Rick Santiago | Indy Audio Labs | Part 2

By Maureen Jenson
Published on: June 22, 2018

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We continue last week’s discussion with Rick Santiago, Indy Audio Labs Co-Founder & CEO about opening up the high performance market, “Made In the USA” and the IoT of Everything!

 

Maureen Jenson:  What other products are you most proud of and how have they opened up the world of hi-fi audio to more people?

Rick Santiago: The Acurus Scorpion comes to mind.

The Scorpion is a departure for Acurus from home cinema and 2-channel audio into the world of whole-home or distributed audio.  Distributed audio has become a basic requirement in most new homes even where dedicated cinemas and 2-channel systems are not in the budget.

The Scorpion platform is built around a very low-noise, digitally controlled, analog matrixed pre-amplifier combined with an exceptionally good sounding, high-efficiency, cool-running amplifier platform.  Each stereo zone can simultaneously drive a pair of 8 ohm loudspeakers with 50 watts of clean power — that’s 16 loudspeakers in total driven to full power at the same time!  Connected loudspeakers could be bookshelf, in-wall, in-ceiling, landscape or even outdoor variety.  Or, by bridging pairs of Scorpion amp channels, more than 150 watts can be delivered into 8 speakers!  All of this clean power comes out of a 2 rack unit chassis designed for good thermal performance, which means you can add even more channels of amplification by stacking units directly on top of each other in an equipment rack without worrying about overheating.

Many distributed amplifier products are an afterthought when it comes to serious audio performance, however, the Scorpion brings high quality music listening to potentially every room of the house.  The Scorpion raises the bar on the quality level of audio that can be enjoyed in this type of system.

The Scorpion is a product that many of our traditional audio or cinema customers would not expect Acurus to produce, however, I’m happy to say not only that we have it, but that we plan to continue to grow this category of distributed audio products from Acurus.

 

MJ:  I have been a proponent of US made goods for a very long time, even starting a column called “Made in the USA” over a decade ago at Technology Integrator Magazine. Tell us more about Indy Labs philosophy on the subject?

RS: “Made in the USA” is a very commonly used (and often abused) term but for Acurus and Aragon it truly defines who we are.

All of our products are designed at our R&D and Marketing offices at the Purdue Technology Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.  We still use several of the same North American component suppliers that Mondial Designs used back in the original Aragon and Acurus products. Their components have proven themselves reliable over time and therefore are included in our new designs. For metalwork, we tap several of the same shops in the Indianapolis area that manufacture precision parts for local Indy Car racing teams.

Once a design is completed and ready for manufacturing, the design information is transferred electronically to our factory, two hours south of Indianapolis, in Jeffersonville, Indiana. There, at the start of the assembly line, bare circuit boards and thousands of electronic circuit components are soldered together using modern automated SMT (Surface Mount Technology) and leaded insertion equipment. After all circuit board assemblies are completed, our final assembly team connects the boards within the metalwork of the chassis and runs rigorous functional and burn-in tests on every unit. Once a unit passes all these tests, it is deemed ready to ship, its serial number is recorded, its test data is archived and the unit is transferred to the stock area where it is ready to ship.

The factory in Jeffersonville builds boards for AV products as well as for mission-critical products in various other industries such as defense contracting, medical, aviation and industrial control. These customers insist on much more stringent manufacturing processes than are usually found in the AV industry. This further contributes to our reliability story.

For Indy Audio Labs, this “closed loop” with manufacturing means that we can move quickly from concept to finished product and be confident in the robustness of both the design and the manufacturing aspects. We have a level of trust with our manufacturing staff that results in confidence in their day-to-day work on our products.  We also benefit in direct feedback from the assembly line workers which often results in ongoing product and process improvements.

The net result for our customers is fast, accurate delivery of high-quality products. We have high confidence through years of experience that the products we ship will not land at the job site DOA or come back for service due to a manufacturing or design fault.

From an American worker perspective, nearly 100 workers are involved in various capacities in the assembly of our products here in Indiana. We’re proud to ship truly USA-made audio products from Indiana to locations all around the globe.

 

MJ:  Crystal ball time: What future trends is Indy Audio Labs watching at the moment and where do you see your company in 5 years?

RS: Keeping in mind our original goal in founding Indy Audio Labs — to create products that integrate high-performance AV into the networked home in a manner that simplifies control and setup — we have a pretty clear mission when it comes to the future.

All around us, the world of IoT (Internet of Things) is changing and evolving.  Our modern Acurus and Aragon equipment has been evolving with it.  From our first products launched back in 2012 — the A2000 series class AB multi-channel amplifiers — to our 20-channel ACT 4 processor launching right now, we remain the first and only audio company in the CEDIA channel to incorporate web-based control in every product we make. We have viewed every unit as an IoT device with an intrinsic purpose related to high-performance audio.

Because IoT is constantly evolving, the way devices in our homes are controlled, communicate, update and remain secure will be greatly improved over the current state of affairs we have in 2018.  A/V-focused IoT devices, currently simply cohort devices to a centralized control system, must evolve to a radical new form with additional capabilities. AV IoT devices in the Smart Home of 2023 will operate in a much more autonomous manner and require less coordination from a centralized device such as a router or home automation controller. They will rely less on an installer for setup and discovery. And, importantly, they must incorporate new forms of robust security to guard against cyber attacks by malicious parties.  All of these changes will help custom integrators and ultimately their customers enjoy much more secure, robust and user-friendly A/V systems.

We are, ultimately, a high-technology company with an obsession for great audio performance. We’ve demonstrated consistent leadership in applying the latest A/V technologies to rock-solid, great-sounding, easy-to-use products for the CEDIA channel. We’re doubling-down on that approach for our next generation of products. We have several exciting projects underway based on IP we’ve developed, and protected under several patents-pending, in the areas of future IoT algorithms and architectures for home automation products.  These projects will significantly expand our offerings of premium IoT AV products for the CEDIA-level Smart Home.  We see our company continuing to push technology in both high-performance AV and in our unique approach to the “Internet of AV Things” infrastructure for the future premium Smart Home.  Both the CEDIA and DIY channels will be literally transformed by our exciting new control technologies in the not-too-distant future.

Maureen Jenson

Maureen Jenson

Maureen is editor-in-chief for the Technology Insider Group. She has been the editor-in-chief of Audio Video Interiors, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, Home Theater, Technology Integrator, E-Gear and CEDIA’s Electronic Lifestyles Magazines. She is a CEDIA Fellow and IPRO Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.

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