The company motto says it all: "Made in the USA by a Bunch of Fanatics." That colorful phrase reveals the ethos of privately held Lectrosonics, which manufacturers all of its products at its newly expanded headquarters in Rio Rancho, NM. As the company celebrates 40 years in the business of sound, its longstanding team of employees and devoted customers has proven that the fanaticism is mutual.
I had a chance to get an inside look at the fanatics' operations last month when I toured Lectrosonics' facilities and attended a two-day "Lectro School" session focused on the ASPEN series of DSP products. Consistently, from the front offices all the way through the manufacturing chain housed in a new 6,000-square-foot addition, I witnessed a dedication and passion that reflects the energy and vibrance of the audio industry. Touring the facility, seeing family photos posted at every work station, there was plenty of proof of the commitment felt by the multi-generation work force that makes up Lectrosonics. And in the training room, the eagerness of Lectro School attendees was apparent from their wide-eyed "kid in a candy store" vibe.
In the Lectrosonics training room, the eagerness of "Lectro School" attendees was apparent.
Sitting in on a DSP training session was a perfect way to recap the company's product evolution from its origins in amplified lecterns and portable voice and instrument amplification to wireless microphone systems and beyond. Picking up where the DM Series left off, ASPEN adds network capability, programming flexibility, advanced automixing options, and a hip new iPad interface option to Lectrosonics' DSP audio matrix and conferencing platform.
Lectrosonics president Larry Fisher has been with the company for 39 of its 40 years in business, and noted that ASPEN is extremely powerful, adding that the company's engineers sought to "simplify the human-machine interface so that people can figure out even more complex things to do with it."
Winkler revealed the many ingenious ways Lectrosonics cuts out excess weight on its wireless offerings while also making them nearly indestructible.
There have been more than just a few changes occurring in technology over the past four decades, and as Fisher said, "You really can't make the same product today that you did 40 years ago." Except, in Lectrosonics' case, for the Long Ranger. The portable amplification system is still in demand today.
As technology has evolved over the past four decades, the fickle nature of digital components has caused reliability to become more of a critical factor than ever. This creates a more conservative customer, Fisher explained — once a product works, and works well, pro audio customers are prone to stick with it, rather than seeking the newest whiz-bang device. But what they do want are lots of feature upgrades and other updates, ensuring that their technology stays current.
Reliability and product testing were huge components of the factory tour. Viewing the manufacturing process revealed the many ingenious ways Lectrosonics cuts out excess weight on its wireless offerings while also making them nearly indestructible. The engineering and manufacture of each product has been streamlined from the electronic components through to each piece of hardware. Every single board, every single product, is checked and even hand-tweaked as necessary to guarantee its successful implementation in the field.
It's not just quality control that customers are demanding in a market where technology becomes more complex each day -- it's design and programming expertise, a substantial amount of which is handled in house at Lectrosonics every day. So much is this a part of every sale the manufacturer makes, that Karl Winkler, Lectrosonics director of business development suggested integrators should call Lectrosonics when creating a design spec. "We will help you save money," he said.
Based on the engineering and field expertise held by Lectrosonics' staff, that definitely seems possible. Gordon Moore, CTS, vice president of sales, is one such field-savvy contributor to the company's in-house talent. With the manufacturer for 22 years, Moore's work has taken him to the Great Wall of China, the Coliseum in Rome, and just about everywhere in between. But even with all those frequent flier miles accumulated, Moore's focus is still that of a dedicated audio professional -- he exhibits all of the passion and giddiness of the industry's biggest proponents. He tells road warrior tales about countless daunting challenges that were solved with the right bit of technical finesse, and he seems happy to tackle more. The enthusiasm he feels is infectious, he says: "People in this industry love what they do."
The impression created by the team at Lectrosonics is that they're giddy about tackling the most insane audio problems. As a result, they've got super tiny, incredibly light wireless mics, waterproof wireless mics, and an array of indestructible, null-conquering options to make even the craziest end-user happy. The Lectrosonics museum even features a UM300 transmitter that was run over by a tank and was still functional.
In short, this is really a "hands-on kind of company," as Winkler put it. "Engineers can walk down the hall and show up to the machine shop with literally sometimes a drawing on a napkin, and it will become a reality."
In fact, that's another unusual aspect of Lectrosonics, Fisher added. "Our engineers are allowed to talk to customers. Most companies say that's a waste of their engineers' time, but our people want to make sure a problem is fixed or a new problem-solving feature is incorporated into next iteration of a product."
Lectrosonics engineers attend trade shows and meet customers, who Winkler says are thrilled to meet the brains behind their favorite products. "Particularly if they designed a product -- they're the ultimate authority on it," Winkler elaborated. "One of our engineers, when he's in the booth, it's like he's Santa Claus, people get so excited."
Proof of this enthusiastic dialogue occurred during the Lectro School session, where a "Lunch and Punch" with the engineers was held. There wasn't much violence in the end, and the school attendees were more eager to talk tech than make complaints, but in general, Fisher said, "Almost all the time at these lunch and punches the suggestions come from a good place." The customers think that the fix they're suggesting "will help everyone."