Founded by Billy Thompson in 1974 on the wings of a successful live sound company, Ashly Audio is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
“Ashly has always had a relatively slow but steady growth trajectory,” states company president Mark Wentling. “Many similar companies started out around the same time as Ashly Audio but have since closed their doors or been absorbed into other companies to become just another ‘brand.’ People have moved on and factories have been shuttered or moved overseas.
“Our approach has always been to remain steady, dependable, and maybe a little conservative, and that contributed to the 40 strong years that we’re now celebrating,” he continues. “Indeed, the Ashly philosophy reflects back on our employees—many of the people still on the payroll in engineering, administration, and manufacturing were there when the company was just starting up.”
In the 1980s, Thompson pioneered Ashly’s much-lauded MOS-FET amplifiers, which dramatically increased power and reliability while minimizing size and cost. Today the company continues in that tradition by delivering high-power, high-fidelity amplifiers in small-footprint, multi-channel configurations, along with a steadily growing stable of DSP devices and user interfaces.
Those were the days when Thompson was still playing the role of mad scientist at a lab bench overrun with oscilloscopes, custom-made real-time analyzers, and voltmeters. The smell of solder hung thick in the air.
Billy Thompson’s lab bench at Ashly Audio.
Among many other gems, he used that charismatic setup to design Ashly’s 1970s-era SC-Series of rack-mounted processors, which included classic compressors, equalizers, crossovers, line mixers, mic preamps, and all of the other goodies that today reside inside Ashly’s Protea DSP platform. The live sound industry utiilized these and other Ashly products because, for a fair price, they effectively solved real problems and were well-known to reliably endure the stresses of life on the road.
“Our relatively small size allows us to be quite nimble and responsive to our customers, whom we deeply value,” says Wentling. “Ashly Audio still operates a full factory in Webster, New York, just outside of Rochester, where we design and manufacture all of our networkable products, including high-power Class-D amplifiers, DSP Matrix processors, and some legacy handmade analog mixers, like the MX-508. In addition, we have responded to market forces by opening Asia-based manufacturing for our KLR-Series amplifiers and some legacy analog products.
“However, this is just a component of our U.S.-based operations. We expanded our U.S. manufacturing plant last year and grew the R&D team, and continue to add to our product line-up in the area of high-performance Class-D amplification as well as DSP matrix and system processors.”
A development Thompson couldn’t have anticipated is how quickly the pro audio industry has adopted network technology from the IT industry. Ashly’s nimble in-house engineering team has ensured that the company tives A/V integrators cost-effective options for building Ashly systems and tying them into the larger lighting and video infrastructures. Ashly’s network-ready amplifiers and processors “play nicely” on a TCP/IP network right out of the box, and integrators can network digital audio via CobraNet or Dante (“and AVB when the time is right,” promises Wentling).
In addition to networkable hardware user controllers, Ashly offers a popular Ashly Remote iPad app for custom control of its products and will look towards the eventual release of iPhone and Android variants as well. Beyond simply offering these technologies, Ashly’s dedication to customer support ensures that Ashly users are a phone call away from answers and solutions to the myriad questions and challenges that can crop up in complicated networked systems.
“There is an incredible history here,” says Anthony Errigo, director of marketing communications. “People at Ashly are dedicated and have great stories to share. Our employees are proud of this company and brand that they have built together.”
Take a historical tour of Ashly here. The company will be exhibiting at the upcoming InfoComm show at booth C11308.