In 1976, Jonathan Sisk opened a retail Hi-Fi store in Lexington, Kentucky called Audio Authority®
. His goal was to offer upscale, higher end audio and video component systems to the public along with specialized installation services. At that time, there were no reliable, ready-made switching systems available, so like many retailers, he decided to build his own switching system. He contacted a friend, Jonathan Gertz, and together, they designed and built the first Audio Authority switching system, the Model One.
Sisk had some very innovative ideas about product demonstrations. He realized that higher quality loudspeakers were more difficult to sell because they were generally less efficient than lower priced speakers which caused them to play at lower volume levels when switched using the same amplifier and source. This difference in efficiency was confusing to many customers who were fooled into believing that louder speakers sounded better. Sisk suggested to Gertz that different loudspeakers should be "compared" or demonstrated at the same volume level. He believed that an "equal volume comparison" would allow customers to evaluate the differences in frequency response, spatial imaging, and other sound characteristics and would actually choose the loudspeaker pair with the best performance. So, he and Gertz designed an "efficiency compensation" circuit that allowed two pairs of speakers with different efficiency ratings to play at the same relative volume level when switched using the same source and amplifier. They called this mechanical switching device a Comparator.
Another novel idea incorporated into the first Comparator was AutoDampingTM
. Being knowledgeable about acoustic principles, Sisk understood that merchandising many pairs of different speakers in a retail showroom created another problem when switching or comparing different models. The drivers inside the unselected speaker pairs became passive radiators when the active speaker pair was playing. This passive radiator network of unselected speakers absorbed much of the energy or sound coming from the speakers being played. So, Sisk and Gertz devised a circuit that electrically disconnected (shorted) speakers not being played, thereby automatically damping them as passive radiators...AutoDamping greatly improved sound quality in retail showrooms.
The final innovation in this first Comparator was SilenTouchTM
which was a circuit that briefly interrupted (muted) the signal during the switching process. SilenTouch insured noise-free switching with no amplifier "thumps" or transients. These groundbreaking ideas are still employed in today's newest digital Audio Authority switching systems.
After the Model One Comparator was installed in Audio Authority's retail store, news of the advanced switching system quickly spread to other retailers through sales representatives, and later, trade shows. Audio Authority moved to a new retail location and changed the name of the retail business to Ovation Audio/VideoTM
while the manufacturing business retained the trade name Audio Authority. Comparators were manufactured in the basement of the retail store which was a valuable arrangement, especially since new electronic products like satellite dishes, projection televisions, high-powered car audio amps, and VCRs were rapidly coming to market and needed to be demonstrated. It was, in many ways, the perfect arrangement; Audio Authority personnel understood the needs of retail consumer electronic dealers on a first hand basis.
In the early 1980s, car audio became a very hot product category, but it was very difficult to demonstrate. As the industry grew, it became clear that each car audio manufacturer had a different idea about how their product should be designed for a car's electrical environment; but, there was little consideration given to how a retailer would actually demonstrate their products in a retail environment. There were no industry standards for grounding schemes, input/output voltage levels, wiring color codes, connector types, etc. So, Audio Authority designed the Model 210 AutoSound Comparator that could demonstrate 20 radios, 10 amplifiers, and 20 pairs of speakers. The 210 was an instant success largely because like our home audio Comparators, the 210 switched only the audio signals, not the 12 volt DC power needed to drive the products on display. DC power was provided with a separate DC power management system. Also, the 210 had a special AutoMatchTM
circuit that allowed common ground and floating ground components to be switched without causing smoke and fire...a major concern.
Car audio switching products lead to development of special HybridTM
DC Power Supplies and Modular AutoSound Display Fixtures. These new product categories were growth opportunities and suddenly, it became clear that the company could no longer focus on the retail portion of the business and the manufacturing enterprises without one side or the other suffering. Additionally, in 1982, Audio Authority began designing and manufacturing two-way audio intercom systems for the drive-up banking industry, so resources were strained. The decision was made to sell the retail portion of the business and in 1986 Ovation Audio/Video was sold to Mr. Gary McCormick the former owner of Hi-Fi Buys in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gary expanded Ovation to other mid-western markets as one of the best specialty retailers in consumer electronics at the time. Audio Authority focused all resources on manufacturing and new product designs and in October 1990 moved to a new manufacturing facility where we continue to grow today.
By 1993, electrical relay components had become very reliable and more affordable while mechanical switches had become more expensive and less suitable for multi-channel sound applications. By then, we had designed many mechanical audio/video switching systems and felt we knew exactly what type of new products were needed to meet the needs of a rapidly accelerating consumer electronics marketplace. That year, we designed a modular, bus-oriented group of high and low-level switching modules that employed relays controlled by powerful micro-processors. These modules could be configured in vast, complex arrays for demonstrating every home audio/video and mobile audio product application in retail stores. We were awarded several patents for this innovative work including a patent for our unique ability to control the modules and make product selections using Product Select Buttons, elegant Control Panels, IR Remotes, and/or by a computer TouchScreen interface. We named the product line AccessTM
and later updated the line as AccessEZTM
which is the gold standard for electronic audio/video switching systems around the world today.
In 2000, our company's focus expanded into the home audio/video accessory market with the introduction of the Model 9A60 VGA to Component Video Converter. In that same year, we introduced the Model 1177 AutoSelectorTM
with special Signal Sensing circuitry to automatically select which source component should play. We also broadened our award winning line of HDTV Signal Distribution amplifiers which became the backbone of HDTV demonstrations by retailers. Since then, the popularity of our solution-oriented audio/video signal routing products for residential and commercial use has blossomed into a large part of our business and includes:
- HLX and AVAtrixTM Video and Audio Matrix Routing Systems
- ADX Audio Matrix Switchers and amplifiers
- Distribution amplifiers for HDMI, DVI, component video and digital audio
- Switchers for HDMI, DVI, component video and digital audio
- Video signal converters for HDMI, DVI, RGB, VGA and component video
- Video Scalers
- Digital audio converters
- Cat 5 based HDTV signal distribution products
- AccessEZTM audio/video electronic switching systems
For many years (since 1982) Audio Authority offered OEM services where we designed, manufactured and serviced several versions of two-way audio intercom systems that were distributed and sold through other companies to the drive-up banking industry. In 2005 we introduced our own Audio Authority branded two-way audio/video intercom system that we now market through a network of authorized OEMs and Dealers. The Series 1500 Intercom System is a revolutionary design and has met with phenomenal success in the banking and pharmacy markets.
As we advance our business, we will continue to develop and support our AccessEZ, line of electronic switching systems to meet the needs of commercial corporations and specialty retailers around the world. We will continue to refine our industry acclaimed HDTV signal distribution systems for the commercial market, along with our ADX, AVAtrix, and HLX Matrix Signal Routing Systems for the residential and commercial markets. We plan to expand our signal converter product line and design other useful consumer electronic products for residential applications and we intend to expand our intercom product line for the drive-up banking and pharmacy industries while we develop other useful intercom products for the residential and customer service markets.
We are very proud to design and manufacture our products here in the United States of America. And, we are extremely proud of the many excellent relationships we have formed with our Customers and partners around the world who rely on us to support their needs. Audio Authority products and services are available on a factory-direct basis or through a network of authorized on-line Resellers, stocking Distributors, Dealers and Custom Residential Integrators and Installations Specialists.
We appreciate your support of our products and services and value your business tremendously.
Bob Sollee, President
© 2009 - Audio Authority Corporation