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View from the Top: Peter Thomas, PMC

While U.K.-based PMC (Professional Monitor Company) has been in business for more than a quarter century, its profile in the U.S. has grown considerably in recent years.

While U.K.-based PMC (Professional Monitor Company) has been in business for more than a quarter century, its profile in the U.S. has grown considerably in recent years, as underlined by numerous high-profile adoptions of the company’s offerings, like the QB1-A reference monitors installed in Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA. PMC USA, the company’s U.S. arm headquartered in California, is likewise increasingly visible, in part due to a new Nashville office, further cementing the company’s presence on these shores.

Peter Thomas

It’s a far cry—and 26 years on—from when company co-founder Peter Thomas left a comfortable job at the BBC to go into business with friend Adrian Loader. “The 14 years I spent at the BBC is relevant,” says Thomas today, “because I had excellent holistic training in everything from microphones through to recording consoles, communication systems and even the transmission chain. Loudspeakers were my main interest and I was responsible for testing the speakers the BBC was designing, so I got to know all the speaker manufacturers very well.”

That, in turn, led to co-founding PMC: “I designed a prototype loudspeaker for Radio One’s studio, Maida Vale 4, which produced much higher SPLs than other BBC speakers but with similar audio characteristics. I couldn’t sell to the BBC while still working for them, so I left to set up PMC, and that prototype became our first product—the BB5-A active main studio monitor. This design was snapped up by the BBC Maida Vale and Metropolis Mastering, along with many other professional studios and artists such as Prince and Stevie Wonder who wanted them for their own studios.”

Initially Loader managed the business while Thomas headed R&D, but when his co-founder died in 1997, Thomas moved to the position of managing director; today, his son, Oliver Thomas, is in charge of R&D and product development.

Job titles are far from the only things that have changed in the intervening years, however. “I started PMC as a family company and that’s what I’m trying to hold on to, even though it gets harder every year as we get bigger,” says Thomas. “Our distributors, suppliers and staff are part of our family and this is important because people will go the extra mile if they feel they are part of something.”

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There are more and more people who feel they’re a part of PMC’s story these days. Over the last quarter century, the company has grown from five to 60 employees while diversifying into different market sectors. As Thomas notes, “The spread of products and the diversity of our sales outlets helps us ride economic peaks and troughs, because if one market is down, then another is usually on the up. Not having all our eggs in one basket has served us well.” Some of those baskets include HiFi, custom install for home theaters, and an array of pro sectors, including composing, recording, mixing, mastering, post production and broadcast.

Not only is PMC a part of diversified markets, but it is a part of them around the globe as well, says Thomas: “We now export to over 50 countries. We have seen superb increases in exports since the U.K. decided to leave Europe and these now account for 75% of our sales. One reason for this is because we are cushioned from higher-price imports as we make the lion’s share of product components here in the U.K. Our turnover has grown 25% in the last year and we have taken on a lot of new people to cope with the new models in our product range.”

PMC’s head office is Holme Court, a large building with five acres of land in Bedfordshire. The site houses R&D and product development, IT, sales, marketing, servicing, purchasing and administration, and 25 people are employed there across the various departments. The company’s main factory is in Luton, where all its products are assembled, though PMC is in the process of applying for planning permission to bring manufacturing into Holme Court as well.

“Unlike some U.K. companies, we haven’t outsourced to China,” Thomas says adamantly, “because we want to retain control for quality reasons. We subcontract some cabinet and drive unit manufacturing to other companies in the U.K., but everything is made to our design. As a medium-sized company dealing in low volume, high value goods, we have to rely on some subcontractors to get our products made, but these suppliers have worked with us for so long that they are part of the PMC family and we have great relationships with them.”

Related stories:

Innovations: PMC result.6 Nearfield Monitors, by Oliver Thomas, Pro Sound News, Jan. 11, 2018

New Mastering Facility Is Neato, by Strother Bullins, Pro Sound News, Dec. 13, 2017

NJP Upgrades PMC Studio Monitors, Pro Sound News, Dec. 1, 2017

That said, PMC has no problem with China—in fact, that’s one of the company’s biggest markets, says Thomas. “The U.S. is our top market, especially for pro products, but China is biting at its ankles thanks to the success of our HiFi products there. After that, Europe is our main market, but we are also picking up business in new territories like Thailand and Hong Kong, where we have very good distributors.”

Nonetheless, the U.S. is a top priority for the company, and that’s handled by PMC USA. “The U.S. is our biggest market, especially for our pro speakers, so getting closer to customers there is very important,” says Thomas. “Customers like the fact that our U.S. team consists of PMC factory specialists and they have direct contact with the head office, being able to deliver the best support to our clients. We know we make expensive products and we understand that people buying them want to be looked after.

“PMC USA, headed by Maurice Patist, distributes our products in the States,” explains Thomas. “This employs seven people and has an office with warehouse and service department in California. We also recently opened an office in Nashville, which is a fully operational studio where clients can demo the entire spectrum, from compact to the large systems, and even use the facility to mix their own projects.”

Having a full-fledged studio to demo gear in falls right in line with how Thomas describes the company’s philosophy, both for creating its products and how it views its customers’ needs. He shares, “Our ethos is very holistic—we are never satisfied, and we are always pushing to improve what we do. PMC loudspeakers combine science and art, engineering and emotion. They are designed to be forensically accurate, but also to convey music and sound as naturally as possible, as its creators intended.”