Bill Thomas at CES with the ground-breaking coaxial HF/MF unit designed by Jim Thiel (Photo: John Atkinson)
We reported last November that Thiel Audio Products, the Kentucky-based speaker manufacturer founded by Kathy Gornik and the late Jim Thiel, had been had been acquired by a private equity firm based in Nashville, TN, and that Gornik was no longer with the company. At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, held January 811 in Las Vegas, the Thiel display at the Sands Convention Center was packed. I met up with Thiel's new CEO, 55-year old Bill Thomas, and asked him what had led him and his two partners to acquire the company.
September 1997 saw the 35th anniversary of Stereophile magazine, founded by J. Gordon Holt back in 1962. If any interview needs no introduction, this is it. My interview with Gordon was conducted around the kitchen table in Gordon's Boulder, Colorado home over a couple of cold beers. It seemed appropriate to start at the very beginning... J. Gordon Holt: I don't remember when that was.
In May 2009, JA gave dems comparing hi-rez recordings against CD and MP3 versions at the three ListenUp! stores in Colorado. This was part of the Music Matters program, in which audio retailers invite manufacturers and the occasional member of the audio press to demonstrate just how great music can sound on a high-end audio system. Before the Denver event, JA sat down with Adrienne Alterman to share his views.
Twice a year, Stereophile brings some of its writers out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss the compilation of the magazine's "Recommended Components" listing, the most recent of which appeared in the October issue. Following a comment from Will Hammond, John Atkinson's collaborator on the recent amplifier blind listening tests, that the magazine's readers would love to eavesdrop on the conversations that take place on these occasions, it seemed a good idea to tape (footnote 1) some of the discussions and publish the transcript as this month's "As We See It" (footnote 2). Accordingly, Lewis Lipnick, Gary A. Galo, Robert Harley, Thomas J. Norton, Guy Lemcoe, Richard Lehnert, Dick Olsher, Peter Mitchell, Robert Deutsch, J. Gordon Holt, Larry Greenhill, John Atkinson, and Arnis Balgalvis all gathered in LA's palatial listening room one August Saturday. JA set the ball rolling by asking the assembled writers where they thought Stereophile had been, where it was, and where they thought it should be going, particularly in view of Robert Harley joining the magazine as Technical Editor.
Editor's Note: In 1954, a New York writer and teacher reinvented the world of audio with the modest-looking Acoustic Research AR-1 loudspeaker. A small fraction of the size of the behemoths that were then de rigeur for the reproduction of bass frequencies, Edgar Villchur's loudspeaker went as low with less distortion. Perhaps more importantly, the AR-1 pioneered both the science of speaker design and the idea that a low-frequency drive-unit could not be successfully engineered without the properties of the enclosure being taken into account.
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.
It was eight years ago that I first met Aalt Jouk van den Hul. I was visiting Ortofon in Denmark, and, with a group of hi-fi journalists from all over Europe, was traveling by bus to visit the cartridge-production facility in the far south of that country. Bus journeys are not my ideal way of passing time; naturally I gravitated to the rear of the bus, where bottles of Tuborg were making their presence felt. One journalist, however—a pixieish fellow hailing from The Low Countries—resisted the blandishments of the opened bottles. Producing a sheath of black-and-white glossies from his briefcase, he announced that he had just developed the ultimate stylus profile!
Theodore Roosevelt might have described Allen Perkins as someone who speaks softly and carries a big stickor two. Before founding Immedia Distribution in 1990, and long before cofounding turntable manufacturer Spiral Groove in 2005, this soft-spoken designer of two award-winning turntables had begun a career as a jazz drummer.
Alon Wolf can be mesmerizing. When the founder of Magico gets going on one of his favorite subjects, loudspeaker design, the strength of his convictions, depth of technical knowledge, and sureness of response are enough to hush many a skeptic into silence.
It's been three years since the February 1997 issue, when I last talked with Klaus Heymann, founder and chairman of HHN, the parent company of the Naxos and Marco Polo labels. When I heard that he'd be in New York for a visit, I jumped at the chance for another interview.
Imagine a speaker firm with an introductory product that pushes the outside of the performance envelope while tearing the pricing envelope to shreds. A reviewer in an audio journal that tilts toward the high end deems this speaker "appallingly expensive," notes he would have bought the test sample if he'd had the money, and confesses that being without it makes him feel "rather as though a member of the family has passed away." Now envision a speaker company at the peak of the industry sales curve, one so successful that a mainstream hi-fi magazine ranks it No.1 in market share for two separate years. Very different companies, right?
Every summer, I invite a representative sample of Stereophile's equipment reviewers to the magazine's Santa Fe HQ. For the third successive year, I decided to tape some of the free-for-all discussion that takes place and offer readers the opportunity of peeking over the participants' shoulders by publishing a tidied-up version of the transcript.
My e-mailbox fills up with press releases announcing new products and new companies, and that always makes me wonder: Where does all this stuff come from?
I mean, I have lots of ideasI feel like Butch Cassidy: "I have vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals." But there's a huge gap between having a good idea and starting a company that successfully gets that idea out in front of the public. And, I suspect, there's an even greater gulf between getting a product out there and actually making a living at it.
With 25 years of experience in sound recording, audio retailing, and loudspeaker design and manufacturing, Ken Kreisel has insightful things to say about just about any audio-related subject. The president of Miller & Kreisel Sound Corp. (M&K), Kreisel pioneered the satellite/subwoofer speaker concept that laid the groundwork for the home theaters of today. M&K's most recent offering—the S-150THX surround speaker system—is reviewed in this issue (see archived article).
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.