‘People will always want quality’: PMC R&D manager Oliver Thomas on why 2017 has been a crucial year for the company

PMC’s manager of R&D and service tells us about his background in audio and why 2017 has been a crucial year for the company…
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PMC research and development manager Oliver Thomas

PMC research and development manager Oliver Thomas

Tell us how you started your career in audio?

I grew up around speakers, HiFi and all sorts of audio equipment that was regularly scattered around the family home. My father is an avid collector of audio equipment and it wasn’t just speakers that he accumulated. During the early days of PMC when I was quite young, a lot of speaker development was performed at home, so I regularly had BB5s shaking my bedroom floor from the listening room below.

You’ve spent most of your career with PMC. How has the company changed and evolved during that time?

It has changed a lot – more than doubled in size and its processes and approach to product development have become far more sophisticated. The audio industry is changing rapidly and our response to this is to produce products that incorporate the latest technological developments and address market demands.

You spent a couple of years away from PMC (2010-12) with Redbull Technology. What did you learn during that time, and what prompted the return to PMC?

Working there allowed me to see and learn the best standards for design from the pinnacle of engineering and manufacture. These are tricky things to learn unless you are gaining knowledge through experience; Redbull designs parts that are used in a very harsh environment, so durability is important. I learned a lot about specifying the right materials with the right properties so that you get the best performance from a product. I also worked with the very best test and measurement equipment and learned how to test products properly. This is knowledge I have brought to PMC to improve our test procedures and achieve more accurate results, even though our test budget is much smaller.

What have been your highlights of 2017?

Winning awards for our new BB6 and MB3 speakers at NAMM was a great way to start the year. Those systems really show the evolution of PMC’s technology. The BB6 has essentially replaced the first speaker we ever made, but it incorporates new technology and everything we have learned in development and manufacturing. Another highlight was the launch of the COR amp – our first true HiFi analogue amplifier. We approached the design with no constraints and created a product with unique features and performance to rival the best. The year has also ended on a high with the launch of result6 at AES New York. We set out to produce a small professional active speaker that was more affordable than our twotwo range but still sounded as fantastic as any other PMC speakers.

How significant an addition are these products to the PMC product portfolio?

Result6 is important because it allows new people to become familiar with the PMC brand and what we can deliver. We have kept PMC’s renowned audio quality but made the product simpler and more affordable, which is great news for a lot of people who wanted PMC speakers but were previously unable to afford them. In contrast, our BB6 and MB3 monitors may seem expensive but they deliver incredible performance, particularly when you compare them to the models they supersede. We have applied all our technical know-how to bring them bang up to date and we have significantly improved their power output, damping and drive units, as well as improving their DSP. It was important for us to bring these products up to date because they are a key part of our pro audio portfolio.

We’re almost at the end of 2017, so what are your predictions for 2018? Are there any market trends you’ve seen that you expect to continue into the new year?

Audio over IP and DSP room correction are certainly hot topics. Perhaps because there are fewer commercial studios these days – and therefore fewer engineers to set things up – the industry seems focused on making products that are straightforward, easy to integrate and simple to set up. Take DSP room correction: Designing the room acoustics properly is always the best option, but some people can’t or won’t do that, so a lot of companies are building DSP room correction into their products to help them. This trend could go one way or the other next year – either we’ll see a lot more companies putting DSP room correction into products or we’ll see people recognising that room correction technology isn’t there yet and they are better off spending money on decent acoustic treatment.

What are the biggest challenges for a company like PMC in today’s market?

To make sure we design products that give our customers what they need and want. There are a lot of companies bombarding the market with products that are not great in terms of quality and that means some people are not getting the best kit for their studios. Our aim is to spend money on developing the right products at the right price. We don’t want to dumb down on quality because that’s not what we stand for, but we must make sure we don’t lose market share to companies whose products are just cheap.

And what are the biggest opportunities?

People who hear our monitors usually love them, and that’s our biggest opportunity. When I talk to people who have bought PMC they can’t stop praising our speakers and saying how much more they can hear, how much better they can do their jobs and how much longer they can spend in the studio because their ears don’t get tired. That’s a nice validation because people will always want quality, which is what we offer. 

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