For over 40 years, BSS Audio has set the standard for signal processing innovation, with legendary products like the DPR-402 Compressor/Limiter, the VARICURVE digitally controlled analog equalizer, and the OMNIDRIVE loudspeaker management system. BSS revolutionized digital signal processing with the Soundweb Original series, the world’s first open architecture distributed DSP solution, followed by the acclaimed Soundweb London series, which is found in some of the world’s most prestigious installations today.
Early on, BSS gained its reputation for elegant-sounding signal processing and crossovers. Innovative technologies like Progressive Knee Subtractive Compression, mid-filter crossover limiting, dynamic equalization, and ADE restoration of leading-edge information in noise gates elevated BSS Audio to a revered status among live sound and recording engineers.
Throughout its history, BSS continued to expand and evolve its portfolio to support the needs of hospitality, large venues, corporate, education, government, and other discerning clients around the globe. This expansion stems from path-breaking innovation and an unwavering commitment to deliver excellence in both solutions and customer experiences.
Let’s take a closer look at the BSS legacy – where the brand came from and a look at some of its technology advancements to make it the leader in pro audio signal processing innovation.
The BSS story started when it was founded as ‘Brooke Siren Systems’ in 1979 by Chas Brooke, partner, and Stan Gould, design engineer. Both worked at Midas, a well-regarded London-based mixing console manufacturer. The company had gained acclaim in the mid-1970s after the completion of a 100+ channel quadrophonic mixing console for Pink Floyd’s 1977 ‘Animals’ tour and a growing list of high-profile clients and projects.
The two partners had already established formidable reputations within the audio industry but with the creation of the new company, their talents were concentrated on the production of innovative frequency-dividing systems and ancillary equipment.
Setting New Standards
The first product to emerge from the newly formed company was the radical MCS Series, the first-ever modular crossover system. The MCS Series broke new ground in providing effective yet inaudible speaker protection in the form of mid-filter limiting – a technique that became an industry standard. The MCS also featured plug-in modules and frequency-determining cards which were helpful at a time when PA rental companies were experimenting with 4, 5, 6, and 7-way frequency response from the drive-units and horns that were available.
“What we were doing was educating the professional user as to the importance of the crossover part of the sound system and that meant not just the proper use of filters, but the correct implementation of power limiters, input conditioning, high current balanced output stages and signal level monitoring.”
– Chas Brooke, Brooke Siren Systems Co-Founder
Innovation and Growth
The 1980s brought a series of innovative accessory products including the AR-116 Direct Injection box, that was recognized throughout the industry for its supreme sonic quality. The AR-116 resolved the issue of depleted batteries by incorporating a compact, proprietary power conversion module.
This enabled the unit to be powered from the console’s phantom voltage while retaining 100% isolation. BBC Sound engineers at London’s Maida Vale Studios rated the AR-116 above a box costing three times as much, while an independent test at Criteria Studios in Florida judged it to outclass every other Direct Injection Box.
Expansion and Consolidation
In a class of its own, the AR-116 witnessed a meteoric rise in sales and the UK market led the global surge, leading world demand. With demand exceeding supply, it was time for BSS to expand its manufacturing and sales operations to leverage the popularity of its products. At this point, Nigel Olliff, former director of Martin Audio with vast experience in allied areas of pro audio and lighting joined BSS as sales director. Olliff was instrumental in developing BSS’ comprehensive international dealer network.
“BSS always made products that were interesting, not just straightforward answers to problems, but rather thoroughly researched and roadtested solutions that gave the end user powerful, ergonomically packaged equipment.”
– BSS Audio spokesperson
In the years that followed, BSS continued to expand its reputation for delivering solutions that could exceed customer requirements. It also established a track record for exceptional reliability, achieved through meticulous design and rigorous Quality Assurance (QA) processes. “As a measure of the breadth of the BSS range and the regard in which it is held; Pink Floyd’s 1994 World Tour used BSS signal processors almost exclusively, including BSS Varicurve equalizer/analyzers on Front-of-house and monitors, FCS-960 dual channel, dual mode graphic equalizers, DPR- 402 Compressor/De-Esser/Limiters, DPR-502 Dual MIDI gates, TCS-804 Delay lines, and more than one hundred EPC-760 and EPC-780 power amplifiers providing the main, quad and delay speaker systems.” – BSS Audio Spokesperson
Continued Innovation Throughout the Years
DPR Series Compressor/Limiters
In the 1980s, the DPR Series debuted as a comprehensive and innovative dynamics processor that found many uses on stages, studios, and broadcast facilities. It offered dynamic processing support, including compression, limiting, and de-essing, and provided a surprising amount of flexibility for a hardware compressor.
“The unit was known for its punchy compression character, and the extra configurability made it an especially versatile tool,” macprovideo.com
VARICURVE Digitally Controlled Analog Equalizer
The VARICURVE Digitally Controlled Analog Equalizer provided 12 digitally-controlled parametric bands and a real-time analyzer and the option of a multi-channel remote control. In a 1994 edition of Sound on Sound magazine (page 8), Philip Ashley, Head of Sound at the English National Opera (ENO), cited the reason the ENO purchased six VARICURVE systems back then. “As the requirements vary so much, the ease with which settings for equalising sounds from, say, a thunderclap effect to vocal corrections or front-of-house can be recalled is paramount – VARICURVE is the perfect solution.”
OMNIDRIVE Loudspeaker Management System
Launching in 1994 and designed for use in all areas of sound control, the OMNIDRIVE loudspeaker management system represented a radical step forward in DSP processing for loudspeaker management.
It incorporated BSS’s vast experience in crossover design and combined two channels of 4-way crossover, parametric equalization, digital delay lines and limiters.
Soundweb Original Series Networked Signal Processors
The Soundweb Original Series Networked Signal Processors also launched in the 90s and was the first large-scale system to offer a distributed, programmable DSP system with robust capabilities and simple controls on a single Cat 5 cable. It fast became an industry standard for networked, programmable DSP systems. Soundweb Original used simple Cat 5 cabling to pass 8 channels of digital audio and control signals bi-directionally up to 1000 feet / 300 meters between devices.
Soundweb London Series Digital Signal Processors
Ushering in a new millennium, in 2004, the Soundweb London DSP Series debuted and elevated BSS signal processing to a completely new level: “Those awaiting BSS Audio’s new programmable DSP/matrix system can rejoice with the launch of the Soundweb London range. The new family builds on the original Soundweb system and raises the bar again with four design goals: easy to install, easy to design, easy to control, and easy to integrate. London provides more flexible and enhanced I/O configurations, dual-redundant CobraNet audio networking with greater network capacity and matrix sizes.” audiomasterclass.com – September 2004
Contrio Wall Controllers
Redefining what was possible with networked audio processing capabilities, in 2014, BSS introduced the Contrio networked control and audio distribution platform. The Contrio wall controller lineup offered advanced multiple zone control and could easily be employed in a room-combining and splitting environment.
Watch to explore the massive technology upgrade at Thailand’s Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre, featuring BSS, JBL, Crown, dbx, and AMX systems. The Center includes three main zones: eight large halls, four plenary rooms and four ballrooms. All three zones’ respective systems are powered by Crown CDi Series amplifiers with BSS controllers providing system control.
The BSS story is continually evolving to surpass the needs of the installed audio market. No matter what the requirement or application, BSS remains committed to advancing signal processing and maximizing system design potential.
The next generation of BSS Digital Signal Processing is coming on January 30 and we want you to join us in person or online to experience it for yourself. Mark your calendars and if you’re going to be at Integrated Systems Europe in Barcelona, be sure to stop by Stand 3F300 to say hello and explore it for yourself.
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