Early Life

Steve was born in Portsmouth, England in 1959. Steve’s father was a Royal Marine and so through Steve’s early years the family moved around considerably, including two tours in Singapore and Johore Bahru, Malaya. Steve always had very scientific and musical interests as a child – mecano, microscopes, Mamod steam engines, electronics and chemistry kits, guitars and the clarinet (grade 5), listening to classical music and tape recorders. As a teenager he was then into motor cycles and all the big rock bands.

Steve Elford

Merchant Navy

Form 1977 to 1982 Steve was a deck cadet in the Merchant navy, working for Shell on oil tankers. He qualified as a third officer but only sailed on one trip with Shell before being made redundant. Unfortunately the British merchant navy was in severe decline in the 1980s, so Steve did not continue in this career.

Defence Career

Steve then served a 22 year career in the Royal Air Force as an Engineer Officer specialising in electronics and avionics. He had extensive operational and fast-jet engineering experience in his earlier career and later specialised in the integration of large mission systems, electronic warfare systems and civil avionics systems. From 1997 Steve served in 3 MOD acquisition appointments, He left the Royal Air Force in December 2005. In March 2006, Steve embarked on providing services to the defence industry as a consultant, working on several technology integration projects. But from 2009 Steve has significantly reduced his consultancy commitments in favour of the development of Vertex AQ.

Career in Audio

Vertex AQ was formed in 1999 by Steve and John Cheadle, and clearly this was way before Steve left the Royal Air Force. In fact the initial development of the ideas for Vertex AQ products started in 1997, resulting from years of Steve’s deep interest in music and audio systems. Steve carried on working closely with John Cheadle, in their spare time, until the end of 2005 when Steve left the RAF. Steve took on some large defence projects as a consultant for a few years more, but the interest and effort in audio continued to build.

There are several key contributions from Steve that have been pivotal to the Vertex AQ products:

  • Steve’s research into ultrasonics. In his RAF career Steve had worked with teams that carry out ultrasonic testing of aircraft structures – seeing such techniques being used led him to researching, in-depth, the scientific principles involved. He then reverse engineered all the principles to enable the design of effective anti-microphony techniques.
  • The problems of RFI and EMI propagation around integrated systems. One significant aircraft project that Steve managed suffered severe delays because of performance shortfalls of the aircraft’s radio systems caused by RFI and EMI interference form newly fitted data busses and high power defensive aids. The problem took months to resolve, requiring huge levels of analysis and remedial engineering. The issues had not been predicted by the contractors, showing how in general, RFI and EMI propagation is so poorly understood.
  • Steve’s work with Acuity Products on the issues of time domain measurement has also been pivotal. By gaining in-depth knowledge of the flaws in frequency domain analysis (FFT), and the resulting performance failures that a failure to think in the time domain brings with things like signal processing, power supply design and feedback strategies, the company has been able to take some very large steps forward with high-end audio performance.