Universal Audio was founded in 1958 by Bill Putnam Sr. as a maker of recording equipment. Putnam was the inventor of the modern recording console, the multi-band audio equalizer, and the vocal booth, and he was the first engineer to use artificial reverberation in commercial recording. Alongside his friend Les Paul, Putnam was also involved in the early development of stereophonic recording. Putnam started three audio product companies during his career: Universal Audio, Studio Electronics, and UREI. All three companies built equipment that remains widely used decades after their introduction, including the LA-2A and 1176 compressors, and the 610 tube recording console.