Audio Pioneer Dr. h.c. Willi Studer
(December 17, 1912 - March 1, 1996)
Willi Studer started his entrepreneurial career in 1948 in Zurich by building a small electronics equipment factory. The first products assembled by the small group of three employees were special high-voltage oscilloscopes. But shortly afterwards, he started to specialize in the field of audio technology. The experience gained from the adaptation of US tape recorders for the European market gave Studer the confidence that he would be able to design and build such equipment himself and that it would be even better and more reliable. He demonstrated this with the development of the now legendary 'Dynavox'. To keep up with production he expanded his operation to 25 employees by the end of 1950. In the following year he founded his own sales company, ELA AG. For his tape recorders he chose the brand name REVOX, the Dynavox became the Revox T26. In parallel to this he started to develop a 'big' tape machine with a 3-motor tape deck, the Studer 27, for radio stations.
The first opportunity to test his new creation came sooner than expected. In his characteristically modest manner Willi Studer reminisced about the event in the editorial 'Market-oriented products - The key to success' which appeared in the January 1985 edition of the company's own technical journal, 'Swiss Sound'. It started with the following introduction: 'In August 1951 I was given the opportunity to use a laboratory prototype of our first studio machine 027 in order to record the concerts of the International Music Festival Lucerne together with the staff of the Radio Studio Basel. These were worrying hours because no-one knew whether the machine would last through the concerts of an entire evening and whether the tape pancake, which exceeded the 300 mm reel flange by as much as 10 mm, would do me the favour of not collapsing. Everything went well.'
The ice was broken, a stormy phase began. The next Revox tape recorder, the A36, was also equipped with a 3-motor tape deck. To the delight of the tape hobbyists and the shock of the competitors, the Revox B36, with three heads followed in 1956. Professional tape/source monitoring possibility opened the non-professional market and degraded the existing recording technology to a consumer playground. With the A77 series in 1967, Studer Revox finally established a reputation for high-quality hi-fi systems. The series of pioneering developments, such as a servo-controlled capstan unit with a rugged asynchronous motor continued.
The years 1959 and 1960 were economically trying to the company. The new headquarters in Regensdorf was under construction. At the same time technical problems occurred in the conversion of the existing mono units to the new stereo tape recorder D36. Enormous delivery delays had to be overcome and an important development project, the Studer C37, was approaching the series production stage. This machine, which has become so famous today, helped Studer to further solidify its market share in the professional studio sector.
Almost at the same time distributorships were established, in England with F.W.O. Bauch Ltd., London, and in Spain with Telco Electronics S.A., Madrid. During this difficult period started the successful cooperation with EMT Wilhelm Franz GmbH, Wettingen/Switzerland, the purpose of which was to open the world market for professional Studer products. With the shipment of a Studer J37, the multichannel version of the C37, to the 'Abbey Road Studios' in London for recording 'The Beatles' a new milestone was achieved. The international breakthrough had become reality.
In 1965 a new plant for producing Revox tape recorders was opened just across the German border in Löffingen; this created the necessary room for expanding the professional product area. A new studio technology department began its activities in 1968. With the series production of the Studer 089 mixing console, it demonstrated that it was capable of producing high-quality audio mixers. This established the basis for broadening the professional product range.
What followed was the development 'normal' to a company with an ambitious founder at the helm. He systematically invested his earnings into the development of his life work. He showed little interest in private wealth, moreover 'feeding' shareholders was diametrically opposed to his intentions. The charming, modest man and patron of classical music, Willi Studer, never believed in fancy words. Speeches which he was unable to avoid were always brief and to the point. As a man who rose early he was always the first one at work and took vacations only when other employees of his age were ready to retire. He was over 70 when he started the largest project in the history of his company, the development of a digital multichannel DASH tape recorder. Studer remained the only non-Japanese manufacturer to produce such highly complex machines.
The culminating point in the company's development was the year 1986. The Studer Revox Group had 2000 employees in its production centers and subsidiaries in 10 countries. The annual turnover reached CHF 220 million.
In 1978 Willi Studer was awarded an honorary doctorate in Technical Sciences by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. The greatest honour awarded by the audio industry, the gold medal of the AES (Audio Engineering Society'), was bestowed on the audio pioneer, Dr. h.c. Willi Studer, at the 1982 AES Convention in Montreux.
Willi Studer, the great audio pioneer, died 84 years old on Friday, March 1 1996 after a brief illness.