All hail the boffins: Introducing Genius! by PSNEurope2 February 2015
The brainy ones. The backroom boys. The boffins. Genius! is all about celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio – and the very first issue, the print version of which mails with the February issue of PSNEurope, is now available to read in handy digital-edition form. Read it online, or download as a PDF, using the links below.
We’ll be posting excerpts from Genius! online over the coming months, so you can still get your fill if you don’t feel like reading it all in one go (sign up to our daily newsletter to receive a new genius in your inbox every day!).
To kick things off, then, here’s genius #1 (alphabetically, that is): Tony Andrews, inventor of the mid-range horn.
Fascinated by sound generation since the 1960s, Tony Andrews is associated with some of the best point-source PA solutions ever made and, with a team of loyal colleagues, has brought to market several systems to garner the epithet ‘legendary’. Beginning with the Festival System, which grew out of early solutions for both the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury, Andrews went onto develop the TMS-3, Flashlight and Floodlight systems as a co-founder of Turbosound. He’s now at the helm of UK independent manufacturer Funktion One and continues his pursuit of ultimate point source sound.
PSN: What was the big breakthrough?
TA: It was when we discovered the mid-range cone-loading technique: the efficient loading of cone drivers instead of compression drivers. It first went into the Festival System, used at the re-started Glastonbury in ’79, then into the Turbosound TMS-3 – and we’re using derivatives and developments of it today.
We’d been very disenchanted with large-format compression drivers in the early ’70s, and we liked the sound of cone drivers a lot more. Credit where it’s due, [Turbosound co-founder] Tim Isaac had the inspiration for the loading technique: we were experimenting with small-ish cone drivers – about eight-inch – and Tim placed a rolling pin right in front of it! Suddenly a lot of sound came together. It allowed us to horn-load the cone driver and get as much as a 10dB increase in efficiency, which is a lot. I suppose you could call it a ‘wave organiser’.
When did you realise you were onto something?
Once we’d made a proper prototype in 1976, we were testing it on the back lawn at Ridge Farm Studios. I walked from one end of the grounds to the other and it hardly seemed to decline in volume at all. It was blindingly obvious that the cohesion, and the projection, was way ahead of everything else we’d ever made or heard.
Where did you go from there?
It’s evolved with every generation, but the one that really did it was the TMS-3. That was an all-in-one box, evolved from the separate 15s, 10s and HF pieces of the Festival System. It just went global, and was the benchmark for most of the ’80s.
What has been its main contribution?
A generally heightened awareness of mid range intelligibility. As now, to some extent, the mid was very ‘there’ and people weren’t used to it. It’s still a challenge, but at least it’s now a part of the whole picture.
What are you working on now?
We’re beta-testing a new system called ‘Vero’, which is very much the next generation of what we’ve been developing at Funktion One – with all the heritage right back to that moment on the back lawn in ’76. It evolved into what we called Axehead technology, first used in Floodlight, but next year you’ll see just how well refined it has now become…
(Bottom pic: © Ben Duncan at BDR)