2005 - Quietly and without a lot of fuss, Hampshire-based Clockaudio has grown to become a leading specialist manufacturer of professional microphones and associated equipment. Its broad range of microphones covering all applications – broadcast, communication, conference, industrial and leisure – are in demand and successfully in use throughout the world. Clients include international banking corporations, government departments, parliaments, airports and conference centers. Recent prestige installations to feature Clockaudio products include the newly-opened Hotel Puerta America in Madrid and high profile government projects in Washington D.C.
In business now for eleven years, Clockaudio has just opened a new purpose-built headquarters and distribution center in Montreal for its North American operation. It is about to move into a new expanded manufacturing and administration premises in the UK, and has added significantly to its worldwide network of distributors. Some key new products have been added to the company’s extensive catalogue. Clockaudio is headed by its founder, Jim Hallington, who’s impressive pro audio CV includes twelve years as managing director of AKG in the UK. “Initially we started the company on an EOM basis, before we decided to spread our wings and put the wheels in motion to develop to where we are today,” says Hallington who continues to run Clockaudio on a day-to-day basis together, with a small team including his wife, Tina, who acts as financial director. The sales and marketing side is headed by Rod Geary, himself no stranger to the microphone business.
Unlike many manufacturers, the majority of Clockaudio’s manufacturing is undertaken in the UK. “Over the last three or four years, a lot of well-known brands have switched to producing in the Far East which hasn’t gone down terribly well,” says Hallington. “We are finding that more and more clients are looking for products made in Europe. The UK is a very attractive base because, most importantly, we are renowned for engineering quality and reliability. We only ever intended to manufacture here. Certainly, there are some elements that one has to bring in from the Far East but generally all our products are developed and produced here in the UK and will continue to be.”
Clockaudio’s catalogue now encompasses several hundred different products and more are being added on a regular basis. “Each year we put on probably four or five new products,” says Hallington. Among our latest development is the MR88 digital automatic microphone mixer which is already undergoing software updates. It’s going into a variety of installations – court rooms, hotel conference facilities, churches, etc. There’s really no limit to where you can use an automatic mixer. “To a great extent, we rely on feedback from the marketplace. This is a people business. You’re only as good as the clients you’ve got. If they give you feedback and you don’t respond, then you won’t be successful. It’s as simple as that. Some things are impossible, but generally I think we give clients what they need. Our CS series, for example, was developed in response to input and recommendations from key consultants in boardroom AV integration. The goal was to minimize the number of microphones on the conference table, while providing the highest level of sonic quality, ease of installation and pleasing aesthetics.” “And our RF series technology has been developed through what is best described as popular demand,” continues Hallington. “The ever-increasing ownership of handheld pocket-sized portable technology, most notable Blackberries, amongst the banking and business communities has been causing major unwanted interference problems during important conferences and business meetings. Our new technology eliminates these problems.”
The international banking corporations know what they want and are prepared to pay for it. “One of our clients now has probably in excess of a thousand of our microphones in various locations worldwide, there’s another that has at least five hundred,” explains Hallington. “These are not cheap and cheerful microphones. We’re talking about prestige installations where they are prepared to spend $50,000 on the boardroom table. At the very top end of the market, it’s not unusual for the AV installation budget to top the $1 million mark.”
While Clockaudio has carved itself a handsome slice of several nice niche markets, does Hallington believe the microphone manufacturing sector is overcrowded? “As with just about everything both in and outside professional audio, new players are coming along all the time, but everyone continues to do business.” he says. “Look at washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Dyson, for example, came from nowhere to be a market leader in a very short time. There’s always room if you get your act together properly. That’s the secret-understanding what you want, what the market wants and being able to deliver it.”
And does he see Clockaudio continuing to grow? “I don’t think we can stop it. We’re increasing our turnover substantially every year and establishing new markets. Now we’re even selling products into China – coals to Newcastle! Ironic perhaps, but it’s the same story. Even the Chinese are accepting that good quality products come out of Europe. Why did they want to buy Rover? They want the technology, the R&D skills.”
On the international front, Clockaudio has recently signed distribution agreements for India
(Bose India), Sweden (Electrosound), Portugal (ABC), Germany (Pro Audio-Technik), and the Netherlands (Tau AVLP). The new North American base in Montreal is up and running. Back home in Waterlooville, Hampshire, warehousing, manufacturing and administration will have moved into the new Clockaudio HQ building by the year’s end. “We simply ran out of space,” says Hallington who is personally overseeing the move and adds, “We never really intended for the company to grow to the size it has. It started off as a means to an end for the short term and now it’s grown into a giant machine. But we’re not complaining.”