Thiel CS1.5 loudspeaker

"Pssst, Sam. I've got this great speaker for you."

It was a physician from New York City—Queens, I think—visiting Stereophile's Hi-Fi '94 High-End Show, in Miami.


"It's wonderful. Mind-boggling. Highly efficient. It can be driven with almost no power at all."

"What are you driving it with?"

"A Rotel integrated."

Aha—another amateur speaker-maker, I thought.

"Do you want to come hear it?" the physician asked.

"Not especially," I said. "I've been on wild goose chases before."

"What does it take to get it reviewed?" he asked.

"Reviewed? First it has to become a real product that people can go out and buy. You start by manufacturing a few prototypes, then rent a room at CES or the Stereophile Hi-Fi Show, and take it around to dealers. In other words, you open a business and try to generate enthusiasm and sales."

"We're just amateurs. We made this speaker for the love of it."

"Well, enjoy it. But you have to decide what you want to do. If you believe in the speaker and think you could make money selling it, then you should consider going into business. But don't expect anyone to beat a path to your door."

"I know what you're thinking," said the physician. "You're thinking that most speaker builders are crackpots."

"You said it." It's like the "slush pile" that every book publisher has—unsolicited manuscripts, 99% of which will, and should, never see the light of day.

The physician persisted.

"Look," I said. "I'm not going to schlep to Queens to hear a speaker that some folks—however well-meaning they may be—put together in their garage. If you're serious, you have to go into business and try to build support for the speaker. Then, after you've been around for ten years, some of us might pay attention. By that time, of course, I may be retired. Don't expect hi-fi writers to help you launch your business."


You bet. But if you've listened to as many truly atrocious speakers as I have—some of which have seen the light of day, however briefly, as commercial products—you'd probably be cynical, too.

True, every so often one of those new speaker manufacturers is a Richard Vandersteen, a John Bau (founder of Spica), or a Jim Thiel. But for every Richard, John, or Jim, there are 300 also-rans.

Still, dealers and salespeople often get caught up with obscure speakers, so customers would do well to be on guard.

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