Sound Wave Spotlight With Sound Devices

Sound Devices Sound Wave Spotlight

Name: Matt Anderson
Title: President & CEO
Company: Sound Devices

rAVe [PUBS]: Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do at Sound Devices.

MATT ANDERSON: I’m Matt Anderson, the president and CEO of Sound Devices. I’m one of the company founders and I’ve been the primary designer of every product we’ve ever released. That being said, I’m surrounded by an incredible team and couldn’t do any of this without all of my fantastic co-workers!

rAVe [PUBS]: How does your company approach product development and innovation to ensure your audio solutions remain at the forefront of technology?

MA: First and foremost, we talk to our customers on a daily basis to get a sense of how products are being used — both ours and other companies’ and where they can be improved or innovated upon. Our service and support departments, sales staff, and engineers are always talking to people in the field and as a result, they have a wealth of great information in this regard. It’s a solid feedback loop from the users in the field that pushes us to make things better designed and easier to use, which is always a focus for Sound Devices. It’s all customer-driven. Knowing what people want, what they are dreaming of, and where they are going. That’s the first half of the equation.

The other half is our own engineering-driven interests and research. I’m an engineer and I’m surrounded by other very talented engineers. We stay abreast of all the new technology, hardware, and software which keeps us thinking of ways to improve our products or create new ones.

It’s really marrying what customers want and their frustrations with the possibilities of new technology. Many companies have dedicated product groups that brag about being customer driven, and have no actual R&D engineers directly involved in the group. I strongly feel that this misses the mark. Mostly engineering-driven design is a mistake, and mostly customer-driven design is a mistake. One without the other is for naught! The magic happens smack dab in the middle.

rAVe [PUBS]: In what ways do you prioritize user experience and ease of integration for ProAV professionals when designing your audio equipment?

MA: Our equipment has long had the reputation for ease of use. Our products tend to be deep in terms of features, but we strive to make the menu structure and operation straightforward while making the controls as conventional as possible. By doing so, someone who’s reasonably skilled can walk up and can use them the first time without having to crack a manual.

Our A20-Nexus is an example of that — we looked at that and went, touchscreens! Let’s put several on the front of the unit so that it’s as easy as possible for our users to access the advanced features of SpectraBand. This made it simpler for our customers to adopt the technology and make it a seamless part of their workflows.

Finally, back compatibility is extremely important to us. We still service every product that we’ve ever made and offer extended service warranties to keep them in circulation. This means that if a customer is married to their existing workflow, they don’t necessarily have to upgrade to our latest products to keep getting the performance they want.

rAVe [PUBS]: What is the greatest challenge audio professionals currently face and why?

MA: The rate of change in the industry is constantly accelerating, and trying to stay on top of new technology and gear is always a challenge. That being said, how one reacts to this change is very important and for myself, and Sound Devices as a whole, we really see this tendency as something that presents opportunities rather than adversity.

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Take AI for example — it’s quickly become a buzzy topic in basically every area of technology, and audio is no different. We’re already using it to help us explore different ways of working on projects and brainstorming ways of integrating it into our products.

We’re excited because the thing that a lot of R&D engineers inherently know that people outside of engineering don’t quite see is that — engineering is largely a creative process. It’s the intersection of art and science in that you’re producing something that has a lot of variables and not all of them can be controlled. When we design products — take A20-Nexus for example, that took a couple of years and that was hardcore locking ourselves in the basement with schematics, components and ideas to get it right. It’s really on the same level as a band going into a studio and making a record from scratch or a director making a film. It’s a bunch of people getting together to create something that did not exist before. It’s the same process along with all of the emotions and energy. Circling back to AI, it’s great to get these tools like ChatGPT because when you’re talking about the less creative aspects like some more rote aspects of coding or running tests, you can automate these parts of the process and focus more on the creative. It’s fantastic!

rAVe [PUBS]: In your opinion, what is the number one trend shaping the future of pro audio right now and how is Sound Devices positioned to capitalize on this trend?

MA: Wireless! More and more connections are going wireless — be they audio components, data connections, control mechanisms or all of the above. We may not think about it on a daily basis because it happened so gradually, but every year the number of wireless channels goes up and up and it’s not just onstage at concerts. It’s installations, corporate board rooms, schools, you name it. Anywhere where you are installing audio gear. People have gotten used to having it now and that’s driving the process even more.

Sound Devices is poised to capitalize on this because that’s where we’re heavily investing in terms of technology and research. The Sound Devices Astral wireless family is a great example of this, and we have a lot of other cool products in the works that explore this technology to its limits.

rAVe [PUBS]: What are some new audio initiatives or innovations coming up from Sound Devices?

MA: As I mentioned before, we’ve put a lot of time and thought into our wireless gear and many of our innovations have been there, such as SpectraBand. We have many patents pending in this technology and fans of our gear will start to see more of them manifesting in new products before the end of the year.

With that being said, we’re also continuing to support our core audience in mixer/recorders and similarly are expanding there. We just released a long-awaited free update for our 8-Series recorders which added 32-bit float recording, functionality upgrades and more flexible routing options in response to user feedback. And even though this major update was free, the release comprised more than a year of hard work from many throughout the company. The 8-Series recorders have been in the field for some time, and they continue to be a standard for location audio professionals and we want to help keep them in the field for as long as possible.

rAVe [PUBS]: Anything else you’d like to add?

MA: We’re very grateful for our industry and the loyalty and engagement we’ve seen from our long-time users. And always, stay tuned!