From 1968 to the present: the history of ISVR Consulting

In 2018, ISVR Consulting officially celebrated its Golden Jubilee. 

The Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton is one of the pioneers of university-industry collaboration, and ISVR Consulting can trace its conception to 1966 when an “Advisory Service for Industry” was established within the Institute.


Man and van - Noise measurements in the 1960s - ISVR

Early days of the Industrial Noise Unit - Noise measurements in the 1960s

The need for this service arose from the increasing pressure placed upon the Institute by industry to help in evaluating and controlling noise and vibration problems. Initially the service was run informally by the academic and research staff, but it soon became clear that the demand was too great for a ‘spare time’ activity and that the service should be organized on a firmer, commercial footing.

A full-time staff was essential to offer a rapid and confidential service, and on 1st March 1968 the “Industrial Noise Unit” was formally established, with three consultants, as a self-financing group within the ISVR “… to provide, through consultation, assistance to private, industrial, commercial and governmental bodies in resolving problems concerning noise and vibration”. This was the unit which would later become known as “ISVR Consulting”. 

The Rayleigh Building in 1970 - ISVR

The Rayleigh Building in 1970

The Rayleigh Building, which houses the ISVR’s anechoic and reverberant test chambers, was also completed in March 1968.  The Rayleigh Building became the Industrial Noise Unit's permanent home.

Logo of the Wolfson Unit from 1968

Also in 1968, the Wolfson Foundation awarded the Institute a sum of £30 000, payable over three years, as “pump priming” support to improve and extend the services provided, the funds to be expended in the appointment of a Technical Manager, an Administrative Officer, and the purchase of laboratory equipment and vehicles for use by the Unit. In recognition of this support, the Unit was renamed “The Wolfson Unit for Noise and Vibration Control” (WUNVC).

The WUNVC continued to grow, and by 1970 the staff numbered seven consultants with six technical assistants and administrative staff. At this time a Technical Manager, Colin Gordon, was appointed. Colin was previously with the noise consultancy of Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) in the USA.

ADAU's logo

In 1972, a part of the Unit concerned with automotive design work “a specialism distinct from the other areas of involvement of the WUNVC” was formally established as a separate entity under the name “The Automotive Design Advisory Unit” (ADAU) with lab and test facilities at Chilworth to the north of Southampton.  In 1975 Colin Gordon returned to BBN, and Andrew Middleton succeeded him as Technical Manager of WUNVC.


Photo of the Wolfson Building as it is today

The Wolfson / Rayleigh Building as extended

In 1978 an extension was added to the Rayleigh Building enlarging the ground floor area and adding a new top floor.  The extension provided new offices and workshops for the Wolfson Unit for Noise and Vibration Control and the Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics.


Rayleigh Laboratories signage, the faint outline of the original lettering, Rayleigh Building,is still visible

The original Rayleigh Building was renamed the Rayleigh Laboratories and the complete extended building became the Wolfson Building. However, the original structure is often referred to as the Rayleigh Building, even now.

The ACHCU letterhead used the University's shield

In 1982 the Wolfson Unit for Noise and Vibration Control again divided, and the “Auditory Communication and Hearing Conservation Unit” (ACHCU) was formed as a separate unit with Peter Wheeler as Manager. ACHCU's main areas of work were speech intelligibility testing of communication systems, development of Active Noise Reduction systems, Adaptive Noise Cancellation systems, warning sound development, noise at work assessments, noise-induced hearing loss, and hearing protector testing.

Wolfson Unit logo from the 1980s - the white stripes were deliberate, not the output from a dot-matrix printer

At around this time, Mike House succeeded Andrew Middleton as manager of WUNVC.

The original ICS logo

Peter Wheeler moved to Racal Acoustics in 1987, and shortly afterwards, the ACHCU and WUNVC were reunited under the name “ISVR Consultancy Services” with Mike House taking the role of Technical Manager.

The new and improved ICS logo.

Bob Davis took over as Technical Manager in 1990.  We began our web site in 1996.  Andrew Bullmore took over from Bob in 1999, followed by Stuart Dyne in 2001.

ISVR Consulting's logo. The department still hasn't realised our initials are no longer ICS.  There's academics for you.

The Automotive Design Advisory Unit became increasingly involved in marine noise and vibration, a natural extension of the automotive work. Reorganisation and rationalisation of the consultancy activities within the ISVR saw ISVR Consultancy Services and the Automotive Design Advisory Unit coming together under the new title “ISVR Consulting” and sharing common administrative and financial procedures.

The Dolphin logo The new corporate brand logo

February 2008 saw the end of the University of Southampton’s Dolphin logo (above left) and the beginning of a new corporate branding across the University (above right). As part of the branding we began to use a variant of the University's main logo …

New logo 

… which we used until the University changed it’s branding guidelines again so that no departmental name could be included under the University name.  We now have to separate the University’s logo from our own new text logotype, as on this page.

In 2009 the former ADAU activities were relocated from their Chilworth outstation to rejoin the rest of the ISVR Consulting facilities within the Wolfson Building and Rayleigh Laboratories on the University’s Highfield campus.  As part of the relocation, old test cells at the western end of the Wolfson Building were refurbished as a Product Development Laboratory, which this houses the former ADAU's banger rig and automotive testing.  Malcolm Smith became manager from October 2009, followed by Simon Roberts who took over in 2017.

In August 2011, the University of Southampton changed its faculty structure.  The teaching and research part of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research became an Academic Unit within the new Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, and now shares many administrative and financial staff with the other Academic Units in the faculty, while ISVR Consulting continues as an Enterprise Unit carrying out consultancy and commercially funded contract research.  The new faculty now has an Assistant Dean for Enterprise to support and promote the activities of ISVR Consulting and the other enterprise units.  This reflects an increasing recognition of enterprise activities within the University.  The Wolfson Building now houses the offices of four of the Faculty‘s Enterprise Units in the ‘Enterprise Zone’: not only ISVR Consulting but also the Research Institute for Industry (RIfI), nC2 and E&E Partners.  The Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics (WUMTIA) has now moved to Boldrewood, to be close to the new towing tank, and the Auditory Implant Centre (formerly the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre) has moved to the building next door (B19). 

In August 2018 the University of Southampton rearranged its faculty structure, reducing the number of faculties from eight to five.  ISVR Consulting is in the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.


So what has changed over the years…?

A B&K 2203 sound level meter and Nagra reel-to-reel tape recorder in use in the anechoic room ca 1970

A B&K 2203 sound level meter
and Nagra reel-to-reel tape recorder
in use in the anechoic room,
cutting edge technology ca 1970

… Well the equipment for a start. Back in 1968 noise surveys were done with a B&K 2203 sound level meter on a neck strap, possibly with an octave-band filter set attached,  with a Nagra 3 or IV-S reel-to-reel tape recorder slung over a shoulder. The Nagra alone contained 12 D-size NiCad rechargeable batteries.  The equipment was ‘portable’ but would probably have been condemned under today’s manual handling guidelines.  When you’d done a noise survey you certainly felt it. 

A B&K 2250 sound level meter

A B&K 2250 sound level

Today our light-weight B&K 2250 sound level meters are called ‘hand-held analysers’ by the manufacturer, and can log spectra and record ‘wav’ files on memory cards at the press of a button.

In 1968 reports were written long-hand for our secretaries to type up on IBM Golfball typewriters, sometimes using Roneo stencils if a client wanted a lot of copies.  Where would we have been without Sellotape and Tippex?  Until recently, all those paper reports were still in our archive room, but we have now scanned all the old WUNVC, ADAU and ACHCU paper reports for archiving as soft copies alongside our more recent word-processed reports. 

These days we type our own reports for our secretary to tidy up after us and do the hard bits (like stopping footnotes splitting over 2 pages, and avoiding other ‘features’ of MS Word).

In 1968, it would still be six years before the Institute of Acoustics was formed by the British Acoustical Society and the Institute of Physics. 


50th Anniversary