Harrison Consoles: History

Our History

From its Nashville, Tennessee facilities, Harrison designs, manufactures and markets large-format, professional audio mixing consoles for international film and television production, post-production, broadcasting, sound reinforcement and music recording markets.

The first Harrison 32-Series Console was delivered in 1975, marking the first milestone in a long history of technological breakthroughs by Harrison engineers. Since its inception, Harrison consoles have been renowned for their technical superiority. Over 1,500 Harrison consoles have been installed worldwide, constituting a significant share of the overall world market for high-end audio consoles. Currently, approximately half of the installed user base are international customers, indicative of the reputation and acceptance of Harrison consoles worldwide. Harrison's dominance of the high-end market demonstrates that customers that require solutions to complex problems invariably turn to Harrison to provide the answer.

The company’s founder, Dave Harrison, was a recording engineer in the Cincinnati area, and he became studio engineer and manager at King Records where they recorded acts such as James Brown, The Platters, and John Lee Hooker. Dave eventually moved to Nashville to start Studio Supply, a company that sold studio equipment and built studios. Dave approached Jeep Harned (founder of MCI) with a new approach to console design: the in-line console, which allows easy switching between tracking (recording) and mixdown modes. A 1977 Billboard poll gave MCI the leading share among studios.

These early Harrison-designed consoles became part of the history of popular music. AC/DC's "Back in Black" and many Queen, Led Zeppelin, and other seminal rock albums were recorded on Harrison-designed MCI consoles.

Dave Harrison was inducted as a Fellow in the Audio Engineering Society for his contribution to "in-line" design of audio consoles, which greatly improved the incorporation of multitrack recorders into the console signal path. This design was adopted as a standard for every large format music console. The Harrison 3232 was the world’s first 32 bus "in-line" console. Accolades and awards recognizing Harrison’s technical achievements have continued ever since. Dave's quaint-but-sensible "rules of engineering" have remained in the Harrison lexicon:

  1. Always keep one foot on a rock.
  2. Find out what you need to know.
  3. What is, is.

In 1979 the company introduced its highly acclaimed PP-1 film console which became the "Hollywood standard" for modern film console designs. Over the next decade, Harrison produced a series of popular consoles for film, music, broadcast and live markets. These included the MR-2, MR-3, and MR-4 music recording consoles, the TV-3, TV-4 broadcast consoles, the HM-5 live console, the Raven music recording console, and the Air-7/Pro-7 broadcast and production consoles. These fully analog console designs continued into the 90's, while the digital revolution was taking place. During this period of rapid digital development, Harrison still continued to produce analog consoles (often with some digital elements) such as the AIR 790™/PRO 790™ broadcast and production consoles, AP-100 on-air production console, the MR-20 music console, the industry workhorse TV-950 and Pro-950, and finally the TV5.1 surround-capable broadcast console.

In 1985 Harrison introduced its SeriesTen™, the world’s first totally automated console. The SeriesTen used only 5 knobs above each channel strip to "page" between various functions of the console. By separating the knob from the actual audio signal, it was possible to instantly save and recall the settings of the console, without mechanically turning the knobs on the surface. At the time this was unheard of, but it has now become a ubiquitous feature of every digital console on the market. Perhaps proving that the SeriesTen was ahead of its time, many SeriesTen console are still in use today, and Harrison still provides support for this "grandfather" of the modern studio:

Harrison music consoles are renowned for their pristine sound. In the 70's, ABBA produced all their hits on their Harrison console at Polar Studios. The acapella introduction to Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son" was recorded from Harrison console preamps directly to tape. Throughout the 80's, seminal music works were mixed on Harrison consoles: Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Bad" albums were both recorded on a Harrison console by Bruce Swedien. Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" was mixed on a Harrison SeriesTen, And Sade's album Promise (including the track "Sweetest Taboo") was recorded on a Harrison Series24 and mixed on a Harrison MR3. Paul Simon's "Graceland" was mixed on a Harrison console at Ovation. All of these records are known for their excellent sonic quality and you may find that they are often used to demonstrate the power and clarity of an audio system if the listener wants to hear "pop" music! High-profile music projects continue to be mixed on Harrison consoles. Bruce Swedien didn't stop using his Harrison board in the 80's ... in fact the same board is still making hit songs today!

Harrison Systems was acquired by GLW Incorporated in 1989. GLW retained the Harrison brand name because of its reputation for superior products and a loyal, worldwide customer base. GLW's first product introduction was the release of the SeriesTenB™, an updated version of the SeriesTen™ utilizing a powerful Mac-based automation system coupled with new video interactive graphics for display of console information and the control of console functions through the use of an interactive video screen. The company's technological advances accelerated in the 1990's as additional resources were dedicated to research and development. The engineering team grew significantly as new, leading-edge work was commenced. The first fruits of these efforts was the introduction in 1992 of the fully automated Harrison MPC™ (Motion Picture Console) followed shortly thereafter by the debut of its sister console, the fully automated Harrison SeriesTwelve™.

The Harrison SeriesTenB™ with its new automation system and interactive video graphics was recipient in 1991 of the coveted Mix Foundation Technical Achievements Award for Console Technology the "TEC Award." Shortly thereafter, the first MPC™ was installed at Sony Pictures in Hollywood on Valentine's Day, 1992, resulting in the MPC™ being considered for a Technical Achievement Academy Award for its many innovations as the first truly fully automated large format film re-recording console. The MPC was designed in a tight collaboration with Jeff Taylor, chief engineer at Sony Pictures, and an ongoing list of film and post-production mixers. The ongoing relationship between Harrison and Sony Pictures Post Production Facilities in Hollywood has resulted in the installation over the last ten years of ten, massive, fully automated MPC™ consoles.

Although Harrison introduced the world to digitally controlled attenuators (DCA's) in its SeriesTen™ to effect digital control of analog sound as a replacement for antiquated VCA's, the technology was advanced in the MPC by coupling this technology with the concept of remoting the console control surface from the audio processing racks. This separation of the control surface from the audio racks allowed the audio processing racks to be placed in the machine rooms, thus allowing for sleeker, more acoustic console control surface designs tailored to fit the needs and applications of each individual user. This design concept was further refined with the introduction of the SeriesTwelve™. The SeriesTwelve™ modular concept allows different variations of the SeriesTwelve™ to be uniquely tailored for film, broadcast, video post or music recording. The first two SeriesTwelve™ consoles were configured specifically for broadcast applications and were delivered to WFAA in Dallas, Texas, a top ten market ABC affiliate. Since then, The SeriesTwelve has been installed in elite film, music, film, broadcast, and live facilities around the world.

During the late 90's there was a clear demand for a digital processing engine which could satisfy the need for increased channel counts that were becoming possible with new digital production techniques. Harrison met this demand with the digital.engine, a massively powerful DSP mixing and routing engine that could provide 768 fully-resourced channels and thousands of input and output signals. In addition to new console sales, the digital.engine was designed to retrofit existing analog MPC or Series12 consoles with a new digital backend. Many Harrison customer upgraded their existing consoles to the new engine because it was cost effective and did not incur the "down time" of replacing an entire console. The MPC™ in the premier Cary Grant Theater at Sony (Hollywood) was upgraded with the addition of a 320 channel, 640 input Harrison digital.engine™.

The MPC™ and its sister console, the SeriesTwelve™ for Film, are considered the "world's standard." Both are repeatedly requested by technically sophisticated clients, worldwide, who require large, complex multi-operator film console systems. These consoles typically offer 200+ fully resourced, fully automated audio channels. Both the MPC™ and the SeriesTwelve™ are available as digitally controlled analog or as fully digital consoles or as an analog/digital hybrid configuration. This ability to be analog, fully digital or hybrid is unique to Harrison. In 2000, Harrison was awarded a patent for automated, motorized panning joysticks. This further entrenched Harrison's reputation as a company that was continuously pursuing excellence in film mixing.

Harrison continued its technological advancements and was awarded another TEC Award in 1999, this time for Outstanding Technical Achievement in Sound Reinforcement Console Technology. This award was granted to the groundbreaking Harrison LPC™ (Live Performance Console). The LPC console was co-developed with touring sound company Showco to create a no-compromise sound reinforcement console. Taking advantage of Harrison's digitally-controlled-analog technology, and a newly developed IKIS automation engine, the LPC was designed with motorized potentiometers for every console parameter. Similar to Harrison's motorized joysticks, the motorized potentiometers allowed the user of the console to work in an intuitive way, while providing all the benefits of digital surfaces such as instant recall.

The LPC (dubbed the ShowConsole at launch) served Showco for nearly 2 decades with top touring acts such as Madonna and U2.

Meanwhile, as the broadcast version of the SeriesTwelve continued to have success, the technology of the SeriesTwelve was applied to a new surfaces specifically for television: the TVD. By taking advantage of the existing infrastructure of the SeriesTwelve, and changing only the surface, a truly robust system was created without starting over on a new design. Since the TVD, all Harrison surfaces have been designed with a shared infrastructure consisting of a processing engine, an automation platform, and supporting I/O products. By sharing this infrastructure, the price and reliability is dramatically improved. This paradigm has been applied to earlier products as well: any MPC, SeriesTwelve, LPC, and TVD surface can be updated to the very newest automation and/or processing package.

This policy of protecting our customers' investment in a Harrison console became known as "future proofing".... our practice of guaranteeing that any purchase of a Harrison console would be protected by long product life cycles, ongoing software updates, and a cost-effective upgrade path for any Harrison owner. "Future Proofing" is a design goal that has gained Harrison a special place in some of the largest and most renowned facilities in the world, because these types of facilities demand a product that improves over time, generating a constant return on their investment.

During the early 2000s, the demand for drastically more mix information drove the adoption of TFT screens into the meter bridges of digital consoles. Of course Harrison designers could not rest with a system that wasn't head and shoulders above all known implementations of this feature. The Harrison TFT screens were given the ability to show EQ curves, panning, auxes, metering, bus assignments and dynamics, simultaneously. This required an immense amount of control bandwidth, but the IKIS studio automation system was able to handle these demands with aplomb. In addition, a new PreView waveform technology was developed for the screens. This patent-applied-for technology allows users to see cues before and after they happen, greatly speeding up the mixing process. The TFT screens became another upgrade that was made available to existing MPC and SeriesTwelve users. This meant that an original MPC could be upgraded to IKIS automation, a digital.engine processing system, and the new screens. In other words, an old MPC could be brought into parity with our newest offerings! This is more evidence of Harrison's dedication to the "future proofing" of our consoles.

In 2005, Universal's Dub Room 4 (a.k.a. Alfred Hitchcock Theater) installed a brand new MPC4-D. This console has 384 processing channels, each with 2 inputs, 8 bands of EQ, full dynamics along with 64 bus limiters and 2 Digital Tools cards and extensive routing options. The console is over 30' long and has more faders than any single console in the world. Throughout 2005, several more of Universal's MPCs were updated with TFT screens.

The list of international blockbuster films mixed on Harrison consoles is a testament to the skill and discernment of the people who use them: Transformers, Spider Man, Pearl Harbor, Harry Potter, Ray, The Passion of the Christ and Amelie are only the beginning of the list. Television shows such as "The Simpsons" and "CSI" get their signature sounds from a Harrison console. The hit Fox show "24" generates nearly all of their cell phone sounds in post production, using the built-in "telephone simulator" in the DSP Tools package. The high-profile users who work on these projects demand the very best. They use Harrison.

In 2005, a new console surface was born which took full advantage of Harrison's latest technology. The Trion uses modern manufacturing techniques to provide a lower-cost but highly flexible surface that can be configured for film, post, music, live and broadcast applications. The commonality of components in the Trion range provides a robust set of features that can be brought to bear on any mixing application. The configurability of the Trion console was inherited from its predecessor, the SeriesTwelve.

The Trion can be found in several demanding facilities including the Post Group in Hollywood (as a post-production console for hit TV shows), Yonsie Baptist Church (as a live console providing sound reinforcement to one of the world's largest Christian churches), and KENS TV (on-air television broadcast).

The Trion switch inserts, central panels, and software are customized for each of these applications while the console infrastructure is shared among them.

With an eye towards "future proofing", and the meteoric rise of personal computing power, it became obvious that the only logical processing engine would be a native, off-the-shelf solution which could be more cost effective, efficient, and upgradeable than any proprietary development. Harrison engineers embarked on a 3-year research project which resulted in the Xrange processing system.

The Xrange is a combination of Linux, ethernet, and 64-bit audio that provides the ultimate in reliability, power, and cost effectiveness. The new Xrange processing system debuted along with the Air24 radio broadcast surface to provide an unbeatable broadcast package, while also ensuring an upgrade path for the high-end products based on the digital.engine. The Xrange has already exceeded the capacity of the digital.engine predecessor, and it is clear that desktop computing horsepower will increase for decades yet to come.

In 2013, the newest version of the iconic MPC was launched with a new generation, Trion-based surface that  provides touch-sensitive knobs and a complete new monitoring system.  The MPC5 provides the Object++ 3D panning system, which can treat the incoming channels as "objects" placed in a virtual space. Using Harrison's patented ESP waveform technology, objects appear and disappear along with the regions on the DAW screen allowing mixers to anticipate sounds and see their placements in the room. The MPC5 includes advanced new panning features, such as direct Ethernet control of the Dolby Atmos RMU, as well as various wide-format panning modes that include multiple levels of height. Most importantly, the MPC5 system consolidates the capabilities of multiple mix formats, and puts them under the user's hand via motorized joysticks (another Harrison patented feature).

Creative Sound MPC5

The MPC5 is the centerpiece in Creative Sound's 450-cubic-meter film mixing stage that will also include Dolby’s immersive Atmos 3D sound system. The console includes a 672 input Harrison Xrange 64bit processing engine, a full suite of Harrison Xtools film specific plug-ins and a dual-operator MPC5 control surface featuring twin master sections, 80 faders with 64 full featured input strips and Harrison’s patented ESP Waveform displays.

Mixbus was Harrison's first entry into the consumer DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) market.  Launched in 2009, Mixbus is a full-featured DAW that incorporates many of Harrison's mixing technologies.  Mixbus is developed in collaboration with the community-developed open-source Ardour community.

Mixbus differs from other workstations because it provides a full Harrison mixer with EQ, compression, limiters, saturation, metering, and other functions normally found on a high-end analog console.

Mixbus runs on all popular desktop computers  ( Mac, Windows, and Linux ).  Mixbus is intended to provide a bridge between the analog recording studio, the desktop computer studio, and the studio of the future, when computing power is ubiquitous and tiny, and differences between sound and worfklow become the defining advantages.  With our deep history in music recording and deep knowledge of modern audio-for-video production, Harrison is in a singular position to provide this bridge.

Mixbus mixer

Harrison has become a primary driver of the adoption for open-source standards in the audio industry, making it easier for companies to collaborate.  SSL (a competing console manufacturer) was an early supporter of Ardour, and funded the development of the OSX version of Ardour.  Other companies have also collaborated with Harrison in this way, and more companies are getting involved as the technology improves.

Harrison has licensed technology for products from companies such as Universal Audio and Great River, and we also provide private development efforts for other highly-regarded audio companies.

The many, many audio innovations originating at Harrison over the last thirty years are almost too numerous to list.

  • Pro audio’s first 24-and 32-mixing bus consoles (to address the rapidly escalating multi-track tape recording format requirements of the past three decades).
  • The first snapshot console automation system ("Autoset" introduced in 1977).
  • The first cinema sound multiple panning modes on each channel (to fulfill client needs for complex multi-channel film sound formats).
  • The first automated, multi-channel graphic equalizer (to retain and instantly recall complex settings).
  • The world's first "modern" film console, the PP-1™.
  • The first "real time" interactive graphics offered with the SeriesTen™.
  • The first application of a motorized joystick for automated audio panning. Harrison was awarded a U.S. patent for this innovation.
  • The first digitally controlled attenuators – DCA's – to effect digital control of analog sound to replace VCAs.
  • The first implementation of digitally controlled audio via the use of a computer and a remote control surface separate from the analog audio processing rack.
  • The first with truly large-scale digital engine (up to 762 fully resourced channels in a single digital.engine™) with even larger systems available by coupling individual digital.engines™.
  • The first console manufacturer to utilize multiple, large format, control surfaces controlling a single core of digital processing.

While Harrison’s engineering efforts continually result in industry leading innovations keeping the company at the forefront of console technology, Harrison by has always placed great emphasis on customer relationships and extensive post-sale support. Harrison’s prestigious clients provide a continuous stream of ideas for refining the company’s products as well as valuable input for developing new product solutions. This "application base" customer orientation provides a vehicle for leading edge technology along with unique and useful feature sets incorporating technological implementations not found in competitive product offerings. Every feature of a Harrison console is implemented only after consultation with real-world users.

In the fall of 2000, the company moved into a new 35,000 square foot facility. This purpose-designed facility allowed Harrison to incorporate under one roof its administrative, sales, engineering, R&D and manufacturing arms. To this day, Harrison continues the tradition of forward thinking that the company's foundation was built on.

Products and feature innovations:

1971 Company founder Dave Harrison, creates the "in-line" audio console in a collaboration with MCI

1975 Harrison Systems established

1975 3232™, the world’s first 32-bus, in-line recording console introduced

1979 The PP-1™ film console introduced

1981 MR-2™ music recording console introduced

1982 MR-3™ music recording/TV-3 broadcast console introduced

1983 MR-43™ music recording/TV-4 introduced

1983 HM-5™/ live performance SM-5™ house monitor and stage monitor introduced

1983 Raven music recording console introduced

1984 Air-7™/Pro-7™ on air radio broadcast and production consoles introduced

1984 HM-4™/SM-4™ live performance house monitor and stage monitor consoles introduced

1985 SeriesTen™, the world’s first totally automated console introduced. The SeriesTen™ was the first console to introduce "layering" of console functions to reduce the size of console control surface.

1985 Digitally controlled attenuator (DCA) used to effect digital control of analog sound to replace VCA’s

1986 AIR 790™/PRO 790™ on air radio broadcast and production consoles introduced

1986 "Real time" interactive graphics offered as an option for the SeriesTenB™

1987 AP-100™ on air micro processor controlled radio broadcast console introduced

1987 MR-20™ music recording introduced

1989 Harrison is acquired by GLW Incorporated

1989 SeriesTenB™ with new Mac based automation

1990 VIC – "real time" interactive video graphic display/control introduced for SeriesTenB

1991 Harrison implements remote, digitally controlled audio

1992 MPC™, Motion Picture Console introduced

1994 SeriesTwelve™ multi format introduced

1995 TV-950™ broadcast console introduced

1995 Pro-950™ production console introduced

1996 TV950™ honored at NAB as Editors’ Pick of Show for new product introductions

1996 Automated, motorized joystick introduced (now patented by Harrison)

1998 TV 5.1™ TV broadcast console with surround capability introduced

1998 LPC™, Live Performance Console introduced

1998 digital.engine™ introduced

2000 Harrison is awarded the patent for automated motorized joystick innovation

2001 TVD™, Digital Broadcast Console introduced

2001 LPC™, Digital, Live Performance Console introduced

2001 MPC2™, Motion Picture Console introduced and honored with nomination for TEC Award

2002 TVD-SL™, Introduction of the Digital Broadcast Console featuring heads-up displays

2002 Pro950EX™, Production console introduced

2002 IKIS™, Introduction of the Harrison IKIS Digital Automation Platform

2002 MPC3-D™, Digital Motion Picture Console introduced

2004 MPC4-D™ Introductions of the Digital Motion Picture Console with heads-up displays

2004 DTC™ Introductions of the Digital Tools Card with Film specific plug-ins.

2005 Trion™, Introduction of the Digital Audio Console customized for Film, Broadcast, or Live applications with heads-up displays

2005 IKISdirect™, DAW controller introduced

2005 Serial Supervisor™, Redundancy Control System introduced

2006 X-Range™, Stand-alone, Native, Digital Engine introduction

2006 Air 24/7™, Small format On-Air console introduced

2007 Xdubber, 64-track floating-point stem recorder introduced

2008 Universal Audio launches 32C EQ plugin for UAD platform, modeled on a vintage Harrison 32C console

2009 Great River introduces EQ32, an API-500 series module utilizing the Harrison 32C EQ circuit

2009 Mixbus, cross-platform, full-featured DAW with integrated mixer introduced

2010 Mixbus v2 launched

2011 Lineage 8-Channel Mic Preamp introduced

2011 950m analog music console introduced

2013 MPC-5D film console with Dolby Atmos integration released

2013 First XT-series plugins for Mixbus released

2014 950mx analog music console introduced

2014 950SC Sidecar and 950RR Roller Rack studio furniture introduced

2015 832C 8-Channel Filter introduced

2015 Mixbus v3 launched

2015 32CS Channel Strip introduced

2016 Mixbus32C introduced to the Mixbus family of products