VocoProYou shouldn’t need an audio engineering degree to operate a p.a. system—that much seemed obvious to the VocoPro company of La Verne, California. With advancing technology, gear that once required an expert or a manual could give way to compact, streamlined systems that go anywhere and work for anyone—good news for teachers, pastors, and anyone who leads presentations or seminars without a sound tech. At VocoPro, founded in 1991, this is the level of simplicity engineers have been building toward for years. With roots in the karaoke segment, VocoPro still produces a wide range of karaoke systems and accessories. Its big break, however, arrived in the form of p.a. systems and wireless microphones, which remain its fastest-growing segments today. As founder and President Jason Hou sums up, “Wireless technology has come a long way.”
Demystifying microphone and p.a. technology for the 21st century
Based about 30 miles from Los Angeles, VocoPro came on the scene as karaoke was filtering into American bars and clubs from Asia. On a trip to visit family in his native Taiwan, however, Hou was intrigued to find that the locals enjoyed karaoke in their homes. He returned to the U.S. with a concept for marketing karaoke tapes for in-home use, partnering with one of Taiwan’s major karaoke companies. He soon found, though, that rapidly shifting recording formats made it all but impossible for his company to gain traction. Hou decided to switch tacks, inking a deal with the Taiwanese company to sell one of its p.a. systems in the U.S., and business took off. From there he moved on to original p.a. systems, forming partnerships with American engineers and overseas factories. “Together,” he says, “we’re making our products strong in value and innovation.”
Today, VocoPro’s product line includes more than 50 complete p.a. and audio systems. The company is credited with producing the industry’s first all-in-one entertainment p.a. system, as well as its first dual-tray multi-format hard-drive player. A sampling of its more recent introductions includes three versions of the JamCube ($359-$499), a fully portable full-featured p.a. system built around a four-channel mixer and equipped to play virtually any media format. In its MobileMan series, another recent entry, VocoPro has converted the traditionally speech-centric p.a. system into a tool for musicians by adding a subwoofer—a portable combo billed as the first of its kind ($799-$1,199). In microphones, VocoPro has developed an ultra-compact multi-channel system that fits four receiver modules on a single rack space. Fully “field-replaceable,” the system is designed so that if one receiver goes out, the other three continue to function. In addition, the VocoPro range includes players and recorders, amplifiers, speakers, digital key controllers, wireless audio transmitters, and a wide variety of stands and accessories. Its multi-channel wireless microphone systems have been named top sellers by Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend.
For VocoPro, which employs a staff of 30, the latest round of innovation has focused on making p.a. systems ever more affordable and user-friendly. At the manufacturing stage, complex mechanisms that once required hands-on adjustment have been reduced to a single chip. With reduced labor costs and more stability in the end-products, VocoPro has been able to deliver advanced functionality in much more affordable packages. “Most of our units are very straightforward and operate almost like a home audio system but with professional sound quality,” says Hou. Within the U.S. market, the benefits for educators and clergy speak for themselves. For some overseas markets, however, this marks the first time consumers can afford to own a p.a. system at all. VocoPro products are now sold throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East—as well as South Africa, one of its fastest-growing markets for affordable p.a. systems and microphones. With distribution on four continents, the company has also committed to developing or modifying products to match the needs of customers wherever they are shipped. “Our goal,” says Hou, “is to be a worldwide name.”
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