A brief history of Active Acoustics

Active Acoustics was formed in 1995 as a partnership between David Meldrum and Roy Bowers, cousin of John Bowers, the joint founder of Bowers and Wilkins (B&W), makers of high quality loudspeakers and other audio equipment. John Bowers had formed a separate company in the mid 80s to make a high quality active loudspeaker, the Active One, which attracted enormous critical acclaim, but was not a huge commercial success (£6M sales) compared to other B&W business. The product was dropped but, subsequent to John Bowers’ death, Active Acoustics acquired the rights to the design and made a small number of pairs in Taynuilt (sold to Donald Shaw of Capercaillie amongst others), as well as supporting the existing Active One customer base. The partnership was dissolved in 2005 following the retirement of Roy Bowers, but the name and goodwill have been kept on as the marque of the sound recording activities of the younger partner, David Meldrum.

Recording activities of David Meldrum
David is a career scientist, specialising in polar research (for which he has recently been decorated with the Polar Medal), but has enjoyed a life-long passion for high quality sound recording and reproduction. While at Cambridge University during the 70s, David formed a close partnership with the Cambridge University Chamber Choir, directed by Richard Marlow, and recorded all of their concerts, including landmark events such as the St John and St Matthew Passions with Peter Pears as Evangelist at Trinity College in 1976 and at Snape in 1977. A number of commercial LPs were also recorded and issued across the breadth of the a capella repertoire, one as a joint release with BBC Birmingham. The equipment these days usually comprised a crossed-pair of STC 4038 ribbon mics (aka BBC PGS) and a Revox A77 running at 15 ips. Crossed-pair condenser mics (Calrec 1051s) were also used, notably to record the complete Bach organ works over a series of 24 lunchtime recitals. Some of these were also taken by BBC Birmingham for later broadcast. The original master tapes from all of these concerts and sessions still exist and are in the process of being digitised using a recently acquired ex-BBC Studer A810.

David’s recording career has recently been re-established through a new partnership with Crear to cover their concert and master-class programme, encompassing a wide-ranging genre from lieder to Scots fiddle to poetry. The recordings are made to the highest standard, but are so far only for archive and distribution to the artistes, from whom the feedback has been enthusiastic. As a result, an opportunity to record two of the Crear Scholars for Naxos is currently under negotiation.

Email David for more info: david@activeacoustics.co.uk