Meridian Audio has announced the recent passing of co-founder Allen Boothroyd.
Having graduated from the Royal College of Art, where he studied industrial design in the 1960s, Boothroyd (1943-2020) eventually teamed with award-winning electronics engineer Bob Stuart in the world of hi-fi. Their collaboration included designing a preamplifier and power amplifier for Lecson Audio, which earned a British Design Council Award in 1974, and they founded Meridian Audio in 1977.
“Allen graduated from the Royal College of Art in the 1960s, when not many people knew what an industrial designer did. Allen was always at pains to explain that it was not just a question of the product’s appearance, it encompassed all the production engineering and mechanical stages to take a product from concept to market,” Meridian states in an announcement.
“He was a talented draftsman and for most of his professional life, Allen’s designs were produced by hand, with 3D visuals as well as detailed engineering drawings.”
Meridian states that Boothroyd, 76, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2018 (“the first thing he did was to buy a Porsche and book a holiday to Australia”). He and wife Judy celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2019. Boothroyd is survived by Judy, their daughter Emily, and baby granddaughter Edie.
Industrial Design Influences High-Performance Audio
Meridian Audio products raised the bar on balancing industrial design and performance, and among the company’s numerous awards were several for its active digital loudspeakers and components over the years from CE Pro and longtime sister publication Electronic House.
During his time at Royal College of Art, Boothroyd designed hoppers for moving books around in a bookshop, a hospital bed, a parking meter, and received a prize for his pushchair design.
“He was a great admirer of the designers and architects of the Bauhaus, notably Walter Gropius who designed the Dessau Art School, and Mies van der Rohe whose adage, ‘less is more,’ Allen adhered to and often quoted,” Meridian states.
Upon graduation, Boothroyd joined Hulme Chadwick and Partners, an architectural and design practice. His work there included the design of a new corporate identity for Bass Charrington. Together with Stuart they designed products for new hi-fi company, Lecson Audio, and the aforementioned amp and preamp are now in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the V&A in London.
Boothroyd joined Cambridge Consultants Ltd in 1972 to set up their Industrial Design division. One of his designs was an electric bicycle, awarded to the winner of the Prince Philip Designers Prize, according to the Meridian announcement. Meanwhile, Stuart had also moved to Cambridge leading to their founding of Meridian.
“They designed, manufactured, and sold the entire product range themselves, with very little investment. Allen and Bob received their second Design Council Award for the company’s 100 Series in 1982,” Meridian states.
In 1986, a new line – the 200 Series – was launched and continued to be produced until 1993. It expanded to include CD players, radio tuners, pre-amplifiers, power amplifiers, digital-to-analog converters, and a range of multiroom components, all designed by Bob and Allen, the company notes.
A series of active loudspeakers (with on-board amplifiers) was developed and brought to market in 1988, the same year Boothroyd and Stuart were presented with their third Design Council Award by the Duke of Edinburgh, becoming the first design team to win this award on three occasions.
Boothroyd’s Work Extends Well Beyond Audio
In addition to the work at Meridian, in 1991 Boothroyd founded his own consultancy, Cambridge Product Design Ltd, offering one-stop design solutions, which he ran from his home in Little Shelford.
Meridian notes while Boothroyd continued as Design Director for the audio company, his myriad other designs included the BBC Microcomputer, Europe’s most successful educational computer of its time; a new class of loudspeaker for Canon; the first Patientline (providing a phone/TV/radio console for hospital patients); the Aga Masterchef range cooker; a coffee machine; timpani drums; and different types of loudspeakers for KEF, Celestion, THX, and Russound.
“Allen’s semi-retirement provided time for him to indulge his hobbies: drawing and painting, tennis, golf, and music. From the 1990s, he would always take his sketch pad on holiday and took pleasure in sitting in front of a historic building or view that captured his imagination,” Meridian states.
“He was instrumental in the fundraising and design for a new village hall in Little Shelford and co-founded the Pavilion Art Group, helping artists to develop their skills. Listening to music was always an important part of Allen’s life – in particular classical, jazz, and popular music.”