Spend some time with Ravi Rajapakse, President and CEO of Blackfire Research, and you might get the impression that he’s some sort of control freak.
“What we’ve ensured here with our technology is that the entire signal path, from source through speakers, has been carefully controlled. And it has been controlled by me,” he says flatly, before catching himself and adding a nervous laugh.
His language is colored with all sorts of science and technology. His deep background in Silicon Valley’s wireless networking world lends a casual, confident air to his demeanor. Rajapakse is certain, he is sharp, and he is enthusiastic.
He started the company in 2006, when he saw an obvious connection between his professional experience and his audio hobby. It has taken him four years to “perfect the protocol,” he says, to “understand the practical application of wireless technologies in the home audio system. The protocol was built from the ground up, in order to defeat all of the problems associated with wireless technology.” But he would prefer that we don’t focus on the wireless aspect of the system. Blackfire Research doesn’t provide a wireless solution so much as it is aims to “transform the way we use media.” Rajapakse sees his technology as the natural progression for home audio.
“What we are doing is marrying flexibility and convenience with quality.”
The trick is to provide “smart networked audio,” to simplify not only your system but your life. Users download the Blackfire software to their computer or cell phone, and partner that with Blackfire’s BearClaw monoblocks, claimed to deliver 100Wpc, running in class-A/B. Each amp contains a 24-bit/192kHz AKM DAC, designed for ultra-low jitter. The whole system will cost $6800. BearClaws can be placed on top of, underneath, or beside each loudspeaker. In the demo room, they were placed neatly on top of a pair of Legacy Classic HD speakers. (Rajapakse explained that he feels a kinship with the philosophy and technical know-how of Legacy’s founder, Bill Dudleston.) You connect the speakers to the amps, install the Blackfire software, and walk through the setup procedure. In theory, you can then begin streaming music from your notebook or cell phone, comfortably and seamlessly.
“I really don’t see how you can do better in terms of a clean signal path,” said Rajapakse. “As long as you’ve got high-quality speakers, you’re getting about as perfect a world as you can possibly have.”
Blackfire Research is compatible with most Windows or Macintosh media sources. “We are agnostic in terms of the media player,” Rajapakse emphasizes. “Our main concern was with mitigating the problems of a WiFi network, then matching the technology with the potential of the infrastructure.”
Most of our listening took place while we were also discussing the technology (and I was scrambling to take notes), but, with that caveat, the sound seemed dynamic and bold.
Ravi Rajapakse’s Blackfire Research has the passion and experience to bring to life an interesting product, but will the company achieve its goal of transforming the way we interact with media?