Bernie Broderick’s professional life is a collision of disciplines. He’s operated his own sound company, toured as a front of house engineer and systems tech, and logged a great deal of time in working with manufacturers such as EAW where he played a prominent role in the conception of the company’s Adaptive Systems.
In between and along the way, he geeked-out on system design and measurement using the Rational Acoustics Smaart platform, was part of Adamson’s product development team for the original Y-AXIS line array, and was L-Acoustics’ V-DOSC line array instructor for North America.
Today, at 56, he’s still as passionate about the industry and its technology as ever and is the guiding force behind Truth in Audio (TIA), a company dedicated to many principles, but with its original mandate being a live sound training academy that provides no-nonsense, real-world educational opportunities. As people who have come to know Broderick would expect, TIA’s curriculum, while taking the high road and remaining free of product-oriented hype and endorsement whether implied or otherwise, takes a somewhat counterintuitive approach to helping other manufacturers by creating a more knowledgeable base of potential clients.
With notable industry figures like Robert Scovill and Jim Yakabuski taking part in its programs, the academy was gaining momentum just as the pandemic struck last year. Not particularly enamored with the idea of moving his hands-on learning approach to the internet as a way to navigate past COVID-19, Broderick put the academy on a temporary hold and pivoted into manufacturing.
“Since we started in 2018, it was always our intention to offer our own products eventually,” he says. “Our goal with the academy was to first establish ourselves as an honest resource for live sound and then slowly introduce products we felt the industry needed. We also felt that concert loudspeaker systems and speaker design in general had stalled and wanted to reinvigorate the market with real innovation.
“A good example of us stirring the pot with new ideas was the Green Monster Project that we did in collaboration with LDI and Live Sound International magazine in 2018. With that undertaking we wanted to see if we could take an old speaker design and inject new life into it. Using an EAW KF750, it was a test case to determine what we were capable of. With the excellent support of people like Robert Scovill, the band Def Leppard, Sound Image, and others, we felt we proved a valuable point that a 30-year-old design loaded with modern tech and expertise could keep pace with current loudspeaker designs. None of this was meant to replace the academy, we merely wanted to expand upon what we had to offer.”
During the pandemic, Broderick was approached by Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leppard, and contracted to soundproof his home studio in Carmel, CA. Allen also asked him to design, build, and tune more than 50 loudspeakers for the home itself, which Broderick built by hand using the finest components he could find. The project took longer than expected to complete due to pandemic-related restrictions, but for Broderick it served to reveal the path TIA could take going forward in terms of designing, manufacturing, and selling its own gear.
Meanwhile, rather than focusing solely on the pro sound touring market, TIA set its sights on parallel vertical markets giving equal attention to pro, systems integration, and even consumer products. Using this strategy, the company could utilize one market’s discoveries in another if it made sense, and freely mix and match technologies among all three verticals to present the best and most current in each. As of this writing, TIA has one product set for release in each category. For consumers there’s a Bluetooth loudspeaker, a ceiling loudspeaker for integration, and a network distribution solution for portable live sound.
Promising that this is merely the beginning with many prototypes currently in the que, Broderick recently sat down with me and offered a detailed outline of what we can expect from TIA in the near future, as well as an outspoken – sometimes brash – and always straightforward personal overview of the pro audio industry.
“Just as it has in everyone else’s lives, the pandemic has been a catalyst in terms of the road ahead for Truth in Audio,” Broderick adds. “But I wouldn’t say the pandemic pushed me into designing products, because I’ve been designing and filling notebooks with ideas forever. You can’t work with people like Brock Adamson, Christian Heil (L-Acoustics), and Kenton Forsythe (EAW) for as many years as I did without walking away with some unique inspiration. I rarely look at other people’s stuff in terms of sparking my own creativity. I’m privy to the same concepts and technologies other designers are, and I know what’s available, so I try to take a unique approach to everything I design. I don’t create something just because someone else does. We’re not following the herd, because we don’t need the herd’s numbers or sales figures. I built a brand that is more of a speedboat than an ocean liner, it’s able to make course corrections very quickly. We want to build things that are desired by people who need them.”
One might say, to coin a timely phrase, that in a time where many are searching for herd immunity, Broderick is already immune to the herd. It’s thinking that’s served him well so far, and we talked about where it may take him next.
Gregory A. DeTogne: Your role as an educator certainly didn’t begin at Truth in Audio. As a matter of fact, in some ways it seems like you’ve always had a concern for spreading the honest truth about our business and its technology from whatever pulpit you were standing in front of at any given time.
Bernie Broderick: You could say that, yes. But in a more formal sense I really hit the ground running as an educator in the early days of V-DOSC when I relocated from my home in Canada to Oxnard, California and went on to spend the next seven years at L-Acoustics as the company’s V-DOSC instructor for North America. In that role I was all over the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, training thousands. That’s where I really learned the impact education had on people and our industry at large.
One thing I did then and still do today is refuse to use hyperbole of any kind. Anyone I ever taught gained knowledge as part of a greater no-BS experience. I don’t put brand names on principles and techniques, and I never sugar coat anything. I would rather that those I’m teaching know about the worst things that could happen so they are prepared for them if and when those times come.
GD: You have the distinction in your career of having been at L-Acoustics during the paradigm-shifting days when line arrays first stepped onto the scene. In fact, you were an integral part of that very scene – an opinion leader, not a follower. In a world where you seldom get a chance to occupy a role like that twice, you did just that when you moved on to EAW.
BB: I did indeed wind up at EAW right as another paradigm shift swept the industry, and it arrived on a wave that introduced Anya in 2013, EAW’s first Adaptive System. It was huge deal, I put all my chips on the table when I made that move, and I subsequently stayed on through the development of the smaller Anna System and Otto subwoofers.
I was getting older at that time, however, and started thinking about what I wanted to leave behind when my career was over.
As I looked around, our industry was becoming way too corporatized. Companies I respected were getting steamrolled left and right, investors were everywhere with their Excel spreadsheets, CEOs were changing every year or sooner. The new person comes in, leaves a mess for someone else to clean up, and the process repeats itself. I was becoming disillusioned with it all and I knew I had to make a huge leap of faith if I was going to continue to enjoy the industry I had dedicated my life to.
GD: To more than a small degree, some mergers and acquisitions were causing serious harm to people, products, and technologies. In the U.S. we weren’t leading anymore. But perhaps that’s a separate discussion unto itself best left for another day.
BB: Yet it’s not another discussion. In one sense it is the discussion. That’s what drove me to do Truth in Audio. I wanted to create something that was more beneficial to human beings. For years I witnessed management doing things I thought were irrational in my estimation, all of it just to increase short-term profit margins without any consideration for the longevity of the brand itself. Moving to offshore manufacturing being the primary culprit, which I believe was incredibly short-sighted then and still is today. Didn’t these people realize we are in the arts? How could those kinds of moves benefit the long-term health of our industry?
So when I asked myself what my real contribution could be in this environment, I came up with the answer that it would be to teach people what’s real in this business, plain and simple. My peers and I were in a unique position where we could help people discover how the industry actually operates, how the gear works, how our human resources function in practice, not theory. Man, if you’re going to commit to this industry, you ain’t doing it via watching YouTube videos.
That’s the essence of how Truth in Audio was born. I wanted to create a neutral environment for people to come in and learn how to navigate these waters in a very real and pragmatic sense, we would have no axes to grind. Sure, we had to make some money along the way, but learning and helping others was and still is our main mantra. Expediting the brand into product development extends that sentiment into what people know about the industry coupled with what they may use as well.
GD: Now that you’ve moved into design and manufacturing how will the coming products be branded?
BB: They will all be sold under the Truth in Audio brand. The name is meant to instill confidence in people, take a look at our logo and it carries the same trustworthy sentiment. We’re going for niche markets in all three categories, and all the products will be designed and built to a high standard. I’m only interested in creating products I feel are either necessary or desirable as products. Not because they are cheap or happen to be a flavor of the week.
GD: And my next question will pretty much ask itself – can you give us some details on these new products?
BB: For the professional side we have created a great utility for networking called the TCM (Transmission Control Module). The purpose of this product is to consolidate many of the day-to-day networking distribution needs on a show using unmanagement gigabit switches in a professional-grade form factor loaded with optional accessories. Customers can order TCM in two forms, the first being the all-Ethercon version and the other using LK54 multipin outputs from LINK, who incidentally helped us create the final product. (Go here for more on TCM.)
All of the pertinent details will be on our website shortly but there will be provisions for the product to be mounted to various sound systems, clamped to a truss, rack-mounted, or simply placed in a remote area to provide up to six channels of dual-redundant networking per box. I envision TCM to be a one-size-fits-all solution for a lion’s share of networking distribution on shows because it’s an unmanaged solution and alleviates many of the potential pitfalls that commonly occur with managed setups run by crew members who may not be IT specialists. On the heels of all this will be an optical box that provides fiber-optic capabilities to the product group when necessary.
GD: Do you have a name for the TIA ceiling loudspeakers yet?
BB: Not quite yet; we’re in the final stages of R&D on that one. The blueprint is based upon the ceiling speakers I designed for Rick Allen’s home in Carmel. I designed, built, and installed 36 of them for that project. He was blown away by the sound quality and that inspired me to do a serious review on where the common ceiling speaker could be advanced in general.
We’re confident that when the product is released to the public, they will find that we took a unique approach to its design and implementation. Not simply to be different, but rather to present something that we feel has real benefit in this category. Hey, Dyson made the common vacuum cleaner exciting again so why can’t we do the same for ceiling speakers?
All that aside for a moment, the wireless Bluetooth speaker for the consumer market is what the world is going to see from us first, and its name is KYRIE. This is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on – it took 10 months just to get the design down and I produced four different prototypes before the fifth one stuck. (Go here for more on KYRIE.)
The worst possible thing in the world you could ask a professional sound engineer to do is design a small loudspeaker, right? That’s because we just blow them up continuously. Nothing is ever loud enough, nothing ever has enough fidelity, and nothing is ever correct for us. That’s why we’re good at building big things that we can make our skin peel with.
So being one of those people, building a small speaker can be a tough go, but we did it, and everyone who has heard it has been blown away as well. It has a chassis built from recyclable aluminum, there’s no plastic in the design whatsoever – we use all premium components including an air motion transformer for the high-frequencies, a 3 3/4-inch bass driver, and a stereo amp that delivers 50 watts per channel. It has a DSP chip in it that allows us to do modern tuning and alignment, plus a battery pack that uses the same kind of cells as you’d find in a Tesla Model 3 that ran continuously for 27 hours at 60 percent volume in testing, which is basically unheard of.
We’re building this to touring specs so it won’t fall apart and will last forever – it’s truly high-performance and kicks butt. And because we’re green conscious, the speaker will ship in its own hard-shell case – no cardboard, styrofoam, or any of that stuff. The amount of material in the design that’s not totally recyclable or reusable is very, very minimal. We want to do our part, and of course, every speaker is hand-built.
With the first pilot-run of Truth in Audio’s KYRIE Bluetooth speaker already pre-sold, the company has announced that it is 6-8 weeks out on the actual launch of the product, which will be sold on its new website, also due to appear at the same time. With the Bluetooth speaker’s custom colors and a number of accessories planned to be offered beyond that time frame, look for the pro products to emerge as pandemic life returns to normal. Both the pro and integration lines will be supported with more traditional marketing methods including demos and education.
Visit Truth in Audio at http://www.truthinaudio.com.