Meet our founder Ted Fletcher: inventor of Airsound

04/07/2018

The roots of Orbitsound and Airsound audio technology stretch back to the mid-1940s. It all started with a curious boy looking over his father's shoulder in Tunbridge Wells.

Tunbridge Wells, 1946

The roots of Orbitsound go back to the mid-1940s. At that time, a young boy was looking over the shoulder of his father in an electronics shop in Tunbridge Wells and starting to develop a passion for electronics. That curious boy was Ted Fletcher, the future founder of Orbitsound.

Born 1938, young Fletcher showed a lot of potential. By the age of four, he could play the piano; and by five, he was a violinist in an orchestra. Fast forward to his teen years, and he was a true multi instrumentalist - accomplished on clarinet, guitar, piano, violin, trumpet and saxophone.

The Fletcher family

In hindsight, his potential was unsurprising. There was, perhaps, something a little magical in the family household (or blood). The father, Jack, was both an engineer and musician; as skilled in electronics as he was in the banjo and ukulele.

At the age of thirteen, using whatever they could get their hands on, Jack helped Ted to build a fully functioning tape recorder from scratch. It’s this combination of music and technology that became a recurring theme in Ted's life - one which would eventually culminate with the creation of Airsound audio technology, decades later.

The magic of the Fletcher household went even further, with Jack’s other son, Guy, who was four years Ted's junior - was something of a brass prodigy and destined for great things. too. He produced music for the likes of Cliff Richards and Elvis Presley, and earned an OBE for his talents.

Early beginnings in engineering

After his A-Levels, Ted was unsure of what to do next. Fortunately, a serendipitous introduction from his father to someone at the local authority started him down the fruitful path of a career in civil engineering.

Though it may not have seemed obvious at the time, in-between building roads, sewers and housing estates, the seeds for Orbitsound were being sown. As Fletcher's understanding of engineering deepened, he was still involved in music and played clarinet in various bands. He even rekindled his fascination with recording.

It was during one of his numerous jazz gigs that Fletcher met Barbara. She was also musical and had a contract to sing on television. The two hit it off and, when Ted was twenty-one, they wed. They soon bought a house in Twyford, Berkshire - one street down from where Guy would later move to. And, due to their shared musical interests and close proximity to one another, Guy, Ted and Barbara went on to form a band together - a decision that would be monumental for the Fletchers’ future careers.

Enter Joe Meek

One day, during band rehearsals, an influential man named Alan Hawshoke sat in and listened to the three perform. Impressed with what he heard, Hawshoke introduced them to a man who could open doors in the music industry - Joe Meek.

Meek was a legendary producer at the time and is now regarded as a trailblazer in the art and science of music production. He invited Ted’s band to audition for him at his studios on Holloway Road in London. The performance went well, and for the next eighteen months the band produced over two hundred singles together. Meek died in 1967 but his influence on Ted is unmistakable, and Joe's name would go on to live in one of Ted's companies, decades later.

Fletcher’s recording studio

Fletcher established his own recording studio right at the heart of the British music business in London. Using his lifelong handyman skills, he even built all of the recording equipment from scratch.

Over time, Ted started began to prefer recording other’s music than making his own. He started recording a plethora of people: amongst those being Norman Wisdom and Dusty Springfield.

An audio entrepreneur

As a result of recording work with musicians, Fletcher quickly gained a reputation for craftsmanship and was approached by many to build their recording equipment. This ultimately led to ALICE - an audio equipment production company formed by Fletcher and a group of musician friends.

Drawing its name from the Lewis Carroll novel, Alice started out with an order to build a mixer for a Maltese film production company, before eventually going on to build radio stations for the government, and the technology for Motorola's in-car telephones. Fletcher also found time to build one-off bespoke pieces of equipment for the likes of Pete Townsend and Cat Stevens. He sold the ALICE company in 1984.

The roots of Orbitsound

After ALICE Fletcher soon became busy with another company - building communications systems for banks. Using technology derived from his previous work with Motorola, the business went well - until a technological shakeup in the banking industry resulted in his products becoming obsolete.

This prompted Ted to attempt retirement in 1987 but, to no avail. His plan to take it easy was stymied by an endless stream of requests to build recording equipment. At the same time, another experiment led to the construction of an audio compressor for a soundtrack he was creating. The device worked wonderfully, leading to the almost accidental foundation of his next company, Joe Meek.

With his attention back on audio technology, Ted became as innovative as ever - eventually crafting Airsound™. It was his lifelong passion for creating things, whether it’s music or equipment, that brought Ted to where he is today. Airsound™ revolutionised the way we listen to music, allowing the listener to hear their audio perfectly no matter where they are in the room. If you want to learn more about how to perfect your listening experience, please read on here.

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Orbitsound — British audio pioneers
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