TECnology Hall of Fame

2010 Inductees and profiles
2008 Inductees and profiles
2007 Inductees and profiles
2006 Inductees and profiles
2005 Inductees and profiles
2004 Inductees and profiles

TECnology Hall of Fame 2012

The TECnology Hall of Fame was established in 2004 to honor and recognize audio products and innovations that have made a significant contribution to the advancement of audio technology. Inductees to the TECnology Hall of Fame are chosen by a panel of more than 50 recognized audio experts, including authors, educators, engineers, facility owners and other professionals. Products or innovations must be at least 10 years old to be considered for induction.

2012 TECnology Hall Fame Inductees

Carbon Microphone (1877)
It's hard to imagine that a 135-year-old audio technology is still in widespread use today. One example is the carbon microphone, which Thomas Edison applied for a patent on April 27, 1877 as part of his "speaking telegraph." an early (though not the first) patent for a telephone. Yet what set it apart was its mouthpiece where a diaphragm transferred sound movement to a rubber disk covered with graphite (carbon), which varied the resistance in proportion to the vibration of the parts. Soon after, a similar patent was filed by rival inventor Emile Berliner (eventual creator of the flat-disk gramophone) who claimed that Edison had stolen his idea for the carbon microphone. A lengthy legal battle ensued and Edison's patent won out. Eventually, improved carbon microphones were used in radio broadcasting, and products such as 1920's Western Electric Model 387 paved the way for the rise of electrical recording using amplified disk cutterheads in the mid-1920s. Today, carbon mics are still used in telephones and communications handsets.

VU Meter (1940)
Everyone's familiar with VU meters, but in the early days of broadcasting and recording, numerous standards and scales for measuring volume existed, which led to confusion. Meanwhile some systems, such as peak level meters already in use in Europe — required complex circuitry and were expensive to implement, especially in gear for portable or field operations. With that in mind, in 1938, a joint group of engineers from Bell Labs (Danforth Gannett), CBS (Howard Chinn) and NBC (Robert Morris) set out to develop a solution. The result was the VU meter, which they unveiled in a January 1940 article in the Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers, and presented several variations, but what eventually took hold was the now-familiar "A-type" VU (volume unit) meter, which expressed level changes as decibels above or below a standard "0" reference value.

RCA BA-6A Variable-Mu Compressor (1951)
Developed in the mid-1930s, the first dynamics processors were crude devices, such as RCA's 96A (arguably the first commercial peak limiter), but these were designed strictly to prevent overmodulation of radio signals and their effect on audio was anything but pretty. Designs continued to improve and around 1950, RCA unveiled the BA-86, a limiting amplifier that used a variable-mu circuit, which brought a smoothness to the dynamics control process that went far beyond simple level crunching and opened the doors for more creative use of dynamic controllers in the recording process. A year later, the unit was replaced by the improved BA-6A, which remained in production throughout the 1950s and is still a prized studio item today, along with other products using variable-mu designs, such as the Fairchild 670, the Manley Variable Mu and the Universal Audio 175/176.

Yamaha PM1000 Live Console (1974)
Yamaha's PM series consoles made an inauspicious debut in 1972, with the PM200 — a mono mixer with unbalanced inputs and outputs. That was followed by the PM400, which took it up a notch with balanced I/Os and stereo operation, but the revolution arrived with 1974's PM1000 — a board whose modular design, transformer-balanced I/Os, 4x4 matrix, 3-band channel EQ and rock-solid construction truly laid down the future of Yamaha as a world standard. Boasting a tough steel frame with rosewood trim panels and offered in 16-, 24- and 32-input versions, the PM1000 was hugely popular, finding its way into fixed installations, tours and sound companies everywhere. And although long-since replaced by the newer PM2000, PM3000, PM4000 and PM5000 analog designs and the PM5D digital console, the PM1000 lives on today as a popular DIY project, with enthusiasts rack-mounting and re-capping individual input modules, used as channel strips for recording applications.

Aphex Aural Exciter (1975)
In the early '70s, recording engineer Curt Knoppel was experimenting with a miswired Heathkit project where one channel sounded great, while the other channel was heavily distorted. To his surprise, he found that mixing those two channels yielded a sound that that was open, clean and detailed. Knoppel got together with a young accountant named Marvin Caesar and they formed Aphex in 1975, financed the production of several Aural Exciter prototypes (shown here), one of which was used by Showco on piano for Paul McCartney's "Wings Over America" tour. At the one of the shows, producer Peter Asher heard it and wanted to use the Aural Exciter for Linda Ronstadt's Hasten Down the Wind album. Aphex only had a few units, so rather than sell the ones they had, these units were rented to studios for $30 per finished album minute. After a few years, Aphex had grown, abandoned the rental concept and began selling the units. Eventually, the Aural Exciter brand expanded with a combination Aural Exciter/Big Bottom bass enhancement device and a software plug-in version.

Pressure Recording Process (1979)
In late 1979, the patent (#4,361,736), for the Pressure Recording Process was filed to little fanfare, although it represented an important advancement in microphone technology. The inventors were two recording engineers/industry veterans Ron Wickersham (the founder of Alembic and the creator of The Grateful Dead's famed "wall of sound" PA system) and Ed Long (who holds the trademarks to "Time Align" and developed the first Near-Field Monitors). Their patent sought to eliminate the phase smear and cancellation caused when a microphone picks up both direct and delayed secondary reflection sounds. This involved placing a small-diaphragm mic capsule pointed downwards and just slightly above a flat boundary layer. Mics based on the PRP patent were first made by Ken Wahrenbrock as PZM (Pressure Zone Microphones — a name coined by SynAudCon founder Don Davis) and in 1980 was licensed by Crown, who developed and successfully marketed the PZM microphone brand extensively worldwide.

RPG Diffusor (1983)
There are a variety of ways to control sound in any acoustical environment including absorbers, traps, reflectors and diffusers. For years, the use of the latter was often limited to discussions based on the number-theory research of German physicist Dr. Manfred Schroeder, who headed the Acoustic Division at Bell Labs. In the early '80s, as control rooms became larger, instruments such as the TEF System 10 offered an accessible (and more scientific) means of measuring and documenting the actual effect of acoustical products and designs. In 1983, Dr. Peter D'Antonio founded RPG Diffusor Systems and debuted the first commercial sound diffuser that could turn what would have been a hard reflected sound into a controllable, diffuse field with uniform scattering over a predictable, designable bandwidth. RPG's original QRD reflection phase grating diffuser was later followed by wide range of acoustical control products, but his role in bringing diffusion materials into the mainstream both for live and studio environments is a significant part of the industry today.

MOTU Performer MIDI Sequencer (1985)
Founded in 1980, Mark of the Unicorn (MOTU) released its first music software, Personal Composer, a music notation/printing program in 1984, just after Apple debuted the Macintosh computer, a 128K, 8MHz machine with a 68000 processor and a 9-inch screen. Personal Composer was followed a year later by Performer, the first MIDI sequencer for the Mac. That first version was fairly rudimentary by today's standards, but was soon accepted by a growing number of Macintosh musicians and pro users. Performer continued to develop, especially as Mac hardware became more capable. In 1990, MOTU released Performer's second generation — Digital Performer, which originally worked in conjunction with Digidesign's Sound Tools and Audiomedia systems. Digital Performer later developed into a full-fledged digital audio workstation application of its own — with or without MOTU's extensive line of recording hardware. And among other enhancements, Digital Performer 8 — the latest version — can operate on Mac OS or Windows PC systems.

Meyer HD-1 Studio Monitor (1989)
Powered studio monitors are nothing new. In fact, the concept of a self-simplified studio speaker goes way back, although most of these models were powered simply for convenience, rather than performance. During the late-1980s, John Meyer of Meyer Sound Labs built an ultra-linear bi-amplified two-way speaker system that was designed mainly for research purposes, such as evaluating test mics. Eventually, legendary recording engineer Roger Nichols heard these speakers and encouraged John Meyer to build these HD-1's (the HD stood for "High-Definition") as a commercial product for studio monitoring. The HD-1's debuted in 1989 to rave reviews. In fact, the design has remained unchanged — nearly a quarter-century later — and the success of these state-of-the-art monitors led to a studio listening revolution, to the point where nearly all of today's near-field studio monitor designs are self-powered.

JBL EON Loudspeakers (1995)
At the NAMM show in 1995, JBL unveiled a then-radical concept in portable PA speakers. The EON was the first high-output, two-way speaker system in molded cabinets, including models with onboard bi-amplification, a simple mixer and companion optional subwoofers. EON also ushered in new approaches to technology, including Differential Drive woofers (using a pair of in-line voice coils) and a front baffle that also formed the horn and driver mountings, while placing heat sinks in the port area to assist in amplifier cooling. EONs are stackable, can be pole-mounted, include rigging points and feature a slant-back cabinet design that allows them to double as stage monitors. The JBL EON is now in its third generation and shows no signs of slowing down, with hundreds of thousands of units sold worldwide.




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