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Calrec Keeps Expanding

HEBDEN BRIDGE, U.K.—Despite a worldwide recession, digital broadcast console manufacturer Calrec Audio has grown by almost 50 percent over the last two quarters. During that period, the company has hired a significant number of new staff and has expanded into a second building in its hometown of Hebden Bridge, which is located about 20 miles north of Manchester, England.

According to Roger Henderson, managing director, Calrec Audio, “We remained profitable through the recession. People did stop buying large-scale consoles very quickly at the beginning of that recession, but we’ve seen a rebound immediately. It’s taken us back to prerecession levels.”

To cope with the rebound and help ensure that the company retains its position among the leading manufacturers of broadcast audio consoles, Calrec has been on something of a hiring spree lately. The R&D department, already large by industry standards, has seen the biggest growth with the addition of 15 software engineers. Two project managers have been added in R&D and three in production, along with several new test engineers.

In sales, Dave Letson has returned to the company to handle the western U.S., Anthony Harrison now covers the Middle East and Africa, Theo Schulte looks after sales in Germany, and Michael Reddick has joined as sales manager for northern Europe and Russia.

The newly expanded R&D department will focus largely on the Apollo console system. “There is a huge amount of features that over the period of the next few years we are intending to launch,” confides Henderson. “There are further developments of the Apollo platform into Artemis, and we have other developments in the pipeline for the Apollo platform.”

At the top end of the market virtually every console involves some degree of custom work, in terms of metering options, panel layout and other features. That, together with the sophisticated routing technology of Calrec’s network system, Hyrda2, has necessitated the hiring of additional test personnel.

“We’re no longer talking about single systems that sit in a studio and look after themselves,” Henderson points out. “These are systems that can have eight, 10, 12 consoles attached to them, not only controlling their own systems but also being controlled by systems like VFM, a Pro-Bel router, a Grass Valley router or even a Grass Valley mixer. The number of different modes of operation is exponential. That means that when we issue a new software release, there’s an awful lot of testing to be done to ensure that these things are rock-solid.”

Faced with the expansion, Henderson was looking at either relocating the entire company or moving the software development and R&D test facilities 10 miles away when an 8,000-square-foot building fortuitously became available just 200 yards from Calrec’s headquarters in Nutclough Mill.

“We couldn’t give up the mill; it wasn’t practical and none of us wanted to do that,” he says. Built in 1797, the historic mill was once home to the first worker-production textile co-operative in England. The new building “will stand us in good stead as we look at the expansion plan over the next four to five years,” he says.

As for the quick recovery from the economic downturn, Henderson attributes it partly to the release of pent-up demand. “All the way through the down phase we didn’t see projects canceled, just put back.”

Henderson, who has been with Calrec for two years, was previously with Chyron and Pro-Bel and saw the video side make the transition to HD over 10 years ago. “Audio lagged well behind that, and people hung onto their analog desks,” he observes. But now, the pressure within the broadcast market to transition from analog to digital consoles, and to 5.1 capabilities, has also helped drive business, he believes.

It also didn’t hurt that Calrec occupies a unique place in the outsidebroadcast market. “I think we’re in 64 percent of HD trucks in North America. It’s fantastic, and we’re thrilled to be in that position. But we’re conscious that we got that market by working very hard, and you have to make sure that you don’t slip up.”

Indeed, long-term customer relationships have long been a major focus at Calrec, which was founded in 1964 and has been building audio consoles since 1971. “The previous management here did a fantastic job of building those relationships. That’s a hard act to follow! And I would say that the relationships that Calrec has developed over the decades are second to none. It’s critical to Calrec’s success.”

Calrec Audio,