Guess it can be said that audio has always been in his life from the beginning! From a humble start in Cleveland, Ohio, founder Frank Foti of Omnia Audio (formerly Cutting Edge Technologies) began his business life by modifying audio processors on an artist drafting table given to him, by his mom. That first product, the Vigilante, enabled radio stations to "Start Taking Hostages" as they dominated the dial in their respective markets. Those early efforts in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Cleveland, ignited a ground-swell about a new secret box, which propelled the company forward.
Today, Omnia Audio is the renowned worldwide leader in more than broadcast audio processing. While FM, AM, TV, satcasters, and netcasters all benefit from Omnia Audio's ongoing efforts, the company has been, and remains, strong in audio innovation. They have been a strong proponent to bring discrete surround sound to radio, and were very influential in the development of processing algorithms enabling low bitrate audio to be used in multimedia.
Recently, they have teamed up with another bunch of "go-getters"...Linear Acoustic, and together they are conquering the world of DTV audio. Additionally, what was once the processing mind of just Frank Foti, has now grown into a tremendous team of energetic developers and engineers, all of whom have one goal in mind...to bring the best sounding audio to the world over.
The spirit of our company can be understood by reading Steve's introduction to a recent company catalog:
It has to be said that broadcast engineering offers its practitioners a mixed bag. There are no fixed hours, the work is never done, and often not fully appreciated. Being on call 24/7 takes a toll. It’s no road to riches. So why do we do it?
Scratch most of us and you will find a kid who somehow fell in love with the romance of voices and music moving through the air. There is something undeniably romantic about the mysterious electrical force that emanates from a radio tower and makes its way to a vast range of receivers in countless and unknown bedrooms and cars. That we are professionals who well understand modulated carriers and PLL detectors takes nothing from the magic of a guy alone in a small room being able to whisper in his listeners’ ears with only the “ether” binding them together. This is undoubtedly part of the appeal of radio broadcasting as a career; and quite unlike that which draws someone to be a lawyer or a dentist.
Perhaps you feel the word romantic is a stretch. But radio is a bit like a kiss, no? When passion takes a grip, a kiss connects two humans in an exchange of secrets and emotions. We kiss furtively, lasciviously, gently, shyly, hungrily and exuberantly. We kiss in broad daylight and in the dead of night. We give ceremonial kisses, affectionate kisses, Hollywood air kisses, kisses of death and (in fairy tales) pecks that revive princesses. At its best, and in our imagination, radio has such a variety, and a similar power. Perhaps this is why the two must popular nicknames for radio stations are Kiss and Magic?
A hint that something more interesting than dentistry is going on comes from the universality of The Dream. Those of you who have spent some time behind the microphone probably have had it. You know the one – the record is ending and you can’t find another, or the studio door is locked, or the faders can’t be moved, or… well, your variants are probably more interesting than mine. In its most extreme form, the hot-line lamp is flashing menacingly. It’s been 15 years since I was last on-air, but I just had The Dream again last month. Seems to come around about once a year. Still. This time, when the stylus on the vinyl was precariously close to “playing the label” and the entire record library had magically disappeared, the DJ in the dream somehow – and for the first time – figured out that hitting play on the computer brought dead-air rescuing relief. Apparently my subconscious has been finally dragged into the 90s. But I’am not so sure this is a good thing. Perhaps next time, The Dream will feature a blue-screened PC and a message like Error ID 3af4: App Malloc Denied - Replace User and Wait for Reboot.
When something has such a powerful effect, it is likely to be rooted in our fundamental nature. Konrad Lorenz was an Austrian naturist who noticed something interesting. Lorenz demonstrated how incubator-hatched geese would imprint on the first suitable moving stimulus they saw within a critical period of about 36 hours shortly after hatching. Most famously, the goslings would imprint on Lorenz’s wading boots, and photos show him being followed by a gaggle of geese that had imprinted on him. Scientists say that human babies learn who its mother and father are in much the same way. These are no accidents, but nature’s careful design to create an essential, life-sustaining bond.
It is well-known that one’s lifelong musical taste is pretty much imprinted during the teen years. Our connection to radio might be, as well. How many of us, during those sensitive years, listening to a great DJ or talk host, decided we wanted to be a part of that? That it took so deep for many of us suggests a sort of “imprinting.” Think about the vast numbers of people for whom work is just work, and consider how fortunate we are to have found a vocation bound in such a way to our inner spirit.
Old broadcast consoles are nothing but a collection of corroding metal, worn-out pots, and broken switches. Yet there are websites devoted to photos of them, and a few fanatics lovingly restore them as if they were ’57 Chevys. This implies a connection far deeper than a construction worker, say, has to his saws and drills. Devoted newspapermen say they have ink in their veins. Perhaps we have VU meters seared into our visual cortexes.
It brings us great satisfaction to be making today’s tools for radio broadcasting. Twenty years from now, there are going to be dreams starring Element consoles and nostalgic restorers fixing them up. At Telos/Omnia/Axia, we have a dozen ex-broadcasters on-staff, including the two founders – engineers mostly, but also a PD, a Production Director, a station owner, and a few talent-types. For us, and probably for you, this stuff is very much more than saws and drills.