|"Some of you have privately asked me about some of the industry legends...and as I'm now old enough to be a legend too (but not one) I can talk about some of them candidly.|
I'll mention one, and if you want more write me or ask me to post more anecdotes, I can do it privately or on forum."
This was my opening into my first Manufacturers I Have Known, reminicances of Jim Thiel, one of my personal heroes and ultimately a good friend.
Now, I'll turn my keen observatinal powers to one of Audiogon's favorite sons...Bobby Palkovic of Merlin fame.
In the late 1980's, I'd had an audio store in the Mecca of High End Audio in western world, Louisville, Ky, for about 7 years.
I won't metion all the products, but I had a store that mirrored many of the stores of that era.
Best selling speakers were THIEL and Magnepan--and various other brands which have since lost favor or faded.
My store was, in the mid '80's located in a three story Victorian building in downtown Louisville...and a group, gang of guys (assuming) came THROUGH THE WALL, and stole just about everything from the store--hence their moniker,
'The Hole In The Wall Gang'. That, in fact, was their M.O.
After fighting the insurance company (don't you love them), we took a few months off--recalibrated and then reopened in a walking (outdoor) Mall in Eastern Louisville.
My personal love affair with THIEL had waned some, (read sales had dropped off for THEIL) and I was looking for some magic bullitt...some product that could be 'life affirming' and sell like crazy.
This was in the day of the two CES'--one in Chicago, summer time.
I went with that Dorothy in Oz kind of 'follow the yellow brick road' enthusiasm--and it was there, that year that I met one of the industry's modern day legends. Oh, he's too humble to ever be pedalistalized (new word, thanks Ogden), but it's really true. He's a brilliant, self effacing and somewhat modest (more now than then) kind of guy who credits Czech Beer for some of his designs--but I'm ahead of myself.
That show, as I recalled was well attended and we were still in the caccoon of audio nirvana in terms of business potential. Remember, some of the 'Boomers' were only 24 years old at this time.
Anyway, with no particular agenda, I wandered in to a room in which this handsome young fella was wearing a Tux, standing next to speakers that were taller than him--with some supporting lit that showed wizzards and other wizzardly stuff. What impressed me though, was the Tux and the Champagne which was in the back of the room...being iced for any and everyone who showed up.
On display in the main room was the Merlin 4B. Bobby was there to meet and greet and really demo for anyone who was interested.
He immediately put me at ease--we talked briefly, he found out who I was and quickly went into his sales/info pitch.
I was impressed with both him AND his product--not the cosmetics, because back then the 60 odd inch tall 4B's were foam covered, very man friendly products, and sort of antithetical to THIEL which was, in general terms 'wife friendly' having beautiful wooden cabinets of all kinds.
I immediatley liked the voicing and sound staging of the Merlins...they were very large, and had a D'Appilito configuration of drivers, 2 8" 2 4" flanking a tweeter.
The rear of the cabinet had controls for the drivers outputs, kind of burried within the foam. These were NOT sophistocated looking, but were very musical and really, really DYNAMIC too. Sound staging was very good as I recall--and the balance was to my liking.
These guys, back then sold for $3K, which would convert to $5753.22 in 2011 Dollars, thanks to Tom's Inflation Calculator.
Perspective, the Quad ESL 63's were also $3K.
After talking for quite a while, it became obvious that Mr. Palkovic was not only a good designer, but a likable guy to sit in a bar with and have a drink or 17.
We talked about his core theology and he said..."I don't like the THIEL's...they're bright and annoying sounding...they compress dynamics...they don't sound like music to me...but if you like them, that's great...NEXT!
What became obvious to me, was that Bobby not only knew how to voice loudspeakers, but he also knew how to 'voice' a takeaway--sales slang for, "I don't really need your business, but hey, we can be friends." I don't think that, given Bob's large brain and hard to read approach, that most of you should volunteer to play poker with this guy.
After several hours of visit...Bob convinced me to spend $8K ($15,341.92 in today's dollars) on an opening order.
I asked, less enthusiastically about the 1B, 2B, 3B and such, his other speakers, and he dismissed me quickly, "Oh Hell Larry, they all sound alike." I was sold AND smitten with his products, AND Bobby.
This started a 23 year acquaintence with Bobby--which is still casually alive.
I sold a lot of Merlins over the next few years--basically until THIEL realized my shift in allegiance and brought me back to the THIEL Train.
During my association with Bobby, I met his friend Paul, who was importer for Gryphon...easily the best preamp I'd ever, ever hard up to that time, AND the most beautiful.
I brought on Gryphons Line Stage Preamp and sold 11 of the 13 brought in to the US in 1988/89.
Knowing Bob over the years has been interesting. He decided, I suppose some time shortly after the 'huge speaker' era, that people want smaller speakers in their homes. He also decided that hallucenogenic Czech beer was not in his long term interest.
Of late...in an effort to help my friend Joe (mention him often, he's a blind, incredibly intelligent audiophile from Louisville and great friend) get his speaker rebuilt after a lightening strike, completely rebuilt the crossovers, replaced drivers and such, while being tutored by a more than patient and helpful Bobby Palkovic.
When the story of Audio is written, Bobby Palkovic will go down in the annuls of history as a great designer, funny, self effacing, and humble guy who really, really knows how to treat customers, whether they're end users OR Dealers.
Hope you enjoy this inside look #2.