PreSonus Audio Electronics is celebrating its ten-year anniversary of delivering high quality recording and live audio gear at great prices. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based company features over 20 products, and is soon launching a high-end yet reasonably priced tube preamp in collaboration with Anthony DeMaria Labs. PreSonus owner/founder Jim Odom is an interesting find: a man with gold and platinum engineering credits, a stint as a major label artist, a former studio owner and past work with high tech sonar DSP for the Navy.
What was your history before PreSonus? You were an engineer and you have an EE degree?
Yes, I have an Electrical Engineering degree from LSU. I grew up playing guitar in jazz and rock bands. When I was about eighteen years old I took a barn and built a studio using a Tascam 80-8 and never charged a soul. It was really just for fun. We were recording all the time — a lot of bands. Right out of high school I got a scholarship from Downbeat magazine, to go to Berklee in Boston where I studied jazz and composition. I came back from there and joined a band called LeRoux — we were on RCA and Capitol and toured the country. During that period,I worked at a 2" — based studio called Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana. One of the things we did there is completely rebuild the room, I think it was the late-eighties, and put [in] a Neve V console. We ended up doing a lot of records there.
You were doing a lot of...
A lot of hair bands and stuff like that. I was assisting a lot of guys coming in and also engineering and mixing. A lot of great engineers passed through during that time. It was just a fabulous experience. I got married about '85 and my wife and I moved to Los Angeles. So for about three or four years I was in L.A. doing sessions, playing guitar and engineering in places like the Village and at Capitol [Studios]. I came back here [Baton Rouge] to raise my kid more than anything, and built a room in town that was a Harrison/MCI studio called Techno Sound. We built a control room up on the second story and the main studio was this huge room with twenty-foot ceilings. We could cut drums in the middle of it or record an entire orchestra or choir. I ended up quitting the studio thing — during that time I also had gone back to LSU and was working on my EE degree part-time — I finished it in about '89. My focus was computer engineering and computer design, so I got real heavy into DSP. After I graduated from LSU, I joined a company designing sonar systems for the Navy.[laughs] I designed a bunch of underwater bathymetry systems using multibeam acoustics. We would do all this beam forming under the water and listen in 32 different directions simultaneously using DSPs.
To process it and figure out what information is returning?
That's right. Shoot the bottom of the ocean floor omni- directional. Then we would analyze the echoes coming back in thirty-two different directions. Based off of the time that it took to come back, it would give us the depth. We would also analyze the waveform and see if it hit rock, or if it hit mud. We would do real time integration and convolution, different waveform processing and things like that. That was a very technical time for me.
I wrote papers for the Navy and introduced different convolution technologies back in the early '90s. That was when I started to pick up manufacturing chops. I ended up being head of R&D for that company, and we were building all of the products here but I started to get bored with that. At night, basically in a garage, I started building PreSonus' first product — an eight- channel product where every channel had compression and gating, fader automation and mute automation and grouping all under digital control. You could recall audio scenes seamlessly with no pops or clicks within microseconds and you could stack as many of these as you wanted together. That was about 1993.
What product was that?
It's called the DCP-8. When we first introduced it in '95, it won a bunch of awards, but to tell you the truth, at the time, people weren't so keen, technically, on computer automation and the software on the PC wasn't quite up to real-time automation. But those products went into a lot of post-production rooms and we sold a lot of them to theaters that were recalling 128 channels of wireless...