Long before there was “high-end,” “luxury,” or “high-performance” audio, there was the center of all high-quality recorded sound: the world of professional recording and broadcast. This is where Boulder began. In the 1970s Jeff Nelson was a largely self-taught electronics savant who owned a recording studio and built mixing boards for other studios.
Later as an engineer at Pacific Recorders, Jeff was responsible for developing a pivotal piece of equipment in the broadcast industry: the Tomcat cart (tape cartridge) machine. Built for reliability and sound quality, for years the Tomcat was the established high-performance cart machine in broadcast studios throughout the world. Over 3,000 were sold over its production lifetime.
In 1984 Boulder debuted the 500 Power Amplifier. The ruggedly built 500 quickly found popularity in numerous professional applications where people who listen for a living found it unmatched in clarity and accuracy. Many went to recording studios, loudspeaker manufacturers, and broadcast facilities where they still continue to perform day after day in grueling duty cycles.
Boulder designed and released the L5M, 102M and 500M. The M Series products were an evolution of an already exceptional product line, combining the electronic innards of the AE products with a new satin and polished aluminum fascia that appealed to the eyes as much as the sound appealed to the ears.
The iconic 2000 Series was introduced—the materialization of an abstract ideal of what components would be if they were perfect. If a particular part could improve a product, then the design required that part. No corners cut, no shortcuts taken, no limitations placed on the engineering team. Cost did not figure into the equation before the design and optimal performance criteria were achieved. The 2010 Preamplifier, 2020 Advance D/A Converter, 2050 Mono Power Amplifier and 2060 Stereo Power Amplifier defined the essence of “high-end.”
After years of steady growth, the company relocated its production facilities from Superior, Colorado to the heart of Boulder’s commercial and industrial sector.
The larger manufacturing space included room for a dedicated machine shop and Boulder acquired its first Haas CNC vertical machining center. Developing metal fabrication and finishing capabilities in-house was an important milestone. A successful family machining business was in Jeff’s history, so Boulder’s move in this direction, while unusual for an audio manufacturer, was a familiar one.
The 1000 Series debuted with the Boulder 1060 Stereo Power Amplifier. The 1060 shared many of the features of the larger 2000 Series, beginning with a non-resonant machined chassis and its own version of Boulder’s distinctive aluminum heatsinks. The 1060 design was quite conservatively rated at 300 watts per channel. With this kind of power, it was nearly as tolerant of demanding program material and difficult loads as its much larger predecessors.
The Boulder 1012 DAC Preamplifier—an analog preamplifier, digital-to-analog converter and phono preamplifier in one chassis—was first shown at the Consumer Electronics Show. A few months later it was named Component of the Year by Japan’s prestigious Stereo Sound magazine.
The pièce de résistance for the year was Boulder’s 2008 Phono Preamplifier, a product for which Stereophile magazine created the “A+” rating for electronics and called it “one of the 100 most important products in the history of audio.”
At its introduction the enthusiasm for this esoteric component surpassed even Boulder’s expectations. Originally created for a handful of 2010 owners, it was presumed that a limited production run of a few pieces would be built upon request. Instead, the 2008 had a waiting list of customers for a good portion of its lifespan.
Boulder unveiled the 1010 Stereo Preamplifier, later named “Product of the Year” by Ultra Audio magazine along with the 1060 Stereo Amplifier. A more traditional two-channel preamplifier, the 1010 was identical to the Boulder 1012 DAC Preamplifier but without the digital-to-analog conversion circuitry.
Boulder released its first entirely new product line in six years: the 800 Series. The 800 Series was the first generation of products designed completely with Boulder’s new CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) design system.
The 800 Series debuted with the 850 Mono Amplifier, a small, 200W powerhouse in a half-width chassis. The unique size lent itself to much easier installation in custom applications. The 850 also proudly demonstrated that Boulder could offer its legendary performance in a much smaller package without scaling back performance.
In September Boulder quietly released the 865 Integrated Amplifier with the intent that it would find a niche in places where space or budget prohibited the use of separate products. Instead, the 865 exceeded expectations and become a viable solution not just for those with system limitations, but for music lovers of all kinds. It quickly collected more review requests than any other product in Boulder’s line up.
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was the site of the first appearance of the 1021 Network Disc Player. The 1021 was one of the largest undertakings in the company’s history. It was also the first complete source component from Boulder.
The truly innovative aspect of the 1021 was that it didn’t need a disc at all to make music: When connected to a network, the 1021 could decode and play music files from a media server or computer anywhere in the home with no loss of realism. Ultra-high resolution music file playback from either streaming or a disc was simply icing on the cake.
In the midst of the engineering phase of the 1008 Phono Preamplifier, a new state-of-the-art surface-mount circuit board manufacturing system was acquired and installed at the factory. Every aspect of manufacturing was now under Boulder’s control, leaving no production detail unaccounted for. Circuit board quality was vastly improved and metalwork did not leave the machine shop unless it was flawless. The production team also created assembly manuals to guarantee unit-to-unit production consistency. Nothing was left to chance that could affect the potential satisfaction of Boulder customers around the world.
Prior to the 3050s, there had been no such thing as a true reference-level audio product. There was always a compromise, shortcoming or limiting element of the design that wasn’t taken as far as possible. Even products with an extremely high price tag had the tiniest bit of cynicism in the results.
And then came the 3050s.
The new 3000 Series was Boulder’s all-out endeavor to find the limits of audio reproduction. It would also fundamentally change the way every future Boulder release would be developed.
It had been eighteen years since the release of the original 2000 Series’ 2010 preamplifier. In that time, Boulder had undergone a complete vertical integration and become entirely responsible for its own manufacturing. Technology had also marched forward, so it was time to reengineer the first products that had established Boulder as the preeminent manufacturer of high-performance home-audio electronics.
In January the world got to see the new 2100 Series for the first time. The all-new 2110 Preamplifier debuted alongside the new 1000W 2150 Mono Amplifiers which would eventually earn Stereophile magazine’s “Amplification Product of the Year” Award. In May the 600-watt-per-channel 2160 Stereo Amplifier was released, followed by the 2120 Streaming D/A Converter the following year. The lineup of revised 2100 Series products was complete. Distortion and coloration were lowered to make the new 2100 components the most transparent and revealing products in the world (with the exception of Boulder’s own 3000 Series, of course).
Boulder embarked on the largest project the company had ever undertaken: construction of a new, 23,000-square-foot facility that would more than double factory space. The company had outgrown the existing building and the extra room needed to grow was no longer available. A three-acre plot of land was purchased in the nearby town of Louisville, Colorado, approximately 15 minutes east of Boulder. Architectural and design work began in earnest.
It was decided that the new factory would be used as both an optimal location to build the world’s finest audio products and a way to showcase these abilities to visitors. Boulder’s beautiful new space would reflect the culture of the company and the quality of its people and products.
The new factory substantially increased design efficiency and once again Boulder revisited another 18 year old icon with spectacular results: the 1000 Series became the 1100 Series, which quickly gathered awards from Japan, the United States, Poland, France, England, Hong Kong, and China, among others.
The first new product to appear in the 1100 line was the 1160 Stereo Amplifier, a 300W powerhouse that one Boulder dealer remarked is “the biggest advance in performance Boulder has ever made.” Quickly following the 1160 was the 1110 Preamplifier, a technologically loaded and fully programmable unit that could easily be integrated into the latest generation of automated smart homes.
In addition to new technology, the 1100 debuted a new design detail: curves. The 1100 had subtle curves on all edges of its heatsinks and also featured new front panel designs highlighted with three-dimensional topographical maps of Flagstaff Mountain, located just west of Boulder, Colorado
At the 2018 Munich High End Show in May, Boulder showed the world the 508 Phono Preamplifier for the very first time. Designed from the onset to be the most design efficient product in Boulder’s lineup, the 508 became the smallest and most cost-effective product the company had released in more than 25 years. A product stripped down to the very essentials with balanced circuitry packed in casework hewn from a solid block of metal, the 508 managed the impossible: sounding huge, refined, and powerful in a tiny little chassis.
Under Jeff Nelson’s leadership, Boulder has grown and prospered for over 30 years. The company has also retained the invaluable experience of a number of employees who have been with the company since its earliest days. These dedicated craftsmen, technicians and designers breathe life into the original Boulder vision and make it a reality. Their enthusiasm ensures that the Boulder philosophy will continue as long as lovers of music and film desire to listen with the very finest audio components in the world.
With a new manufacturing space and ample room to grow, the future will see Boulder continue what Jeff started: identifying current shortcomings and then creating what will inevitably become the industry’s standard by executing every detail, from concept to completion, better than anyone else.
In August of 2016 Boulder moved to a new manufacturing facility in Louisville, Colorado. At 23,000 square feet, the new factory is more than twice the size of the previous building and enables engineering and assembly operations to be more productive and efficient.
The current Boulder factory features the latest energy conscious lighting and ventilation systems, automated access and locking systems, three dedicated listening spaces, and a new production and machining area to improve what is already the highest standard in the industry for design, fabrication, and assembly.
Tours are offered with advance notice and on a limited basis. For information about visiting the factory, please contact Boulder at (303)-449-8220, x110 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.