's knowledge of electro acoustics was given a boost when Altec Lansing dispatched many technical papers to him. ‘I didn't need such an amount,' he confesses. ‘It's hardly bedtime reading, and my focus was on loudspeakers rather than technical aspects, but I had always been a great admirer of James Lansing. He was a pioneer when he started his own designs in 1927 and produced his own voice coils and compression drivers.'

Lange persevered to design, manufacture and sell his own loudspeakers, which expanded to include further LF horns, mid-high frequency horns, floor monitors and the full-range Reflex 2004 and 9912 speaker series. For applications requiring a spherical sound field and for reverberation time measurements, Lange also developed the compact D12 Dodecahedron.

For what was essentially a one-man operation, Lange could offer a comprehensive catalogue of high-end loudspeakers. For over a decade he had designed, built, assembled and sold all his own speakers. ‘If Delta was to become a recognised force on the international market, investment was going to be needed,' he says. It was an honest assessment and he made a candid approach in 2003 to a local property developer, who advised Lange how to manage the company more effectively. However, the property developer was so impressed with Lange's work-rate, ideas and enthusiasm, that he recognised huge potential for the brand and decided to invest, time, resources and capital to build a new company. In doing so, he was playing a large role in realising Lange's dream. Now founder and president of the new Delta Loudspeakers company, the property developer, allowed Lange to concentrate on product development in his new role as director of R&D, while the PD dedicated his efforts into building a strong company which could support Lange's ideas in a saturated market.

About 16 people are now directly employed by Delta Loudspeakers relocated to a modern, spacious office facility in April 2004, in close proximity to the R&D, warehouse and manufacturing facilities plus 14 freelancers specialising in different fields. Included in the team a sales and marketing director who describes himself as a third Swiss, a third Italian and a third American, as a result of his Italian father and having lived for 2 years in California until his appointment in April 2004. Lange's job description has changed significantly as a result. ‘It was very difficult to delegate at first,' he insists. ‘I knew when too much adhesive had been applied to the cabinets by just listening to the loudspeaker.'

Having kept the product catalogue relatively simple for over a decade, Lange's free time soon bore fruit. New LF drivers were recently unveiled in addition to the 3205 compact line array, while a larger new line array is in development. This year promises to be very busy, with new amplifier, floor monitor, line array and Reflex series close-field monitor lines being added to the Delta catalogue.

To date, Delta has preferred to manufacture a stock of products rather than build to order, and the signs are that this will continue as Sales director explains: ‘Sometimes we receive a glut of orders. For example, last week was very busy in which we shipped stock to Malaysia, Indonesia, Chile and Italy, but if we didn't have the stock there is a danger that we may lose the order. We now need to renew our stocks of the models we shipped.'

The international market opened up for the new company in 2003, and the sales network looks set to continue to expand. ‘We signed the services of Technic Audio in Indonesia and Syarikat Instraco in Malaysia at the 2004 Pala show, and we are already seeing some large orders come in from these territories and from China.'

Distribution in the US started in January 2005, but Lange and his team aren't taking any time for self congratulation. The Sales director feels that Delta can offer its growing distribution network many benefits: ‘We prefer to work directly with a network of dealers in which we keep the stock until they need it. We then ship it out, thus saving the dealers valuable warehouse space. We also supply our products at a price in which they can build a very good margin and of course we possess high quality control values. We market directly and this is another aspect that our dealers need not worry about and this enables us to control our global image and branding without any deviations.'

I always had a vision that we'd arrive at this point,' Lange adds. ‘The labour costs incurred in Swiss manufacturing can be a problem if you're producing products based on cost, so technology and research will become the focus of our company. We have to justify the costs even if our loudspeakers are under-priced. Research and development is the crown jewel of this company and we can offer great service to our customers even if our product catalogue is relatively small.'

At 34 years of age, Lange reckons to have his best design years ahead of him, as well as being free to devote his full attention to R&D while the rest of the company resolves operational problems and develops new services like the newly-launched customer service desk, a multi-language website and the 2005 catalogue being distributed to customers worldwide. The results can already be seen in the appreciation of customers and dealers who can be confident that their investment in product has the whole company behind it.

* Extract from Pro Sound Asia 2006 Italian speaker veteran enters pro audio
Andreas Hans Lange was the man responsible for founding and nurturing Delta Loudspeakers from nearby Lugano, and he is now adding some weight to Faital Pro’s cause in his new capacity with Lange Loudspeakers. Following his departure from Delta last year, he has wasted little time in setting up the new company and developing a portfolio of loudspeakers incorporating the Italian drivers in his designs. ‘We met Mr. Lange quite by chance at a trade fair,’ recalls Mr. Naggi. ‘We kept in contact with one another and, when he left Delta, he asked for some samples. Having tried and tested these, he has decided to fully utilize them in the production of his known speakers.’

 

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