Maidstone, U.K. (April 13, 2016)—In 1966, engineer Len Davis left the security of the BBC and set up on his own in a shed at the bottom of the garden as Glensound Services, the company that, 50 years later, is simply known as Glensound.
With more than 600 products developed, Glensound has been prolific, but over those five decades, Glensound has come to mean different things to different people. To many commentators, “the Glensound” is the generic term for the commentary box that you plug your headphones and microphones into. If you work at financial institution HSBC, Glensound is the company that powers your “in-branch” audio systems. If you’re a voiceover artist, a company that deals with the media, or an engineer that grew up in the era of ISDN, then Glensound is the box that connects you to the outside world. And if you are the U.K. Prime Minister, Glensound is the company that manages, mixes and distributes your speech to world broadcasters.
In the early years, Davis was largely just developing for his old employer, the BBC. He invented the world’s first telephone balancing unit for the BBC’s first network phone-in show, What’s Your Line, in 1966. The first Glensound-branded design was in 1969: a distribution amplifier for Prince Charles’ Investiture. Glensound invented what it says were the world’s first unitized mixer in 1971 and the world’s first assignable mixer in 1980, both for the BBC.
In 1984, Glensound started on a design path that would be the backbone of all future business. For the BBC’s coverage of the Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 1986, a solution was suggested that separated the commentary box from the audio I/O interface, with interconnection via a single coaxial cable carrying power and multichannel audio. The two-part commentary unit was born and, 32 years on, 75 of the current specification digital system were still being used at last year’s Commonwealth Games, coincidently also in Scotland.
In 1994, Glensound’s battery operated portable ISDN equipment, known as a COOBE in BBC circles (Commentator Operated Outside Broadcasting Equipment), was created. Portable ISDN OB equipment is still selling, and since 1994, Glensound has sold around 10,000 units. Last year, Glensound launched the first dedicated network audio commentary unit using Dante, with additional Dante-based units in the pipeline.
Len Davis semi-retired in 2005 and his son, Gavin Davis, who had been with the company since 1986, took over as managing director. “We regularly hear of stories of old products that are still going strong after 25 years, and where one of our units was seconded in a disaster to save the day, and it’s always great to hear,” says Gavin Davis. “The principles at Glensound are the same now as they were 50 years ago—simple, solid designs, which innovate.”