In conversation with ............. Oliver Thomas from PMC

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Oliver Thomas is the Commercial Director at PMC. With a wide reaching role that encompasses Products, technical and all things engineering, Ollie leads the technical teams of product development, R&D, Service, quality and production engineering. He also ensures that new products are released with the right message and strategies to make them successful.

In his own words "I like to make things, to create things. I always have. Whether those things are racing cars, electronics or speakers. The world of audio is full of wonderful and weird humans, and that is why I fit in here"

We caught up with Ollie virtually to ask him some questions about PMC, R&D and specifically the new Active Twenty5 series.

We're excited to get our hands on the new active Twenty5 range. We've had plenty of experience with active speakers over the years but it hasn't always been positive. My guess is it is very much down to the application. However we're seeing a trend towards reducing the box count without reducing the performance so this product is exciting to us. We're also huge fans of the Twenty5 series and we think it is genius that you're allowing active as a retrofit. Well done for that alone.
What was the motivation to produce an active version of the Twenty5 series?

As you can guess from the retrofit ability, we have been wanting to create an active version for the twenty5 series since the passive range was originally designed! As an Audio company building numerous active designs for the Professional studio market we have wanted to apply some of that technology in our HiFi products

What could PMC achieve her that they could not passively? What advantages do you feel "active" offers other than reduced box count?

Active crossovers can be more accurate, both in terms of the crossover knee shape and roll off gradient and phase relationship.

What does the development cycle of a product like this and how many people worked on it?

We had involvement from 4 key engineers on this project with a development schedule of 7 months. This project followed the same process as with all new products; Design concept, specification, development, preproduction & release testing, and product launch.
I enjoyed close involvement in the voicing stage, working with a number of our excellent engineers to perfect the final sound of the products.

Like any product the Twenty5 series are built to a price. Were you able to solve any problems with the active crossover and amplifiers? I'm thinking of cabinet issues for example.

Typically there are no significant cabinet issues in any of our designs, no matter how large and expensive, right down the least costly in the range, they are all well braced cabinet construction from optimised materials and all with our trademark ATL labyrinth inside, Which inherently brings additional bracing panels to a design.
The active crossovers definitely allowed us to refine some elements of the low frequency sound reproduction, but also, due to the added crossover accuracy, allowed us to improve the mid and high end to, if you back to back compare with the passive version.

How big a part does listening have on the development of new products? Do you ever use other brands in comparison?

The PMC mantra is; Design, simulate, listen, measure – repeat!
Every change is listened to, to the extent that at the end of a hard days development, we’ve heard the same track 200 times and the ears feel tired!
We absolutely benchmark ourselves against a number of reference points – from previous and current PMC designs, to a variety from competitor offerings. It’s key to be aware of what everyone else is producing, looking outwardly as well as inwardly.

The active modules you used; were they unique for this product or did you repurpose and develop other designs you had within the PMC family?

The circuit topology is very similar to that of our result6 professional product, whilst the amplifier and power supply modules are derived from our other active professional products of studio grade pedigree.

Loudspeaker design has evolved but never seems to make a quantum leap. I'm thinking in terms of conventional drive units and box cabinets. Why is that? Do you feel that you're close to hitting the limit of what can be done with a wooden box featuring drive units that move air in the conventional fashion?

I feel that we were close to the upper limit of what could be achieved back in the early 90’s, all things considered with the way we typically reproduce sound. There are still some significant steps to come, especially from PMC over the next few years, and then we are looking to the long term future and investing in R&D to find that big leap in audio reproduction technology.

What do you envisage might come in the future?

Very small, incredibly efficient transducers

This is exciting, especially considering the space limitations that face many listeners. What else excites you as a designer and what would your dream project be?

True R&D. Creating designs which are unique, innovative and pioneering with new aspects of performance or design features not used previously.

In the world of audio what other brands do you respect and find interesting from a design point of view? Are there any that you would love to have worked on?

I love the technical prowess of BOSE, I get the feeling everyone there is passionate about all aspects of audio technology and bringing high quality to the masses. They have over 4000 patents!
I am impressed at the brand image of Sennheiser, leading with trust and integrity.
I really respect the creativity and beautiful designs that have come out of B&O for the last many decades. I would have loved to be involved in something like the Beocenter, which is such a complete all-rounder product and beautiful piece of industrial design.

What equipment do you use at home?

I have mixture of PMC ci speakers in the house and fact8’s as my main lounge stereo. I power them with a Cor amplifier. Amongst a variety of musical sources are my Direct Drive turntables, for DJing

We'd like to thank Oliver for his time, his insight and his answers.

Discover more about PMC here.

We are hosting a PMC Active Twenty5 launch at our store on Friday the 21st of June from 12.00 till 5.00. PMC will be joining us and you're welcome to attend and discover and hear more. Everybody welcome and the event does not require a ticket. Light refreshments provided.

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