Loudness – or, more specifically, regulating loudness – is the foundation of Lancaster-based Linear Acoustic Inc. That’s fitting, since few Central Pennsylvania companies are making more noise when it comes to growth, success and job creation.
Linear makes industry-leading hardware and software that allows television and radio broadcasters to monitor, meter and process their audio levels in real time, non-real time and at final transmission. In layman’s terms, they bring up the lows, bring down the highs and level things off between the microphone and the speaker.
Competitors largely focus on “crushing” audio at final transmission. Linear, on the other hand, creates highly technical end-to-end solutions to regulate audio levels at every step of the process. The Lancaster company’s products and methods have proved so effective that they’ve forged partnerships with some of the biggest names in broadcasting, and engineered the surround sound for some of the world’s most respected sports and entertainment events.
They even won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering/Technical Development last year.
Along the way, Linear has expanded from four employees to 20, and generated revenues in the millions. But they haven’t lost touch with their roots – or forgotten who put them on the path to success.
“Every time we talk about the history of our company, we go back to thanking the Ben Franklin Technology Partners for taking a chance on us,” Senior Vice President for Global Sales Christina Carroll said. “We definitely wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
A ‘bridge’ to great things
Early in its evolution back in the 2000s, Linear was experiencing a common problem for high-tech startups: Money was going out, but customers weren’t always paying on time. The inconsistent revenue stream could have ended the Linear dream before it even started.
But the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP) saw the company’s potential. And they weren’t about to let such a promising job creator slip through the region’s fingers.
BFTP/CNP invested a total of $400,000 in Linear in 2004, ’05 and ’06. That money, Carroll said, was absolutely key.
“We definitely attribute a lot of our success to Ben Franklin,” she said. “Had they not been willing to work with us, there’s no way we could have stayed in business. Early on, it was all Ben Franklin seed money that helped us grow. They always provided the bridge money for us.”
Regulating audio levels has been important to broadcasters since well before Linear revolutionized the process. But it’s absolutely critical now, just over a year since President Obama signed the CALM Act into law.
CALM – “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation” – requires broadcasters and cable television stations to adopt technology to ensure commercials aren’t louder than regular programming. Violations are punished with FCC fines – and repeat, unrepentant violators face penalties up to the revocation of their broadcasting license.
Naturally, the newest evolution in audio level management didn’t phase Linear. The Lancaster company had, essentially, been helping broadcasters comply with CALM years before the act even existed. And it’s making life with regulations easy on its customers.
“Instead of only having a final transmission processor like our competitors, we have products that can be used in post-production and live production that allow you to monitor and meter audio levels,” Carroll said. “We’re not only the first – we’re probably the only company that does the complete solution.”