Davies Roberts: Inventor and Co-Founder Flare Audio
January 4, 2024
Education & Work
I left school at the age of 15 with no exams or qualifications under my belt and having had a pretty awful time. I didn’t fit into the standard framework that school wanted to fit me into and because of that I felt abandoned and I lost faith in being taught anything by anyone. After I left school I went from job to job and eventually joined the Lifeboat service for 2 years and then joined the Fire Service, serving 13 years with the last 5 years as a crew commander at Shoreham by Sea fire station. I loved working in the Fire Service, being part of a team, the trust and sense of belonging was amazing, it grounded me but I still felt that there was a part of me that wasn’t fulfilled.
Music & Flare Audio
I’ve always had a huge passion for sound and music that’s been with me since a child.
I was only 13 years old when my parents bought me a set of early Garrard 50SB Belt Drive Turntables and at 14 I had my own DJ set-up providing a mobile disco service for parties. I took ads out in newspapers promoting what I did and when I had a booking my Dad would drive me and my kit (in a trailer) to the party. Looking back, I wonder what clients thought when they saw a young teenage lad and his dad roll up to sort their party sound out!
I kept this up as a bit of a sideline throughout my 20’s and 30’s. They say life begins at 40 and it was at this time that a series of fortuitous events led me to spending some time as a touring sound engineer, which in turn steered me to having a huge change in career and starting my own PA hire company.
It wasn’t long before I was bitten by the audio bug and started ‘re-designing the loudspeaker’ from my garage - believing that great audio means a better connection between the artist and audience.
I set myself the challenge of unlocking how to create mirror image audio in sound device designs and myself and Naomi formed Flare in 2010. I soon addressed two major issues in loudspeakers: enclosure resonation and silencing the rear energy of drivers. Having left school earlier than I should have done I had no formal education in sound and in order to unlock my inventions I really had to push my brain and think at a simplistic particle level. Rather than looking at an overall design I used thought experiments – firstly working out how particles vibrate, this allowed me to almost eliminate the enclosure design and put the sound first.
I knew that if I was to have any chance of us growing Flare we needed to protect the technology.
With over 15 patents and counting to my name the cost of producing the technology was significant and for about 5 years we had to work under exceptional stress, often with the risk of losing our house at stake in order to get us through.
Stress is there for every start-up but for us the pressure often felt, at times, totally unbearable as I knew that I had unlocked some significant breakthroughs. The financial strain was a huge weight and stress for me and my wife, Naomi. There were many sleepless nights. One day in particular stays with me. We had to lay everyone off and were about to close the doors on everything when we found another way of holding on for just a little longer… it was close.
I had to develop coping mechanisms in order to deal with the constant stress I was under and that’s when I discovered how important it is to avoid ultra-processed food and to eat whole foods. I can remember the day when my therapist (who used to be a nutritionist) made me aware that my anxiety was being amplified by eating ultra-processed, high carbohydrate, low nutrition food. I was in such a bad place that I followed her advice precisely, only eating whole foods and cutting all processed carbs and sugars from my diet. It was a life-changing moment for me, within 48 hours my anxiety had vanished, and I realized how what I eat directly affects my brain’s function.
7 years later my diet is a world away from the morning toast, lunchtime sandwich and chicken and chips dinner I used to eat daily. My diet is now rich and diverse, with lots of colourful vegetables, healthy proteins and basically any food that has not been subject to high amounts of processing. There are some great people that I listen to on this subject such as Mark Hyman and numerous people on Stephen Bartletts podcasts, I hope that it won’t be too long before the world starts to realise how food affects our minds. (There are some links at the bottom of the page to some of Davies’ favourite podcasts).
Stress at this level for a period of time takes its toll on anyone - but I would do it again. The quest to save the integrity of sound is so incredibly important for me. I believe that sound is just as important as vision and I felt it was my job to try and retain as much detail in music as I could. Artists and producers know all too well that most traditional sound devices can be inconsistent with their output, I want to help them to hear their work as accurately as possible.
From our experience in the live music industry we learned and understood specific flaws with the traditional approach used to create loudspeakers and developed patent pending technology to create pure audio in any sound-producing device.
Confident that our technologies could be miniaturised, in 2015 Flare launched our first consumer earphone via a crowdfunding campaign. The success of the campaign propelled them forward and soon after came the Isolate® ear protector raising over £2 million via crowdfunding campaigns.
Flare now have an armory of audio products that have won commendations from highly respected music producers, artists and industry professionals: Liam Howlett from The Prodigy, Tony Visconti (Grammy Award winning producer, David Bowie, T-Rex), Julian Lennon, Producer Flood, Fran Healy (Travis), Stephen Fry, polar explorer Ben Saunders...
One of my proudest achievements has been the success of one of our most recent products Calmer. Calmer is a tiny hollow passive device made from soft silicone that is worn in the ear to reduce noises that cause stress without blocking the sounds you want to hear.
Launched during lockdown Calmer was an overwhelming success and we’ve now sold over 2 million pairs in the first year alone.
We now ship our ear protectors, calming in-ear devices and earphones to over 186 countries and have gone from a small team of three working from a garage in a back garden to a strong company of 22 working from Flare HQ on the south coast.
What makes me happy
I’m at my happiest when I am solving issues that help people.
What do I love most about my work?
I love designing and inventing and it never fails to excite me when an idea I’ve had produces a prototype.
It means the world to me when we hear from customers who get in touch to let us know how much our products have helped them.
I love listening to music and going to gigs. I also enjoy doing particle thought experiments, and I like to go on long walks to exercise and free my mind up, this helps me keep everything focused.
Leonardo Da Vinci, Alan Turin, Einstein and especially Nikola Tesla who I very much admire for his sheer brilliance enabling the modern world to exist due to his work with electricity.
I am determined to see Flare grow into the global leader of sound technology and improving sound for everyone.
I hope that in time that many sound devices will feature Flare’s unique patented technology.
Long Live Ears.
Mo Gawdat on How To Fail
Mo is the ex chief business officer of the pioneering wing of google, Google X. But most importantly, Mo has learnt perspective about life. When his son died, This sent him on an incredible journey to look within himself and find the ‘happiness equation’, a simple technique that can help us all reduce our unhappiness and appreciate life, and ourselves, more.
Dr Chris Palmer with Dr Rangan Chatterjee
Dr Chris Palmer is Director of the Department of Postgraduate and Continuing Education at McLean Hospital, Massachusetts and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
In today’s episode, he shares some of the profound insights he's gained over almost 30 years as an academic psychiatrist. He combines years of clinical, neuroscience and metabolic studies into one unifying idea: that mental disorders are not caused by a chemical imbalance. Instead, they are metabolic disorders of the brain, caused by dysfunction in our mitochondria.
Dr Will Bulsiewicz on Diary of a CEO
Dr Will Bulsiewicz is an award-winning gastroenterologist (medicine that focuses on the digestive system) and a world-renowned gut-health expert. He is the author of over 20 scientific papers and the book, ‘Fibre Fuelled’. In this conversation, Dr Will and Steven discuss everything from, the power of the microbiome, why fibre is crucial for optimal health, the importance of understanding your poo, and why food can be just as powerful as medication.