The experience of the founder and MD Tony Cockell proved invaluable and has provided a sturdy base from which to grow and to develop new products. Tony spent his earlier years designing and building sound systems, working as a recording engineer and touring as a trouble shooter with internationally acclaimed music groups, and was himself a semi-pro musician. He knew what sound professionals needed and at what quality level to provide it.
Initially, Formula Sound produced custom built systems and one-off specials for a wide range of clients, and as business grew, a pattern of common requirements emerged, leading in 1978 to their first off-the-shelf product, an equaliser, which in turn led in 1980 the introduction of the famous PM80 modular mixing system. The PM80 set a new standard for disco mixers. Firstly, it was modular and could be individually configured, which endeared it to DJ’s and operators, and secondly it was built to studio quality, which pleased both sound system designer/installers and the listening public, by then well into the hi-fi era, and demanding good venue sound. DJ’s and specifiers responded by digging into their pockets and by voting with their boots. PM80 won many awards for excellence, a trend continued by its successor, the PM90 as trophy after trophy jostled for space on the office walls in Stockport.
Throughout this period, the company never wavered from its commitment to both sound and production quality. Every individual item is tested before despatch. There is no batch testing carried out to this day. Customers also benefit from the fact that virtually all stages of the production process are controlled in-house, and this also helps the company to offer a fast and individual back-up to both distributors and end-users. This has sustained the products’ enviable reputation from its humble beginnings to its top-echelon, international status today.
Business seldom stands still, and Formula Sound is as aware as anyone that technical innovation moves fast. For this reason, its designers operate a small consultancy division of the company which helps them keep fully abreast of changes and developments. New ideas are carefully ‘filtered’ and are only incorporated into Formula Sound products when a clear and real benefit can be seen. By the same token, over the years, and especially during the periods of recession that still affect the industry, there has been pressure to compromise standards, and this too has been resisted. One of the most important changes in the marketplace in recent years has been the attention given to noise control and sound pressure level monitoring in venues.
Formula Sound are market leaders in the supply of noise control devices, both built into the products like the PM90 and as stand-alone systems such as the AVC2 automatic volume control, recently added to a range that already included the well-received Guardian and Sentry systems. As more and more statutory authorities around the world introduce noise control legislation, this is a field the company expects to grow.
Today, Formula Sound products can be found in entertainment venues and studios all over the world and are routinely specified by sound system designers and professionals across a wide section of the industry. It would still be true to say, however, that the company’s reputation outstrips its actual size in manufacturing terms. If you were to ask Tony or Sandra Cockell how they managed to steer their company into such a happy position, they would say that it’s not been easy; that being personally responsible for high standards of both production engineering and customer care never is, never was, and never will be; that they aren’t about to change either their philosophy or their established practice. Their many friends and business contacts throughout the world of sound will be delighted to hear that, and to watch the continued success of this small, but important British Company.