Royd Audio designed and hand-built loudspeakers in the UK for almost 25 years. Production came to an end in 2002 when the man behind the company – Joe Akroyd – retired, but there remains a dedicated band of Royd listeners and the second hand value of the speakers continues to rise.
The good news is that Royd is to be reborn as a result of one man’s passion for the original designs. We met the man behind the Royd revival – industrial designer Adam Norbury – when he chose our speaker cables for his home hi-fi system. Adam kindly agreed to be interviewed for our blog.
Adam, thank you for joining us. Exciting times. We’re keen to find out about your new venture but first, we’d love to know more about you.
[Almost on cue – Adam’s excitable daughter pops her head in front of the screen to say hello before she darts up the stairs]
You have a background in industrial design, can you tell us more about this?
Absolutely. I studied design at Sheffield Hallam in the early 90s. It was fantastic, we had the opportunity to work in a range of disciplines. There was a bit of CAD but we focussed on manual drafting and marker rendering back then. Drawing by hand is an old fashioned technique but it’s an important skill to have, they still teach it in most graphic design schools. My favourite part of the course took place in the workshop though, I’ve always found building stuff rewarding, especially when it comes to producing sound. It was at college I met my other half – she had an old Toyota Corolla which could fit my speakers in the back – my heart was taken from that point on! For my final exhibition, I produced a turntable out of recycled glass and steel. Someone from Rega came down and showed a keen interest but I wasn’t there so our paths never crossed.
What projects have you been involved in before Royd Audio?
There wasn’t much product design work out there so I worked as a graphic designer. It wasn’t long before a computer games company picked up my CV and I ended up in the games industry for five years. It was a great experience and helped enormously with 3D animation but by the end of the 90s, younger people were being employed for less money and the market was turning into a meat factory. I decided to strike out on my own and work in the mobile gaming industry for a company called Hutchison, now 3. The first game I produced only took a few days to complete but there were so many processes to go through after delivery that I didn’t get paid for four months! I limped along, keeping myself sane in my spare time with various speaker projects until I moved into advertising and I’m now a digital art director.
Do you enjoy art directing?
I do, yes but if I’m honest, I miss having something tangible to work with. Designing speakers and turning that concept into a reality is an incredibly satisfying process. I guess you could liken it to cooking – a multitude of exciting, colourful recipes can be produced just from a few simple ingredients. When an imaginative mind is forced to make something out of a few key components, you’d be surprised what you come up with!
So thats what made you set up your own company. What was it that particularly interested you in resurrecting Royd Audio?
Royd Audio holds nostalgia for many. Despite the founder, Joe Akroyd, closing the business in 2002, it’s still got a following and fan base. Akroyd won the hearts of many, he manufactured his products by hand, did everything by ear and produced it all in Britain, using British materials. A business like this is sadly hard to come by these days.
I want to bring the brand and these values in to the 21st century, a touch of my character will inevitably shine through too I hope.
What are your plans for the future?
I’d really like to work in tandem with a local recording studio to offer new musical talent the choice to record and release their work so they have a head start and fair chance. My main objective is to then develop an online platform, similar to a digital music service like Spotify. Artists will be able to upload, manage and curate their own content, market their music in the way they want and receive higher royalties from it. Secondly I’m interested in promoting High Fidelity recorded music which I plan to call “Roydio”, a cheesy name but it’s apt and I don’t like to take myself too seriously. Although improvements are being made to Spotify and HD settings on iTunes with the introduction of higher bit rate music, I’m more interested in the recording and correct mastering of music with a higher dynamic range, concentrating more on the content than the hardware.
Sounds like quite an undertaking, can you elaborate?
If you have a greater distance between low and high [quiet and loud] you get to convey more detail. Today people just want to be loud so you miss those crucial elements, it’s why we still listen to Vinyl because it has such a great dynamic range compared to compressed modern mixes. I aim to develop something similar to an amp that allows wireless streaming of audio. You’ll be able to boot up iTunes on your phone or tablet and stream your audio content directly to the device. It will also be possible to tap into Roydio and its higher dynamic content so you can play music to Royd speakers via the amp. This means that if a Royd owner streams this particular content, they know they’re hearing the very best recording through their speakers.
I’ve just had a look at your latest design, is it based on the classic Royd Minstrel?
It is, yes. The Minstrel is Royd Audio’s signature speaker, it’s most peoples all time favourite. I realise I’m putting myself in front of a train here but I want to create an impact so I guess this is one way to do that.
Well you’ve certainly captured the look of the original, we’re looking forward to the official launch. Not long now.
You use our fabric speaker cable. What do you think of it?
I think its great… and I’m a harsh critique! You’ve managed to find the ideal combination of live style and performance. It compliments Royd Audio speakers perfectly, Im a huge admirer.
Adam, we wish you luck with the venture!