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About Custom Quality and Performance

Thoughts on Speaker Building

"As a recording engineer, I have had an opportunity to listen to reference monitors costing upwards of $100,000 per pair. When we build a speaker system, we approach our job from that frame of reference."
- Jim Salk

There is a difference

We often hear people say, "My hearing is not that acute. I doubt I could really hear the difference." Our experience says otherwise. With rare exceptions (primarily audio professionals), those who audition our speakers instantly recognize sound quality at a level they have never before experienced.

How good do they sound?

To paraphrase an old saying, "for those who have heard them, no explanation is necessary...for those who have not, none is possible." Strong words perhaps, but people can only rely on their current frame of reference to interpret information. Since most people have never heard music reproduced through world-class reference speakers, it is difficult for us to effectively convey, in words, the clarity, definition, accuracy and detail you will experience with our custom speakers. Suffice it to say that few retail speakers approach this level of performance and those that do are stratospherically priced. So how is it that we can produce reasonably priced systems that perform to world-class standards?

Simple...we sell direct

Most everyone knows that audio retail mark-ups are typically high. A speaker that retails for $1000 will cost the retailer as little as $500 or less. Then there are marketing costs (slick four-color magazine ads are expensive), overhead costs and sales commissions. All of which leaves little (10% to 15% of the suggested retail price) for the manufacturer to invest in parts. We eliminate those costs and allocate the savings to increase quality. Our speakers sound better simply because they are better. They are superior in at least four distinct areas:

  • better cabinets
  • better drivers
  • better crossover designs
  • better crossover components

First, our cabinets are more massive. Building materials may represent a small portion of a speaker's cost, but retail speaker manufacturers must control weight in order to control shipping costs. We do not (you, our customers, pay the freight). If you lift one of our speakers, you'll notice it is heavier than you expected. Here's why that's important: A speaker driver produces sound by vibrating and transmitting those vibrations to the air. These same vibrations are produced inside the cabinet by the rear surface of the driver cone. If the walls of the cabinet are thin, made of a light material and/or not properly braced, they too will resonate and transmit vibrations to the air. The cabinet walls in this case will actually become an active component of the speaker, producing unwanted side effects that are manifested in the form of muddy, ill-defined sound. By using more massive materials, judiciously bracing the walls where needed and applying high-tech sound deadening and absorption materials, we produce a heavier cabinet with minimal cabinet resonance. So our speakers produce cleaner, crisper sound than speakers built with with lesser cabinets.

Better drivers

The second area of superiority is the quality of our drivers (the actual speakers themselves). There are a fixed number of driver manufacturers who supply the industry. These manufacturers produce drivers that vary widely in performance and price. Most offer high-volume, "mid-fi" drivers for mass market speaker manufacturers. But many also "show their stuff" with cutting-edge drivers that, due to cost, have limited market potential. We choose from among these high-performance drivers. Some are even hand-made.

Naturally, they carry higher price tags--too high for use in most speakers designed for retail sale. But you can't produce a world-class speaker with mid-fi, mass-market drivers. So we won't consider them.

Better crossover designs

The third factor influencing speaker quality is surely the most important--crossover design. It is also the least understood or talked about. The job of a crossover is to divide the signal and direct the appropriate frequencies at the appropriate gain to the appropriate driver, be it the tweeter, midwoofer or woofer. And it must do so in a way that provides a flat, phase-perfect seamless transition from one speaker driver to the next. In a very real sense, the crossover is the "heart" of the system and brings everything into focus. The very nature of the job means that a crossover must be designed for a specific cabinet size and configuration, a specific port configuration and the performance of the specific drivers being used. This is the most difficult part of effective speaker design and is both an art and skill possessed by few.

We rely exclusively on designers with proven track records. In this area, we are simply unwilling to compromise.

Premium crossover components

Finally, we insure quality by utilizing only premium crossover components. These unseen components can actually cost as much or more than the speaker drivers themselves. From a marketing point of view, there is something very sexy about the latest "Kevlar" or "titanium" drivers. Speaker advertising is filled with driver techno-facts. But if you really want to know how a speaker will perform, investigate what parts are employed in the crossover circuitry. Premium crossover parts are expensive. But the better the components, the greater the clarity, detail and openness a speaker will exhibit.

We incorporate only top-tier components.

And that's just for starters

These four criteria: cabinet construction, driver selection, crossover design, and crossover component quality are major drivers of our product quality. But we don't stop there. Our attention is focused on even the smallest details, including the use of a specific type of solder and specific high-performance wire for all internal connections. The list goes on and on. Because our signature goes on every product, we can't afford anything less.

Implications

We feel our business approach allows us to provide extremely high value to our customers. But it does have implications. For us, it means our products will never be mass-marketed, our production volumes will be relatively low and our name will never become a household word. For our customers, it means they will not be able to impress friends with their brand-name speakers. But it also means they will own some of the highest performance speakers available anywhere. And with our manufacturing model, we can custom-finish these speakers in exotic materials, resulting in exclusive, one-of-a-kind products.

Our production facilities only allow us to produce a limited number of speaker systems. We would prefer to place them in homes where performance is valued over bragging rights and where there is a high level of appreciation for quality.

One last detail

We feel it only fair to mention the following: Our speakers feature a level of accuracy, clarity and detail that will bring out subtle nuances normally hidden in great recordings. (Which means you can actually "re-discover" detail in vintage recordings you have enjoyed in the past.) At the same time, they will lay bare any deficiencies in poor recordings. There is no hiding where most of our speakers are concerned. Along those same lines, deficiencies in source components (CD and DVD players, amplifiers, etc.) may be evident as well. But there are three positive things that can be said in this regard:

  • First, our speakers will elicit the best possible performance from your current source equipment.
  • Second, the path to even better sound is always available should you decide to upgrade your source equipment.
  • And finally, you should never need to upgrade your speakers.

In the end

That said, if you are searching for reasonably-priced speakers that perform to world-class standards, you've found them. Since our speakers are custom made for your specific application and decor, we would suggest you contact us to open a dialog. While we do offer certain models on this web site, this selection by no means covers the range of speaker products we can custom build for you.

Contact us

Custom speaker projects can vary greatly in cost and scale. Contact us to discuss your specific requirements