"I wasn't loaded down with any classical notions of what you could or couldn't do..."
How did the Series 1 desk come into existence?
My first work on building consoles had been undertaken with Bill Kelsey, whom I met when I was working at Compton Organ Company in the late ’60s; it was during this period that we constructed the large mixing desk that was used by Emerson, Lake & Palmer at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. By the time we got to the Series 1 in 1974, Phil [Dudderidge, Soundcraft cofounder] and I were building nice-looking modular consoles that shipped in Cripple Creek aluminium flight cases. I think it was Phil who suggested, "Why not build the mixer into a flightcase?", and so we did.
Remember that this was a discreet, transistor-based design and that all parts were often quite expensive then, but we still managed to get the mixer built into a flightcase with multicore and stagebox for the original price of £992. It was the product that really began to make Soundcraft’s name.
How soon did you realise that it was a hit?
Almost immediately – it caught on quickly across the industry. It also provided a template for what was to follow, with a lot of the new circuitry being shared by the Series 1S and Series 2. The Series 1S also introduced the four-band EQ with two swept mids and was the first to use transformerless mic preamplifiers. Removing the need to have transformers meant a dramatic cost-saving per channel, plus they sounded so quiet and good.
With Soundcraft firmly established as a major industry player, what do you regard as the next landmark console in its history?
Probably the 1624 recording console from the late ’70s which allowed engineer and producer to work side-by-side at the console. It introduced the idea of using flat ribbon cables to connect the internal patchbay to the input/output modules. This idea was taken further by also using ribbon cable to replace the traditional motherboard as a means of connecting all the modules to the large number of audio buses and power rails.
How do you feel about your overall contribution to pro audio?
Well, it just kind of happened! My career path was not particularly typical; at university I studied electrical engineering, rather than electronics, so I obtained plenty of maths and engineering knowledge generally, but only did a short course on transistors and was essentially caught between [the demise of] valves and the rise of the op-amp. It wasn’t until I started working with Bill Kelsey that I first got involved with designing the building blocks of audio, and it was Bill who showed me how to lay out circuit boards.
The result is that I really learned the art of electronics by doing it, and in retrospect I feel that was a big advantage. It allowed for the possibility of significant breakthroughs as I was not loaded down with any classical notions of what you could or couldn’t do. Coupled with my “what if” nature, it meant that all kinds of options were open and Soundcraft was able to progress pretty rapidly.
Hail to the boffins! Genius! is all about celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio. Mailed out with the February print edition of PSNEurope, the 36-page supplement is also available to read in handy digital-edition form. Read it online, or download as a PDF, at www.psneurope.com/introducing-genius.