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View from the Top: Richard Factor, Eventide Audio

Richard Factor, Eventide Audio co-founder and board chairman, describes the push for diversification and the sense of individual responsibility at the company that keeps progress on track.

Richard Factor, Eventide Audio founder
Richard Factor, Eventide Audio founder

“My first love and original career was in broadcasting, at a time when broadcasting was as ‘professional’ as audio could get,” said Richard Factor, Eventide Audio co-founder and board chairman. Factor recalled the “privilege” of working at powerhouse New York radio station WABC, where he sat across from legendary DJs and also repaired—and even built—equipment for the station.

Moving on to defense contractor Federal Scientific Corp., Factor said he “got a good grounding in digital technology and some of the new integrated circuits that were just coming into use. While I was there, my friend and Eventide co-founder Stephen Katz asked me to build a piece of equipment—a tape search controller—for his studio’s Ampex MM1000 [2-inch, 16-track master recorder]. He was able to sell it to Ampex on an OEM basis, which became the start of our original business.”

Factor credits a “love of music and growing up nerd” as the motivation to focus primarily on audio technology. He recalled being involved in every phase of operations by necessity in the early days. “I would open the mail in the morning and pay invoices so that our vendors would trust us. Then I would unlimber my soldering iron and oscilloscope, and design or test hardware until I heard the call of the light table and lay out printed circuit boards until I had to sleep. Over the decades, we hired people who were ever so much better at pretty much everything than I was, and we turned into a serious company with departments and even, latterly, divisions. But,” he said in homage to early PCB layout techniques, “I’m still the blue-and-red-tape Mylar king!

“We’re extremely concentrated in the R&D department,” said Factor. That’s no surprise given the pace of Eventide’s release of new products: “Now we have far more software composers than hardware designers.” On the marketing side of the equation, he said, “We’ve also laid on quite the crowd of social media denizens. We’ll probably have a celebration when the oldest of them becomes half my age. They speak internet and video and have been turning out some remarkably effective tutorials, advertising and blog posts, while accumulating something called ‘likes.’

[ Related: Eventide managing director and co-owner Tony Agnello recounts the colorful history of the company flagship digital multi-effects processors. ]

“Our culture, from the very beginning, was and remains one of individual responsibility. We have, by preference and necessity, very little of what other companies might call ‘management.’ My partner Tony Agnello, who is running the company, hires the best people and trusts them to get things done. I have heard him say ‘never settle’ more times than our first shift-register delay lines could repeat a loop.”

Eventide products are prototyped and manufactured out of two large plants in Little Ferry, NJ. “They are converted warehouses,” said Factor, “one of which sports hundreds of kilowatts of solar panels to feed our electric habit.” These days, “while Tony does a spectacular job of keeping everything together back in New Jersey, I devote what’s left of my attention span to propounding what I believe are Good Ideas while enjoying living in Sedona [AZ], where winter is mostly pretend,” Factor added.

Professional audio and public safety communications are currently Eventide’s biggest markets, according to Factor, with his first love, broadcasting, “sadly decreasing.” Meanwhile, the home recording aspects of Eventide’s business continue to grow, helping feed the new streaming distribution methodology.

[ Eventide Spring Plug-In Review, Eventide H3000 Factory Plug-In Review ]

In the early days of a tiny, fledgling audio industry, Factor would agonize over every new product release from competing companies and “worry about how that would affect my chocolate fund,” he said. Numerous TEC Awards and induction into the TEC Hall of Fame, a NAMM Milestone Award and a Technical Grammy Award are evidence that Factor and his team got it right. Today, he said, “we deal with the competition with some combination of bemusement and inspiration. Sticking with our ‘Make Neat Stuff’ philosophy seems to work pretty well, but, borrowing an expression from SETI, ‘We know we’re not alone.’”

“Diversification” is Factor’s one-word explanation of Eventide’s longevity. “Although it’s our 50th anniversary in the professional audio world, less well known is that we spent about 30 years manufacturing computer peripherals, including the world’s first in-computer test instrumentation,” he said. “Another business for us was making the first successful moving map display for general aviation aircraft.” In the late 1980s, Eventide was the first company to use computer hardware to replace tape recording for surveillance. “Our communications division is as well known as the Dictaphone of yore,” Factor said, “and our products are used everywhere from airports to zoos. These seemingly unrelated businesses supplemented and regularized our revenue. I admit that we got into each of them serendipitously, but as you can see, it’s worked out OK!”

Eventide •