When the founders of Eventide attended their first AES Convention, they brought along “a fanciful aggregation of ‘products’ [they] were unable to demonstrate due to the complete lack of any internal electronic components”.
This year, they return for their fortieth as one of the most recognizable and long-lived names in professional audio. They also have a whole new direction.
When Richard Factor, Steve Katz, and Orville Greene founded Eventide in NYC just 40 years ago, digital audio barely existed. Not for any practical purposes, at least.
Even analog audio was still in its infancy in a few ways. Full-featured stereo delays had yet to be invented. The best that the engineers of the day could do was to either chain two tape machines together, fruitlessly attempt to sync a pair of Echoplexes, or try the first ever analog delay: Urei’s Cooper Time Cube.
The last of those choices was, quite literally, a garden hose in a box, with a microphone at one end and a speaker at the other. It could deliver a whopping 30 milliseconds of delay. The other available options were impractical at best.
All that began to change when Eventide released the 1745 Digital Delay Line. Co-founder Richard Factor had a knack for seeing the gaps in existing technology, and in a flash of simple-minded brilliance, dreaming up a way to fill the void.
He did this with Eventide’s pioneering delays and tape search units, and he’d go on to do it again in aviation and computing. As Eventide continued to redefine audio processing, Factor began introducing some of the first moving-map displays for private airplanes, and aftermarket RAM for DSP developers.
“Back then, I was a long-haired, weirdo, hippie freak – Like just about everybody,” Factor joked when we caught up with him for this story. “Now, I’m just a weirdo,” he laughs.
After Factor made his early innovations, it was up to the Eventide team to take the ball and run with it. Their Audio division got especially lucky when it found Tony Agnello, a grad student at New York’s City College, and a self-described “frustrated musician”.
(Tony Agnello also happens to be the big brother of John Agnello, the Producer/Engineer who’s worked with guitar-based rockers from Aerosmith and Twisted Sister to Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. Tony’s newfound connections in the audio world would help a teen-age John land to his first job as a lowly studio “gopher”.)
THE FIRST EFFECTS
“Just as I was getting into the industry, rent in the city was starting to get much more expensive,” says Tony Agnello.
“Recording studios that had dedicated entire rooms to use as echo chambers started to discover that they could buy a metal plate from EMT to get reverb, instead of wasting an entire room just to let sound bounce around between the walls.”
“The one problem with an EMT plate though, is that unlike a room, there’s no pre-delay – there’s no pause before the onset of the reverb. That tends to sound unnatural.”
And that’s where the first Eventide delays came in. With up to 200 milliseconds of delay, the earliest units were perfect for sprucing up reverb sends or for providing an easy way to achieve “Automatic Double Tracking”, known today as electronic “doubling”.
These early delay lines would also go on to revolutionize live sound systems by allowing technicians to sync distant sets of speakers for proper time-alignment. Later units even allowed broadcasters to avoid fines by affording an ample broadcast delay in which they could edit out swear words.
THE FIRST MULTI-EFFECTS
“Delays were interesting to me,” says Agnello, “but I wanted to create musical instruments.”
Pretty quickly, he would do just that…