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Furman at 40: What would Jerry think?

It’s been a long, strange trip since founder Jim Furman decided to turn his ad hoc design work for bands like the Grateful Dead into a fully fledged business...

Creating your own category
Power conditioning didn’t exist as a category per se in the early 1980s; and even now, notes Benz, Furman’s principal competitor is “the wall outlet! Just your basic approach of plugging in to the wall and not using anything for power conditioning.” (For the story of the humble beginnings of Furman, see part one of this two-partfeature.)So with products like the PL-8 Power Conditioner – now in its latest incarnation, the PL-8C featuring Furman SMP (Series Multi-Stage Protection), Linear Filter Technology (LiFT) and Extreme Voltage Shutdown (EVS) technologies – Furman both created and took ownership of a new category.

Today, the company’s range of power products spans rack-mount models including the PL-PRO DMC E power conditioner, P-1400 AR E voltage regulator and CN-3600S power conditioner/sequencer, alongside compact power conditioners such as the AC-210A E. The role of the power conditioner in the high-stakes pro-audio environment is now assured, but that isn’t to say that a fresh wave of education isn’t required for each new generation coming into the industry.

“Far and away the most important aspect [of our marketing efforts] is getting education out there about the benefits of these products,” confirms Benz. “A lot of people come to us after something bad happens and they realise that they have to do more to protect their equipment. For example, line noise in Europe or noise on the grid can really destroy the performance of equipment, especially digital systems. You might describe it as a silent killer because it’s something people don’t see happening, but once you explain the difference in performance in power conditioned systems versus non-power conditioned ones, it is evident that you have a compelling case.”

Now, as the industry moves firmly into the cloud era, Furman has introduced more power management solutions with remote operation capabilities to sit alongside its stalwart conditioning products. “An IP-based platform such as our BlueBOLT cloud has numerous benefits for an integrator who has a large client base; for example, they don’t have to be at the facility to affect some change or undertake a reboot,” says Benz. “Simultaneously, there are growing concerns about energy consumption and some relevant regulatory changes – like the California Energy Commission Appliance Efficiency Regulations, which came into force in January – and with IP operation there is the opportunity to tie all these things together.”

What would Jerry do?
One element that is conspicuously absent from the current Furman range is the stand-alone signal processor, the company having discontinued its last model in this area – the HR Signal Processing Remote Station Headphone – in 2013. But the company is “currently in the midst of updating its pro-audio and MI products”, so 40 years on it’s clear that there would still be plenty to pique the interest of one of Furman’s earliest advocates – the Grateful Dead’s much-missed leader and guitarist, Jerry Garcia.

“Power conditioning is our core business, and it’s obviously great for us as a company that power will always be there,” says Benz. “But often when we are working on a new product, we do wonder ‘what would Jerry think?’ It remains a good barometer for us.”