Hills Focus on House Brand. By Julius Grafton
Australian Monitor has been around since 1986 but the story of this iconic audio brand really started in 1973. Back then, Rod Craig, Roy Morgan and Alan Clarke saw an opportunity to become the distributor for Telex products in Australia. Audio Telex Communications began with two small offices in Sydney and Melbourne and just a handful of dedicated staff.
A few years later an opportunity was recognised for an installation amplifier range and a local Sydney company called Techcraft was purchased. Audio Telex, along with the small Techcraft design team set about creating a range of contractor friendly installation mixers, mixer amplifiers and amplifiers for the Australian market under the Audio Telex brand name.
Across town Graftons Sound were trying to find a rock solid mosfet amplifier for their rental division and for the wider market. They decided to build their own and secured the services of Stuart McLean who had proven himself with designs for a company called Overeem.
Slaving away in a converted loading dock at the back of the Graftons warehouse in East Sydney, McLean came up with the prototype for the AM 1600 which blew everyone’s socks off. It went into production in 1986 and quickly found an export market with the first batch selling to Radio Tuku Oy in Helsinki.
The first generation Australian Monitor amplifiers, the AM900, AM1600 and the AM1200 Quad amp were legendary. They had custom extruded chassis and a heavy toroidal transformer. Of the thousands made, many still continue today. But the company lost money on each unit shipped due to high assembly costs.
Eventually Audio Telex came knocking and bought the brand, reasoning that combining efforts would make better audio. Suddenly they had a really wide product offering, and they rebranded everything they made as Australian Monitor.
Then followed a golden age. A European warehouse and dedicated sales team were added. The tag line ‘Clever Features, Contractor Friendly’ was created and was synonymous with the Australian Monitor brand for the next ten years.
Distribution continued to grow and Australian Monitor was distributing to 75 countries around the globe. With the inclusion of additional distribution facilities to maintain the demand in the Middle East and the USA, Australian Monitor had become a true global success story.
In 2005 Hills purchased Audio Telex as exports of AM continued to rise, eventually passing $4 million a year. But a management change at Hills saw a change of focus, and Australian Monitor was wound back.
After a period of turbulence, the board reasoned that a strong house brand was worth supporting, and set about rebuilding. AM had continued, albeit without research and development, so some of the products were dated.
Long term Audio Telex – and by then Hills SVL – employee Shane Myers was given approval to turbo boost AM and the first thing he did, as General Manager of Australian Monitor, was employ several engineers to get new designs to market.
He was joined by Brad Kivela, also with long term Audio Telex and Hills SVL experience, whose task is to manage OEM product that is sourced elsewhere and branded AM. These include some playback devices, accessories, rack panels, cables, connectors, classroom speakers and ceiling speakers.
Pictured: Euan Brown Engineering Manager, Shane Myers General Manager and Brad Kivela
“We directly engage with manufacturers, talk about our product requirements, and procure samples based on our customers’ requirements”, he said.
“Then we get pre-production samples with modifications we’ve requested, anything that plugs into mains goes to our engineering department for safety checks, topologies, standards, and to gain global approvals.”
“People don’t realise how much work is involved, everything we do is for the global market”, Brad explains.
Critical pieces like amps and mixers are engineered and designed in-house.
“We’ve got the experience, the history, the documentation, and we know how to get there,” said Shane. “We know we’ve got to get the product range up to scratch. Everything we do is with a focus for expansion. We’re working to a higher standard – and we’ve only just begun.”
“I started 3 years ago. Everything we’ve touched has been upgraded – there’s a lot of products. We hired the first engineer Euan Brown (Engineering Manager), and then Mark Walters (Embedded Software/DSP engineer) and we’re looking for a third engineer”.
“We have a number of international factories making our products, selected for their reliability and high quality output – they work hard. Their engineers come out here to spend time with us and our engineers spend time there to see the first run of products off the line to test and do QC. This allows us to make any improvements and finalise the QC process.”
“I think we are the largest continual audio exporter from Australia. This is testimony to our market and the collective knowledge base here amongst our partners be those consultants, integrators or end users. AM has grown and added features as a direct result of their input. This is being taken globally and we are pleased to be kept busy with daily product enquiries received from all over the world.” Shane adds.
Now they have registered international websites, and spent a lot of time getting their content up to date with the latest news and product information.
They have new designs, samples are quality checked, modifications are made, and production sets are tested with key customers over the world.
“Every single product is tested with every shipment,” Shane says, “and so we can track our products easily we’ve upgraded bar coding and serial numbers.”
They make and source products for the world market. “It’s cheaper to put three IEC cables in the box than to open and repack. This is world manufacturing, it gets rid of errors. “
“We do it properly”, Shane concludes.
The HS series is Australian Monitor’s next generation of Class D mixer amplifiers, delivering high quality audio reinforcement with the power you need – 60, 120, 250 and 500 watt options, all in a one rack unit package.
These new amplifiers are fully featured, offering 7 external and 2 internal audio input channels, each channel offering individual channel volume control, equalizer and gain control. An inbuilt user-customizable tone generator, MP3 player, Bluetooth module, 3.5mm jack and USB charger are included as standard in all models.
The HS series has been designed with all of the features and power to suit a vast range of installations, from the boardroom to the classroom, school hall to bar, restaurant or function space.