Most people know that Nashville is the home of the Grand ol’ Opry as well as the world headquarters of Gibson Guitars, but what you may not know is that a little company called Equation Audio has been quietly revolutionizing the professional audio market with a line of superbly engineered, innovative, and remarkably affordable headphones and microphones. Led by CEO Bruce Forbes, this Nashville company is turning heads internationally with a commitment to excellence in engineering at highly competitive pricing.
While Equation Audio is still a young company, Forbes and the core team at Equation are not newcomers to the game. In the mid-nineties, a small startup known as CAD turned the microphone industry upside down overnight with the introduction of a highly affordable line of microphones that compared favorably to units that were only to be found in professional studios.
The rapid acceleration of computer technology and performance (as well as the advent of the VHS based ADAT 8-track digital audio recorder) during the 90’s led to a parallel revolution in the cost of home recording studios. With affordable processors and hard-drives capable of multi track digital recording, it was no longer necessary to invest in large consoles and tape machines to create quality recordings. Home studios started cropping up in every neighborhood, and the demand for professional quality microphones at amateur prices was strong. Bruce Forbes, then Vice President of product development at CAD was keenly aware of this, and realized that the market volume was present to change the supply demand curve of professional audio forever. Forbes and his colleagues at CAD were responsible for some of the most innovative microphone designs in the past 20 years.
Like nearly every classic rock and roll story, Forbes and CAD parted ways due to “artistic differences,” and after a brief hiatus, he returned to the fray with a newfound commitment to take the rapidly changing beast of global manufacturing by the horns and push it in the innovative design-centric directions that CAD did in her heyday. Like Steve Jobs’ role in Apple Inc., Forbes has a focused vision for nearly aspect of the product design, quality control, material integration, logistics, and marketing. Like his Cupertino analog, he doesn’t hesitate to move in radical directions with the design process, taking a holistic approach to be sure that a synergy exists between conception and consumer. Forbes grew up in his family’s music stores in the south, played music all of his life, and happens to love the intricacies of innovative electronics. Understanding both sides of the sound equation: the musical, psycho acoustical side and the scientific aspects, seems to be a major factor in the spirit of product development.
Before the formation of Equation Audio, Forbes acquired some very special intellectual capital from a close friend, Fred Cameron. Cameron is known in elite circles for producing some of the most sought-after microphones in the recording industry. The consensus is that Fred Cameron was a man who had both impeccable ears and the technological knowhow to take a stock Neumann or Sennheiser, rebuild it, and impart it with a unique and highly musical sonic signature. Fred’s career resulted in many revolutionary innovations in microphone engine design, tube biasing, integration of materials and beyond. That proprietary wisdom is carried on by his son, and now via the Equation Audio label.
Equation Audio has had some surprising success stories already with their initial line of products. Not to be limited to the Microphone industry, their first smash hit was in the headphone market. The RP-20, and now RP-21 headphones have met with astonishing critical praise for design, quality, and a price point that had many pro’s scratching their heads and asking, “why didn’t you price these higher?” In fact, the success of the RP-21 headphones kick started a cult-following (including the legendary Vinnie Colaiuta) that expanded into their line of highly affordable drum microphones.
Originally conceived as a value-line of drum mics for the semi-professional market, the Alpha Series started to crop up on tours with professional acts like Poison, the Moody Blues, Grand Funk Railroad, and many others. Professionals in the field have said that Equation had basically out-engineered themselves and produced a line of value-priced drum mics that sound so damn good, who needs the expensive paperweights?
The next move was into the highly competitive handheld microphone market, previously dominated by the 800 lb gorilla Sure, AKG, and Audix. In 2005, EA launched the Dominion line that began with the DS-V7, and has since expanded to the DS-V9 handheld condenser, and the latest model: DS-V10. In 2007, rumors started circulating that the DS-V9 was going to be nominated for the coveted TEC Awards. Instead, popular demand from engineers led to the selection of the newer handheld dynamic: the DS-V10.
For a young company to already have a TEC nomination is a huge honor, and the accolades are likely not over: the flagship series of studio condensers inspired by Fred Cameron are going to hit the shelves in late 2007.