UK manufacturer Rycote has been quietly producing better audio since 1969, but it still has an eye – as well as an ear – on the future. In May 2023 the company’s drive for innovation and growth prompted a move to a custom-built manufacturing facility in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire.
The facility gave Rycote an opportunity to reassess its entire production structure, as well as make improvements to how it designs, develops, and tests its growing range of products.
But some things don’t change – and nor should they.
“Everything we make is still hand-built, from our iconic Cyclone and Nanoshield basket isolation systems to our Softie range of furry slip-on wind protection systems,” says Rycote’s operations director James Scott. “All our staff cross-train across as many processes as possible to maintain our focus on quality control, and our turnover is very low; I’ve been with the company for six years, but we’ve got staff members of upwards of 15. Many people only leave when they retire!”
Handcrafting every element of its products enables Rycote to implement quality control throughout the build, with raw materials checked against product tolerances before they even reach the shop floor, and production teams implementing inline QC processes.
“The move to Ashby also gave us the opportunity to install two Zünd cutting machines, which can handle fabrics up to 3m to within a 1mm tolerance,” adds Scott. “This precision ensures that every product we produce is right first time, every time, and it gives us the ability to digitise our patterns to create the best fit for any given width of fabric, which reduces our waste.
“Leftovers are either recycled or reused, but there were other benefits too; we used 100 per cent recyclable materials wherever possible, such as in the wall insulation, and moving manufacturing into a facility which the company already owned also meant that we reduced the impact of operating multiple locations. Meanwhile, 90 per cent of production materials are still sourced from the UK and Europe which help us reduce our carbon footprint.”
With more room to utilise, Rycote took the opportunity to improve other quality processes. Used for testing and refining product designs, Rycote’s hemi-anechoic chamber is the biggest one in the UK that combines a hemi-anechoic chamber with a wind tunnel.
Tracy Wick is audio innovation manager: “I’m super-interested in the products we make, and this facility has enabled us to design, develop and iterate new designs which work in exactly the way that they are supposed to.
“Generating wind in an acoustically isolated environment helps us prototype better products. We not only use it to guarantee every product is of consistent quality, but also to develop new products which provide the same performance as our existing range. It not only helps us develop new innovations, but also to develop fixtures to existing products.”
The company believes that paying attention to these details is essential to continue to build on its heritage, but admits that it also needs help to do so.
“Rycote is trusted to perform in the most demanding environments, and our relationship with sound engineers has always been the backbone of product development to keep Rycote ahead of the curve,” says senior director of audio Bjørn Rennemo-Henriksen.
“Being part of the Videndum group with sister companies like JOBY and Audix gives Rycote access to a much wider range of content creators who are all looking for ways to improve their audio. It enables us to see patterns that start from one industry and then are utilised in another. We are in a very privileged position.”
And as Rycote continues to learn alongside its customer base, its new facility is helping them to keep pace.
“I’ve worked in manufacturing facilities all over the world, and I’m a massive advocate for UK manufacturing,” concludes Scott. “It’s a privilege to continue Rycote’s tradition here in the UK and by producing quality products which are perfectly fit for purpose.”