Monday, January 18, 2010

Relentless, but with One exception

After rereading my last blog, I realized there is one area that the pursuit of really innovative products seems to be stuck. The last and most important link in the chain. Loudspeakers. The basic design of the speaker is well over 100 yrs old. Sure, materials have improved, performance has improved, but the basic moving diaphragm from an electric motor is unchanged. Sure, there has been some odd stuff (plasma tweeter)over the years, but nothing that could be used in the pro world, and not much in the home audio world. Probably the last big breakthrough in speakers was the creation of the acoustic suspension box in the late 50's. Even then, it was improvements in the then 50yr old cone and driver that made it possible. Really more of a tweak than a breakthrough.

There's nothing like the revolution that DSP and digital technology are creating.  As I walked through NAMM, everybody has a speaker in a box.  Nothing special, nothing exactly exciting.  The exciting part for all of them was the onboard amps, dsp enabled, that allows you to overcome the limitations of loudspeaker design. 

Not to disparage the upper end stuff out there.  I saw some truly astounding and well designed line arrays and subs.  But all the midrange stuff shows very little imagination. The low end stuff is just crap.   Tweaks to drivers, but still, a speaker in a box.  You can do the same with any decent software, a good driver and a table saw.  It used to be rocket science to design a good direct radiator box,  it's not anymore. 

I know that's why I was so drawn to Bill's boxes 5 years ago.  They broke out of the mold.  Even though horn technology is probably the oldest, nobody had revisited it seriously for years.  There's still some black art in a good horn, which makes me very happy every time I use them.  Yes, it's a speaker in a box, but what a box.  They're different.  They're unusual.  And I made them.  That's the best part. 

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