Telos Systems


The Spirit of Telos Systems 

Telos was founded by Steve Church, a radio station talk show host at WFBQ, Indianapolis, who was dissatisfied with the poor quality of his on-air telephone calls. He was also an Engineer determined to do something about it. After many weekends spent in a nearby university technical library, a few extended lunches with professors, and months of long nights in the station’s lab, he taught himself the young field of audio signal processing and invented the world’s first radio studio product using digital audio technology. (Yes, this was 1984, when Compact Discs were "revolutionary".) The resulting Telos 10 telephone interface system was a hit, eventually inspiring Steve to quit his station job (then at WMMS, Cleveland) to build a business to make and sell the systems.

Telos’ telephone hybrids and on-air talk show systems continue to set the performance benchmarks by which others are judged. Zephyr codecs are the industry standard. With over 15,000 in use around the world, the Zephyr is probably the most successful digital broadcast product ever. We believe in innovation, and over the years, we’ve pioneered many firsts:

  • First digital radio studio product.

  • First product of any kind to use MP3.

  • First MP3 Internet streaming system.

  • First ISDN phone interface.

  • First ISDN codec.

  • First codec to use MPEG AAC.

  • First to use AAC-LD and AAC-ELD.

Our work has always involved the intersection of audio and networks. While we support a variety of network connections, we’re convinced that IP is the way forward. Leveraging high-volume technologies from the IT world makes a lot of sense for the broadcast industry. That’s why almost all of our gear has an IP connection for both control and Livewire audio. Our Z/IP ONE IP codecs are the most advanced way to pass studio-quality audio over unreliable networks such as the Internet and mobile IP services. Livewire is an efficient, reliable way to transport, route, and distribute audio within broadcast facilities. VoIP systems for studio telephones complete the story.

Despite having grown to become a worldwide leader in broadcast technology, we remain owned and managed by the founders. There are more than a dozen ex-broadcasters on staff making decisions, providing support, and designing products. Because we have "been there," we understand what you need to successfully get your job done. Since we are not beholden to finance types, we can take the long view, investing in fresh ideas for the long-term.


The spirit of Telos was stated this way by Steve Church:

"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 fairytales) 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 hotline 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...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."