NAMM Announces Five Groundbreaking Products to be Inducted into The TECnology Hall of Fame

December 21, 2020

TECnology Hall of Fame founder George Petersen and the NAMM TEC Committee have announced five defining audio products and innovations as the newest entrants to the prestigious TECnology Hall of Fame (TECHOF). The designations, which were voted on by a panel of audio experts, including authors, educators, engineers, and other professionals, honors audio products and innovations that have made a significant contribution to the advancement of audio technology and production.

Joining the over 160 previous honorees are the Western Electric 639A Ribbon Microphone (1938); RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer (1957); 3M M56 16-Track Recorder (1968); the Constant Directivity Horn, Don Keele (1975); and Near Field Monitoring, Ed Long (1977).

The TECnology Hall of Fame also celebrates the work of individual inventors. D.B. "Don" Keele, inventor of the Constant Directivity Horn, and Ed Long, inventor of Near Field Monitoring, are honored this year for their specific advancements in loudspeaker technology which is still in practice today.

The inductees will be honored during NAMM's Believe in Music week (January 18) as part of the 36th Annual TEC Awards, this year featuring a retrospective of honorees, products, and celebration. Registration to attend Believe in Music week is free and now open to all industry professionals:

Congratulations to the 2021 TECnology Hall of Fame Inductees:

1938 — Western Electric 639A Ribbon Microphone

Introduced in 1938, the Western Electric 639A was a multipattern microphone design that offered switch-selectable pickup patterns. Nicknamed the "birdcage" microphone, under its large protective shell and windscreen were two separate mic capsules — dynamic and ribbon. Selecting the dynamic element alone yielded an omnidirectional response; the ribbon capsule offered a figure-8 pattern, and equally combining the output of the two resulted in a directional (yet wide 120°) cardioid response.

With its flexibility and a (then) wide 40 Hz to 10k Hz frequency response, the microphone was quickly adopted by broadcast, recording, and P.A. users and remained in production for years. A later 639B variant featured a choice of six directivity patterns, and beginning in 1941, both the 639A and 639B models were sold and marketed under the Altec brand.

1957 — RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer

Today, we are so used to pocket-sized electronics that it's hard to imagine technologies like the first computer — 1951's UNIVAC 1, which used 5,000 vacuum tubes and weighed more than eight tons. Another such example is 1957's RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer, which was the first programmable electronic synthesizer and sequencer and filled an entire room floor to ceiling with rackmount components. Funded by a Rockefeller Foundation grant and installed at Columbia University, the system was designed by RCA researchers Herbert Belar and Harry F. Olson — the latter being well-known for his countless audio contributions, including RCA's famed ribbon microphones.

With 4-note polyphony, a primitive sequencer, and a need for constant maintenance, the Mark II was hardly a game-changer, but it paved the way for a revolution in computer music in the years to come. The system is still mostly intact and today resides at Columbia University's Computer Music Center facility in New York City.

1968 — 3M M56 16-Track Recorder

The multitrack recording revolution began to pick up steam in the mid-1960s, as musicians and studios sought to keep up with the latest technology. In the 1950s, Ampex made a few custom 8-track machines (most notably for Les Paul and Atlantic Studios), but wide access to such tools didn't happen until at least a decade later. In 1967, Ampex created a custom 16-track for Mirasound Studios in NYC and debuted the first commercially available 2-inch 16-track machine (based on its MM-1100 transport) in 1968.

Best known in audio circles as a tape manufacturer, the 3M company had launched the M23, the first commercially available 8-track, in 1966 and had assembled a team of audio pros (Dale Manquen, Don Kahn, Jack Mullin, and Jim Leatherman) to create its first 16-track. The prototype was unveiled at the New York AES Convention in October 198, ad was well-received, especially for its compact form factor — only 30-inches wide, about half the size of the competing Ampex recorder — which allowed it to be easily wheeled between different rooms in a multi-studio complex. That prototype eventually became the popular M56 and not only featured an advanced Isoloop audio tape transport that was gentle on tape but contained its electronics on 64 circuit cards for easy servicing. Even today, more than 50 years, many recording engineers still consider the M56 to be among the best-sounding multitrack recorders ever made.

1975 — Constant Directivity Horn, Don Keele

A leading authority on loudspeaker technology, D.B. "Don" Keele has done it all, from his dozens of published technical AES papers to his design work for leading manufacturers — among them Electro-Voice, JBL, and Klipsch —an AES board member and even as a journalist, reviewing loudspeakers for Audio magazine. Products he's contributed to are familiar names to audio pros, such as his work on JBL's famed Bi-Radial horn series and programming for Crown Techron's TEF systems.

As a senior designer with Electro-Voice, he conceived and patented the Constant Directivity (CD) loudspeaker horn in 1975. In addressing the issue of beamwidth varying at different frequencies, Keele's CD horn design employed a hybrid horn with an exponential expansion rate near the throat followed by a conical expansion section and ending with a rapidly flaring flange at the mouth. Even today, some 45 years later, his landmark patent remains a standard design concept throughout the professional loudspeaker industry. In fact, in 2002, Keele was honored with a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for work on Constant Directivity loudspeakers for cinema applications.

1977 — Near Field Monitoring, Ed Long

Today, the concept of Near Field Monitoring™ seems like an industry standard, but we have Edward M. Long to thank for that. One of the most influential loudspeaker designers of the 20th century, Long was noted for co-inventing (and trademarking) the Time-Align™ speaker process and the pressure zone technology made popular in Crown's PZM microphones, as well as developing and selling the first Near Field Monitor™ (another Ed Long trademark). In 1977, Long's Calibration Standard Instruments (CSI) debuted the MDM-4 (Mix-Down Monitor-4), a compact studio monitor that employed his Time-Align concept but also introduced the notion of the Near Field Monitor (another Long trademark), which — by placing the speakers close to the listener — largely negated the effects of the room acoustics. This technique caught on, and today remains a standard method used in nearly every recording facility throughout the world and almost every recording made in the past four-plus decades.

Long retired in 2003 and turned his energy to writing both technical (Time Align Design and More) and illustrated children's' adventure books, including Magellan's Gold and Monarch of the Andes. He resided in San Jose, CA, until his death on December 17th, 2016.

About the TECnology Hall of Fame

Founded in 2004 by George Petersen and presented in 2015 by the NAMM Museum of Making Music, the TECnology Hall of Fame honors and recognizes audio products and innovations that have made a significant contribution to the advancement of audio technology. Inductees to the TECnology Hall of Fame are selected by a panel of more than 50 recognized audio experts, including authors, educators, engineers, and other professionals. Products or innovations must be at least ten years old to be considered for induction.



About NAMM

The National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) is the not-for-profit association with a mission to strengthen the $17 billion music products industry. NAMM is comprised of approximately 10,300 members located in 104 countries and regions. NAMM events and members fund The NAMM Foundation's efforts to promote the pleasures and benefits of music, and advance active participation in music making across the lifespan. For more information about NAMM, please visit, call 800.767.NAMM (6266) or follow the organization on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.