Family, friends celebrate life of 'audio genius' Norman Druce

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
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Detroit — About 100 relatives, friends and associates showed up at Third Man Records on Sunday for a “Celebration of Life” memorial for Norman Druce, an audio engineer who died earlier this month.

Norman Druce, a sought-after audio engineer, died in Oct. 7. Druce, 46, of Holly was touted for his electronic acumen and custom-built studio speakers and consoles used at some of the nation's top studios and producers.

Druce, 46, of Holly who died Oct. 7, was touted for his electronic acumen and custom-built studio speakers and consoles used at some of the nation’s top studios and by producers. Those using his products under his Atomic Instruments brand, which was developed in Detroit, represent a who’s who of recording artists including Eminem, the Black Keys, Lana Del Rey, Prince, Kid Rock and others.

His philosophy, according to the Atomic Instrument website, "comes from the tradition of ‘old school’ audio without the constant need or reliance on computers. Instead, he finds a happy medium between the two."

The memorial was held at Third Man Records, a record printing plant on West Canfield Street created by Detroit-born and bred singer Jack White, which utilizes some of Druce’s speakers.

“There was nothing remotely normal about Norm,” said his brother, Jeff Druce, one of several people who recounted memories of Druce and his passion for music and involvement in advancing the quality of sound in speakers and studios.

“My brother was an audio genius and a maverick humanitarian,” said Druce. “His brain and his heart were his assets. He loved to figure out how to produce energy efficient equipment other people told him just wouldn’t work, and he would prove to them it would. And at the same time, he couldn’t turn off his compassion for homeless people or being upset over seeing a kitten shivering in the cold …”

Colin Dupuis, an old friend who lived and worked with Norman Druce, and even took a memorable cross-country trip to San Francisco with him, said he still hasn’t got over the shock of his sudden death.

“I keep thinking he’s going to call me tomorrow and hear him say, ‘Whazzzup?’ “ said Dupuis.

Others, including Norman Druce’s widow, Misty Druce, recalled how her husband labored for years to get recognized, working out of small apartments and rented motel rooms to create and finally market power-supply boxes and monitors to studios under Atomic Instruments that has since attracted wide industry attention.

“That was his dream and he finally made it,” she said, her voice breaking.

His brother said Atomic Instruments “will continue … it will live on.”

His website notified fans of his work that he had died.

"Audio genius, mad scientist, and Atomic founder Norman Druce passed away on October 7th, leaving us all without his beautiful mind, intense passion, and loving spirit," the notice said. "However, Atomic will live on. Norm dreamed of providing the world with energy-efficient, low-noise power supplies and world-class sound monitors — all with a vintage aesthetic that studio owners display proudly."

Nashville, Tennessee-based song writer, mixer and producer Will Pugh was taken with Druce's work.

 “Thanks dude!!! You seriously changed my career with these speakers," he wrote on the Atomic Instrument website.

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