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Many very high-end Euro brands fly under the American radar but not so much in Canada.
Audio brand obscurity is predominantly myopic on this side of the pond
these include, inter Alia:
JMR (Jean Marie Reynaud) speakers
and on and on ....
Are you looking for a list of obscure high-end companies or high end companies that make what we think are good components and should be recognized?
For just speaker drivers and components, I would elect, among the rarest:
For tube electronics (amps, DACs):
For more sensibly priced stuff:
Synthesis (amps, dacs)
Vinnie Rossi (integrated amps with everything built in)
Lavardin (integrated amps)
LFD (integrated amps)
Trenner & Friedl (speakers)
I would love to someday experience a system assembled by Be Yamamura Audio. That designer makes custom speakers, electronics and wire--the whole package. A modest system starts at something like $600,000 and goes way upward from there. I like the approach taken--all compression drivers, low-powered tube electronics, whole system designed from the ground up, including the room itself. That company is so WAY off the map, particularly for those of us living in the USA (most of their customers are in Europe), that I doubt that I will ever see a system.
In my neck of the woods (Washington DC) there is an audio store, Deja Vu Audio, that makes its own electronics and speakers. The amps, preamps and DACs are all tube-based and utilize a lot of vintage parts, particularly Western Electric parts. The speakers also utilize very old, vintage drivers (particularly Western Electric, Jensen, Altec, BTH, etc. drivers). I own a preamp and an amp that was custom-built by them (e.g., I specified the requirement for remote control of volume, ability to adjust channel balance, full transformer coupling of line inputs and between the amp and preamp). I might get them to design and build a crossover for my speakers which do not have a crossover that is specifically designed for the driver swap I did for the midrange horn (they design crossovers by taking measurements of the drivers instead of relying on the nominal specifications).
I bet there are quite a few small cottage operations like this that qualify as pretty far underground.
Roger High Fidelity made in USA. all internal component are heavily over-spec (from resistors, wires to transformers) ,comes with lifetime warranty!. Even let you tour their factory if you buy their top products.
too bad I don't have deep pockets, and I also don't agree to the use of global feedback in their amplifiers..
my 2 cents
Other somewhat obscure companies that make noteworthy products include:
Neat (speakers that are reasonably priced)
Gradient (speakers, like the "Revolution" that are very flexible in terms of room placement)
United Home Audio (refurbished and improved reel to reel tape machines)
Odyssey Audio (high value, reasonably priced electronics and speakers)
The first two that come to mind are Convergent Audio Technology and Spectral - very little advertising, but generally recognized as making fantastic products. If you want to go further off the grid, Wavestream Kinetics (product of Scott Frankland, the "F" from MFA) makes fantastic preamps, but again, almost no ads or publicity.
For speakers, you can't touch Tyler Acoustics. They will blow the doors off Vandersteen's best at about one-fourth the price.
If you're into tubes and ballsy amps, have a look at Tube Nirvana.net.
Don Sachs in Nelson, B.C. builds a preamp to die for and also rehabs the legendary HK Citations.
I own all these products, have no financial interest in their makers, but you can save a ton of money. Don't look for their ads in the slick magazines. These are all hand-built in one- or two-man shops, for the pure joy of it.
Yep. I owned a pair of Vandersteen 5A carbons ($32k), replaced them with a pair of Tyler Acoustics D-12x speakers for $8k, and like them much better. Depends on your listening needs. The Vandies are great speaks but their "sweet spot" is about one foot wide dedicated. Tyler's Decade line, at least the D12xs, will open up the sound staging until you're tired of feeding the band. Ty's in Tennessee, just phone him up and talk to him. The D12xs use Class D amps in the woofer sections but unlike the Vandies, which use an AB amp in a sealed bottom, the Decades are a ported, transmission-line design. My other shout-out to Tylers is they are very efficient and give incredible detail at low volumes. Again, I'm not on his or anybody else's payroll. It's a word-of-mouth thing.
I don’t disagree with your surmise, Taters. I’ve owned Vandies from the 2CEs up to the 5ACs. I hold Dick Vandersteen and his products in the highest regard. But I think if you gave the Tylers a listen you might see (hear) my point. You can’t go wrong either way, but why pay for dealer mark-ups, and ads and write-ups in The Absolute Sound? You would not believe how much money TAS and the rest of that rotten lot sweat out of guys like Dick Vandersteen. Ask him. Then talk to guys who don’t play that game.
You make a lot of good points. I never realized how much overhead there was going through the traditional sales route. Besides all the advertising cost you then have to give the dealers a big chunk of change just to sell you're products. I have often wondered why more companies just don't go factory direct and save the consumer a lot of money.
Taters, there are a lot of good options out there. And since you started this thread looking for underground high-end, well, you’ve seen some great suggestions here from the other posters. I can get absolutely top-end tube gear hand-built in Montana or Nelson, B.C., or Massachusetts for 10 percent of what McIntosh or ARC would charge, and with better circuity. The math is pretty simple. The brick-and-mortar shops rake 50 percent off the top, then you’ve got to shovel $10k at Bob Hartley of TAS for a brief hoo-hah review. This sweats a small company pretty hard. I like buying from somebody who actually makes the thing and answers the phone and has no advertising budget (hence, underground). Wish I could give you better advice on solid-state gear, but my s/s stuff was built by the Bedini brothers 30 years ago and I can still call them up if I have an issue, which I never do with their amps, but they’re fun to BS with. Somebody mentioned Magnapans, they’re still around, you can call them up, the son or daughter answers the phone and hands you off to the owner if he/she can’t resolve it. I would investigate all the possibilities recommended by the other posters, not just me. My first recommendation would be to call ’em up (or email them) and see who answers and how quickly they get back to you. And don’t squander money on cables just yet. Start with Blue Jeans Cables in Seattle and work your way up if you really feel the need to.
I like the way you say don't squander your money on cables just yet. I take it from that comment that you feel cables are overrated. I have borrowed many cable from the cable company in Pennsylvania. Even though I can hear a difference in cables I am not always sure if one is better than the other. It is so subjective.
I also like when you said you can buy top rated tube gear for 10 percent of the cost of Mcintosh or Audio Research. It sounds like you have really done you're due diligence.