About TL Audio

Bring Music To Life

TL Audio began manufacturing audio products in 1990, when the company - founded by Tony Larking - was largely involved in the restoration and re-selling of vintage equipment such as Neve and Trident recording consoles. The first TL Audio products were original Neve EQ modules, which were taken principally from broadcast consoles and re-packaged to make them suitable for music production studios. Shortly after this Tony Larking was introduced to David Kempson, a leading designer at Neve for nine years.

The Mill

By 1993 the demand for used valve outboard equipment had become very strong but most models such as the original Pultec and Fairchild valve devices were already extremely rare and expensive. There appeared an obvious gap in the market for brand new affordable valve products and the result was TL Audio’s first valve product - the EQ-1 Dual Valve Equaliser. This product revolutionised the studio market by offering reliable, flexible, great sounding valve processing that was within the budget of most studios. The EQ-1, like all subsequent TL Audio valve products, employed “hybrid” circuitry that combined the best of low noise solid state circuitry with the warmth of valve stages - making it perfect for use with the new breed of modular digital multitrack recorders (MDMs) such as ADAT. The EQ-1 quickly attracted the interest of mainstream engineer/producers, with the first two production models going to Roy Thomas Baker (who had produced many of Queen and Foreigner’s early recordings) and Chris Porter (who was working with George Michael and Take That).

Tony Larking recalls “Back then, the numbers of EQ-1s we were producing were small, but word quickly spread and before we knew it we had to move our production to larger premises. In the US and Europe the demand became particularly high and with the introduction of the C-1 our business moved to a different level. We had always believed advertising the products very visibly, so we invested heavily in both marketing and R&D and the results were instant.”

The EQ-1 was the first of what became known as the ‘Classic’ range, and was followed by what has become possibly TL Audio’s best known product - the C-1 Dual Valve Compressor, which shot to stardom as Chris Fogel’s mixdown compressor on Alanis Morissette’s multi-million selling ‘Jagged Little Pill’ album. With the Classic range expanding to include more models, the growth in popularity of affordable digital recorders and mixers heightened the appetite for valve processing, which led to lower-cost ranges such as the Indigo and Ivory models. The Ivory series of preamps, equalisers and dynamics devices - launched in 1998 - has become TL Audio’s best selling range of products to date, with thousands of units being shipped on an annual basis all over the world. The Ivory 5051 valve voice processor has now become the company’s best selling product ever, and has found a place as an all purpose front end for many studio and live sound systems. A combined preamp, compressor, equaliser and expander/gate, the 5051 provides the perfect self contained signal path for any signal before it goes to tape or hard disc, making it very popular with owners of computer based recording systems. Recently refined and updated under the ‘Ivory 2’ banner, this range continues to sell in large quantities Worldwide, with the 5052 stereo valve processor becoming the new flagship of the series.

“The Ivory Series was our response to a rapidly changing market,” comments Tony Larking, “Right throughout pro audio, users were demanding better quality for less money, and we recognised that we needed to reflect this wish. The Ivory Series satisfied all the criteria that we knew customers were looking for: a great sound, flexibility and user friendliness, all with a smaller price tag!”

Union JackIn 1999, the small format M-1 and M-2 valve mixers of the Classic range made way for TL Audio’s first fully featured valve recording console - the VTC (Valve Technology Console). The VTC maintains a position as the only serious valve console in commercial production today, and fills a gap in the market vacated by the classic consoles of the seventies and eighties. The VTC provides the unique sonic qualities of valves with the functional demands of modern music production, offering a combination of vintage audio quality with contemporary facilities and flexibility. Available in six sizes from 16 channels upto 56 channels, the VTC is the perfect solution for any engineer looking for a fat sounding, intuitive console to complement their analogue or (more commonly) digital hard disc recording system.

The first high profile VTC user was Damon Albarn of Blur who invested in a 32 channel VTC for his own private studio in London. Used alongside his Pro Tools rig, the VTC was the only console that could provide the sort of warm bottom end that could do justice to the new Gorillaz material he was working on. Since then major electronic dance acts such as Underworld and Neil Barnes of Leftfield have also adopted the VTC/Pro Tools combination to transform the sound of their new recordings. The uniqueness of the VTC was recognised by a number of prestigious awards: the console collected the SSAIRA (Studio Sound Audio Industry Recognition Award) for Best Small-to-Medium Scale Console, and the MIPA (Musikmesse International Press Award) for Best Analogue Console at the Frankfurt Musikmesse.

The growing need for a smaller, compact version of the VTC then led to the development of the M-3 ‘Tubetracker’ mixer, which provides 8 channels of VTC quality in a small format package – ideal as a DAW front end.

In 2000, TL Audio expanded its activities in the entry level arena by launching the ‘Fatman’ series -comprising the FAT-1 stereo valve compressor and FAT-2 mono valve front end. Both units are brilliantly simple in concept: they offer both manual controls for standard user operation, in combination with fifteen preset compression settings optimised for a wide variety of instruments and mixes. Designed for those new to compression, or those simply looking for instant, great sounding dynamics box, the Fatman range became the new benchmark for affordable valve compression.
2005 see’s the new Fatman range being launched which will push the brand into new and exciting areas, as well as the introduction of the new M4 Tube Console earlier in the year. The M4 has been designed to maximize modern recording techniques and bridges the gap between our hugely successful M3 and VTC consoles. The addition of optional ADAT card(s) on the M4 makes for easy connectivity with modern recording systems – making a great front end for any digital recording set up. Available in 16, 24 and 32 channel models, the M4 gives the same quality TL Audio sound that can be found in all our products.

TL Audio’s key personnel has remained the same since day one: Managing Director, Tony Larking and Chief of Design, David Kempson. In July 2005, the company were delighted to welcome on board Sarah Yule as International Sales Manager. LIPA graduate Sarah brings with her a wealth of experience within the recording field as well as sales and marketing.
With a UK factory of highly skilled assembly and test staff, and a Worldwide network of highly effective distributors and dealers, TL Audio has become one of the most respected names currently manufacturing Pro Audio equipment.

Designer David Kempson neatly summarises TL Audio’s philosophy - “Our hybrid design approach was not chosen to cut costs: we created it because we genuinely believe it is a better way of producing valve processors. It makes them consistent, reliable, quiet, and - best of all - it means that by gearing ourselves up for large scale production we can make the products affordable as well. Every studio deserves to benefit from the advantages of valve signal processing - with our products, we make that possible.”

Plug in the real thing.