It looks like Fairlight will be leaving the audio business soon as it recently put those assets up for sale. The Australian company has been a pioneer in digital audio in both music and more recently postproduction and has always made very robust hardware and software, but in a market that’s increasingly going downmarket in terms of price, just about all companies making hardware are having a rough go these days.
Fairlight was one of the companies responsible for changing the sound of music in the 1980s with the introduction of its CMI (Computer Music Instrument), a digital sampler (and the first with an attached computer monitor, which was very novel at the time) used by Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Trevor Horn, Hans Zimmer, Thomas Dolby, and a host of other English music stars. The CMI cost between $25k and $30k, and the company eventually ran into trouble finding buyers for its expensive hardware, and left the business.
Fairlight later reappeared as Fairlight ESP (Electric Sound and Picture) this time concentrating on a series of integrated audio workstations complete with a high quality control surface and a custom DAW designed specifically for postproduction.
In August 2009, co-founder Peter Vogel produced a limited run of 100 up-to-date CMI’s, the in 2011 released a Peter Vogel CMI app for the iPad and iPhone. The app includes the complete CMI sound library and an accurate translation of the CMI’s renowned Page R sequencer, so at least the beauty of the instrument isn’t lost forever.
Now the company has decided to exit the audio business entirely to instead concentrate on its patented picture key work surface technology which it licenses to manufacturers of highly user interactive tactile equipment.
Fairlight was always a quality company with quality products, but being based in Australia probably made them more expensive than the market could bear.