Volti: the penultimate truth

The next-to-the-last demonstration I heard at RMAF 2012 was among the two or three most impressive. Doing business as Volti (it means to move forward) Audio, Maine resident Greg Roberts builds horn loudspeakers that seem to embody both the superb craftsmanship and musical impact of America's finest vintage-audio products. His newest, the Vittora ($15,000/pair), is a three-way loudspeaker with a horn-loaded 15" bass driver, horn-loaded 2" compression driver for the midrange, and horn-loaded 1" compression driver for the treble, with passive crossover networks, stepped attenuators for the mids and trebles, and an all-plywood cabinet in a choice of veneers. Based on a brief audition with EMM Labs digital source components and a BorderPatrol S20 single-ended 300B amp ($13,750), I can only say that the Vittora is, if anything, underpriced. My first question to Mr. Roberts was, "Who do I have to kill to borrow a review pair?"; we're still working out the details. . .
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COMMENTS
370lbgorilla's picture

Isn't this a blatant rip-off of the Klipschhorn?

Allen

jackan's picture

No. It has a nod and a wink to it. But there are many more blatent immitations in the speaker world. An update, improvement, or revision would be a more valid description.

370lbgorilla's picture

An update, improvement, or revision would be a more valid description.

But wouldn't an update, improvement, or revision upon an existing product have to be approved by the original manufacturer (Klipsch)?

DIY is fine, but taking it a step further and cashing in on the sale of a "revised" product already in existance, seems to me like it should be illegal.

I think Klipsch would have legal grounds to sue, much like a musician would if one of their songs were copied, and although not identical, similar enough to be infringing on the original piece.

Allen

 

 

kenkirk's picture

It looks like a nicely done Belle Klipsch. And their web site offers mods for the Klipsch Heritage line, so I do think this company admires Paul's work. The Belle has always been one of my favorite Klipsch speakers. I bet these sound wonderful.

 

mauidj's picture

So now we have arrived at the place where $15,000 speakers are underpriced? Sad...particularly coming from Art.

Tesla one's picture

Exactly, mauidj. 

... I can only say that the Vittora is, if anything, underpriced.

Well, on his Volti Audio website Mr. Roberts states the material + labour costs put into the Vittora's equal $20.400, and that the current retail price of $15k/pair reflects a "compensation," of sorts, for a lesser known product that would over time slowly recuperate its cost (and Mr. Robert's income) via a gradual incline in price(ending perhaps roughly at $22k), and in that light it would be fair to claim the Vittora's current retail price is, in fact, too low,

However, I'm sure this wasn't what Art Dudley had in mind with above statement/quote. Instead, it's a clear symptom of a tendency that has spiralled further out of control as of late, one that equates that whatever is deemed sonically desirable by a league of reviewers/magazines is in effect always in direct proportion to a higher calling price; further reflecting the perverted relationship, that whatever is deemed sonically desirable is largely a bi-product of what it has to fit into, a higher price, and as such is an indication of the strong coupling between the over-capitalized market and the audio "press." Sadly, Stereophile for some years now has severely succumbed to the market on financial conditions/terms when it should be independent of it. 

An example: these last days I've experimented with copper foil coils using the foils as speaker cables, simply insulated with non-bleached natural paper. My existing speaker cables are Mundorf's teflon insulated 1.5mm silver/gold wires, which at the current silver price retails for ~$1500 for 30ft - the total length used for my speaker cables in single wire configuration. 30ft of AWG14(0.075 x 28mm = 2 mm2) copper foil cost me under $10 - from a 3.3mH copper foil coil for $60. I can honestly say the foils are at least the equal of the Mundorf wires, and the rest is simply a matter of system implementation and taste. How do you like them apples, Mr. Dudley?

To my math it's the Mundorf wires that are too expensive(or, put differently: they don't seem to make possible a sound quality, extremely good it may be, that reflects the advance in "numerical value" of its price compared to the foils), and not the copper foils that're too cheap. The Mundorf wires simply reflect the price of silver(and gold), a relation which has no inherent markers into its sonic attributes in absolute qualitative terms; do you think the price of silver is higher because it sounds better - I mean, even if it did? And yet, this is exactly where the hifi industry, and now sadly the reviewers wants us to "think"(i.e.: automatically assume) differently so to accommodate the market. How I hate to read the smug passing on's of equipment/cable retail prices from exhibition reports when they seem to almost proudly reflect exclusivity and not least necessity - that the more expensive the more "this is the real shit." 

It's sad, disgusting, and not in the service of what this ought to be solely about: the pursuit of the best sound, price truly disregarded. 

mrplankton2u's picture

Ah, yet another reader who has dared to lift up the curtain and openly share his/her reaction to what they see...  Warms my heart!  

But no need to fear purveyors of diamond encrusted speaker cables, gold plated "footers", platinum infused "cable suspenders", and $5000 dollar metal boxes that "purify" electricity -  there's always "Reputation.com" to come along afterwards and clean up the mess...

Volti's picture

There should be no doubt that the Volti Audio Vittora plays on the designs of two Klipsch Heritage speakers, the Klipsch La Scala and the Klipsch Khorn.  I've always been fond of the overall simplicity, the proportions, and the design details of these iconic horn speakers, and I've owned multiples of both models for over 35 years. 

In my own designs, I believe I am carrying on the work of PWK in a way that the Klipsch company of today is not able to or is not inclined to do. 

People should know that the few aesthetic details that I took from the old PWK designs have been respectfully integrated into a Volti Audio design that has nothing in common with those old horns save the basic topology itself.

Eighteen months of work went into developing the Vittora bass horn, and I promise that the internal structure is as far removed from the La Scala design as can be, and still have both be called folded horns. 

Legally, like it or not, the patents on the Klipsch designs expired decades ago, and the designs are free to use for personal or commercial use. 

But the Vittora is not an update or a revision of any Klipsch design.  No more so than the hundreds of speakers that have three drivers in a box with a grill on the front are updates or revisions of one another.  A folded horn is going to look like a folded horn.  Just the way it is.  But there can be significant differences in performance from one horn to another, looks aside, just like the speakers that have three drivers in a box with a grill over the front will also differ significantly in sonic quality from one to another. 

Is the Vittora an improvement over the old Klipsch designs?  I think so, but that is a subjective matter that will be determined by individuals over a long period of time. 

Greg Roberts

www.voltiaudio.com

 

 

 

keenlyside's picture

I bought a pair of Vittora's at the show (and a sub). I am not a wealthy man and, like the vast majority of us, have to work very hard for my money so I spend very carefully.

I also am a craftsman so while I am not at Greg's skill level I can literally appreciate the man hours that go into these speakers and on any sensible calcuation they are oustanding value for money. Paying $60 an hour for a genine craftsman in a fully equipped shop is more than reasonable and I don't believe Greg recover's all of his costs.

Greg is also a gentleman and a pleasure to deal with. The Vittora's sound great and you will be hearing more about them as reviews start to surface over the next while (including mine as an amatuer and others in the industry).

I have no affilliation to Volti or Greg other than being a very happy customer. Best wishes to all.

Cheers

John

Pro-Audio-Tech's picture

Lawsuits, Rip Off's and Blatent, OH MY!

Jeez, can't a guy build a speaker without audiophiles threatening from their moral high ground. 

The speaqkers did sound better than I recall the old Klipsh's did.

Tesla one's picture

I thought I should make this clear: my only issue was with Mr. Dudley's statement on $15k speakers(in principle; not the Vittora's in particular) being underpriced, and I can understand why/if some may have thought my post above reflected badly on the Vittora's. This wasn't my intention at all. 

In fact, having not heard them I'm still highly intrigued by these speakers that exude real, timeless craftsmanship one rarely sees, and a combination of qualities, as far as I'm able to assess, that moves them out of the typicality of what "hifi" has come to entail; very high efficiency, carefully selected pro drivers, attentive fine tuning founded in years of experience and an ear for what "real" music sounds like, beautiful "vintage" construction/finish, and not least a seemingly effortless and natural sonic presentation where energy coherence, timbre, and dynamic (and transient) capabilities are not forgotten parameters of sound reproduction. 

It's commendable how Mr. Roberts is transparent into the material and labour costs - indeed sharing his passion into developing and building these speakers and revealing key aspect(like, The Importance of Mid-bass) that to him are crucial into sound reproduction - that I don't find the Vittora's being too expensive as such(nor too cheap at its expected, eventual full retail price at >$20k), although $15-20k is a lot of money.

No, it's the many other speakers from typically larger, marketing-driven companies that are much, much too expensive, and yet they're the cumulative mass of products that have come to set the price-bar or -standard into the ever increasing expenditure run-amok, mirrored by the hollowness it represents. So, to hear Mr. Dudley waddle right into the quoted statement above is a sad reminder of how he's become entangled and distorted, if you will, by the enertia of this tendency. I'm sure he appreciates good sound, if only he'd rid himself of being paralyzed by the value of a (higher) number. 

(I use semi-efficient (partial) horn/waveguide speakers myself with BMS compression drivers and Beyma bass/mid units, and I can certainly attest to the qualities of the BMS drivers and their natural, effortless sound, as well as the good qualities of the Beyma units.)

crouse99's picture

Art, I sure would like to read a comparison review of the Voltis and Klipsch LaScalas.  What say?

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