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Humble Beginnings. Billy building custom consoles


Back in the late Sixites there weren't many companies that provided live sound for touring bands, club venues, or even recording studios. More and more, people became involved with the promotion of live music, and the frustration of securing sound equipment to support large concerts was scarce and expensive.  

Ashly Audio started out as a sound reinforcement company founded by Billy Thompson, the maverick engineer who inspired a group of friends to redirect their talents for sound engineering toward the manufacturing of live sound equipment. It was Thompson's passion for designing and building sound equipment of unparalleled functionality, musicality, and reliability that cemented Ashly's enduring reputation in both the fixed installation and live sound markets.  

Early Custom ConsoleNot a newcomer to the audio business, Billy was drawn back to his passion for music; leaving his lucrative electronic engineering position at an avionics manufacturing company. While working with a sound company called Brighton Sound, many of his early personal designs (mixing consoles, power amplifiers, and processing equipment) were used to solve many of the problems he saw with other sound companies issues while mixing bands. 

Brighton Sound Loud AmpOne notable component which he called the "Loud Amp" was designed to address and power requires for increasingly popular mid-size venues and quickly became a sought after piece of gear from other sound companies in Western New York. 

As with most start-up companies, manufacturing was located in basements and garages and Ashly made it's first official manufacturing facility on Jay Street in the city of Rochester, New York. Ashly's first customers were friends and associates, but business quickly spread to new clients. The team worked day and night to build consoles and established several units based on original prototypes. As no two were ever the same, it was a somewhat precarious way to run a business. The first consoles were elaborate, complete with built-in electronic crossovers, compressor/limiters, and parametric equalizers. As more consoles were manufactured, the demand continued to grow... and so did Ashly.

Modular is Better.

Ashly SC-66 Demand for individual components utilized in their mixers drove Ashly to then develop a series of rack devices that could be used in a modular fashion. In 1976, Ashly innovated several rack mountable units and introduced the SC-66 Stereo Parametric Equalizer, one of the first simple and affordable parametrics in a world overrun by graphic EQs. The SC-66 was ahead of it's time and took years to catch on. But if the masses wanted graphic EQs, Thompson could deliver that too, only better. The result was the GQ series, forerunner to Ashly's contemporary line of GQX and MQX graphic equalizers which are still in production today.

Ashly SC-50When asked how he approached engineering, Thompson reflected. "Instead of starting with preconceived ideas, I approached a problem and puttered with it until it sounded right." Sometimes that made for long development times, as with another breakthrough with SC-50 Compressor Limiter. He continued, "The SC-50 took three years of head scratching, but it was worth it. It is an amazingly musical compressor and is still sought after by collectors."

As the sun set on the 1970s, Thompson again turned his attention to power amplifiers.

Ashly MOS-FET 2000By the 1980s, MOS-FET transistor technology had matured and it seemed like an ideal alternative to standard transistor technology. Excited by the possibilities, Thompson designed the Ashly series of FET amps and unleashed them on the world. The MOS-FET Series of power amps had tremendous commercial success and can still be found in use today. But Ashly wouldn't stop there. Thompson also started seeing potential in the design of digital processors. 

The Digital Resolution.

Ashly Protea 4.24GAfter a decade of development and tinkering to perfection, Ashly introduced the Protea Series of Digital Signal Processors in the late 1990s. They offered tremendous processing power and flexibility at remarkably affordable prices - and still do today. Where other manufacturers struggle to produce digital gear that is operable without hours in front of a painfully detailed manual or level upon level of programming screens, Ashly succeeded at building an interface that any sound professional would be immediately comfortable with. Ashly's Protea series, which now includes everything from EQs to complete speaker processors to full matrix processors, possesses a musicality that transcends the analog/digital divide.

Ashly was quick to recognize that the digital revolution is about much more than fancy filtering algorithms. Networking and control of audio systems form an increasingly essential component of modern installations. Ashly's "network enabled" amplifiers and processors interconnect seamlessly with the rest of the digital world via standard 10/100 Ethernet. In the age of unbridled connectivity, every component must work together and be instantly accessible from either local or global command locations.

It was the spirit of Thompson's prescience that moved Ashly to the forefront of today's ever-developing digital revolution. Ashly's current array of network-ready products provide custom solutions of power, reliability, and economy for the modern integrator.