John Stadius to Receive Audio Innovator Honor at Parnelli Awards
The Parnelli Board of Advisors has announced that pro audio pioneer and DiGiCo technical director John Stadius will receive the 2018 Parnelli Audio Innovator Award. As a key player in the “DiGiCo revolution,” Stadius has had “a major impact on the industry, putting serious, large-format digital live consoles on the map,” said FRONT of HOUSE editor George Petersen.
Stadius will receive the Parnelli Visionary Award at the Parnelli Awards held on the evening of January 26 at the Hilton Hotel at the Anaheim Convention Center, as part of the NAMM Convention, “NAMM Live.”
Growing up in a seaside village of East Wittering, West Sussex, England, Stadius was drawn to electronics at the age of 14 when he started building synthesizers. He graduated with a degree in electronics/electrical engineering at the University of Surrey in Guildford, but was clueless as to what he would do for a job until he heard from a friend who had landed at Soundout Laboratories. “He asked me if I wanted a job, and I said yes, and that was 39 years ago,” Stadius says. He went to work designing disco consoles, mixers, power amps, and speakers for DJs. In 1979, they focused on sound amplification including guitar amps, and then audio consoles primarily for the booming home recording market.
The company became Soundtracs, and in 1982 the company raised eyebrows producing its first digitally controlled analog mixing console, the CM4400. Primitive by today’s standards, it nonetheless started Stadius thinking about the possibilities of digital while so many others dismissed it. During this period, Stadius and his team brought further innovations to the consoles, including a dynamic system DSP for dynamic processors. Then in 1996, the company released its first fully digital console: The Virtua. Priced at around 15,000 pounds (today), it featured total dynamic automation of all parameters, plus snapshots and a channel strip that boasted eight aux sends; 4-band, fully parametric equalization; and two dynamic effects sections. It also had onboard transport control functions running MIDI. Stadius said at the time that the Virtua was “a very good stepping stone to the future” of the company. In 1998, they revealed the first large-format digital console, the DPC-II, opening the studio world to controlling up to 160 channels. It was fitted with MADI I/Os that could be connected directly to the console, which supported up to a 96 kHz sampling rate and featured SHARC floating-point DSP technology.
The next year DiGiCo bought the company and Stadius stayed and next came the D5, the first truly live digital console which also employed SHARC technology. But all through his career including today, Stadius and his team also created new solutions in digital audio processing, including “Stealth Digital Processing.”
Here, Stadius turned his back on the conventional DSP approach, instead creating a digital system based on a single, large-scale FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). “I would also start with DSP but couldn’t get much bigger, so we thought why not take it to FPGA? The first product with this was the SD7, and it used one chip and offered hundreds of buses. When you wanted it bigger, you just popped in a new chip.”
“Stadius’ implementation of Field Programmable Gate Array technology — that essentially can change the programming and function of a chip long after it’s been installed — is nothing short of brilliant,” says Petersen. “It’s certainly appreciated by customers whose consoles are suddenly capable of twice the inputs and a staggering increase in processing power — all via a simple, low-cost update.” Just last year they unveiled Stealth Core2 and upgrade. Other recent DiGiCo projects include working with Waves integrating its Multitrack system, the DiGiCo S-Series App, and the SD12 console using the latest generation of Super-FPGAs. Yet a great analog front-end is still important, as revealed at the Prolight+Sound 2017 show in Frankfurt — in the form of a newly designed 32-bit “John Stadius” Mic Pre-Amp.
“I jokingly refuse to refer to John as an engineer as his continuing breakthroughs rise to the level where only the title ‘scientist’ would suffice,” said Jack Kelly, president of Group One Ltd., which has served as U.S. distributor for the U.K.-based console manufacturer since January 2008. “And as a true scientist, he is always eager to share his knowledge. I will simply say there is not a more deserving recipient for the Parnelli Audio Innovator Award, and I’m extremely happy that our industry has chosen John this year to join the other past award winners.”