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50 Years of Audio Innovation: Dan Dugan Sound Design

November 05, 2018

Saluting an Audio Legend.

Behind his soft-spoken demeanor, Dan Dugan has quietly amassed an impressive body of work in the professional audio world. Starting out in the thriving late 1960s California music scene, he's left his mark on live sound, theater sound, field recording, studio recording, and most importantly, the automatic mixing technology that bears his name.

After a musical youth that saw him involved in various singing and vocal groups, he became drawn to the allure of theater, learning about sound and lighting. After leaving college, he found work in groups such as San Diego National Shakespeare Festival, the San Diego Opera, and the San Francisco Actors' Workshop.

It was in 1968 that when doing theater sound for the San Diego National Shakespeare Festival and the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the term "Sound Designer" was coined to describe what he was doing since it went above and beyond just being a front-of-house engineer. Thus, his company, Dan Dugan Sound Design, was born.

Dan is also an accomplished field recordist, compiling lots of nature sounds for various purposes, and is a board member of The Nature Sounds Society.

Most of all, though, he is known for his automatic mixing technology, present in both the mixers bearing his name and in third-party products licensed with it, such as Yamaha and Waves. This effective design (developed in 1971 using his experience in theater productions when multiple actors are miked on stage) automatically mutes mics not in use, eliminating the need for someone to man a bunch of faders or mute switches. This has proven beneficial to many walks of life in audio, from corporate and live sound to courtrooms and government, live broadcast, houses of worship, and apparently, even some applications none of us imagined!

As Dan prepared to celebrate his 50th anniversary with a cake cutting ceremony at his booth at the 145th AES Convention, our marketing director Eric Eldredge caught up with him. Check out the above video as he recounts how it all got started, his field recording rig (gear nerd alert!), and more!

Wishing Dan well is our own "living legend" of the audio industry, Sales Professional Mike Bogen: "Dan has spent the last five decades giving mixers ten extra fingers and two extra ears. It's great to know that a Dugan mixer has your back."

For more on Dan Dugan Sound Design products, look HERE.

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