For many a longtime manufacturer, their history is a double-edged sword: The benefit is brand awareness and a legacy of well-regarded products, but the drawback is that the past can become an anchor, slowing you down and preventing you from keeping up with the times and answering the needs of current-day customers. With that in mind, Andy Farrow has spent the last five years as global sales director of Celestion, ensuring the world knows that the 95-year-old company isn’t merely current, but in fact determinedly ahead of the curve.
A 24-year veteran of the UK loudspeaker manufacturer, Farrow started off as an apprentice-trained manufacturing engineer, leaving school at 16 to spend two years working at a grass and farming technology manufacturer in Ipswich in the east of England, before attending Brunel University in West London, where he received his bachelor’s degree in manufacturing engineering. “While at university, I developed a love for music, having bought a CD player and a couple of speakers, and my love for all things audio took off,” he recalls. “Afterward, in the ’90s, I took the chance to join Celestion, who were a large manufacturer of speakers in Ipswich—which seemed to be more exciting than working on lawnmower technology!”
At the time, the company had just come under new ownership; Farrow took on a production engineering role and soon also began earning an MBA with a focus on international business. He joined Celestion’s sales team in early 2000, where he was charged with looking after OEM clients. Success there led to a significant change in 2002, when Farrow, as vice president of sales, moved with his family to New Jersey to set up a U.S. sales office for Celestion. A dozen years later, they returned to the UK as Farrow took on his current role as global sales director at the company’s global headquarters in Ipswich, where he oversees sales teams based in their home regions throughout the United States, Europe and China.
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The company has changed and evolved significantly since he first joined it. “In the early 2000s, Celestion made the decision to stop producing finished goods and focus entirely on the design and manufacturing of transducers,” he says. “We also knew that the pro audio market represented a large growth market for transducers, so we designed products specifically for this marketplace and developed deep relationships with P.A. manufacturers. Now this segment represents a very large part of our business, and the compression drivers and coaxial loudspeakers that we produce have been a big part of that success story.”
Farrow adds, “We develop both new products that we define internally, as well as products by working in partnership with [a given] sound reinforcement system manufacturer to develop a specific transducer solution.” As it happens, the list of OEM customers over the years read like a who’s who of the industry, as Celestion’s professional loudspeakers and compression drivers have been created with and used by some of the leading loudspeaker manufacturers across the globe.
Farrow credits his ability to work closely with B-to-B clients—the engineering and R&D teams at manufacturers—as due to his engineering background. “Being able to understand their needs from an engineering point of view helps us collaborate and come to a solution to meet their individual needs,” he said. “Having an engineering background is helpful with new product development, all-around problem solving and an analytical approach. How do we make things work even better? How do we get to the next level as a company?”
Celestion is a sizable company as well. The headquarters in Ipswich houses all product research and development required to get to a finished product—acoustic research, product development and engineering, mathematical modeling, computer prototyping, physical prototyping, test and measurement, and manufacturing.
“We have a large team of loudspeaker project engineers on site, all of whom get involved in the development of new products from the ground up, and who are very skilled in the use of our in-house finite element analysis software, used for mathematically modeling the acoustic, magnetic and mechanical properties of a speaker,” says Farrow. “Our innovative in-house technology is one of the unique advantages we have over our competition. In support of this team, there is a drawing office, prototyping and sampling laboratory, and test and measurement facility.”
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Celestion manufactures a wide range of loudspeaker components for pro audio applications, from high-frequency compression drivers to low-frequency woofers. While large-scale volume manufacturing takes place in Celestion’s Huizhou, China-based factory, the Ipswich headquarters handles some manufacturing as well, specifically building small-run, specialist and high-value products. Farrow points out, “Many of my colleagues have been with Celestion for decades; the employee with the longest tenure, Dee, has been with us for 45 years and she is still the current production manager on the shop floor. She has been a part of building millions of speakers!”
Celestion’s UK manufacturing continues to expand as well. Says Farrow: “Right now, our UK manufacturing is undergoing another level of growth, and we are continually making advances in our designs and manufacturing processes in order to bring new technology to the future.”
Some of that effort has included new driver technology, which represents a significant next step forward in terms of how loudspeakers are deployed in certain applications. “The initial result of this is the Axi2050, a high-power, high-output wideband compression driver that is able to reproduce a frequency range of 300–20,000 Hz without the need for a mid-band crossover, essentially performing the role of two speakers in one,” says Farrow. “As a technical achievement, we cannot overstate the importance of this, particularly in mid-range clarity and vocal intelligibility. This is significant new driver technology, and there is more coming from Celestion.”
Related: Celestion Unveils New OEM Offerings, April 2, 2019
That’s not the only forward-looking step for Celestion, either; on the MI side, where the company’s OEM products have long been part of many guitar amplifier manufacturers’ tones (the Celestion website alone lists nearly 70 past and present corporate clients), Celestion recently released the new Copperback guitar speaker and F12-X200 guitar speaker, designed for use with amplifier and cabinet emulation technology—and there’s more.
“Our movement into the digital domain is the perfect example of the company’s constant innovation,” says Farrow. “Celestion’s Impulse Responses—digitally downloadable versions of our classic guitar tones for use in recording and live production—have been overwhelmingly well received and are very successful. We are the only transducer manufacturer who has done this. Celestion is a 95-year-old speaker manufacturer with a long, rich heritage—and we are now making software!”
That movement is fairly indicative of the state of Celestion, as it maintains growth and forward momentum, regardless of being a near century-old brand. “Celestion is still evolving and ever-changing to adapt to new marketplaces and develop future technologies,” avers Farrow. “I think this is the main reason that our employees stay at Celestion for decades. I’m proud to have worked at Celestion for more than 24 years and I continue to be excited for the future.”
Celestion • www.celestion.com