An Interview With Matt Anderson, President and CEO of Sound Devices

Sound Devices

This is an interview with Matt Anderson, president and CEO at Sound Devices, as written by Steph Beckett. It has been edited for clarity.

Can you, first off, give me a little background on Sound Devices for those who might not be familiar?

We’ve been around since 1998. I’m one of the original founders … I’ve been the primary designer on all of the products we’ve ever released. I do not do this alone, as I am surrounded by an incredible team of people who enable these products. Our primary market is sound for film and TV. So we’re used heavily throughout Hollywood and those sorts of sets around the world. Our gig is when you need really, really, really high-quality audio in a small package that you can carry around, and that’s super rugged.

Can you tell me about one of your latest products in your Astral Series wireless range, the A20-RX, and how it propels you into the AV, live event and house-of-worship markets?

Sure. So in 2018, we bought a company over in England called Audio Limited. It’s a long-time wireless manufacturer with a similar reputation to ours within the production sound space. It’s really well-known by a relatively small amount of people, who want super high-quality products. We’re looking to expand what we do, and we’ve got what we believe is the best technology in the world for wireless microphones, technology that we feel has intriguing applications within the live event, fixed install, and house of worship markets.

For a company trying to break into the live events market, you have to have an opinion on where this market is going.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple and others made a lot of great content that helped us get through the COVID era and now in addition I think there’s a really strong feeling of everyone wanting to get out and experience live entertainment and, I mean, certainly, I’ve been starting to go to a lot more concerts and I think that’s going to continue. Where this gets interesting for us is that the use cases and applications of wireless audio have continued to expand dramatically within live event production. Given how busy these RF environments can be, there is a real need for solutions to ensure clear, reliable singles as the stages and production crews get larger and more complex.

Also as a company breaking into this market, you have to be on the cutting-edge side because of how quickly technology changes. Where does Sound Devices’ SpectraBand Technology fit into this?

There are a lot of competitors out there who make fantastic products. I do think that we can move faster and come out with products quicker than just about any company. SpectraBand is an example of this … for instance, with wireless microphones, in America, the FCC has been selling off large swaths of frequencies. They sold off from 700 MHz up to 800 MHz — if you were a church or an auditorium doing live events, it used to be that you had wireless mics operating in those frequencies — that all changed and those frequencies became illegal to operate on. And so all the customers had to buy new equipment. That’s a great example of an area that’s been changing rapidly in the past 10 years. And this is going on around the world — the repacking of the wireless spectrum. What SpectraBand brings is every legal frequency around the world; you can operate with A20 RX and our new A20-Nexus as well. They are completely flexible, and nobody else has products that do this.

What does the testing process for the A20 RX look like? Do you test per batch or per product?

Every product, one hundred percent, everything. We have to certify all of our wireless mics with the FCC in America. And Canada’s got a different regulatory body, and pretty much every country around the face of the earth’s got a different regulatory body. And all the rules are a little bit different for every frequency.

So let’s say for argument’s sake that the FCC changes what frequencies are legal again. Can the A20 RX and other Astral Series receivers be updated relatively easily?

The A20 RX currently operates anywhere from 470 MHz up to 1525, which, because of the physics of RF traveling through the air, you don’t really want to go below that or above that. So anything within there we can operate. So we could, if they shift things, offer firmware updates and it’ll operate just fine.

What are some other uses for the A20 RX — other than live events?

In our typical customer on a Hollywood movie set, there was a big shift like 10-15 years ago to reality TV. Even though a lot of the more contrived reality stuff has gone by the wayside, that style of production has stayed. And that style of production is putting a wireless mic on every single actor. It’s really a fundamental shift. That same kind of thing holds true of all these live events. They’re miking everything and all of that stuff operates on and requires more access to RF frequencies, and it all wants to collide with one another … We built the SpectraBand technology to ensure that you are able to go anywhere and operate cleanly and reliably in the most challenging of RF environments without having to worry about this outside interference.

For more information on Sound Devices, visit its website here.