Setting off for Techie Mecca, I attempted to blend in by wearing a black shirt. But it was hopeless. Without the obligatory belted jeans and black backpack it was obvious I was outside my comfort zone.

On display at the annual ENTECH expo in Melbourne this week were the latest and greatest the sound and light industry innovators have on offer, from staging and cases, lights and audio, electric drum kits and screen ear monitors.

Sure if you want the biggest and brightest you’ll need to be prepared to part with big bucks, but the amateur and school production companies were not completely forgotten in the throng.

The flashiest lighting booths were JANDS and ULA Group. JANDS had a four-station talkback master station (Sands) for $995 with belt packs for $225 each. A Compact Stage Box was retailing at $6,795, but alas, I couldn’t fit it into my handbag. At ULA Group I was introduced to the best selling LED DLX spot and DLF washlight, all yours for less than $11,000 each.

Audio companies such as Ambient Technology were pushing the Italian ‘Outline’ speakers, favoured by Sting and The Foo Fighters, and no problem in wet weather conditions. The big seller here was the Mini Compass with its 24kg weight seen as a plus, and wireless control via your trusty ipad. Never mind the price people, Europe needs all the help we can muster.

In the world of staging, Managing Director of Power Stage, Kelvin Harman had modules boasting 2-and-a-half times the strength of a multi story carpark, per the Australian Standard. Over at SSE (Special Stage Engineering) staging modules start at $560 (2m x 1m) and feature tool free construction and removable legs for storage.

Companies struggling with balance issues in the pit, and school teachers keen to lose the drumming class headache, would have been interested in XM World’s electric drum kits which can be plugged directly into the PA, or used with headphones for practice with next to no sound. Alternatively they have developed skins and cymbals to be attached to an existing kit ($699-$1399).

Niche market contender TR Vidcom had “infinitely expandable - like Lego” seamless panel screens. I was told their advantage was that unlike LED and LCD screens there was no pixilation up close. Ahem - $6,000 per panel.

Yamaha’s hottest seller, the CL series mixing desk boasts all networkable capacity including internet access in theatre spaces. Its around $50,000 to drive this baby, but you don’t need a new car anyway.

Standing out in their radical purple t-shirts, the most gregarious award goes to DJ Alliance Australia, promoting national accreditation for professional MCs and DJ in the hope of raising standards and accountability.

Lucy Graham

Images: (top) Yamaha's CL5 - remote input and outputs - will set you back $50,000 & (lower) John Garfi spruking Vidcom's latest wall solution - a seamless panel plasma system - "It's endlessly extendable like lego".