Pliant Introduces SmartBoom LITE and Consolidates Position at Second NAB Show

Pliant Technologies has wrapped up its second NAB Show, just over a year after being established as the general broadcast arm of sports communications specialist CoachCom. The main focus for the 2017 Las Vegas expo was the recently introduced SmartBoom LITE headset, which was shown alongside other models in Pliant’s range of headphone-mic combinations and the CrewCom wireless intercom.

The SmartBoom LITE is part of Pliant Technologies' SmartBoom series of headsets, which also includes the PRO dual and single ear units. The LITE is designed to be more compact than previous headsets and can be used by both presenters and technical staff. It has three options for connectivity: four-pin female XLR, five-pin male XLR and un-terminated. All models are finished in a non-reflective, rubberised black matte material and feature an adjustable headband, a five-feet/1/5 metre fixed cable and replacement ear pad.

The mic arm of the SmartBoom LITE is fitted with a dynamic noise-cancelling cardioid microphone capsule and, like SmartBoom headsets, features an on/off switch that can be used as a mute/cough 'button'.

"The SmartBoom LITE headset incorporates all the features of existing SmartBoom products in a smaller, lightweight design," comments Gary Rosen, global sales manager for Pliant Technologies. "The headset features a flexible, ambidextrous swivelling mic boom that fits the diverse needs and preferences of those working in the field."

Pliant Technologies emerged last year as the professional broadcast intercoms division of CoachComm. Founded in 1991 by Peter Amos, CoachComm established itself as a supplier of communications equipment for American football coaches. Its business has grown over the years and is now claimed to account for equipment in 97 percent of colleges in the Division 1A athletics league.

CoachComm's main products include the Tempest NG wireless system and the SmartBoom range. These are now sold under the Pliant name, with the new company releasing its first own-brand product at the 2016 NAB Show. The CrewCom wireless intercom is based on a proprietary network for all audio, control, signalling and system data. It runs in the 2.4GHz and 900MHz bands and can also operate on CAT5e cabled circuits.

While CoachComm was well established in sports - and in the US particularly - it was decided to create a new identify for the more general broadcast market and other countries. "When we were working through a distribution partner there was no need for a separate persona but when we took back distributing products ourselves we thought it was important to have different branding for the professional sector," explains Rosen.

The CrewCom wireless intercom system.

The CrewCom wireless intercom system.

The aim was to build up an international network of distributors, selling Pliant Technologies' products into Europe, Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as North and South America. Over the last year distributors have been appointed in Mexico (Grupo Audio Diseño, Singapore (AVMB Solutions), Spain and Portugal (Media-Sys), the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg (Audio Electronics Mattijsen) and the Scandinavian region (Nordic Pro Audio). In April Pliant appointed Art Gonzales to the role of market development manager. Gonzales joined Pliant in 2016 from CoachComm, where he had been product market manager. He is now working on Pliant's product management and marketing groups, which includes liaising with channel partners.

With the ongoing reallocation of frequency spectrum on an international level, developers of wireless communications and microphones have been considering what technologies will give users the best and most flexible operating platforms. When it comes to intercom, Rosen says there have been essentially two choices in recent years: party line and matrix. "The two-wire party line is effectively a telephone system," he comments. "It is economical and very easy to deploy. The matrix has been around for decades but it is complicated and has a lot of infrastructure, which needs a trained operator to run it."

When the move into the professional market with Pliant was being considered, Rosen says the management began considering other approaches: "We said people really don't want or need either a party line or a matrix. They just need to talk to whoever it is they need to talk to. That was the baseline from where we started."

From that came CrewCom, which Rosen says is neither a party line nor a matrix. "There are three components to the intercom system proper," he explains. "There is how we do the audio, how we do RF and how everything connects together. The audio is full duplex, which gives the opportunity to multiply and scale up. The radio transceivers create the network and have two operational options: normal mode and high density mode. Connectivity is through our own network, CrewNet. It can run on copper or fibre and is fully distributed, with the aim of removing single points of failure. We can get up to 10km coverage with fibre and once the network is established it is able to run more than just RF."

Since its launch, Pliant has continued to concentrate on intercom equipment, although the company name was selected so it would not completely tie its products to this sector. "We thought Pliant was different and interesting," Rosen concludes. "It also leaves the window open for us to go into non-intercom products." For the time being at least, Pliant Technologies is sticking with an area it knows best and which is gaining an ever higher profile in broadcast production.

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