Flare Technology A company founded in 1986 by Martin Brennan, Ben Cheese and John Mathieson and based in Cambridge, UK. The aim of the company was commercialising technology developed by the team for the Loki project while working at Sinclair Research, but the Loki was an advanced replacement for the ZX Spectrum that used a Z80 for household tasks only while the main processing, graphics and sounds capabilities where done by custom silicon. The company showed a number of prototypes, some of them very impressive, most interesting of those was a model designed to integrate and interface into a TV or hi-fi rack, this model had some game playing facilities but what was immediately attention grabbing about it was that it had prototype software that was designed to make the machine function as home entertainment centre with interactive capabilities, mind you much of this software was designed to appeal to kids and teens and somewhat uninteresting from an adult standpoint, but it had capabilities such as digital video playback with basic editing, while the resolution was low the videos where more realistic than what the competition had to offer since they had some colour depth, competing computer models like the Amiga did have reasonable colour dept only in graphic modes that where unusable for the playback of video. To put this into perspective it should be noted that the playback of video on an IBM PC compatible at the time was possible only with 4 colours or so at a low resolution and a very low framerate unless you had very expensive hardware accelerators and even then the hard disk subsystem was so slow that the framerate was dreadful.
The audio side of the Flare was at the time even more impressive and featured in addition to the now ubiquitous digital audio capabilities one of the worlds first analogue modelling synthesiser but rather than using digital synthesis techniques the Flare team decided that the more familiar subtractive synthesis would appeal more to users, the company demonstrated these AV capabilities by playing an (admittedly rather dreadful) music video while allowing people to toy around with some of its parameters, an unique feature at the time and nota bene most video players of today do not have any real interactive features. The Flare was never released as a consumer electronics device although it was used as the basis for some arcade machines and some of the technology is believed to have showed up in the Atari Jaguar games computer, one of the problems surrounding the machine and the company appears to have been the lack of focus on the marketing side, one day it was touted as games machine to compete with the Nintendo, the next day as a home computer to take on the Atari ST and the third as a home entertainment centre etc..
Company that specialised in manufacturing signal processors and other recording equipment that was founded in 1995 by Edward “Ted” Stuart Fletcher in Torquay, Devon, England. Fletcher ElectroAcoustics started by manufacturing a budget optical studio compressor that they sold under the Joemeek brand, named after noted English record producer Joe Meek but owner Mr. Fletcher had been selling the SC2 compressor as a sole trader for a couple of years previously using the same brandname. It should be noted though that the connection between Joe Meek and Mr. Fletcher is simply that the latter worked as a session backing vocalist for the former on a few songs in the early 60’s, the assertion that you will find on the net that there is a direct linage from the custom gear designed by and for Joe Meek is not true, the idea behind the SC2 compressor from the company was for it to have a vintage sound to it and the brandname was chosen since it was evocative of the early 60’s, when optical compressors ruled before the integrated VCA chip was introduced.
The SC2 compressor was delivered with a distinctive green faceplate that soon became something of a trademark for the company and the colour was used for the front facias for all the subsequent processors FA delivered, the SC2 also sold very well since it was very keenly priced and presented people with a type of sound that was otherwise only available in specialised high-end equipment, although in general the SC-2 was not quite as flexible as most of the other budget compressors at the time. Introduced the VC-1 studio channel in 1997, it was not a standard voice channel since it contained a microphone amp, a compressor and an enhancer but no limiting, EQ or expansion but like the SC2 it was at the right price, sold well and overall got very good reviews. After the introduction of the VC1 however the company starts to creep slowly more upmarket at a time when most of their competitors were coming to the conclusion that the studio market was slowly dying while the bedroom recording market was taking off and thus moving downmarket.
The company bought the assets of Malcolm Toft Associates in late 1999 and with that got the rights to the Trident brand name in some countries and market sectors and soon thereafter started selling products designed by Mr. Toft under the Trident-MTA brand including mixers and signal processors, these were in a price class significantly above what they had been selling beforehand, Fletcher ElectroAcoustics also expanded into the microphone market by introducing a line of Chinese made condenser microphones that the company further modified in the UK before shipping them out as Joemeek branded products.
The company hit some financial problems in late 1998 and early 1999 when their British distributor Sound Valley Distribution went bankrupt, this lead to the company taking UK distribution into its own hands and by 2001 they had started to distribute by themselves in most of western Europe. This change coincided with increasingly frequent reports of power supply failures and other problems with the build quality of their products, some models in particular being reported as having high failure rates; their USA distributor claimed 15% failure rates within the first year of operation for some models in 2001. By that time it had become obvious that the company was in trouble and in 2002 HR Revenue & Customs put the company into liquidation since they had not returned employee withdrawals for over a year. The bankruptcy court sold the rights to the Joemeek, MTA and Trident brand names and designs to AMH Sales who had been the North American distributor of FE’s products since the beginning while Ted Fletcher went on to found Joeaudio Ltd., this lead to some legal squabbles between the 2 companies in 2003 as Joeaudio initially sold signal processors that used Joemeek parts & brands.
One of the problems surrounding the demise of the company was simply their move upmarket, early products were inexpensive and for instance their compressor was cheaper than the Behringer budget compressors were at the time, FA also sold their products not strictly as utilitarian units but as effect boxes, they in fact made the colorization of sound that their products did a feature and boasted of having but offered a totally different sound, in fact in some markets the original VC was the cheapest compressor you could get your hands on, later products were much more expensive, they did for instance sell microphone models that retailed for almost 1400 pounds (Then close to 3000 USD) that seemed frankly overpriced next to the competition and contrasted markedly with the cheap and cheerful origins of the company.
Spares & service : Current brand owner AMH Sales has been quite helpful in getting older units serviced, but for repairs that is really only for the North American markets, they have also made manuals for the FE built Joemeek branded products downloadable from their website. For the rest of the world Joeaudio Ltd. will provide repairs and some support via their website and forum.
Fonica Polish electronic manufacturing plant based in Lodz and probably best known in the audio world for the turntables that they supplied both under their own name and under the Unitra brand. Early history unknown but the company was state run even after most of the other similar local manufacturing companies had been privatised, had enormous financial and labour problems in the early 1990's which culminated in the plants workers occupying the factory building for 20 days in June 1991 to demand higher wages and ultimately the company was liquidated by the government in April 1992 in despite strong protests from the locals. The factory was then taken over by Korean trading house Kyung Bang in 1996 and run as Kyungbang Fonica but was sold to Daewoo Electronics in 1998 and under their control operated as a television sub-assebly plant under the name of Daewoo-Fonica but finally closed in late 2002 after years of losses.
Fonline (Accessories) See --> Path Ltd. (ca. 1995 to 2003)
Futterman Tiny USA based manufacturer of valve amplifiers run by Julius Futterman, but Mr. Futterman had during the late 50's developed an OTL design that was sought after by certain audiophiles. The timeline is not certain but the company was certainly active in the mid 50's and still there in the early 70's, more info on this page.