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Comrex’s Kris Specht Retires

Her tenure with the broadcast company began in the early 1990s

For years, you’d find Kris Bobo Specht in the Comrex booth at the NAB Show, talking about the latest innovations. That’s about to change with her retirement as managing director of the company.

She was recruited for Comrex by the late Lynn Distler and John Cheney, beginning her tenure with the company as a part-time marketer back in the early 1990s. “When I toured the offices, John and Lynn showed me an office, saying ‘We’ve been saving this office for you.’”

Comrex began in 1961 as a company that produced wireless microphones for Broadway productions. It has reinvented itself a few times since, and today it manufactures tools for producing interactive, real-time, low-delay audio and video from the field, maximizing whatever connections are available.

Specht and Comrex Technical Director Tom Hartnett worked on projects like the Nexus and HotLine frequency extenders as that reinvention continued. Specht says Comrex was a wonderful company to work for but noted that Cheney and Distler had high expectations. Sometimes those expectations would cause thousands of dollars of parts to be tossed in the trash bin. One of those projects that Specht remembers distinctly was the Codec Buddy.

Kris Specht, with elbow on desk, and Tom Hartnett next to her pose with Comrex colleagues and some of the tools she helped design and build during her time with the company. (Comrex provided photo)

The Codec Buddy was specified to use a less expensive channel fader than the industry standard Penny and Giles devices. One weekend before the launch and production, Specht found the less expensive faders in a trash bin, with a note from Cheney asking for a justification to use the less expensive fader by Monday morning. That didn’t happen; the Codec Buddy was built with P+G faders. It’s among the many legacy products from the company that are still in use.  

Hartnett said Specht developed a no-nonsense attitude when assigned to solve problems. “She quickly learned what she needed about the broadcast world and took over primary responsibility for our products from a user experience and industrial design standpoint,” said Hartnett.

During her tenure, Specht has seen many changes in the broadcast business; however, she says one constant is Comrex’s reputation for customer service. “When I started, there were 10 engineers for one station. That’s changed,” said Specht. “We’ve worked to develop tools (Access, Bric Link and Live Shot) that can be used by anyone. And when you call Comrex during business hours, a live body answers the phone.”  

Hartnett and Specht became co-directors of Comrex in 2006. “We found our sync in kind of an ‘id and ego’ fashion,” said Hartnett, “with me supplying the tech and logic while she worked to mold the image and style of the company into what we have today. She has also run our ship financially, overseeing the transition into a fully employee-owned company.”

Comrex booth visitors at NAB would also inquire about the pets that would come to work at their Massachusetts headquarters, located on the grounds of the former Fort Devens. Specht says some of those pets still roam the halls.

When we asked her about post-retirement plans, Specht said she’ll pursue what she called “odd hobbies” — also known as glass blowing, wood turning and 3D printing.

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