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EXCLUSIVE: HRA Loudspeakers – A new British audio heritage

HRA Loudspeakers’ Steve Williams talks PSNEurope through the concept behind the UK startup

Does the world really need another loudspeaker manufacturer? Steve Williams, sales manager at HRA Loudspeakers, thinks so. “The answer is yes – bringing new ideas and competition keeps the industry fresh,” he tells PSNEurope. Which is certainly true – but in an increasingly crowded marketplace, can this fledgling British brand make its voice heard?

HRA’s first unique selling point is its speakers’ compactness and light weight – targeted directly at the ever-more youthful sound techs who’ll be lugging them around. “With the market currently changing [and] techs getting younger and unable to drive large trucks, we decided to look at developing products that are lightweight and use all neo drivers – at a cost,” Williams (pictured) says. “We felt this was a wise choice.”

Secondly, all HRA units incorporate built-in amplification and DSP, “allow[ing] for a consistent sound wherever you get our speakers from [and] companies to cross-hire equipment freely and know how to use it.” But despite the all-in-one nature of its products, Williams is quick to point out that HRA – standing for High Resolution Audio – doesn’t do low-fi: “As we’ve said before, we went out to develop products that sound as hi-fi as possible but still deliver high volumes.”

“As with most companies out there today, products get developed and then dumbed down to fit in a price bracket [or] feasible profit margin,” he continues. “However, we are determined to keep our products true and consistent.”

And thirdly – and perhaps most importantly – HRA is proudly and unashamedly British. From the “British audio heritage” banner on its website to its commitment to keeping manufacturing operations in the UK, HRA wears the union flag like a badge of honour, positioning itself as the latest company to carry the torch for quality, traditional British-made loudspeakers. “We feel [our Britishness] means a lot in the industry,” Williams explains.

“With most our competition seeking cheaper manufacturing in the far east, we remain [in Britain] and will not change,” he continues. “We will continue to use locally sourced components wherever we can, and will continue to build our products here in the heart of the UK. It doesn’t matter what line of manufacturing you’re in, the British flag still means a lot – and we and we aim to keep it there.”

HRA is choosing initially to focus on point source reflex-loaded enclosures and direct radiating sub woofers and “shy[ing] away from the line array side of our industry,” with Williams noting that “these are usually very rider-specific and would not warrant our time and investment.

“Our range of products at the moment is more tailored for small-to-medium rental and AV companies,” he comments, “but we have some bigger products to follow very soon – [including a] large tour rig for venues of around 6,000 people capacity that weighs in at less than 700kg for the whole system.” (The full HRA range is pictured, above right.)

HRA is currently self-distributing; and while Williams “[doesn ’t] expect companies to distribute our products at this early stage” – noting that “they [distributors] are going to invest in products that will generate cash quickly” – he adds: “We are constantly talking to [distributors] all the time and, should the right deal come up and it feels OK, we will go down that road.”

HRA’s key directors, Ninder Johal and Chris Aston, are cofounders of Nachural Music Ltd, and, according to Williams, their “many successful years in AV [and running a] record label […] have given us the capital investment we needed to pursue this venture”. Nachural Records is a successful British bhangra label most famous for Panjabi MC’s 2002 single Mundian To Bach Ke, which reached Nº5 in the UK in 2002. Johal is also president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce.

Williams himself is a pro audio veteran who runs West Midlands PA/lighting hire company Sound Junkies. “I still have a small client base that keeps my hand in with live sound, and also offer myself out for occasional freelance work,” he says, “[but] I don’t go out touting for extra jobs any more as I don’t have the time.”

While it’s still early days for the brand, Williams is optimistic for the near future and confident in its prospects. “We have just taken the keys for another unit on our site here in Wednesbury [in the West Midlands] which will house our demo facility,” he explains, “so if people wish to visit us and hear the products, they can pop across and see us. Alongside having our own demonstration facility, we’re also taking products to people’s locations so they can listen to them at their own convenience.”

HRA officially launched on 31 March. Clients so far include the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which used an HRA set-up for its 2014 annual dinner attended by George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer; the Business Awards 2014 in Wolverhampton, UK, which specified HRA speakers for sound reinforcement (pictured, above right); the South Eastern Discotheque Association (SEDA), for its 2014 conference; a permanent installation at West Bromwich Albion football club; and Press Red Rentals, which says it “expects to be placing an order very shortly”. The company will also exhibiting at BPM/PRO in Birmingham in September.