As a small manufacter, I will try to answer what I think the ? is. How do we get to hear small manufacters products? So this is what I will address. KCS my small manufacter of loudspeakers had our sales started by pressure from friends, family, locals to purchase my DIY loudspeaker systems. Made more sence after awhile to build more than 1 pair at a time to meet needs and save on production costs. A few years after 6moons reviewed one of our loudspeakers. We did demos of our products for a few years but found out this took much time and since sales are more worldwide demoing in WI seemed a waist of time for us. We have submited a loudspeaker for review to soundstage still waiting. But I know it is hard for folks to hear products and get imformation about new manufacters. Most of our customers have heard my work from other local audiophiles friends our are repeat customers and already own systems from KCS. We also have folks take the chance without hearing 1st. Or knowlegable hobbiests who want custom design. I do list our demos prototypes B stock on audiogon. Ive found this not only helps clear out space get some of the cost back but also helps seed new customers for KCS. Like I said most of out sales are to repeat customers. If I was looking to hear new designs from small manufacters audioshows are the best bet. But KCS wont demoing be at any for a least a few years for personal famliy reasons. But KCS isnt going away, weve been at this for over 9 years and going strong have many new designs, lots of new transducers availble, plus my sons are designing systems already and are willing and able to take over from the old man when the time comes. My youngest built his 1st design at 4!!!I didnt help at all, he pulled out all parts new drivers[without me knowing] used a tube for cabinet, installed drivers using heavy packing tape,installed damping and picked right size port from my box of many sizes, he found wires to connect I only needed to connect wire to drivers. His own design brough a tear to my eye. Sounds good, 2 of my poor friends built pairs with veneer on tubes instead of tape;) Till later take care and happy listening. JK-K.C.S.
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Ascend Acoustics makes some very nice monitors. I currently run Mobile Fidelity's OML-2 towers. Bought on the strength of couple of professional reviewers ... one comparing them to Tyler Acoustics Signatures (which I was considering at the time) and other speakers in the $3-$5K range. Haven't looked back.
I've been using speakers from Daedalus Audio for the past several years, first the original DA-1's and now the most recent DA-1.1's. I was able to audition my first pair at Response Audio in Binghampton, NY (a 10 hour round trip for me) but now Lou only sells direct. Most people hear his speakers at shows like RMAF or The Show in Las Vegas. Some of Lou's more enthusiastic customers (like myself) are always willing to have prospective buyers over to hear his speakers in our homes. Finally, Lou has a retail shop where he sells his speakers and other gear outside Seattle. Lou's speakers offer high sensitivity (97-98db), authentic tonality and dynamics and are handcrafted from renewable hardwoods--they are simply gorgeous. There are several (I'm told very favorable) reviews poised to appear on the internet mags so he may not qualify as "cottage industry" material much longer but for now I think Daedalus is sufficiently off the beaten path to qualify for your post.
How do you hear them? You rely upon the generosity of those who post their system on Audiogon and are willing to host you over to listen to their system. I love my GMA Callistos, and would allow anyone seriously interested to stop by and listen to Roy's work - as well as a turntable by Chris Brady, cables by Jim Aud, and most of my electronics courtesy of Charles Hansen.
I own and run Lucidity Audio and apparently decided to go public at a bad time considering the market plunge and all but this started for me as a hobby because I just couldn't find a speaker I liked in my price range and decided to build.
7 years later I was selling them to friends and giving pairs to family members for birthdays ect..
My website is in the works and I have 4 models available right now and have 2 more in the works. All of my speakers are build to order and I usually have a demo set available to listen to and if not I'll snag one from my brothers for you to hear :) Word of mouth is a big advertiser for me and getting a demo might not be easy because I'm in Tucson AZ and we seem to have less audiophiles here than most large cities.
I do all demos I can in the perspective buyers house so they don't have to worry about the room differences affecting the sound. Look me up in a couple of weeks at www.lucidityaudio.com and have a look around.
If you would like a demo just let me know
Zu is hardly obscure.
Their ads/reviews are in all the mags and websites. Furthermore, they do shows all over the world on a regular basis.
Hardly the acts of an obscure company. Maybe the owners are a bit reticent after reading all of the cheerleading posted by a few forum contributors.
You'll see them here and elsewhere incessantly waving the Zu flag.
Zu surely is an obscure company. A few others I'd like to suggest are B&W, Focal, Thiel, Vandersteen, and Wilson.
Kind of ironic that a company named Focal makes speakers, isn't it? I would have figured they made binoculars. And, this Wilson company supposedly makes a speaker called the WATT/Puppy, if I'm not mistaken. I'm not sure it can achieve any commercial success or notoriety, but, hey, who knows? People do like puppies, don't they? Oh, and B&W; be careful to not confuse them with BMW, a company who build cars (you know, like those things we drive) as sometimes, people speak quickly, and they sound alike. Remember, B&W makes speakers, BMW makes cars. I know, I know, it's all so confusing...
Seriously, I'd like to nominate the speaker a good friend of mine, Vytas Viesulas, makes - Rex Speakers http://www.rexspeakers.com/ I partnered with Vytas at CES2008. Lots of interesting and unique technology in them - round construction former tubes sprayed with a type of indestructible truck bedliner, MTM alignment using series crossovers, woofers operating in opposing fashion (hence, the "boxer" terminology) in the top and bottom plates of the speakers powered by an outboard BASH amplifier, and weighing in at just 35 pounds. No professional relationship between us, again, we're just close friends.
As Dodgealum states, Daedalus are some really nice sounding speakers. Lou is a true gentleman as well.
Regarding how us obscurians promote our products, I do audio shows and take my speakers to people's home for an audition if they don't live too far away. I have had some success with Audiogon ads, but zero results from a year's worth of Stereophile classified ads. But most of my action has come from word-of-mouth, a lot of which can be traced back to audio shows.
I'll second the nomination of Rex speakers. I've heard them twice now at audio shows, and they punch well above their weight class in many areas. Vytas has done an excellent job as far as price/performance goes, not to mention their tiny footprint. Credit also to Trelja's amps. And speaking of Trelja, he didn't mention it but he imports an excitingly obscure line of speakers that I haven't heard yet but I like the philosophy behind them as well as the configuration:
Duke, I don't know what I was thinking, but I surely should have included you on this list. I'M SORRY!!!
Honestly, I first met Duke at RMAF 2007 after all these years of Audiogon friendship. As I told him there, with the Atma Sphere amplifier he was using, it was truly one of the best sounds at the show. Rich, full-bodied sound with a sense of being alive that is almost impossible for most to capture. One of the best sounds I've ever heard out of the OTLs, and at a show no less! I wish my room at that show sounded 25% as good.
BTW, I think Ralph would be wise to use Duke's speakers in his own rooms...
SP Tech must be listed, judging from the response of every new (unfortunately, too few) owner, both here and on AudioCircle. Maybe Bob Smith can respond; like many dicsreet, modest new designers, he keeps a low profile, but having heard his design views, it would be a pity if he continually stays under the radar.
I've owned them for going on 5 years now, and though I'll happily buy the first pair of speakers that better those produced by SP Tech, I don't believe my money will be going anywhere except La Porte, IN.
No one speaker is for everyone, but SP Tech speakers come closer than any I've ever heard. If Bob had the wherewithal for an even marginally effectively marketing campaign, I believe the speaker landscape would be very different.
For those with access, ask Steve McCormack and/or Jim "I hate speakers" Merod what they think about them.
Bob Smith of SP Tech is a mad scientist genius. His speakers are the best kept secret on the planet, and some of that is not good. As DU said, he has a great following. Jim Merod, the well-published recording engineer/reviewer, has personally told me there are two speakers on this planet that he believes convey real music through their transducers, and the SP Tech Revelations are one of them! I won the opnly pair in the US to have the Ultimate Mundorf external crossover boxes to-date, and will get three addtl on Friday, a cnter channel Continuum AD with Ultimate external, and a pair of Continuum AD's with intermediate externals for my music surrounds. Yes, I've made a commitment. :>)
Penaudio Serenade could be the very best speakers you have "never" heard.Rated CLASS "A" by WP and JA yet not a word about these speakers on the "GON".They simply disappear when playing, have a very small imprint, deep and wide stage with full bodied sound.Penaudio is an obscure company.... and it shouldn't be.
Steve and Robert at Ridge Street Audio Design (RSAD) produce a great monitor speaker- the Sason Ltd. They do not advertise nationally, and do not have a dealer network. Word of mouth & candy-in-the-ear-and-eye is how they are sold.
After talking to Steve at length over the phone, he contacted a prior owner to see if I could visit for a listen. The proud owner generously invited me into his home. I stayed for hours. Although this is not the best way to audition, it certainly is effective and more personal than a sterile showroom presentation.
Steve worked closely with me during his hand building of the speakers, and included individual requests. This level of genuine service added a satisfying feeling to a traditionally sterile financial transaction.
BTW- Steve & Robert will be demonstrating their (elusive) Sason's at AKFest this year. I hope many folks get a listen & a look at these emotionally involving speakers.
I too own the RSAD Sason, and my audition process was identical to Rubinken above. I'm with Doubleugly in being open to the virtues of all products, but just as Double believes he'll never own anything other than SP Tech, I believe I'll never part with my Sasons.
As an aside, it's interesting that the same little town (LaPorte, IN) is apparently home to both SP Tech and RSAD. Wonder what's in the water (or the beer) up there?
I have a couple of recommendations. First, Classic Audio Reproductions makes a line of highly resolved, easy to drive and very full range speakers that are very close to if not state of the art. I have heard them rival the best ESLs, but with impact and extension that is not noted in ESLs. They are 97 db 1 watt/1 meter and so its easy to find an amp to drive them. They work with both tubes and solid state; Phillip O'Hanlan, who used to import Halcro and is now doing Luxman, has a set for his personal system, as do I.
Second, Audiokinesis (Duke) is making some outstanding product. We recently got in a set of his Stormbringers for a customer of ours. I set them up at home and I have to say, I was quite unprepared for how good these speakers are! Of course, price is always a driving concern, but setting that aside for a moment (the Stormbringers are **very** reasonably priced), they were playing well out of their league, being very detailed, extended, relaxed and with a good portion of wallop thrown in. While not the last word in bass, they were clearly making it in the upper 20s and could shake the room. Again, they are very easy to drive, and while on paper not as efficient as our ZU Druids, they **couldn't** have been far behind! I think a lot of that has to do with what part of the curve you rate your efficiency from. An excellent speaker by any standard, if you pick up a set, just get in the car and **drive** before Duke comes to his senses :)
Feastrex is made in Japan, imported to USA by Lotus Group. Full range drivers of unique design and exceptional quality. Mind bending performance. Full range with Feastrex means 50Hz - 20kHz flat, point source, lightweight paper driver, gigantic motor, leather surround, ultra revealing, yet musical and highly satisfying. This is the musical fountain, what many experienced audiophiles have been looking for.
Only a few pairs been sold in US so far, but the owners are ecstatic. Threads on Asylum and elsewhere are the only significant buzz in English language. Some people are buying just the drivers and building their own cabinets. I wish more people could hear this. There would be a lot more used speakers listed on A'gon...
Keep your ears peeled for this one... I am just a satisfied customer, no other relation to mfg or importer.
It's definitely not the water as you well know ;). BTW, You will be happy to know that our own little brewery here, La Porte's Backroad Brewery (dot.com) has a new ale called Specialty Ale (green label) that is absolutely wonderful. When people come to audition, we get them so drunk - everything sounds great. Presto! Instant sale!
Actually, it's word of mouth and auditions through our gracious customer base that provide the listening experience. PM us to find out about our Traveler's Rebate Program if flying to La Porte for a listen.
We hope to generate interest through our first large-scale public exhibit at AKFest this coming weekend. We hope to see you all!
Ridge Street Audio Designs
I agree with several of the above, SP TECH and Bob have made loudspeakers that portray the event exactly as it should be in regards to what a chain of electronics and Transducers can do. I can't think of another loudspeaker that can best the SP TECH Minis, which are the bottom of the line. As many of you know, I have owned upwards of 30 pairs and many from the big boys. Sp Tech should be as big as any of the others, Bob is one of the best, most communicative and knowledgeable of anyone that you could buy Audio stuff from. Still Obscure but moving up in the charts!
The speakers being mentioned are not obscure
They get a lot of attention these days and deservedly so
I have a pair of Ridge Street Sasons that are making beautiful music. I'm officially removing myself from the speaker merry go around
I do have to give Kudo's to another speaker designer that would fall into this category Tony M at Tonian Acoustics
If you have a chance hear some of his designs
Kudo's to Robert Steve and Tony
Robert i'm glad your showing the Sasons at the Akfest let us know how that goes
I have to add Tetra from Canada. I have their smaller ones and heard their top of the line very good sound. They are never mentioned online.
I've heard the great sound come out of Audiokinesis smaller floorstanders. These guys are very new/undiscoverd.
Not sure about Trelja list.... Thiel/B&W = unknown?
04-28-08: Trelja.... must be obvious sarcasm?
I guess this (question has to be stated in context not known by whom? BestBuy shoppers or Audio Enthusiasts?
I'm the proud owner of a pair of SP Tech Timepiece Mini's and I'm absolutely delighted with them. I don't have a lot of room for them, but they've proven to be very unfussy about placement. In concert with my Naim front-end and amplification (their entry level CD5i and Nait5i), the SP Tech's are able to communicate not just the notes being played, but the emotion behind them, which is what this is all about.
I haven't heard KCS yet, but plan to do so this early fall 2008; I've heard a set of Bob Brines speakers ... extremely nice sound/speakers; maybe 9-10 years ago I bought a set of Taylo Ref monitors before Tyler became widely known (and enjoyed them very much). I'm using Consonance speakers right now, but intend to return to "full-range" single-driver speakers this fall. Very much looking forward to it.
I have a set of speakers from a now defunct compant called Just Speakers, in California. They were their "717's" with Scanspeak Kevlar dirivers and a Revalator tweeter. I guess they are almost 10 years old now. The cabinets were amazing (1.5" thick double boxed MDF and veneer). I have modded them quite a bit, replacing crossover caps, internal wiring, Black Hole 5 inside and making them bi-ampable. Simply great speakers that cost me a song back then ($1500). I don't think I could match them for under $5,000 - 10,000 now.
Digital Phase EP-SM1. They have been building speakers in Tenneseee for 22+ years. Unique and patented bass porting. The designer sent me the measurements of the actual pair I bought: ± 1.5 dB from 40 to 20K, -3 dB at 38 Hz, -4 at 35 Hz. The impedance curves are just as nice.
They are a 2-way (tweeter below) bookshelf monitor. Absolutely the most spectacular tweeter I have ever heard from any speaker. Remarkably three dimensional and realistic sound.
I recently compared the EP-SM1 to Klein & Hummel O300, JBL LSR6328P, Zu Druids, Paradigm Esprit Reference, SLS 8190, PMC TB2+, Acoustic Zen Adagio Jr., and Focal Twin6 Be. Some of these are active, with their own internal amps. For the passives I used Bel Canto eVo 200.2 and Zu Libtec.
I had already chosen the Druids for my hifi room, love them and they will stay there. While I liked Druids in my mastering studio the Digital Phase are now the main monitors. The others were not even close in honesty and realism.
http://www.digitalp.com Website is out of date and does not have much information on the EP series, they say they are working on that. Give Daryl a call, he will work with you on evaluations. I have no affiliation with the company.
Springbok10, You forgot to add "and a wealth of technical knowledge".
I always learn from Atmasphere's posts.
Atmasphere is indeed unique - no hyperbole here - in that he maintains an amateur's enthusiasm and a professional's objectivity without a shred of self service. What a boon to the Audio community he is! Thanks, Ralph!"
I would like to offer some impressions of my SP Technology Continuum AD speakers. I bought them used from Jason Smith, SP Tech president Bob Smith's son. Jason builds the cabinets at SP Tech, and had decided to sell the Continuums to finance the purchase of exotic woods intended for his personal 5.1 set of Timepiece Minis. I found out about the company through sheer luck as I was in the market to upgrade from my Kef 104/2's and 103/3's. I had done a lot of reading and listening and was close to making another purchase when I came across some reviews of SP Tech, examined their website, read more reviews including Jim Merod's statement that he had chosen them for his studio, and then saw Jason's ad for his used Continuum's.
My background in music and audio is primarily as a musician. I have played in many different genres which have taken me from small bars to concert halls and everything in between. I have also worked in some very nice recording studios and have a small home studio of my own. I don't have a lot of high end gear but what I do own seems to be well regarded and suits my needs. My current signal path is my PC playing .flac files > Foobar > EMU 0404 usb > AVA Omegastar DAC > B&K Pro10 MC in passive bypass mode > Hafler DH500 with Musical Concepts mods. I also have a Technics SL1200 with Ortofon OM30 Super.
My main reference recording is the Sheffield labs drum test disc. If a system can reproduce all the nuances of a well recorded acoustic drum set it will be a good performer. For verification of what I hear in the recordings I can play the drum set that is in my studio - so I have the Sheffield disc and the real instruments right there. To get to the point, when I cranked up the Sheffield drum test disc through the SP Tech speakers I was blown away. It sounded like my drummer was in the room with me playing his kit. Every nuance was present - and the soundstage had every piece of the kit in its proper place so that when I closed my eyes I got an immediate 3D image of the drums being played. Several drummers and other musicians, as well as non-musicians, have heard these since I bought them and the comments have all been "that sounds live" and " I have never heard music sound so real". The dynamics, clarity, and speed of these speakers are such that I find the music playback sounds, and feels, exactly as it does live. I have also listened to a huge variety of other recordings from Bach to Zappa and everything that is recorded well sounds phenomenal. When listening to the recordings of Annar Bylsma playing the Stradivarius Cello from the Smithsonian collection the depth and sonority produced by the centuries old wood of the instrument is reproduced in a way I have never heard before. The best way I can describe it is that Annar is in the room with me, I am sitting directly in front of the cello, and could reach out and touch it. When I open my eyes I find that the virtuoso cellist and priceless Stradivarius are not really there after all.
The speakers really shine on those recordings that most others fall short on, directly recorded acoustic instruments and vocals, as on some of the Sheffield recordings and other truly well recorded lp's and cd's. You can really hear and feel the nuances of the instruments, the way the players handle them, and the effects that the room in which they were recorded have. The level of detail is a real step up from anything I have heard in studios or audiophile systems in the past. Simply put it is best described as real, dynamic, present, truthful. I have found it very easy to lose myself in the music sitting for hours enveloped in my new 3D soundscape. And when I have torn myself away from listening to other people's work and developed my own music I have found these speakers to be amazing tools for mixdown and mastering. I can focus on details that I could not pick out before with other monitors or my headphones. And even though I now have many hours of listening time in with the Continuums I still find myself saying WOW! after playing a really great recording.
I listen to lots of jazz and some orchestral recordings as well. If the recording is quality then it sounds amazing - like you are there in front of the musicians - depending on the microphone placement during the recording. My favorite recordings are those where the engineer represents the spacial arrangement of the musicians exactly as they would be in a concert setting - that way you truly get a holographic sound stage and can visualize the performers in front of you. And I find that the speakers sound great at all volumes. I usually listen at faily low levels, however at the louder volumes they really move air. I like to listen at a level that is close to what it would be live. For example listening to Bill Evans Sunday at the Village Vanguard I set it to what the piano would be if the trio were right in front of me. And when I close my eyes I am transported to the Village Vanguard - the trio is right there - really amazing. And I have a baby grand in my studio too so I have that as verification of what I am hearing through the speakers.
I'll toss in Selah Audio. Haven't really seen anything on them beyond their website and forum over at AudioCircle... they've shown at a few shows like RMAF.
I have the Tanzanites, S7's, Sardonyx center, and Whomp sub. These are currently setup haphazardly in a basement office/bedroom waiting basement development so can't really say how well they will sound, but no complaints so far.
Volume knob on my Nuforce is at 12.5.
B.E.S.L. speakers from Indiana have been my mainstay for several years now. I met the owner, Phil Bamberg quite accidently at a cafe. He overheard a conversation that I was having with my son and chimed in. Somehow, the conversation turned to audio, and I ended up at his house listening to some very fine speakers. In the end, i purchased a pair for myself, and that was more than 8 years ago,quite a record for me as far as keeping a set of speakers. He is still selling a few models (mine were about 2,200 dollars). Only recently I have decided to sell these great speakers and build a single driver set of speakers. anyway, what were the odds?
So how come Stereophile and Absolute Sound never review these products?
I think they tend to give priority of reviews to companies that give them advertizing revenues - after all Stereophile is not a charity it is actually in business to make you buy stuff - and given the rate of new models put out each and every year.... I mean just look at how many speakers are made by B&W alone - it is as many as Imelda Marcus has shoes.
Think about it - "mix and match" audio - would you like this tweeter with one two or three of this driver, tall size or full figured, how about a bright yellow midrange and while we are at it, lets stick the tweeter on top and put a fold around it and make it look just like part of the female anatomy... I mean it really is kind of a joke but audio has become more about fashion and provocative looks than anything at all to do with sound. Of course, B&W are smart and know this and are successful.