To get some background information both on Aerial Acoustics and on the 10T loudspeaker that I review this month, I gave Aerial's Michael Kelly a call. When had he got involved in loudspeakers, I asked...
Kevin Hayes: Valve Amplification Company arose out of my dissatisfaction with the stereo gear I could buy. I've been an audiophile since before I knew what the word meant, going back to the mid-'70s. I had an epiphany when I first heard a piece of old tubed gear, a Fisher X101, that simply blew away a highly touted receiver that I happened to own. It was a 25W integrated amplifier, using 7591s on the output, and except for sustained organ-pedal notes, it was far better than what I had at that time.
Victor Khomenko, the "VK" of Balanced Audio Technology's VK-5 preamp and VK-60 amplifier, was born in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), and grew up two blocks from the Svetlana tube factory. He attended the prestigious Leningrad Polytechnic Institute and received an M.S. in physics and electronics, specializing in electronic emissions. He spent his early working life in the Russian electronics industry, then emigrated to the US in 1979—with $400, a family, no home, and no job.
Cary Audio Design founder Dennis Had is largely responsible for popularizing single-ended amplifiers in America. Since appearing on the scene in 1989, Cary Audio Design has forged its own niche in the high-end audio industry. I spoke with Dennis Had about how he got started building amplifiers, and why he's so committed to single-ended triode designs.
More than 20 years ago, when the turntable was considered a perfectly neutral component in the playback chain, Ivor Tiefenbrun single-handedly demonstrated to the world that the turntable was not only an important part of a hi-fi system, but perhaps the most important part. That radical idea was the basis for the legendary Linn Sondek LP12 turntable, the product that launched Linn, and which is still in production 22 years later.
Canadian speakers from such companies as Mirage, PSB, and Paradigm have acquired international reputations for offering good sound at more-than-competitive prices. The latest Canadian speaker manufacturer to hit the big time might well be Energy, which has actually been around for about 15 years, but has only recently introduced a flagship speaker. Energy's $6000/pair Veritas v2.8 earned Tom Norton's commendation for having produced one of the best sounds at the 1993 Las Vegas WCES. [TJN's review appears in this issue.—Ed.]
Steve McCormack has carved out an unusual niche for himself in high-end audio. While working as a hi-fi salesman, Steve successfully modified an amplifier for a customer and promptly decided that there was a market for improving the sonic performance of other companies' products. Thus The Mod Squad was born, a company Steve and long-time partner Joyce Dudney Fleming established to offer high-end modification services.
Dr. Richard Cabot is one of today's foremost authorities on audio measurement and testing. Formerly an instrumentation designer at Tektronix, Dr. Cabot is now Vice President and Principle Engineer at Audio Precision. The company's System One, a computerized audio test set (used by Stereophile), has revolutionized the way the world measures audio equipment.
Why had a high-end hi-fi magazine felt the need to produce a classical LP when the thrust of real record companies in 1989 is almost exclusively toward CD and cassette? Why did the magazine's editors think they had a better chance than most experienced professional engineers in making a record with audiophile sound quality? Were they guilty of hubris in thinking that the many years between them spent practicing the profession of critic would qualify them as record producers?
One of the things that fascinates me about the field of box loudspeaker design is how few original talents there are capable of designing a model from first principles. Yes, armed with the Thiele-Small papers on bass alignment, an understanding of filter theory, and a working knowledge of the OEM drive-unit field, almost anyone can, and has, come up with one commercially and sonically successful design—given a fair degree of luck. And the teams of well-trained engineers at companies like KEF, B&W, and Celestion have shown that they can produce a steady stream of affordable boxes with a high ratio of performance for the dollar. But for an individual to create more than just one good box speaker requires a modicum of genius, and genius is thin on the ground.
Elsewhere in this issue, I review the new Spica Angelus loudspeaker, only the fourth product to appear from this Santa Fe-based manufacturer since it started operations at the end of the 1970s. You will have to read the review to learn what I thought of the speaker, a distinctively styled floor-standing two-way, but I also thought it would be beneficial to talk with Spica's founder and chief engineer John Bau. I therefore made arrangements to meet with him in their facility just a couple of blocks from Stereophile's old Early Street HQ. I had been told that John was tall, but until he unfolded himself from his stool in his laboratory, surrounded by computers and computerized test equipment, I had not realized how tall! Undaunted, I settled into a conventional chair, pointed the microphone in a vaguely upward direction, and asked John how he had gotten into loudspeaker design.—John Atkinson