A vote for the little guy suppliers


Over the years, either by desire or luck, I've managed to gravitate to small volume gear suppliers, most of whom have extensive engineering degrees and operate without advertising or retail entanglements.

I think I have found (with much help from forums like this) the pieces I will be retiring with and I couldn't be happier or more content with my system.  Other than one final turntable change which I promised myself at retirement, I'm done.  

My speakers, phono stage, cartridge SUT, preamp, amp, and cables are all from individual designers, all made in the USA.  I have either met in person or have had multiple phone and email encounters with all of them.  I really like this approach and I'm convinced that great equipment at reasonable pricing can be had this way.  I've had to endure longer wait periods after ordering due to each of them not having factories behind them to mass-produce the gear.  None of them inventory product and most of the gear is really a custom order.  

Only my current TT/cartridge and SACD/CD player are from well known large firms.   

Anyone else like having relationships with their suppliers?  In case anyone is curious:

     Speakers      - JansZen Valentina/zA2.1 hybrid ESL

     Phono stage - custom build by Don Sachs

     SUT              - Bob Devices SKY 20

     Preamp         - Linear Tube Audio MZ2-S

     Amp              - Linear Tube Audio ZOTL40

     Cables          - Cerious Technologies Graphine Extreme speaker, power, and interconnects

My sources are both Marantz units.  The new TT will likely be Technics 1200G.  Current primary cart is a Lyra Delos

jsm71
Tekton, without a doubt for Speakers. And Odyssey, Decware for amps. If you can get the principals on the phone when you call, that's what's important to me.
I used  Odyssey for years , bought a Van Alstine which sounds better, not that Odyssey is not good mind you .
Frank Answers the phone quicker as well .
I agree Decware is another great company that you can have a relationship with.  I had a Torii Mk IV and a ZMA amp before learning about LTA.  Steve is sometimes hard to get on the phone the first try, but they get back to you and he will spend whatever time you need.
 I've had good success with the smaller vendors as well. I was an early adopter of Red Wine Audio, Decware, Tonian Labs, TWL and Cullen Cables. I even had Stan Warren mod a Philips CD-80 way back in 1990, working out of his garage. All great sounding.

All the best,
Nonoise

Love Frank Van Alstine, a real no-bs guy. Also Bruce Thigpen of Eminent Technology, Keith Herron, Roger Modjeski of Music Reference, Geoffrey Owens of Helius Designs, Max Townshend of Townshend Audio, Tim de Paravicini of EAR-Yoshino, and Ralph Karsten of Atma-Sphere. And let’s not forget Richard Vandersteen and Jim Winey (of Magnepan, of course), two working-class heroes.

Also the small, independent hi-fi retailers like Brian Berdan of Audio Elements in Pasadena, CA, his mother Sheila (Brooks Berdan’s widow) at Brooks Berdan Ltd. in Monrovia, CA, and Randy Cooley of Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica.

Paul Laudati 
Clear Day Cable

N

I've gotten wonderful products and have had terrific customer service from these "little" guys:

AVA Audio - Frank Van Alstine

Mapletree Audio - Dr. Lloyd Peppard

Audio Mirror - Vlad Bazelcov

Quicksilver Audio,tube amps and preamps - Mike Sanders
I've been burned too many times with little guys.....GAS, Melos, et al.
Another vote for Quicksilver and Decware.  Also Louis at Omega speakers.  All are great people to deal with.
Paul Laudati
Clear Day Cable

Speaking of Paul, did anyone see his ad over at Audio Asylum Trader?
Looks like he will be on the shelf for a few months with some upcoming surgery.
Best Wishes Paul!

http://www.audioasylumtrader.com/ca/listing/Speaker-Cables/Clear-Day-Cables/Availability/175673
Deja Vu Audio one of the best retail stores in the country and designers of fantastic tubed gear. I am fortunate to live near the original Mclean store and to me Vu has the best ears in the business. Running a preamp and amp from their former designer going on 10 years now for both pieces. Could not recommend them highly enough to anyone that loves tubes and analog.
You can add Jeff Roland of Audio Philosophy in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I lived for many years, although I didn't know Jeff. 225-936-5600, info@audphi.com, http://audphi.com. Super nice guy and very knowledgeable. I was going around and around trying to put together an inexpensive office stereo, and he solved my office stereo problem in two words. KEFX300A demo. Love the speakers (and Jeff, of course). I'm also talking to him about a Moon ACE. Check him out. Tell him Paul in Las Vegas sent you. :-)
I agree. My best discoveries are those one person dealers selling hand made gear from one person manufacturers. In my case, I'm not expecting a price deal because of this. But, I have gotten my best sound, support, service, and warranties are not even discussed or relevant. Any equipment issues simply get taken care of, because there's a sense of personal responsibility to make it right.

There is also how my dealer scrutinizes the gear he sells for system matching. No more apples and oranges or guesswork. No more stumbling around. After I found "my sound," my dealer only made upgrade recommendations when I asked. Every recommendation a winner. No more left to say.
Kenny



Douglas Connection!  Doug is a great guy and customer service second to none.  Check them out for some excellent connectors, wire, cables and accessories. 

http://www.douglasconnection.com/main.sc

That is exactly how I feel about the Mc cutomer support, same with dealing with Jolida, I know there brand is lower end, but that’s what I started with. Without the support I received from them even with second hand gear, I prob wouldnt be the tube head I am today, I can always get Bob on the phone pretty much any time before 10pm when I have questions or issues with my Carver tube gear. He’s a great guy as well, always seems to have the right answers reguardless of brand I know he will help if he can. If he can’t he knows who can.
In the world of DIY speakers, Danny Richie of GR Research rules. In the world of musical subwoofers, his collaborator Brian Ding of Rythmik Audio does as well.
Have had experience with Bob's Devices.  His SUT  (SKY 130) has
been one of the best additions to my system. He also gives exceptional advice on TT and Carts. A person of integrity you can trust. My experience with larger operations is always the same.
They sell, sell, sell but seldom know much about their equipment.



Mapleshade 
Bruce Thigpen  @  Eminent Technology

Kevin Carter  @  K&K Audio

Steve McCormack  @  SMc Audio
  1) Dennis Had , A true gentleman.       2) Mike Morrow , an absolute pleasure to deal with.  Some of the small places that grew . Rogue Audio , Zu Loudspeakers and Schiit . They still treat you with that personal touch .          Doing Mid Fi on a budget , the people I've encountered and you Gonner's have mentioned , make it possible . I so appreciate the insight that everyone brings to this forum . Happy Listening , Mike. 😎
Stringreen - I know your pain but what you needed to understand is that the products were designed with flaws.  Melos the large amps could not take the heat as other manufacturers also did this.  Counterpoint was well designed but also with flaws, etc.  The real issue is understanding how a quality product is made and what parts are used.  In years past I remember someone looking inside a component and saying wow look how neat everything is - yeah sure it looked all neat inside but the high voltage wires were right next to the low voltage wires - not a good idea.

I also could say the same thing about the long term familiar manufacturers - parts quality is OK, designs are somewhat simple, no point-to-point wiring anymore, etc.  Ever see V-Caps or Vishay resistors or Plitron transformers come stock in any units?  But check out the price of some components, shouldn't they come with these parts for the price?

Happy Listening. 
Lampizator 
Modwright 
Herbies audio labs
Spectron 
and mapleshade - 

have all gone above and beyond when dealing with questions related to their equipment - and more importantly - how it may interact with the rest of your gear - in other words - they earned the business and my support - and if I'm looking to upgrade - these vendors are ones that would still be on the top of my list - just because of they way they treat their customers.  Perhaps if they get bigger - their philosophy may change - but they are still small enough to appreciate the business they get 
For your table source, please consider Bruce McDougall's Anvil Table website: https://www.anvilturntables.com

I've owned mine for a couple years now, not one issue ever.  Bruce is a dealer for arms/carts/weights/footers, etc for his table.  It's a work of beauty and sonically sounds wonderful.  Pairs nicely w/my system.  

Good luck in your search. Bruce is very approachable.

Chris Evans


Let's mot forget Bob at Cerious and Mark at CPT. Great people to do business with.
I don’t know if these qualify as "little guys" because their gear is well known, but they are essentially one man operations: Lamm; Allnic.
I’ll also throw a vote to Franc Kuzma, despite the fact that he runs what is now a substantial operation- he is very much "there" to answer queries, and is really the motive force behind a company known for producing consistently high quality turntable products and standing behind them.
Ric Shultz of EVS does fine modifications and is a very interesting guy.

Rich Brkich of Signature Sound. Small audio dealer, great gear and service.

Jim McShane for tubes (very well tested, great service) and Hk Citation mods. I've also had good experiences with Brent Jesse Recording & Supply, Dougs Tubes and TubeDepot.

Keith Herron of Herron Audio.

Gert Pederson out of The Netherlands produces killer mods for Michell turntables. Excellent support and service. Completely transformed my Orbe SE.

Ars Sonum out of Spain.

Mr King of Kingko Audio, a new operation out of Hong Kong makes a really cool little tube amp, the KA-101.

I like building kits so Transcendent Sound, Bottlehead, Tubes4HiFi (Vacuum Tube Audio) and Elekit are all great operations.
I will stick with the small guys. I have had great experiences dealing with small American audio companies. The good ones have one thing in common, they love what they do. They are audiophiles like us. They are driven, dedicated and passionate.

Much appreciation to:

Mark (Linear Tube Audio)
David (Janszen Speakers)
Bob (Cerious Technologies)
Steve (Decware)
Dan (Modwright)
Eric (Tekton)
Mike (Morrow Cables)
David (Berning)

Omega Loudspeakers and Louis Chochos. 
No Schiit?!  If not, let me add Mike Moffat, Jason Stoddard and crew.

Chris at Parts ConneXion

+1 (and many more) for Paul Laudati at Clear Day Cables
Bruce @ Anvil Turntables
Herbies Audio Lab
K + K
Schiit for sure! 
Small operations, agreed. When feasible.

Trans-Fi for air bearing tonearms (which I have), and turntables (which I have not)

K & K for transformers (good advice, superb product)

AtmaSphere
Parks Audio-Tube phono preamps and SUTS!
http://parksaudiollc.com/budgiepreamp.html
Tyler acoustics                                                                                              Digital Amp Company                                                                                  Gabriel Gold
Most of my kit is from small outfits. Chapman T77SE speakers-longest tenured in my system, Mojo Audio Deja Vu streaming and Illuminati power supply, Exogal dac, Hypex Ncore 400 mono's all tied together with Grover Huffman wires. GIK panels and traps. Satisfying interactions with Stuart of Chapman, Ben of Mojo, Grover-who comped me a handful of different wire to try with the Ncores, and Nick at GIK. In the distant past, spent many days in Frank Van Alstine's basement listening to his latest. Owned some stuff years ago. Good guy, great value gear. 
Steve @ Decware.  Had a hum in his new preamp and he replaced tubes and paid for return shipping no questions asked.  What a gentleman.
Dan @ Modwright. Exceptional job on my BD105.  A real class act.
@bigkidz 

"Ever see V-Caps or Vishay resistors or Plitron transformers come stock in any units?"

You make a really good point. Perhaps THE point. Why not go to the smallest operator of all? DIY!

Satisfaction in the doing, pride in the product, joy in the use. Good use of money, I say.
Redgum Audio in Australia, Purist Audio Design.
+1 on Jim Aud - Purist Audio and add "Triode Pete" Grzybowski of Triode Wire Labs.

Dave
What would you consider little?  Would you consider companies like Ayre, Rogue Audio,  Aesthetix...etc little?  All good guys. 
@bullitt5094 said:

If you can get the principals on the phone when you call, that's what's important to me.

And I completely agree.  Jeff Korneff, George Wright, A.J. Conti, Nelson Pass, and Paul McGowan have all been incredibly generous with their personal time -- and have all seemed to be answering a much higher calling than mere short-term retail success.

I've been particularly impressed with Paul McGowan's accessibility and level of personal interest.  I wouldn't call PS Audio a "little guy supplier" as in the title of this thread -- at least not compared to some of these other names.  But my experience has been that it's pretty typical for Paul to answer an e-mail within hours, take on a personal issue as his own, suggest a better-than-hoped-for solution, and assign a very capable member of his team to implement it.

If we include you can talk to the boss. Michael Kelly. Richard Vandersteen. Jeff Rowland. 
A goal of ours is to fill our listening room only with components that not only sound great, but are made by people we know personally. 
Anytime I want to, I know I can easily have a lengthy conversation with Gary (Border Patrol), Joe (Wolf Audio Systems), Chris (Fern & Roby), Clayton (Spatial Audio), Mark (Evoke Loudspeakers), Louis (Omega Loudspeakers), Jiun (MHDT Labs), Zack (ZMF Headphones), Dan (MrSpeakers), Eric (Tekton Design), Brian (Belleson Regulators), or several more people, and I know they'd be just as willing to chat with people they don't work with professionally. 
I'm a big fan of VanL speakerworks just outside of Chicago.  John is a brilliant speaker artist and Mark does wonders with electronics.

They might take a little longer than some to customize things for you but the quality is top notch
Little-guy suppliers are a never-ending source of interesting options to explore in this audio hobby.  I grew up in the do-it-yourself age of hi-fi and have always enjoyed both the discussions and solutions from smaller suppliers - from speakers, to amplifiers, to turntables - not just the final solutions, but the underlying concepts and components.  My latest encounter has been with Anvil Turntables, a mass-oriented design that works well and costs a third of anything comparable.  While Bruce will set up a complete LP player, I went the route of assembling my system from other components:  Origin Live Enterprise tonearm and EMT cartridge both sourced used from small shops that still talk to their customers.  The list is long of little-guys with which I have engaged over a lifetime of participating in this hobby, I will not try to list them all [some of which have, unfortunately gone out of business from retirement or market changes].  I will vote with other responding to this thread and encourage engagement with little-guys to extend the experience of good audio to participation in the community.