Prosound is one of the most prominent and recognised brands in the South African
and sub-Saharan African industry landscape. For over four decades, the business
that Terry Acres built has grown, changed, developed and stayed ahead of the
technology and market curves, to remain a major force in the 21st century.
As they put it themselves, “we’re problem solvers, system designers, sound nuts,
lighting fundis, installation gurus, music lovers and gear junkies’. That description,
in one sense, puts the business a long way from its roots as the only company in SA
focused on providing sound for live events. The evolution of Prosound’s business
model is perhaps the most significant reason for its continued success.

The company’s initial experience in the green fields sound environment of “70s and
“80s SA saw them build up a range of invaluable skills and a wealth of expertise.
“One thing which has characterised the business since the beginning,’ says Justin
Acres, director, “is the longevity and loyalty of the people who work here. This
means we’ve been able to build up institutional knowledge, as well as technical and
mentorship skills, under the leadership of industry stalwarts such as Ian Blair and
Mark Malherbe.’

The early years

The origins of the company lie in sound equipment, with their expertise and
entrepreneurial attitude resulting in a fruitful partnership with the benchmark
American brand Electro-Voice (EV). Unusually for the market at the time, the
partnership extended to Prosound building EV speakers in SA. While the sanctions-
hit apartheid South Africa of the 1980s and early 1990s saw dark days indeed,
Prosound has a more joyous and interesting historical tale to tell. Their growing
expertise and equipment capabilities meant that they filled the gap in the market
for live sound events in theatres, townships and sports stadia.

The business took a principled stand against the apartheid government in the last
decades of apartheid, refusing to do work for any government or police installation
or event. Instead, it focused its expertise on township music culture, going on to do
major events for the ANC and SWAPO, for Mandela’s historic release parade in
Johannesburg at Soccer City, and the Mandela memorial returning to the same
venue more recently. This latter event was a collaboration with various rental
houses in the industry, demonstrating how far Prosound had successfully moved
into project management and innovative design rather than only providing

Organic growth

As the business grew organically, its experience in providing professional sound
installations in various venues extended to meeting a growing demand for
permanent sound installations and the supply of sound hardware for broadcasters in
the country.
Soon enough the knowledge of the provision of hardware, the knowledge of
broadcast standards and the practical experience Prosound had built up in the field
of electro-acoustics, led the growth path of the business in different directions –
especially into turnkey solutions for complex applications in large-scale venues of
various kinds.

As Acres puts it: ‘Our background and origins lie in rock and roll! So our focus was
initially on dominating the market for live sound events in theatres, townships and
music venues – moving into sports stadiums along the way. What this gave us was
the hard-won ability to design, build, install and integrate complex solutions for a
wide range of professional audio and visual installations. Our turnkey services now
go across the spectrum, from theatres, conference centres and stadiums, to
casinos, legislative council buildings and broadcast studios.’

What Prosound appears to have achieved really effectively is refocusing the
business to provide value added solutions. Its provision of end-to-end installation
and integration solutions means taking a different approach to dealing with clients.
‘Our clients are always treated as partners on the journey to find the best solution
for any installation,’ says Acres. “And the same applies to our relationships with the
companies and brands that we represent. Our aim is to expand with them into
promising African growth markets in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.’

Acres feels strongly about the positioning of the business in the current market.
“We’re not in the business of moving boxes,’ he declares. ‘As an end-to-end
integrator, we’re focused on offering our clients a full range of value-added services
for fixed installations and events, services that enable them to grow their business
with us.’

Partnership and a focused offering

The partnership approach extends to other integrators too. And it extends beyond
the borders of South Africa. Around 40% of Prosound’s revenue is now generated
from international projects. The roster of projects extends as far afield as the
Philippines, Dubai, Albania and China, on a wide range of projects in unique and
often challenging conditions. One can sense the real focus of the company’s
expansion planning is the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, however. As Acres puts it:
‘we have garnered a reputation as the go-to guys on the most challenging of
projects, and so our African experience is unrivalled.’ To date, that experience base
extends to 15 African countries outside of SA, in a variety of industries and types of

In brief, Prosound has reshaped its business in line with the trends in the global
industry it was able to predict. That process of staying ahead of the curve has led to
a business offering that consists of the following:

Technical production and live events: This historical core of the Prosound business
still thrives, with an unparalleled track record behind it. Prosound was the behind
the scenes enabler for many of southern Africa’s most iconic live events, from the
Human Rights Now concerts in Harare in the “80s to the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup
in SA. The company’s early decision to withdraw from the local equipment rental
industry not only set them on the path to the design, integration, project
management and distribution business they are today, but enabled many effective
relationships with the local rental companies that filled the gap.

Design and integration: Much of the current focus of the business is on providing
innovative solutions with a fully customised and turnkey approach to designing,
building and installing the solution. The design and integration portfolio is as varied
as any in the industry, comprising theatres, stadiums, schools and universities,
houses of worship, hotels and broadcast studios, among others.

Manufacturing: Prosound has a litany of firsts in the industry, including being the
first sound business to manufacture electro-voice products under license, anywhere
in the world. Many other manufacturing firsts followed over the years as did the
expansion of its portfolio of skills and products. Today Prosound offers experienced
manufacturing capabilities for everything from signal, loudspeaker and microphone
cables, to flight cases and custom metalwork, furniture and electronics.

Sales and support: These core offerings are surrounded by the best available
products and brands on the market, across a wide variety of professional audio,
sound and lighting applications and installations. All brands are supported by a sales
team with a core of industry experience that runs very deep.

In addition to these core offerings a strategic partnership with Bosch Security
Systems, established in 2012, enables a unique synergy for audio equipment and
installations, which have taken Prosound and Bosch to parliament and government
buildings as well as airports all over sub-Saharan Africa.

Though the business has come a long way in its forty-year journey, and is well-
placed to continue to play a leading role in the local and regional industry, it tries to
maintain the ethos of founder Terry Acres: ‘I tried to establish something different
by not only selling services and equipment, but to provide solutions with innovation
and uncompromising integrity. We treat the client with the simplest of needs
exactly like the client with a larger project.’

• Mandela – Prosound has a long history of involvement in events concerning the
iconic statesman. The company did technical design and project management for his
inauguration, the sound production for his famous walk to freedom at Soccer City
and technical production for the Madiba Tribute in 2013.
• Music – the company has been a leading technical producer of music events since
inception, and the roll call of famous musos for which they have produced includes
almost most of the biggest international and local names to perform in southern
Africa. Among them are Bruce Springsteen, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, The Rolling
Stones, Hugh Masekela and many others.
• Houses of worship – Prosound has been involved in the design, integration and
project management of sound lighting and staging solutions for religious institutions
all over the world, including a recent commission to design and install the sound
system in a unique church in the Philippines, which is the largest roofed structure in
the world.
• Stadiums – sound and systems for stadiums across the world, but especially in
southern Africa, are well-known business staples. Prosound was responsible, among
many other projects, for sound systems in 10 of the FIFA World Cup stadiums in
2010, and ALL of the official stadiums for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003.
• Theatre – the precision and expertise demanded by theatre sound and lighting
systems makes them among the most demanding installations of all. Prosound has
run the gamut, from the protest-era Market Theatre in Johannesburg to state-of-
the-art designs and technology for Artscape and the Durban Playhouse; with Mark
Malherbe at the present time still working on sound design for many musicals
across the globe. Among this work are the systems for the iconic Sun City

Many other examples exist of cutting edge and reliably efficient work done in
airports, schools and universities, government buildings and most other spaces in
public life.