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Crane Song Founder / Designer Dave Hill, Dead at 68

Revered for his audio gear, Dave Hill left behind a legacy of industry-standard equipment—and plans for his companies' futures.

Dave Hill at the 2015 NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA. Photo: Future.
Dave Hill at the 2015 NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA. Photo: Future.

Duluth, MN (March 3, 2023)—Renowned for his high-end pro-audio gear designs, Dave Hill died February 22, 2023 in Duluth, MN as a result of complications due to cancer. Over the course of a lifetime in the pro-audio business, Hill created legendary analog and digital gear for multiple companies including his own brands, Crane Song and Dave Hill Designs. He was 68.

Hill was born November 19, 1954 in Superior, WI. At an early age, he developed a keen interest in electronics, building radios with a neighbor while still in elementary school; by his teen years, he was fixing audio gear for friends and working in a local music store, repairing Fender amplifiers and Wurlitzer organs. Tying into the region’s music scene, by the early 1970s, he co-owned a studio and was mixing live sound for touring acts.

Connecting with Summit Audio, he developed the TLA-100 compressor; introduced in the mid-1980s, the unit went on to become a staple for studio and live sound engineers—a future that was perhaps foreseeable when the original proof-of-concept unit was put to use on a Hall & Oates session and then not returned. Hill went on to create a number of classic designs for Summit Audio, including the TPA-200B, the EQP100 and EQP200 and the DCL200. Elsewhere, he did some design work with Soundeluxe, SoundField and A-Designs Audio.

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In 1992, while toying with opening his own pro-audio company, Hill did some freelance film recording work, helping document the renovation of the John A. Blatnik Bridge, which connects Duluth, MN and Superior, WI over the Saint Louis River. The massive construction project required large sections of the bridge’s deck to be lowered to barges waiting in the water below, and the unique, caterwauling sounds of the cranes bearing loads became the inspiration for the name of his new company: Crane Song.

Hill founded Crane Song in 1995, and while he initially planned to build analog synths, he ultimately went with what he knew, debuting the company with the STC8 stereo compressor/limiter. The brand quickly caught on and over the years, the company became known for its high-end recording hardware—a range that included analog-to-digital converters, mic preamps, compressors, and 500-series rackmount modules—as well as plug-ins, an area the company moved into in 2002. While continuing with Crane Song, he also founded Dave Hill Designs in 2010, using that brand to focus on digitally controlled analog products.

Crane Song general manager Tim Dorsey announced Hill’s passing on Facebook, noting that it was the founder’s wish that the companies continue after his death, and that Hill had outlined a product roadmap for the future, and had likewise hand-picked successors Martin Reus and Ryan Rusch to continue his work.

Donations can be made in Hill’s memory to Helping Paws Pet Rescue Inc., 125 W Bayfield St, Washburn, WI 54891.