Nothing Unintentional

I've been wondering about Onkyo's new D-TK10 speakers, the ones that incorporate the design philosophy and technique of Takamine guitars. I've been wondering. On the surface, it seems a good and logical partnership. There are, of course, similarities between guitars and loudspeakers. Are there? Guitars are made of wood, speakers are made of wood. Guitars make sound, speakers make sound. Etc. But guitars are musical instruments, and, however nice and poetic it may be to think of a loudspeaker as a musical instrument, it's not. Not really. Is it? You could, of course, mess around with the meaning of the word "instrument," but I don't want to get into that. Let's be straightforward.

An instrument is a device used to produce music.

Oh, damn. Isn't a loudspeaker also a device used to produce music? I hate it when I think I have an idea, and then all of a sudden — bam — I don't know what I'm talking about. It happens all the time, actually. What does that say about me? And what's with all this introspection? What do I have to do with it? Nevermind. Where was I? Oh.

Let's define "instrument" as something that needs to be "played" in order to produce music. And what do I mean by "played?" Let's say an instrument will be strummed or plucked or banged on or blown into or something along those lines. And, before this becomes sexual, as things so often somehow do, let's again stress that the strumming, plucking, banging, and blowing are meant to produce music. Rather than, I don't know, a mess. And let's call "music" a collection of tones or sounds having rhythm, melody, and harmony working together to form a composition. Rather than, say, a baby. And, yes, I know that someone out there might know of an instrument that doesn't actually need to be "played" in order to produce music, and someone out there might consider sex to be very musical, and someone out there might think of a song as their baby, and someone out there might even claim that a song can produce sensations similar to orgasm — certainly, there are hundreds of holes in my logic — but let's stay away from those kinds of thoughts right now. For simplicity's sake.

The thing is this: A guitar is not a loudspeaker and a loudspeaker is not a guitar. So what happens when you cross the streams? Who knows? Let's go to the press release! The press release says:

While the musical character of some devices was often a happy coincidence, there is nothing unintentional about this new loudspeaker from Onkyo and Takamine.

Nothing unintentional? What's so special about that? Isn't everything somehow intentional? Or is it the other way around? Sorry. Back to the press release:

The Onkyo D-TK10 is revolutionary because its designers consciously rejected the inert-box acoustics of conventional speaker cabinetry in favor of a freely-vibrating thin-wall enclosure based on high-end guitar construction.

My initial reaction to this is: Yikes! It's either revolutionary or stupid.

Or maybe it's neither. Both? A freely-vibrating loudspeaker? That's crazy-talk. Ay dios mio and oy vey. But why? What does the press release have to say about this?

The D-TK10 has thin walls that vibrate like a guitar body, adding depth and character to the music. Unlike conventional speakers, the Onkyo D-TK10 is not an impartial transducer. It sounds very accurate, yet it enhances the music in a way that must be heard to be appreciated.

Again, I wonder. I wonder: What's so special about this? I wonder: How many speaker designers would consider their babies impartial transducers? How many would consider them partial transducers? Hmm? And don't all — or, if not all, I'd have to assume most — speaker designers want their products to enhance the music in a certain way? And, by "enhance," I mean:

Make beautiful.

And beauty, as we all know, is in the eye of the tweeter. The woofer? Yes? No? I don't know. Would somebody help me out here? And hasn't this been done before? If not, I guess, then, that this D-TK10 speaker is revolutionary. And, by "revolutionary," I mean...

The Onkyo website claims that the D-TK10 is indeed "the world's first speaker to share design characteristics with an acoustic guitar." True or false, good or bad? I suppose I'm curious. Their retail price of $1999 puts them in direct competition with my beloved DeVore gibbons. Reason, perhaps, for me to play them. I mean: give them a listen.

There was absolutely nothing unintentional about this blog entry except, of course, for all that didn't occur to me. Thank you.

Buddha's picture

Ah, the slippery slope of linguistics!

Guitars produce music," speakers reproduce a given signal.

A guitar can sound any way it likes.

Speakers are supposed to sound like the ""instrument"" that produced the sounds in the first place.

You're pretty new to all this marketing bullshit"," but an easy rule: Turn your bullshit filter to ""red hot"" when any Hi Fi manufacturers say ""it enhances the music..."" about about their gear.

It's hard enough for speakers to accurately reproduce the actual signal properly; it's folly to make any broad claim that any given device in the sound reproduction chain ""enhances"" the music.

Hope that helps.

Now", if you'll pardon me, I have to head over to some photography forums to read about a new camera that enhaces the look of what you aimit at. I wanna see if they mean in the real world, or on the image viewer. Now THAT could be revolutionary

Al Marcy's picture

You picked this job, didn't you? Home audio doesn't sound much like a concert. Better, maybe, but, not the same. Everybody wants us to buy their version of wretched compromise. Not their loyal opposition's version. Stirful tries to explain how the best stuff all sounds different, but, pretty good. We all hope to think our systems don't sound worse than other systems. Sometimes, they don't. Abba doesn't care. Sometimes I like Abba. Just for their simplicity. Music is kind of hot and cold, ya'know?

Clifton's picture

Buddha is right. You can tune the guitar. Can you tune the speakers, or did the designer do all that for you? I think Michael Green (Greene? I can't remember)," who designed many room ""tuners"," did a brief foray into speaker design. He marketed a few models with screws on the enclosure sides. You loosened or tightened the screws to increase or decrease cabinet resonances. They didn't sell much. Still, you ought to audition them, Stephen. Maybe this can be your first slash-'em-up review, where you end up ruining the designer for life and earn Stereophile a suicide note in the Manufacturer's Comments"" section. Or", maybe they sound terrific, and Buddha and I are wrong (as if THAT hasn't happened before). Either way, you have a scoop -- so get crackin' before somebody else gets hold of 'em!

Buddha's picture

Well," I'm not saying they will not sound ""good.""
What I'm sayin' is that their claim to ""enhance the music"" runs a high value on the ol' bullshit meter.

They may", in fact," sound ""good.""

Especially at first listen.

But remember", grasshoppers," ""different"" often diguises itself as ""better"" upon making first acquaintance.

It's only over time that we usually realize that ""different"" is merely ""different"," not better.""

Anyone who's ever dated knows this phenomenon well.

Gosh"," we covered two ""rules of Hi Fi"" in only one post!

Time for a drink.

Then off to the mountains", like Clifton, only near Bryce Canyon...

Thinking good thoughts for you this Labor Day weekend.See y'all next week!

Buddha's picture

You know, this really is a matter best discussed over cocktails, in a darkened lounge," with rumaki and coconut shrimp patiently waiting for us to take our pleasure...

But I digress.

""Better"" vs. ""Different"" is the cornerstone of critical listening. It is so fundamental and deeply set that I can still discourse upon it with alacrity even four fifths of the way through a three day binge.

Needless to say"," that puts it on the same level of philosophical depth as ""I love you man. You're the greatest."" Yup", it's that seminal.

And with that, I'm off!

Monty's picture

I wonder if they will be offered in the Willie Nelson, distressed finish? Maybe even have holes in them like his guitar. I guess Onkyo hasn't been sitting on their butts after all. Interesting concept.

Clay White's picture

The guys at Sonus Faber put it this way," ""...This is why", in developing our speakers we take inspiration in the construction principles that are used in the design of stringed instruments, in the firm belief that good sound depends largely on the acoustic chamber," exactly as it does in a stringed musical instrument.""They've done pretty well with that approach for a long time. So Onkyo didn't come up with a new idea", but they might have stumbled on a good one. You ought to check them out and see how well they did with it.

Christian's picture

I am very intrigued to hear what these speakers sound like. At the same time I am very skeptical. This type of enclosure for stringed instruments has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years. So why in the evolution of speakers have conventional designers gone to an inert enclosure. Seems to me that a resonant enclosure for loudspeakers would have been tried before. The other question is, what is the purpose of this type of enclosure in a guitar versus a loudspeaker. In a guitar isn't it in part to amplify and provide weight to the sound of the guitar's strings vibrating? In today's kilowatt home amplifiers it would seem uneccessary to use this design in loudspeakers. Maybe I am all screwed up, I grew up playing brass instruments and I really know little about guitars. All that said, I REALLY want to hear these speakers. The concept seems romantic and they are shapely looking buggers. I wonder how long before they find their way to my local hi-fi shop.