Founded by Billy Thompson in 1974 on the wings of a successful live sound company, Ashly Audio has been pioneering innovative products for the pro audio industry for forty years. Although much has changed, such as Ashly’s steady pivot from analog solutions for live sound to digital solutions for installed sound, much has also not changed, and it is this constancy that underlies Ashly's success and longevity. Ashly delivers great-sounding gear that is highly reliable, easy-to-use, and fairly priced, which is a combination that never goes out of style. Ashly continues in this tradition as it builds the next generation of networkable amplifiers, DSPs, and user interfaces.
Billy’s bench, circa 1979, with his RTA (Real-Time Analyzer).
“Ashly has always had a relatively slow but steady growth trajectory,” explained Mark Wentling, president of Ashly Audio. “Many similar companies started out around the same time as Ashly Audio but have since closed their doors or been absorbed into other companies to become just another ‘brand.’ People have moved on and factories have been shuttered or moved overseas. Our approach has always been to remain steady, dependable, and maybe a little conservative, and that contributed to the forty strong years that we’re now celebrating. Indeed, the Ashly philosophy reflects back on our employees… many of the people still on the payroll in engineering, administration, and manufacturing were there when the company was just starting up!”
Those were the days when Billy Thompson was still playing the role of mad scientist at a lab bench overrun with oscilloscopes, custom-made real-time analyzers, and voltmeters. The smell of solder hung thick in the air. Among many other gems, Thompson used that charismatic setup to design Ashly’s 1970s-era SC-Series of rack-mounted processors, which included classic compressors, equalizers, crossovers, line mixers, mic preamps, and all of the other goodies that today reside inside Ashly’s Protea Digital Signal Processing platform. The live sound industry flocked to these and other Ashly products because, for a fair price, they effectively solved real problems and were well-known to reliably endure the stresses of life on the road.
In the 1980s, Thompson pioneered Ashly’s now-legendary MOS-FET amplifiers, which revolutionized the amplifier market by dramatically increasing amplifier power and reliability while minimizing size and cost. Ashly’s MOS-FET amplifiers were among the first to be certified for meeting Lucas-films’ stringent THX movie theater sound systems. Today, Ashly continues in that tradition by delivering high-power, high-fidelity amplifiers in small-footprint, multi-channel configurations that maintain Ashly’s hallmark reliability and value.
“Our relatively small size allows us to be quite nimble and responsive to our customers, whom we deeply value,” said Wentling. “Ashly Audio still operates a full factory in Webster, New York, just outside of Rochester, where we design and manufacture all of our networkable products, including high-power Class-D amplifiers, DSP Matrix processors, and some legacy handmade analog mixers, like the MX-508. In addition, we have responded to market forces by opening Asia-based manufacturing for our KLR-Series amplifiers and some legacy analog products. However, this is just a component of our U.S.-based operations. Indeed, we expanded our U.S. manufacturing plant last year and grew the R&D team. We continue to add to our product line-up in the area of high-performance Class-D amplification, as well as DSP matrix & system processors.”
A development Thompson couldn’t have anticipated without Steve Jobs-like prescience is how quickly the pro audio industry has adopted network technology from the IT industry. Ashly’s nimble in-house engineering team has ensured that the company stays at the leading edge of this development, giving AV integrators cost-effective options for building Ashly systems and tying them elegantly into the larger lighting and video infrastructures. Ashly’s network-ready amplifiers and processors play nicely on a TCP/IP network right out of the box, and integrators can network digital audio via CobraNet or Dante (“and AVB when the time is right,” promises Wentling). In addition to networkable hardware user controllers, Ashly offers a popular Ashly Remote iPad app for custom control of its products and will look towards the eventual release of iPhone and Android variants as well. Beyond simply offering these technologies, Ashly’s dedication to customer support ensures that Ashly users are a phone call away from answers and solutions to the myriad questions and challenges that can crop up in complicated networked systems.
“There is an incredible history here,” says Anthony Errigo, director of marketing communications. “People at Ashly are dedicated and have great stories to share. Our employees are proud of this company and brand that they have built together.”