Richard Wybault Swettenham's biography

Dick Swettenham was born in Bedford, England on 21 July 1927.

He decided to be an audio engineer at the age of 15 when the BBC Symphony Orchestra broadcast from his high school hall. He applied to join the BBC at 16 but they lost the forms!

After National Service with the RAF (1945-48), Dick went on to graduate from the Northern Polytechnic, London, in Telecommunications Engineering and Radio (1948-1951).

His professional audio career started at EMI Abbey Road Studios in 1951 where he spent five years as a maintenance engineer. He was responsible for setting up the first 'Stereosonic' recording channels at Abbey Road to produce reel-to-reel stereo tape releases. He also specialised in foreign location recordings eg opera at La Scala, Milan.

In 1956 he moved to Argo Record Company as Chief Engineer. Here he was involved in location recording, sound mixing (mainly classical music), tape editing, disk mastering and quality control of processing and pressing.

Also in 1958 he joined the Audio Engineering Society as a full member and in 1974 presented a paper on Mobile Recording Services at the AES Convention in Copenhagen.

1958 saw the move to Olympic Sound Studios as Technical Director where he was mixing all kinds of music, film sound and TV commercials. He planned and installed studio facilities: 3 rooms, film dubbing and disk mastering studios. As was the custom in those days, much equipment was built in house and he designed five mixing consoles and ancilliary equipment.

In 1969 he founded both Helios Electronics Limited and Richard Swettenham Associates — the latter being an audio engineering and acoustic consultancy.

The Helios company was based in Teddington, London, intitially working on consoles for Island Studios followed and then projects like The Rolling Stones Mobile, the Island Mobile, Berwick Street Studios, London, Arc Studios, Nigeria and Love Records Studio, Helsinki, Finland.

Consultancy work continued after Helios Electronics Limited was closed in 1979 and this included work on Peter Gabriel's studio, commissioning a mixing console at Russian Hill Studios, San Francisco, and acoustic design work for Spafax Television's locations in Box and Bristol, UK.

In addition, he presented papers to the Audio Engineering Society, authored chapters for the standard training manual Sound Recording Practice and wrote magazine articles for the professional press including:

  • Chapters on mixing consoles and mobile recording for the APRS textbook Sound Recording Practice
  • Consoles for the 80s in Recording Engineer and Producer, August 1981
  • Development of the Mixing Console in Studio Sound November 1982

In his spare time he was into boating and became a qualified Yachtmaster.

He passed away in April 2000.