THE FOCUS IS ON FOCUSRITE
Focusrite (full name Focusrite Audio Engineering Ltd) is a UK based audio equipment manufacturer that designs and markets audio interfaces, microphone preamps, digital audio processing hardware and software, analogue EQs, consoles and Channel strips. Focusrite was founded back in 1985 by Rupert Neve and one of its initial contracts was to build extensions to Air Studio’s custom Neve consoles, specifically the vintage recording console in George Martin’s Air Montserrat studio in the Caribbean. This resulted in the Input Signal Amplifier (ISA) 110 which was made up of a transformer coupled microphone preamp, a four band equaliser and high and low pass filters. The inaugural modules proved popular and several were ordered the following year. This led to the ISA 110 being sold as an outboard system and the ISA 130 was soon added to the range.
These designs were used by Focusrite as the basic building blocks of a complete recording console, the Focusrite Forte console which aimed to provide the best quality recording console available. However, the prohibitive cost limited production to just two units, one for the Master Rock studios in London and the other for Electric Lady in New York.
Focusrite was acquired by Phil Dudderidge (a sound engineer who was the first dedicated live soundman for Led Zeppelin) who formed a new company, Focusrite Audio Engineering Limited. In 2004, Focusrite acquired the assets of Novation Electronic Music Systems and integrated the brand, establishing Focusrite Novation Inc to manage its interests in the United States.
With an increasing interest developing in microphone preamps, EQ and dynamics capability of the console, these were developed into a range of outboard modules which became the Red Range which sported distinguishing red aluminium front panels in 1993. This was followed by the Blue Range which was targeted at mastering engineers and the Green Range which was a series of lower priced processers aimed at musicians and home/artist-owned recording facilities.
The launch of the Platinum Range in 1998 brought even lower prices with better production design, more advanced circuitry, extra features and a range of effects. Focusrite also developed a range of hardware and plugins for the Pro Tools range of digital audio workstation (DAW) systems. In the meantime, new models were being developed in the original ISA range which is still in production to this day, updated for the 21st Century with digital conversion and analogue signal processing.
2003 saw the release of the Liquid Channel which combines analogue and digital technologies to provide cutting edge preamplification. The launch of the Forte plug in for Pro Tools brought editable graphical displays in a powerful channel strip plug in.
The acquisition of Novation, an electronic instrument manufacturer enabled Focusrite to expand its product base with the keyboardless MIDI controller, the Novation Launchpad. Launchpad was one of the first grid-based performance controllers, nowadays a vital player in the electronic music hardware market. The Novation Dicer was the company’s first foray into DJ controllers and heralded the 2011 release of Twitch which used twin touch-strip controllers to provide increased control in turntable emulation. Novation synthesizers are favourites with several top electronic acts such as Jean Michel Jarre and Orbital.
Focusrite hit the headlines in 2010 when they turned their attention to the plug in market, releasing the Midnight plug-in suite which comes free with all Focusrite Saffire Pro audio interfaces. This plug-in captures DSP technology to model the classic Focusrite ISA110 equaliser and ISA130 compressor (which were originally created for the Forte console in the eighties) with high-res analogue style front panels which are simple and intuitive.
Focusrite remains one of the most innovative of all audio equipment manufacturers on the planet and the products are firm favourites of professional musicians, producers and sound engineers the world over. Focusrite products are not only suitable for professional recording studio use, They are so powerful they’ve sparked off a recording revolution The audio interfaces enable amateur bands and budding rock acts to record professional quality sound tracks just about anywhere there’s a power source.
If you speak to amateur musicians they’ll tell you that Focusrite products are the Holy Grail – they level the playing field with powerful and flexible options that bring a multi-million dollar sound for home users. With Festival Season upon us in the UK, check out the gear of the bands that are playing – you’re sure to find Focusrite products on display – their portability and versatility make them a must for any band on the road today.
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