Peter J. Horne preps one of the company’s systems for an upcoming gig.
In the highly competitive local sound reinforcement field — where the market is relatively small and saturated — at the end of the day, what helps you stand out from the competition lives in a warehouse: the gear. You can point to the quality of service or the largest festival or the most complex install as key elements to your success, but if your equipment list is not top-notch, then you're not going to get the gig.
This fact is exemplified by Horne Audio Inc. (Portland, Ore.; www.horne-audio.com), where the latest roadworthy gear is king. Granted, rider requests can weigh heavily on equipment choices, but president J. Peter Horne finds that he has to take rider specs with a “grain of salt.” “A portion of rider requests are from experienced engineers who are asking for ‘legitimate’ items,” Horne explains. “On the other hand, many requests come from guys who just request the flavor of the month. I love the guy who threw a fit because I wouldn't bring AKG 414s for overheads. Our 414s generally only leave the warehouse for special situations (piano, jazz or symphony miking). We, as a rule of thumb, provide Shure KSM 32s for drum overheads. Funny thing is, I charged for the 414s, brought them and the guy never used them.
“Rider requests are just a starting point in the [equipment-buying] decision-making process,” he continues. “While we do try to provide what people are requesting, other factors such as versatility, compatibility, longevity and cost, among other considerations, are also factored.”
Taking a quick peek inside Horne Audio's warehouse shows that the company is focused on providing state-of-the-art gear, whether or not those pieces are commonly found in riders. For example, consoles available to such recent clients as Tenacious D's '07 West Coast tour, USTA Davis Cup, Oregon Jamboree, Oregon Zoo Summer Concert Series, Tony Hawk's Boom Boom Huck Jam Tour, and numerous radio station festivals and special events include choice models from Digidesign, Midas, Yamaha, Crest, Allen & Heath and Mackie. Speaker systems can include components from Electro-Voice's XLC/XLD/XLC215, EAW's KF850/SB1000, Stage Accompany's P16/26/C27 and Community's R2/R5. In addition to these touring necessities, the company carries a large stock in smaller-format speakers, monitors, amps, system processing, FX/dynamics, mics and wireless gear — the whole nine yards.
“We are constantly updating our inventory,” Horne says. “Some of our recent acquisitions this year  include digital consoles, L-Acoustics wedges and expansion to our wireless inventory. The upgrades that are planned for this year include the continued updating of our monitor inventory and exploring options to replace our aging ‘trap box’ inventory.”
But this mass of gear did take time to accumulate. Horne Audio was formed in 1999 (Horne has been in the audio biz since 1976) by Horne, Bill Gardner (who now handles operations at the city's theater system) and Dave Caldwell (who is now in charge of maintenance and repairs, as well as lead engineer). The threesome found that Portland was sorely lacking in quality service and equipment from SR providers and that they could fill this niche easily. The company has since added Don Lindsey, head of operations, and currently has five full-time employees and another half-dozen who are used on a regular basis. During the height of the season, as many as 20 Horne employees can be found working at local gigs.
While there is stiff competition in town, Horne says that Portland is a busy metropolis, attracting enough events to keep the company very busy most of the year. He cites the city's, and Oregon's, quality of life as a perk. “Many quality engineers choose the Portland area as a place to live,” he explains. “When these engineers are not on the road, I'm able to draw upon their experience and expertise to fulfill my needs.
“Sticking to a sound business plan — no pun intended — is critical for achieving success,” Horne says. “We will continue to explore new opportunities while maintaining our current clientele and inventory. We have a reputation for providing the best equipment and service in the area. Because of that success, we're able to maintain our share of the market and keep our competition at bay.”
Sarah Benzuly is the group managing editor for Mix, EM and Remix magazines.