Last week's intro to the current column series, on stepping up from the entry level in audio to something a bit higher-end, finished with a call for you to research a modern speaker designer named Andrew Jones. If you took my advice, you may know that his current employer, a German audio company called ELAC, is enjoying immense growth squarely on the back of his efforts to produce the best budget speaker that has ever existed.
The man who won a plethora of awards for the ultra expensive speakers he designed for TAD is now wringing the most quality he can get out of a $250 pair of speakers. It's a great story.
We started this "how to step up your audio game" series on the topic of speakers, because time has taught me that speakers offer the most potential for a magical audio outcome — and they can also completely wreck the sound of a good system.
Why don't all speakers more or less sound the same? After all, every refrigerator that's sold must refrigerate, and every axe must be able to chop.
Good question, and here's another one: Have you ever held a perfectly balanced axe in your hands, hefted its ideal weight and wedge shape for the density of the log to be chopped, and split said log without feeling it but while hurling the bifurcated bough's remnants 20 feet in either direction? Have ya?
There are good refrigerators and bad ones. All I'm saying is in almost every product market, there's variation in quality. Mr. Jones is a good example of a designer who brings the passion of limitless R&D budgets to the challenge of the budget speaker.
The challenges involved in creating a budget speaker are immense. If you ever have a reason to peruse the raw speaker driver sections of Madisound or Parts-Express online, you'll see the middle of the road pricing on average quality woofers is something like $30, and I suppose it's similar for tweeters, if not slightly more. Four of those brings you to almost half of the retail price of your budget speakers.
Longtime readers will recall my railing against the low parts cost of very popular and corporate chain-type audio companies. I can name several now that have speakers in the budget price range that sound like absolute garbage when compared to the ELAC and Pioneer speakers that Andrew designed. Clearly, he and his team found a way to get it done while raising the bar of quality.
I'm not a shill for anyone — I'm just telling it like I see it. For $250, right now, I think there's just no real competition for his quality level.
Moving on to electronics, I offer two subjects for the week's research. Mike Moffat's work with the audio company Theta Digital over many years prepared him to eventually shake up the industry when he partnered with another industry longtimer, Jason Stoddard, to create a very colorful and pun-potential-rich budget audio company named Schiit.
It's pronounced just like you hope it would be. Check out these two and what they've done since joining forces, and we'll return next week for more "stepping up your game" badness. Stay tuned.