Q&A With Wavelength Audio's Gordon Rankin
Gordon Rankin, the founder and designer of Wavelength Audio, is responsible for among other things the first consumer DAC to employ Asynchronous USB. You can find his Asynchronous USB Steamlength™ technology in a number of highly regarded DACs including his own Crimson, Cosecant, Brick, and Proton as well the Halide DAC HD, AudioQuest Dragonfly, Grace M903, Aesthetix USB products, Ayre DX-5, QA-9 and the Berkley Alpha USB. I'd like to thank Gordon for taking the time for this Q&A and I hope you enjoy this peak inside Wavelength Audio.
Can you talk about your background in the Computer Industry and how and when you decided to start Wavelength Audio?
Wavelength Audio was actually started when I was senior in College. After I graduated in Electronic Engineering (minor in Music-Percussion, Math and Physics) I had a job for 2 weeks designing loudspeakers. I had a rather good idea which my boss did not like and being a stupid kid went to his boss and got fired. A friend of mine at Ohio State had an interview in Cincinnati and could not go. So he told the employment agency to send me instead. This job was a hardware software position designing Compressor Controls for the Alaskan pipeline. At Ohio Northern I was told to work on a digital project. I designed a Z80 development system and programed it with toggle switches, yea major pain in the a***.
So I got the job and started working doing deep DSP type code and this unit had 3 processors, one for the algorithm, one for communications (local LAN and WAN ports) and one for analog and DSP functions. It was pretty forward thinking for 1981. Since it had to link to all the major oil companies the WAN port had to support protocols for a number of mainframe computers including IBM, DEC, Honeywell and Burroughs.
"I could only stand that job so much and when we had back stage passes to see The Who in Louisville and my boss didn't want me to go, I decided to leave."
We had two guys who laid out circuit boards so I paid one of them to lay tape (before computer layout) for my PH1, which was my first true Wavelength Audio product.
I could only stand that job so much and when we had back stage passes to see The Who in Louisville and my boss didn't want me to go, I decided to leave.
My next job was stupid, about 4 hours of work required in a week so they told me I could do side jobs??? Coming from working 80 hours a week to less than 4 drove me nuts. One of the other guys and the PCB layout guy were doing work for a company called Intercomputer Communications Corp (ICC). So I did work for them, though had never met them. We had a party at our house and the ICC group showed up and talked me into working for them. ICC made IBM PC's communicate with mainframes and my work from my first job was just what they were looking for and I became employee #7. ICC was a really pretty cool place to work, it was a bunch of really high tech people working on cool stuff. We broke 50 employees in a couple months then we got asked to do a bunch of international and Government jobs which meant we started doing volume. Pretty soon we got bought out by Digital Communications Associates who made Crosstalk and the Irma PC to IBM mainframes products. By 1994 we had made a ton of hardware and software stuff but the coolest was a dial up network router. I had designed several intelligent serial and network adapters and we had our own UNIX OS that we made up. We merged with another company and I had enough.
My Cardinal Amplifier had just won TAS product of the year and I had 2 Class A rated products with Stereophile and Kelly my wonderful wife said go do Wavelength and if it doesn't work, just get another job.