Meet Your Maker: Pete Thomas, PMC loudspeakers

Integrated amplifiers
Meet Your Maker: Pete Thomas, PMC loudspeakers

Founded 28 years ago, PMC was born out of a desire to make better loudspeakers. While I doubt there’s a loudspeaker brand on the planet that wouldn’t lay claim to that statement, in PMC at least it has some weight behind it. The founders of the Professional Monitor Company – Adrian Loader and Pete Thomas – already had illustrious careers in pro audio and broadcast engineering under their respective belts, and were both long-standing music lovers, unhappy with the then-current crop of speaker designs.

Today, PMC has become one of the most iconic loudspeaker brands in the UK, and the products are still made in the company’s Luton factory. Recently, however, PMC began to outgrow that plant overlooked by the airport. The development of the new Fenestria meant the hand-built construction of that flagship loudspeaker – and the company’s ever-expanding research and development team – moved to PMC’s new headquarters to Biggleswade.

The ‘new’ premises are not new at all. They were the family home of a landed gentleman (think the Bennet family from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, just half a day’s ride further north), which became a school… and trappings of that past are still very prevalent in the architecture and fixtures of the building (find me another loudspeaker brand with a grandfather clock... and 42 badgers in the grounds). What was obviously the family room and the main classroom is now the listening room, combined with a small part of PMC’s museum-like archive of classic products in audio history. 

For all these past glories, PMC is always looking to the future. Pete’s son Ollie is pivotal to that future, heading up the company’s R&D department, and constant explorations at the cutting edge of loudspeaker technology continue… the Fenestria wouldn’t be possible without that ground-breaking research.

We intended to speak to PMC founder and infinitely loquacious nice-guy Pete Thomas about all this, but there was more than a spot of mission creep. So rather than try and pin this down into set questions, we just took our lead from Pete... and what we got was pure audio gold. 

AS: How did PMC begin?

PT: I think PMC really started in hi-fi. We started in pro because we were in business, but the roots of it were in hi-fi. Both Adrian and I were big hi-fi enthusiasts and we both ended up with pairs of IMF transmission line loudspeakers. At the time (about 1972/3), the only two loudspeakers I actually liked were Quad Electrostatics and IMFs. I didn’t know why I liked them but I thought they had a very natural speech quality, and they also had a very nice in-room image placement.

We both kept these systems for probably 15 years, but whenever either of us wanted to buy a new hum-dinger of a system, nothing was that much better than what we were used to. That got us thinking about developing our own.

I was with the BBC at the time and asked to look after the recordings at the Maida Vale studios. They were using Tannoys and JBLs, which were more robust but didn’t have the characteristics of classic BBC designs. So what I was doing as a hobby intersected with the work I was doing at Maida Vale. I was also on the BBC loudspeaker licensing committee at the time, so I was constantly evaluating loudspeaker designs. Those three things came together in the mid-1980s. 

We spent the next three years designing various prototypes. We went through five iterations until we got to the BB5 and they decided they were good enough and would buy them. They bought two pairs... and at that time I was invited to leave the BBC because I wasn’t allowed to be seen to profit from the BBC! I had the choice of donating my design and staying, but I didn’t think that was equitable so PMC was born!

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