Surviving in today's highly competitive and financially challenging pro-audio marketplace is far from easy. An inventory of well-designed and functionally advanced products is a good starting point, to be sure, but the caliber of a firm's management team is also of critical importance to long-term successes. Now enjoying its 10th anniversary as a leading innovator of A-to-D converters, D-to-A converters and allied products, Lynx Studio Technology was formed in 1998 by a team of seasoned audio software and hardware engineers "with a goal to utilize cutting-edge technology to create the highest quality products at a good value to the customer."
David A. Hoatson, company co-founder and chief software engineer, explains the origins of the company name: "Lynx is focused on 'linking' the professional audio world with computers, by utilizing our many years of experience in both hardware design and device-driver coding. This complementary expertise is borne out with reliable products that not only have great specifications, but are also shipped with extremely stable and well-tested drivers." Support for all current Windows- and Apple Macintosh-compatible platforms is standard on Lynx products.
"The firm's initial offerings," recalls Bob Bauman, co-founder and chief hardware engineer, "were a series of PCI cards—LynxONE, LynxTWO, L22 and AES16—designed to offer the best possible performance for Windows and Mac PCs." Also currently available are the Aurora Series of standalone, rackmount converters for recording studios, broadcast and production facilities, live performance and audio-test measurement. Products are supported for the retail market directly through Lynx's U.S. and Canadian dealers, as well as international distributors around the world. Lynx also supports OEM clients for larger quantities and custom designs.
"When David and I started the company," Bauman recalls, "our primary tasks were software and hardware design, respectively, but we are very hands-on co-owners. We are both still involved in quality control, customer support, market research, and other less glamorous jobs, including network installation and accounting."
Responsible for hardware and firmware design, plus overseeing production and product testing, Bauman combines a music background and 25 years of analog and digital design experience. With degrees in both Electrical Engineering and Music, he started his career at Soundcraftsmen and subsequently held computer-technology positions while working on projects for NASA and the medical industry; at Antex Electronics he designed computer audio cards and accessories for the broadcast market. Hoatson's responsibilities include driver, mixer and utility software design and development, in addition to overseeing the firm's website and finances. Prior to co-founding Lynx, he ran a computer-consulting firm with customers such as Antex Electronics, Applied Magic, Intel, Pacific Research & Engineering, Philips and Western Digital.
The third member of the management triumvirate is Phil Moon, VP sales and marketing, who joined the company in 2003 with nearly 30 years of experience in marketing and selling pro-audio equipment. In addition to overseeing US and Canada retail sales, Moon works with international distributors and dealers in more than 50 countries, and directs the company's marketing activities. Previously, he held high-level marketing positions at JBL Professional, Alesis, Yamaha and MXR and ran his own consulting firm, Loft Marketing.
Paul Erlandson, director of product support, joined the Lynx team in 2004, and oversees its customer support department. In addition to direct support efforts, he handles preparation of online and print-support materials. Prior to Lynx, Erlandson served as director of sales for Carillon USA and owner/CEO of Sound Chaser, an online retailer and manufacturer of custom computer audio systems. Lynx also recently added Mike Nicoletti to the sales/support team; he has a degree in recording engineering and experience with Yamaha, Alesis and Apogee.
In terms of the company's primary philosophy, Lynx is committed to designing leading-edge systems that retain the essential essence of a performance. "Life is just too short for bad audio," Moon considers. "As a musician, you become accustomed to how an instrument actually sounds—the subtleties and nuances. Then you appreciate the unique sound of performing in a group, with the spatial aspects, dissonance and harmony. But when you hear a recording, it doesn't sound anything like what you heard when you were playing. What we try to do is to make equipment that allows these true sounds to come out—the sound you put into our equipment is the same sound you get out of it. No compression, reverb, delay, EQ ... just the same audio that our ears would naturally hear. Then, at your discretion, you can alter it any way you like in the recording and mastering process."
High-quality design and fabrication is an area in which the company's reputation truly shines, Moon considers. "On the front end," he says, "our products are designed with quality materials, the latest technologies and world-class specs in mind. Then, before shipping, each product receives an individual QC test for specs, noise, operation and physical integrity; Aurora converters are burned in for at least 24 hours before these tests. After delivery to our customers, we provide what we feel is the best customer support in our market. We realize that every studio and broadcast facility is unique, and often there are some real puzzles to solve. But, in nearly every situation, the customer gets the product quality and support that they require."
"After a product ships," Bauman adds, "we continue to add features and provide fixes free-of-charge. In regard to hardware, this is made possible by our use of field-programmable gate arrays or FPGAs at the core all of our products. New FPGA firmware is available on our website, along with utility software for field programming. Updated drivers for Windows and Mac also are available."
Rather than offer a broad product line, Lynx Studio Technology elects to move forward cautiously. "We are not risk takers," Moon states, "either for ourselves or our customers. We have innovated 14 products in the company's 10-year history, yet only one, the LynxONE, has been discontinued. After 10 years, we could no longer buy the parts; the product had outlived its components. We don't go for the 'This Year's Model' of product philosophy. The value to the end-user stays high, because we are able to update and upgrade the hardware via software. So today's Aurora 16 may have some very interesting new features in 2-3 years, and the Aurora owner from two or three years ago can also enjoy these advancements."
The firm's targeted market areas—recording studios, post/film houses, project facilities and broadcast—are considered complementary to one another. "While these customers' end products are very different," Moon reflects, "the role of Lynx products is quite consistent. We provide the best possible way to get audio in and out of computers, and to convert between analog and digital audio. That function is universal among these and other market areas. Having said that, however, the distribution, sales chains, marketing and advertising to these segments is continuously honed and massaged to get our message across."
"But there are some technical requirements that differ between the markets," Bauman argues. "A primary difference is I/O-level standards. The broadcast guys, for example, require different full-scale levels than the recording studios. We have listened to their needs and addressed them by offering models to accommodate their specific requirements."
LYNX PRODUCT LINES
Aurora Series Converters
• Aurora 16 AD/DA Converter offers 16 channels of analog and digital I/O at sample rates up to 192 kHz in a single rackmount package.
• Aurora 8 AD/DA Converter is an 8-channel version of Aurora 16; the Aurora 8/FW features a FireWire interface.
• Lynx LT-ADAT installs in the rear of Aurora 16 or 8 converters to add 16 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O.
• Lynx LT-HD for Aurora converters provides digital I/O in a format recognizable by Digidesign Pro Tools|HD systems.
• Lynx LT-FW for Aurora converters provides up to 32 channels of digital I/O via FireWire 400 interface.
• LynxONE (now discontinued) featured two channels of analog and two channels of digital I/O with two MIDI ports.
• Lynx L22 is a 2-channel 192 kHz PCI card with two analog and two digital I/O channels and onboard AD/DA converters.
• LynxTWO comprises three models with different analog I/O formats, 192 kHz analog I/O and 96 kHz AES/EBU digital I/O plus versatile synchronization and hardware mixing.
• AES16 features 16 channels of AES/EBU I/O at sample rates up to 192 kHz.
• LS-ADAT is a daughter card for AES16, LynxTWO and L22; provides up to 16 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O.
• LS-AES is a daughter card for LynxTWO and L22; provides up to eight additional channels of 96 kHz AES/EBU I/O.
PCI Express Cards
• AES16e provides 16 channels of AES/EBU digital I/O at sample rates up to 192 kHz; options include 16-channels of sample rate conversion and AES50 I/O.
Caution is also the watchword when it comes to decisions about future product offerings. "We do purposely avoid a lot of areas," Moon agrees. "Being a small company gives us the luxury of carefully choosing what we want to build. We avoid markets where there are too many competitors and few barriers to entry. I don't think you'll ever see [our company offer] Lynx microphone or monitor speaker! And, being an engineering-driven company, every new product will have some exclusive or new functionality, something to make it unique in the market."
"Our product development starts by listening to customers' wants and needs," confirms Bauman. "We even have a 'wish list' section in the support forum area of our website. Based on this and additional market research, we formulate a bullet list of features. We look at new and upcoming technology that support these features and provide an edge over the competition. We further hone a product spec by fitting it with our core expertise in hardware and software. As Phil alluded, we try to maintain focus on our product niche to avoid spreading our technology too thin across diverse product types."
Lynx is justly proud of its independence, of not courting a takeover and merging with larger operations. "The co-founders of Lynx started with the goal of wanting to create the best gear at an excellent value," confirms co-founder Hoatson. "This goes against the traditional business model of trying to maximize the profits for each product, where even a $1 upgrade on the cost of goods to enhance performance would get nixed by the bean-counters. We still run our company with the same principle: Engineering First. If Lynx was owned by non-engineers, or started acquiring other brands just to increase the bottom-line, that development would compromise our basic philosophy."
"Given that we are a small, highly successful company, I can't think of any large error or oversight that has caused us a problem," Moon concludes. "If you make a major mistake at this size, you no longer exist. We have, of course, been very diligent at mid-course corrections and are constantly looking for ways to improve what we do at the design, support, manufacturing, sales and marketing levels."
In addition to marking the company's 10th anniversary, 2008 saw Lynx move into its new facility in Costa Mesa, CA. With nearly three times the space, the new location provides room for the company to grow, improvements include environmentally controlled rooms for audio testing and raw parts storage, a five-fold increase in warehouse space, and added offices for engineering, support, purchasing, sales and marketing. Lynx is also adding a multipurpose demonstration room that can be used for demos, sales training, recording and the occasional jam session. And, finally, what self-respecting audio company would be complete without a ping-pong table?
"This new office complex gives us the space and facility to take Lynx to the next level, in terms of new product development, dealer and customer support, and market expansion," Bauman states. "We think of our first 10 years as our launch. And the goal for the next 10 years is to become one of the elite companies in the pro-audio and recording market."