January 28, 2011

10 Qs For Andy Duffield, Sales Manager ROW, PMC Loudspeakers.

This is the second time I am talking to Andy Duffield of PMC speakers. I first met him during the 2009 KLIAV Show, when he was here to launch the Fact 8 model, which I eventually bought as my daily pair of reference speakers(which proved to be a highly controversial choice!).

Andy had just stepped in to his position then, but this time round, he is able to provide us with a whole lot more insight about what goes on behind the doors of PMC loudspeakers.

Andy with the big bad PMC boy, MB2-XBD active speaker system.

Big E: Hi! Nice to meet you again. For the benefit of our newer readers, please tell us some basic info about the PMC loudspeaker brand and company?

AD: PMC is based in Lutton, about 30 kilometers north of London. We have 34 staff working in the plant and most of our products are destined for major recording studios around the world, like Teldec, Sony Music, and WMG(Warner Music Group) amongst others . Many world class musicians, like Stevie Wonder, Robbie Williams and the artist formerly known as Prince, only work with the use of our monitors in the studios and their home audio system.

Domestic hifi loudspeaker has been our secondary market for a long time, but I can tell you that things are changing this year, PMC's 20th Anniversary as a company. We'll be coming out with a series of 20th Anniversary and Signature models to celebrate the occasion!

Big E: You mean near Lutton Airport? Care to tell us more about PMC's founders Peter Thomas and Adrian Loader?

AD: Yes, our factory is situated just at the end of the Lutton airport's runway. Peter was working in the Specifications Dept. at BBC and Adrian Loader was a console supplier to the BBC. They were good friends and serious audiophiles who shared a view that no loudspeaker could satisfy their needs at the time. They look at it from both ends, the professional(powerful dynamics but poor refinement) and the domestic hifi(very refined but lacks excitement of live music) sectors. They wanted to make a speaker that could do it all!

In the 1980's like the rest of British institutions, BBC was privatised. That led to many departments being closed and jobs cut. It was this time that Peter and Adrian started PMC loudspeakers in 1991.
The classic PMC LB-1 speaker is a highly successful model, too bad there will be no re-issues for the company's 20th Anniversary occasion.

Big E: With PMC's 20th Anniversary, would you be re-issuing the PMC LB-1 Anniversary speakers?

AD: It's funny that you asked, because our dealer in Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong asked exactly the same question! And the answer is no. I would agree that the LB-1 is a very good loudspeaker, but we are unable to find parts to build them anymore. We have however designed the PMC Fact 3 as the spiritual successor to the LB-1. Actually the Fact 3 has benefited from newer design knowledge and parts quality improvement, which makes it a better loud speaker.
The PMC presentation session of the MB2-XBD, and other top active speaker systems.

Big E: Despite PMC's success in the professional field, I've found that since owning the Fact 8 loudspeakers, that many of my audiophile buddies don't really know much about the PMC brand or it's products. How do you plan to address that?

AD: I'd agree that our brand is kind of an open secret, it's like a secret branch of the audiophile society. People would hear a PMC based audio system, and they would say "it's a PMC, but shh.......!"(Andy did this in a whispering tone) I think this is one of our problems, and it's our own fault that we may have not done enough on the marketing side of things, to communicate with our target market, the audiophiles and quality conscious music lover. We would improve our communications with our targeted audience for sure.

Big E: In the crowded high end loudspeaker market, how does PMC plan to differentiate it self from the other players?

AD: There's a two pronged strategy we plan to employ. One, we'd like to leverage on our success in the professional side of things. Let our customers know that should one demand the most truthful speaker, such as those used by professionals on the job of recording, mixing and mastering, then PMC should be right up there amongst the considered candidates. Two, did you know that PMC is the only loudspeaker manufacturer that still use Advanced Transmission Line for the basis of bass reproduction? I know there were other manufacturers doing it previously, but it's only us now, as most have either gone out of business or have given up on the transmission line designs.

Big E: Regarding transmission line designs, most experienced audiophiles tend to react rather negatively to them, they would either complain about bloated or muddled bass from such design, even before listening!

AD: Like I said earlier, there were other loudspeaker manufacturer who made transmission line design based products. Some do it better than others, and many audiophiles may have experienced poor examples of the design due to a myriad of factors, including poorly set up systems or inferior loudspeaker design amongst others. All I can say is with today's computer aided designed and simulated loudspeakers, PMC's Advanced Transmission Line products are much more refined and exact in execution than all the previous older designs. I urge our customers to hear our demos and judge for themselves, without any prejudice if possible.

Big E: Which other loudspeaker manufacturer does PMC most admire?

AD: I would say B&W, as they are the biggest loudspeaker manufacturer by market size, everybody in the business would likely be using them as a benchmark of sorts. B&W has a sales turn over 10 times of PMC's! I would like to add though that B&W is more of a mass market manufacturer, by offering entry level and lifestyle products manufactured off shore(in the Far East), while covering the top echelons of the market as well. PMC on the other hand will only build high quality products in the UK, which I think is our strength given our target market for high quality loudspeakers.

Big E: I can see much modifications to the Bryston supplied amplifiers and electronic x-overs for the MB2-XBD active loudspeaker package. Are they built in Canada by Bryston to PMC specs, or does PMC modify them in house in the UK?

AD: All the electronics supplied by Bryston are modified by hand in our UK factory. The reason we modify them is "NOT" because we think the Bryston stuff is no good, but Peter Thomas is the sort of a guy who'd always like to push a concept further. He sees much room for modification to suit our loudspeaker design requirements, like parts tolerance matching, removal of certain non critical, but signal degrading circuits and beefing up the power supply section for example.

Big E: Then why not build your own electronics from scratch?

AD: I think Peter would be in much better position to answer that! However I think it's due to our long working relationship with Bryston. Why try to re-invent the wheel, when there's already a very good working example? But we do try to tweak the electronics more to our loudspeaker design requirements, I think.

Bryston by PMC electronics. A pair of these stack comes with every pair of MB2-XBD, including all the matching interconnects and loudspeaker cables!

Big E: There's a trend towards offering custom paint jobs and other finishes for loudspeaker designs, to make them more decor friendly. Is PMC venturing in to that direction as well?

AD: We're British! So we're naturally more conservative. PMC prefers to sell our products on sound quality above all, rather than emphasize on the decor friendly aspect. However, we would consider making custom finishes available for our highest loudspeaker models as an extra cost option. For example, recently we made a pair of BB5 XBD-A for a middle east client who wants the loudspeakers finished in the same colour to match his Lamborghini.

I would also like to mention another trend in the absolute high end speaker market, and that's active loudspeaker systems. I was in the Munich High End Show and saw many new designs of the active variety. Looks like an interesting time for us ahead.

Big E: Thanks for your time with me. We hope to see you here again during the KLIAV 2011 Show this year?

AD: I am sure I'd be here during the KLIAV 2012.

With that last question, I make way for prospective clients of the MB2-XBD loudspeakers who are waiting in line to chat with Andy. I had certainly gained a lot of insight in to the world of BBC, recording studios and PMC from this chat session.

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