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GENIUS! #17: Bruce Hofer and the AP System One

"Some of my best ideas come while I'm asleep"

Thomas Edison said genius was “one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration”. Bruce Hofer cites this as a definition and has proved it over a long career designing T&M (test and measurement) equipment. He has been behind many measuring devices, but it is the System One (S1) frequency analyser and waveform generator that encompasses his technical vision.

Hofer (pictured) worked as an assistant in the Labs Instruments division of Tektronix while studying electronics at Oregon State University. After graduating in 1970 he joined Tek fulltime, working on units for the 7000 Series of oscilloscopes. Eight years later he switched to audio and was lead engineer on the SG505 audio oscillator and AA501 distortion analyser. But when Tek began to focus on video T&M and dismantled Hofer’s audio team, he three colleagues decided to set up their own company.

Audio Precision was founded in 1984 with the S1 as its initial focus. The IBM personal computer had just come on the market and Hofer saw its potential for controlling the system. “It was an impediment to selling the S1, though,” he says. “People weren’t convinced PCs would be long-term and didn’t like having it on the bottom of the invoice.”

When AP became a reseller for Compaq it bundled those PCs with the original S1 without mentioning the fact. “Most of my contribution to the design was the program that ran in the GUI,” Hofer comments.

Hofer says the innovation process is “hard to verbalise”, perhaps because “some of my best ideas come while I’m asleep”. After that inspiration comes the perspiration of simulations and development.

AP has pushed on into the digital age with products including the APx Series but the S1 was only discontinued in 2002 and is still listed in the archive of the company’s website.

Hail to the boffins! Genius! is all about celebrating those clever people whose inventions have transformed the world of professional audio. Mailed out with the February print edition of PSNEurope, the 36-page supplement is also available to read in handy digital-edition form. Read it online, or download as a PDF, at