Two Optimal Audio ZonePads

Optimal Audio: “We have the flexibility to innovate!”

Optimal Audio is a new name in the world of commercial audio, but it comes from a company with a long and distinguished track record.

Launched by Focusrite Group, the brand arrives with a clear mission to simplify the often discordant world of pro audio, offering a portfolio of products designed from the ground up for seamless integration and easy installation. Music to pro audio ears? Time for a deeper dive…

“The message will help us establish a unique identity”, James King, Director of Marketing told Audio Media International

Identity is everything.  So if Optimal Audio was a band – who would it be?

“That’s a great, if controversial question! When looking generally at brand strategy, there are always analogies that you look for to help visualise an identity and approach, but this can also lead to more arguments around people’s perception of a given car brand, celebrity or animal, so should always be treated with caution. 

“It naturally followed that on this question the team disagreed at length on the virtues and attributes from everyone from The Beatles (simple brilliance) to Pulp (commercial, but different), from The Clash (fresh outlook / anti-establishment) to Travelling Wilburys (creative individuals collectively in sync). What we don’t disagree on, is our excitement around Optimal Audio and what the future holds for us!” 

There are actually now eight brands within the Focusrite Group, as shortly after the launch of Optimal Audio, the group purchased the legendary synth brand, Sequential,  “but with a focus on simplicity, ease of installation and end user operation. the business is already receptive to a differentiated approach in the sector.” 

When you start a new brand from a fresh perspective, you immediately remove the shackles of the past and this gives you greater flexibility to innovate,” says King.

“By having a clear strategy from the outset, everything we developed could be in sync with our ethos.”

Optimal Audio's Up series

Of course, while engineers and installers will doubtless appreciate this ease of use messaging, making Optimal Audio a reality was probably far from easy – and dumbing down was never an option, says King.

“This was at the forefront of the brand strategy from inception. Taking a considered view of the commercial audio sector led us to conclude that it represents a maze of often overly complicated products that can be difficult to understand, install and operate. So we set off from the start to do things differently, with a streamlined offering that’s straightforward to install and simple to use. Importantly, however, this was not about simply dumbing everything down. 

“It was more about careful product selection and development, where unnecessary complexity was stripped away, and an architecture was created in which the products worked seamlessly together. We identified a core eco-system of products across control, amplification and loudspeakers for small to medium-sized commercial installations, with a focus on supporting multi-zone venues.” 

Optimal Audio’s opening mix comprises controllers, amplifiers and loudspeakers. At the forefront are four and eight-zone, powered and non-powered Zone controllers. 

“There is currently nothing else at this price point on the market which has the functionality and versatility to allow such a quick and simple setup. They have a flexible three-band EQ plus bandpass filtering on every output, alongside limiters and delay – features that are normally associated only with premium-priced offerings.”

Significantly, Optimal Audio’s WebApp makes system set-up straightforward, allowing installers as much access as they require to configure EQs, devise presets and structure time-of-day routines.

The key focus for the group appears to be small to medium-sized commercial installations… 

“Multi-zoned venues are our core proposition, and so yes restaurants and bars will certainly be key applications, but we also see opportunity in retail, fitness studios and leisure in general. We don’t see small live music venues being a core application but certainly venues that might combine a restaurant with maybe a DJ zone is clearly an opportunity.

“We are very focussed upon small to medium sized multi-zone venues. We don’t see this changing anytime in the near future. The portfolio will expand but only in line with our ecosystem and simplicity approach.”

Optimal Audio Smart Amps

King rejects any suggestion that the launch of Optimal Audio might cannibalize the market, particularly for stablemate Martin Audio

“Optimal Audio offers a differentiated set of products, software and price point and is dedicated to commercial audio, and we feel confident that it will only deliver incremental revenue to the group,” he says.

It’s a brilliantly simple idea, which makes you wonder why no one has taken the same approach… 

“Commercial audio has tended to be quite traditional in approach and for the most part extremely cost conscious. In our opinion this has often led to a lack of innovation and a negative impact upon product design and integration.“

While the Optimal Audio portfolio is designed to work together, simplifying deployment and operation, installers can mix and match with other components, but King suggests caution. 

“Our clear recommendation is stick with the Optimal Audio ecosystem, as this guarantees the simplicity of installation, operation and the integrity of the sound quality. Equally, other elements can clearly complement the system which is why the Zone8 has 30 inputs, including HDMI. 

“Of course, installers could use alternative products within the ecosystem but for a guaranteed simplicity of integration, performance and end user operation we wouldn’t recommend this.”

So from a launch perspective, the brand has clearly hit the ground running. But what can the industry expect from Optimal Audio going forward? What’s on the roadmap? 

“We are extremely proud of the fact that at launch we were able to announce 20 products as part of our ecosystem approach. That feat shouldn’t be underestimated when you consider the challenges of launching any new product and against a backdrop of the pandemic That being said, we do have a 3-year roadmap where we will look to enhance the offering of the three core categories of controllers, amplifiers and loudspeakers as well as investigation into perhaps an additional category down the line.”

Read more about Optimal Audio here

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