Splash, splish, splash, splish . . . the sound of the oars slicing the water will be crystal clear, even if you are watching the 2016 Summer Olympics from the comfort of your couch instead of in sunny Rio de Janeiro—all thanks to Quantum5X Systems Inc. (Q5X). Q5X manufactures wireless microphone transmitters from its facility in the heart of London, Ontario. It may be local, but the company is a global game changer, in more ways than one.
Q5X specializes in wireless transmitters, receivers, and remote-controlled audio systems for sports, broadcasting, and entertainment purposes. Players or performers wear the tiny transmitters on their body, and these devices transmit the sounds of the game or performance in real time to the audience. For example, for the rowing portion of the 2016 Olympics, the transmitters will be installed on the buoys marking the racing lanes.
FANS WANT TO GET AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE TO THEIR IDOLS, AND PERFORMERS/PLAYERS WANT TO DEVELOP THE SPECIAL RAPPORT THAT MEANS BETTER EXPOSURE AND BETTER PAY. HAVING SUCH AN INTIMATE, REAL TIME CONNECTION TO FANS MEANS HIGHER ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: A WIN-WIN SITUATION.
Q5X makes professional sports more accessible. For instance, in National Hockey League (NHL) games, referees can turn on their microphones and announce penalties directly to spectators (both those in the arena and those watching the game on television), which is especially useful when the majority of spectators do not understand the hand signals used. Another major client of Q5X is the National Basketball Association (NBA). When players cannot be as padded as hockey players, it is essential that they can fall safely while wearing transmitters. At present, Q5X is the only maker of soft, rubber-enveloped transmitters.
The company has also ventured into film production. Its equipment has been used in various movies and shows, such as Pacific Rim, RoboCop, and a television series about figure skaters teaching hockey players how to dance on ice. Q5X also works with dancers. Before adopting Q5X wireless transmitters, the Rockettes of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall danced to a soundtrack of prerecorded taps. Due to its commitment to perfecting its live shows, Radio City decided to install transmitters in the heels of the tap dancers shoes instead. “300 transmitters and 300 shoes later, Q5X and Radio City Music Hall can boast the world’s largest installation of wireless transmitters,” says Q5X chief executive officer Paul Johnson. For other theatre productions, Q5X transmitters can also be worn under a wig or in the actor’s clothing.
A Harvard MBA graduate and former employee of McKinsey & Company, London-raised Johnson graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Waterloo, and runs two other companies besides Q5X. Q5X was originally founded by a group of local inventors in 2002, through contacts in the entertainment, television, and film industries. The company was quickly approached by the NHL for referee microphones, and then by the NBA for the same technology, but remote-controlled.
Q5X’s facilities, where almost 1,000 transmitters are created each year, include a pressure chamber, 3D printer, and laser for etching the bold Q5X logo into products. In the rapid prototyping lab, coloured vats full of materials wait to be mixed and poured into hot pink molds. While the Adelaide Street office might appear upbeat and relaxed, Johnson’s hiring techniques are stringent and meticulous. He grills candidates with successive technical questions, to discover whether they truly have sufficient engineering knowledge. One employee Johnson hired, for example, primarily qualified because of his hobbies—other students in his class would not have stood a chance. Employees typically come from London and the surrounding area. Further, when local firm Spartan Electronics closed several years ago, Q5X was able to employ several people from the company, providing them with highly valued electronics positions in a city with only modest demand.
Customers like the NHL and the NBA have become flagship clients as Q5X turns to the burgeoning U.S. college sports market. “We’re the only people in the world doing exactly what we do,” says Johnson, “and the market for tiny and rugged transmitters is growing rapidly.” While the firm’s management has considered American expansion and may establish a distribution facility further south, Johnson confirms that Q5X would never move production from Canada. “The United States and the rest of the world respect Canada’s leadership in radio technology,” Johnson explains. “From an industry perspective, being Canadian is a huge asset.”
MANY FIRMS MAKE WIRELESS MICROPHONES, BUT ONLY Q5X CAN LAY CLAIM TO THE WORLD’S SMALLEST BROADCAST-QUALITY TRANSMITTER.
These devices give the same high-quality performance as the larger, bulkier versions that competitors offer, but are half the size, encased in a protective cushion, fully rechargeable, and remote controlled. Although they will always be a niche player, Q5X’s agility, responsiveness, creativity, and ability to work in small volumes will ensure its competitiveness years to come.
Discover what Q5X can do for you by visiting their website www.q5x.com.
Quantum5X (Q5X) is a privately owned corporation that specializes in wireless solutions for challenging audio problems in sports, broadcast and entertainment. Based in London ON, Q5X is a fast growing company that is focused on research and development to lead the industry with smart, small, and tough wireless audio technology. They boast the world’s smallest radio broadcast transmitters.
Headquarters: 30 Adelaide Street North, London, ON N6B 3N5
- Paul Johnson, President
Year established: 2002
Number of employees: 20
Line of business
Radio and Television Broadcasting and wireless communication equipment
NAICS: 334220 – Radio and Television Broadcasting and Wireless Communication equipment manufacturing
- Products include: wireless transmitters, remote control audio system, receivers, microphones, intermodulation software, antenna systems etc.
- QT- 256—World’s smallest wireless voice transmitter; fully waterproof and submersible
- QT-1000 Playermic—World’s only rubber flexible wireless transmitter
- Aquamic—World’s only waterproof, submersible wireless transmitter
- QT-5000 Remote Control Audio System—World’s first wireless remote control audio system
- Tapshoemic—The world’s first and only remote controlled Tap-Shoe microphone system
Customers: A few of the key, long-standing clients are the NBA, NHL, and MLB, as well Radio City Music Hall.
Exports: over 95%, mostly to the United States
R&D, Skills and Educational needs
Employees: required skill sets/ industry experiences include: embedded firmware design as well as understanding of board-level electronics design; PC and mobile software development; firmware and software development, electronic design and assembly, radio design engineering, analog radio frequency engineering, mechatronics and mechanical design
Educations: Electronics or Mechatronics Engineering Degree or Electronics Technologist Diploma, some Western undergraduate and PhD degrees, Fanshawe technicians
Q5X was founded in 2002 by a group of local inventors, through contacts in the entertainment, TV, and film industries.
Many companies make wireless microphones, but not in the same form factor (direct current/alternating current ratio) or niche.
- Government Relationships: IRAP, SR&ED very useful, government support is good in Canada
- Educational Institution partnerships: no formal ones, but have been considering for years and think it’s a great idea
- Smallest in the market
- Unique remote control system
- Safe, rechargeable
- Good quality – best in the industry
- R&D environment in Canada conducive to good technical talent
- Strong, happy key clients, good name
- Relatively small markets
- Entering consumer markets is capital intensive
- Not a lot of opportunity to become a huge company
- Hard to find good analog and mixed signal engineers
- Rapidly evolving market – technology and legislation – requires ongoing R&D
- Growing market in broadcast, especially college sports
- Action Audio Apps Inc. and O5X systems Inc. have teamed to introduce the first smartphone enabled app that allows fans in a venue to listen to the player’s interactions on the field.
- Q5X will be supplying transmitters for the 2016 Olympics rowing competition