Igor Levin, CEO/CTO, Antelope Audio
Igor Levin, CEO/CTO of Antelope Audio, entered the audio industry in 1990 with his first company, Aardvark. He started with a 2-channel S/PDIF card for PC. The plan, according to Levin, was to make a separate A/D and D/A converter so that the user could record and then get the sound out of the computer. This required a clock that for converter timing.
“At that time, a clock was not something that you just went out and bought,” Levin recalls, “so that’s why I had to design my own clock. I started selling the converters. People liked them, but what they really liked was the clock. It turned out that the clock I built for my converters became more popular than the converters themselves. This is how we became a hit clocking company, being among the first to apply DDS (digital synthesis) method— producing the frequencies in a digital way.” AardSync was the company’s first clock, which is still in use by some studios in New York, L.A. and elsewhere.
In 2005, Levin founded Antelope Audio with the clear idea of designing better master clocks. “With the progress of technologies,” he explains, “I was aware that I had to improve what I had done with AardSync and had to go to a more stable time base. This is how I came up with the idea of introducing the Oven-Controlled Crystal Oscillator. So I put the crystal oscillator in an enclosure, which keeps the temperature constant. The crystal is an analog component that vibrates and responds to the environment. Keeping the temperature constant is extremely important to improve stability and jitter performance. This is how I introduced Antelope’s Isochrone line (Iso—same; chronos—time, from the Greek).”
Levin holds a dual engineering degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Early on, he specialized in analog circuit design and spent many years consulting other companies in various critical projects, such as laser welding systems, biomedical instrumentation and even heart and lung machines. So, by the time he established Aardvark, he already had a decade of serious experience as a circuit designer. “This was 20 years ago,” he notes, “and now I feel that my education and my work in various key industries gave me the solid foundation I was able to translate to creating innovative audio products.”
Michigan-based Antelope Audio is a holding entity for several companies operating in different parts of the world, including the U.S., Europe and Japan. Its main R&D resources are located in U.S. and Europe. Currently, its global team is a little more than 60 people. Levin boasts that the company has been growing rapidly at a yearly rate of over 15 percent. He adds, “Operating worldwide gives us the ability to attract some of the best professionals from different business and technology fields, which gives us a strong competitive advantage. Having offices located on three different continents helps us remain close to our customers and provide them with exclusive customer service.”
When discussing the company culture and philosophy, Levin points out, “On our website, we say that we are dedicated to helping people achieve high-definition sound both at home and in the recording studio. Our philosophy is to provide both the professionals and the home listeners with the same technologies, allowing a real high-quality sound everywhere.”
Levin maintains that Antelope’s biggest market is still the U.S., though he stresses that the company is also doing well in Europe and Japan. “Currently, we are looking to expand in other Asian markets, as well as Australia and Latin America.” In addition, he reports that some well-known recording and mastering studios, as well as film-scoring facilities in North America are using Antelope’s clocks. “We are planning to further enrich the product portfolio responding to specific customers demands,” he adds. “This year, we will be introducing new products targeting both professionals and home listeners.”
Levin continues, “At Antelope, we put the emphasis on innovation. The company has had a number of unique category-defining products—among them DDS, oven control, 64-bit acoustically focused technology, and the rubidium atomic clock. This puts us in a position to establish, rather than to follow, the market trends. And being a market leader has the advantage of having less competition.
“Our second mantra is to provide our clients with high-quality products at top-level customer service. This helps us create a solid base of not just clients, but loyal friends and Antelope evangelists. Antelope users are our best advertisement.”
Antelope’s most recent activity was the launch of the Eclipse 384, a 384 kHz A/D and D/A converter, master clock and monitoring controller. The first units were shipped to the studios at the beginning of 2012, and the company is already receiving positive comments. “We will be at the Music Messe in Frankfurt in March, where everyone will be able to experience the Eclipse for themselves,” Levin says.
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