Rode Microphones - A Factory Tour
July 17, 2012
When it first appeared on the market, the name Rode, with its slash through the letter o (that our website can’t seem to produce…), made people think it stood for a Scandinavian company. Not so, of course, it could hardly be at a greater geographical distance from Scandinavia, being firmly rooted in Sydney, Australia. But there is a connection, and that particular piece of history brings back memories to this former resident of Sydney.
In the ‘60s, a couple arrived in Sydney from Scandinavia and opened a business, selling and servicing amps and PA systems and such, specializing in the Dynacord brand from Germany, which was hugely popular among gigging musicians. In 1970 I arrived in Sydney, and over the following years I occasionally took gear to the Freedmans in Ashfield for servicing. Fast-forward by a couple of decades, and the Freedmans’ son Peter Freedman started the Rode brand, with the NT1 which today, about thirty products later, is still Rode’s best-selling mic!
Back in Sydney for one of my frequent visits, I had the pleasure of being shown around the Rode factory in Silverwater, not far from the Sydney 2000 Olympic facilities. Scott Emerton, Marketing and Communications Manager, drove me to the plant and joined me on the walk through the halls where Operations Manager Karl Griggs explained equipment and processes. His task is monumental—not "just" running things day to day, but continually adjusting the premises to the growing and changing demands. As I was being shown around, new mezzanine floors were being installed, and modular inside walls were being erected, in a matter of hours, that would house new equipment to come online immediately.
The aim is to maintain control over quality by doing as many processes as possible in-house. Production is fully local, now 100% Aussie, and even the rough metalwork is prepared in a plant in rural NSW that is owned by a long-time friend of the Freedmans. Mic bodies are then finished off at the Silverwater plant.
I was hugely impressed by the dynamism of the enterprise—every few minutes Karl would enthusiastically point out a recent or imminent change in proceedings, how his team had come up with yet another and better solution and implemented it or was about to implement it.
After a ride into town with Scott I met the design team that is housed in a new office suite in Surry Hills, and Peter Cooper, VP of Design and New Product Development joined us for lunch. This website of theirs shows some of their designs and explains the "Rode manufacturing mantra" and support philosophy: http://www.therodedifference.com
There is an infectious esprit de corps in evidence among this group of Rode scholars, and my special thanks go out to Scott and Karl and Peter. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to see Peter Freedman who was overseas at the time of my visit. Maybe I can reminisce with him about the old days of his parents’ Ashfield store at another time?
You'll be able to see glimpses of many processes I was shown during my tour, if you check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SJSph2bEsk