The South Coast has a strong pedigree in loudspeaker technology: Turbosound, Funktion One and B&W, to name just three. Jim Evans reports on a more recent arrival with big ambitions.
A relative newcomer to the loudspeaker designer/manufacturer sector, Traction Sound raised a few eyebrows at PLASA Focus in Leeds earlier this year before making its major show debut at PLASA 2011 last month where the Brighton-based company’s SDS range of speakers was entered for the 2011 Innovation Awards and attracted considerable interest on the A.C. Entertainment Technologies (ACET) stand.
Traction Sound, which markets itself under the banner ‘Heavy Duty Sound Systems’, was established in 2009 by Billy Wood (operations director) and Shreddie Glew (marketing director). They were later joined by Andy Pardoe, (technical specialist) and Jonny Goodwillie (sales director) in 2010. The business operates out of offices in Brighton’s Old Steine and has its research/manufacturing facilities in a mews location in central Hove – and the directors are confident they can compete and succeed in a crowded marketplace.
Pardoe has worked for companies such as Bose, Turbosound and Martin Audio in loudspeaker research and development. If you ask him what the most rewarding part of his career has been, he will reply: “Watching 100,000 people in a field jumping up and down in unison to a bass beat emanating from the array he designed on the Glastonbury main stage.”
“I was frustrated with the plethora of ‘me too’ product development in the industry. I felt I needed a place to fully explore my creativity and use my technical expertise to its full potential,” he adds.
Goodwillie has been involved in virtually all aspects of the music business over the past 20 years. From promoting club nights and live performances to presenting a show on Brighton’s Juice radio station, DJ’ing across Europe and running Catskills Records & Music Publishing.
“Having worked in the music industry for so long, I was looking for a new project to get my teeth into. Having run my own business for some time alongside working with bands, DJs and venues, joining the Traction team was an obvious step forward and I felt I could bring a set of skills and experience to the company from outside of the pro-audio industry. That and I share a love of sound systems with the others. It still gives me a thrill to watch a stylus running through vinyl and then hearing it amplified through a great sound system.”
Shreddie's career in the entertainment industry began with playing keyboards and moved on to promoting and DJ’ing, working on Swiss national radio station Couleur 3 and in venues around the world. Gigging in central Europe tied in nicely with a career riding snowboards for Santa Cruz and stage-managing the original winter music festival, ChamJam.
“We all met through being involved in the music scene in Brighton and had a mutual love of sound systems. My global experience in varied markets has led to an intuitive understanding of brand and market requirements.”
Wood has for many years been in the music scene around Brighton. His work in aerospace test engineering has made him “strive for quality and accuracy and the ruthless attention to detail”.
Paul Atherton, pro audio sales manager at Traction Sound’s main distributor and partner RW Salt, has listened to more than a few loudspeakers and comments on the first Traction demo: “We are used to a lot of product demonstrations but when the Traction Sound guys started showing us their new SDS technology I realised that this was not a ‘run of the mill’ box. When they turned it on the accuracy of the sound was superb – possibly the best I have ever heard.”
Peter Butler from ACET adds: “Traction Sound really inspired us and the products are outstanding. On listening to Traction’s SDS sound system in a proper venue environment I was absolutely blown away by the performance and sound, which went completely beyond my expectations.”
“What ensures our loudspeakers stand apart is that they do away with the need for a compression driver and the inherent distortion so often associated with that,” says Pardoe. “In addition we have put a lot of work into voicing, DSP and crossovers to get the best sound from the components we use. This has been fine tuned with both portable and installation versions of the cabinets available.”
“In the design of our latest loudspeakers we wanted to make life easy for everyone who uses the product,” elaborates Wood. “This means that our installation loudspeakers are compatible with Powerdrive brackets and feature M10 flying points with a full range of flying hardware. For the portable loudspeaker range this means they incorporate large ergonomic handles which help stabilise the cabinet when used as stage wedges.”
The Traction team is confident of success, but is being careful not to grow too quickly. “The UK market is looking good for us,” says Goodwillie. “In due course we will look further afield, all the while working on R&D and looking at a number of potential new products. We aim to be a quality British loudspeaker manufacturer.”