Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW) is the global leader in high-performance, professional loudspeaker system design and manufacture. Based in an historic mill complex in Whitinsville, Massachusetts, USA, EAW gives audio professionals a comprehensive tool kit that helps them deliver customized sound reinforcement solutions for venues and events around the world.
EAW is an integrated design manufacturer that manages the complete product lifecycle almost entirely from a single facility. With a decades-long history of delivering products for use in many of the world's iconic landmarks, EAW is established as the industry leader in professional loudspeaker system design. EAW's numerous breakthrough technologies include the basic research and first patented designs for digitally modeling, aiming and steering arrays.
EAW's extensive line of loudspeaker systems sits at the center of the tool kit. With well over 100 basic models in more than a dozen series, audio pros in permanent installation and mobile production can optimize each sound system design to match the needs of its individual application.
Loudspeaker systems might include onboard digital processors and amplifiers, but almost always benefit from external processors that deliver EAW Focusing settings, our proprietary approach to eliminating anomalies in a loudspeaker's time domain.
Finally, EAW develops software products that let users design arrays and model the results as well as programs that control DSP in EAW signal processors and onboard NT processors.
EAW provides complete factory support throughout the lifecycle of a sound reinforcement project, including system specification and design, loudspeaker purchase and installation, commissioning, service and repair. Our Application Support Group includes specialists in major application sectors and global field support resources based in multiple USA locations as well as the Pacific Rim and the UK.
For select projects, EAW will create custom-engineered loudspeaker solutions that solve the unsolvable or do the impossible. Our famous birch forest is tribute to the extreme specifications that EAW customers strive to meet!
EAW employs roughly 60 workers worldwide in Engineering, Application Support, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing and Administration. Most employees work at the home facility in Whitinsville, but EAW employees work at locations across North America as well as the UK, Singapore and Malaysia.
Since its founding in an old mill complex in Framingham, MA, in the fall of 1978, EAW has grown to produce loudspeakers installed in thousands of venues around the world. Historically, EAW has focused on technology research and development, developing a long list of breakthrough technologies that later became industry standards.
EAW's legendary technical founder Kenton Forsythe began designing and building loudspeaker systems as a student at Yale University and later the University of California. After a brief stint in his field of study (urban planning), Kenton devoted himself to loudspeaker system design full time, establishing Forsythe Audio.
In 1978, Forsythe joined forces with an up-and-coming "sound guy" with a remarkable talent for sales and marketing, Ken Berger. Together, they created EAW and grew the company into a global force. EAW's original "offices" were housed in an old mill building in Framingham, MA, about 20 miles (30 km) from the current location.
From the earliest period, EAW followed a basic design approach that sought to develop optimized components and design them into integrated systems closely tied their intended application. And in the early days, that application was rock concerts.
The typical rock concert sound system of 1978 likely comprised individual low, mid and high frequency loudspeakers stacked up on the sides of the stage. Components may not have been uniform across the system. In those days, many saw transducers as a commodity; one 12-in was as good as another.
In addition to suffering greatly from the comb filtering one would expect from such an arrangement of acoustical sources, an overall lack of attention to quality resulted in unacceptable levels of harmonic distortion and frequent failures.
Like other loudspeaker manufacturing founders of the era, Kenton Forsythe knew that vastly superior products could improve the audience experience.
EAW's KF550 system represented a significant improvement for concert sound. Superior components combined in a well-designed system with mathematically correct horn flares minimized harmonic distortion. With fewer, more powerful loudspeakers, arrays produced less destructive interaction. And, perhaps more important than the quality, the KF550 included suspension hardware that let road crews get loudspeakers off the stage and in the air, clearing sight lines and selling more seats.
In 1981, EAW moved to its current location in Whitinsville, MA. Over time, the company has occupied various portions of this sprawling mill complex. EAW currently occupies parts of building 9 and building 13 and all of building 23.
In the Whitinsville facility, EAW developed a set of research and development labs, including The Pit. Over the quarter-century since its creation, this iconic space has served as the proving grounds for most of the technological innovations EAW has created. In addition, The Pit's enormous, south-facing windows provide an excellent location for photography, and it has served as a photo studio on dozens of occasions.
In 1996, a fire in the EAW paint room sparked a multiple-alarm fire that destroyed the building housing EAW's final assembly operations and flooding the engineering facilities. Despite the total loss, the company shipped product the next day and began manufacturing at limited capacity within a week. Reoccupying the rebuilt manufacturing space the following year represented a major accomplishment and demonstrated the company's resilience in the face of adversity - a quality that would serve it well again.
Not long after moving to Whitinsville, EAW launched the KF850 three-way loudspeaker designed for use in curved, horizontal arrays. The KF850 would become the most popular concert touring loudspeaker for more than a decade, selling tens of thousands of units around the world. Combining an advanced design, high-quality components and rugged, durable construction, the KF850 set new standards for sound quality at large scale events.
Previous system designs used large, rectangular enclosures that were difficult to splay horizontally. The KF850's compact (for then) design and trapezoidal shape vastly reduced the distance between acoustic centers of adjacent array modules, producing an audibly more coherent wavefront over a larger horizontal coverage area. By today's standards, a KF850 array appears unnecessarily large and complex, but in its time, it represented the model of efficiency.
Most significantly, the KF850 design placed the HF compression driver and horn assembly directly in front of the 15-in LF transducer, aligning them physically. This innovation proved more beneficial than any other single improvement in unifying the three frequency sections. Over time, EAW engineers would take this concept to revolutionary levels.
The KF850's commercial success supported a wave of new research and development, and the resulting products helped EAW transform another segment of the pro audio market: large-scale permanent installation.
The 1989 installation at Anaheim Stadium was the first of hundreds of stadium projects that would enjoy EAW's large-format system designs. Starting with the AS Series, then MH, MQ, AX and finally QX, these systems represented the state of the art in output, pattern control and fidelity.
These loudspeaker technology platforms gave system designers a range of coverage patterns with nearly identical output and fidelity characteristics. This meant smoother, more even, more musical coverage across vast seating areas. Rock music sounded full and powerful, and fans responded.
From then until now, EAW has supplied loudspeakers to hundreds of stadium and arena projects on every continent. EAW is proud to supply loudspeakers for all our local market major league venues, including Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium and the TD North Boston Garden.
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, EAW debuted the ultimate point source stadium array system: KF900. The KF900 and its Phased Point Source Technology reached a new level of output and control on a mass scale. By measuring each individual element in a frequency section with multiple transducers, EAW engineers could use customized software tools to predict response at a range of angles and distances. This represented the pioneering work in practical beam steering.
At the same time that EAW was improving the stadium experience for sports fans, EAW helped audio professionals specializing in houses of worship applications adapt to the larger and larger role that sound reinforcement played in worship. Innovative structures like the Crystal Cathedral in Southern California took scale and aesthetics to new heights. For these challenges, designers relied on EAW vast range of specialty products to create customized solutions in facilities that were equal parts temple, auditorium and television studio.
And the 1990s saw yet another new trend in worship bring sound reinforcement into focus. High-energy, worship-oriented music has grown to represent an important force in this culture, and EAW has been a part since the beginning. Perhaps the KF850's dominance of the concert touring market made EAW a natural choice for worship leaders who wanted to elevate the energy level of their services.
The KF900 was the first of many EAW technologies that use digital signal processing (DSP) to shape and steer an array's output. Combining core electro-acoustic mathematics with precise measurements of each transducer in an array, EAW engineers could electrically model the combined output at a range of locations.
To execute these calculations, EAW engineers created a software platform to manage the measured data and run goal-seeking algorithms that optimize DSP parameters to deliver even response across a defined listening area. ƒChart, as this proprietary software platform is known, has run nearly continuously since its creation, developing customized settings for tens of thousands of arrays built from any number of EAW loudspeaker systems. A version of ƒChart powers the modeling and optimization functions in EAW Resolution.
Where a massive KF900 array required a large number of outboard digital signal processors, the innovative DSA250 (now DSA250z) digitally steerable array, introduced in 2000, carried 16 channels of onboard power and processing in a compact, column speaker. Controllable through a standard digital network, the DSA250 delivered a meaningful solution to applications with severe acoustical challenges.
EAW also developed the UX Series of digital signal processors to optimize performance of any EAW loudspeaker system. EAW engineers carefully specify the way UX Series filters control each parameter, and no other signal processor can truly maximize the performance of an EAW loudspeaker system. And only UX Series processors deliver EAW Focusing, a proprietary technology that eliminate anomalies in the time domain of any transducer or loudspeaker system.
In 2000, the mixing console design and manufacture company Mackie Designs acquired EAW, becoming LOUD Technologies. The next decade would see a range of changes for EAW.
LOUD Technologies acquired and divested a number of "MI" and professional audio brands in an effort to create a vertically-integrated company that serviced a wide spectrum of audio and musical instrument markets. However, the tumultuous decade's boom-and-bust cycles prevented the company from gaining a solid footing, and in 2003 it found itself seeking capital from the private equity sector.
Sun Capital Partners currently own LOUD Technologies, which comprises the iconic MI brands Mackie and Ampeg as well as professional loudspeaker companies EAW and Martin Audio.
EAW Comes Home
In January 2011, Sun Capital appointed Mark Graham CEO of LOUD Technologies. Graham instituted a aggressive program to give LOUD's subsidiary brand's greater control over their destinies. Almost immediately, Graham appointed long-time EAW engineer Jeff Rocha General Manager / Vice President of a semi-independent EAW.
Rocha set out to rebuild EAW's home-based capabilities by rejuvenating the production facility in Whitinsville and returning assembly of the core products at headquarters. Rocha has also reconstituted an in-house sales and marketing team, and in 2012 he returned service, repair and finished goods warehousing to Whitinsville.