Let’s suppose you really love live music. And let’s also suppose you decided to start a speaker company. You might start by thinking something like this:
“We should make an electrostatic speaker that has dynamics that are better than current cone speakers.”
Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea. If you had the clarity and resolution of a Quad ESL-57 or a Martin-Logan CLS it would be great, though nothing new. If you had dynamics like a Wilson Alexandria your speakers would be impressive too. And if you had both in one product, well, if not unique at least your company would be making something highly differentiated. Oh, yeah, it would be especially intriguing if you threw in the idea that your speaker would work successfully in a wide variety of rooms just for good measure.
Pretty much no one starts with this plan, because we all know it is more or less impossible. But the idea, though half crazy, is also half compelling. Okay, maybe ¾ crazy. In any event, that crazy/compelling mix got me started on a quest to see if it was possible.
On the recommendation of Chris and several AVGuide users, I recently visited John Wolff of Classic Audio Loudspeakers to start my investigation. While John didn’t literally have this business plan in his head when he started Classic, it is my summary of what he’s trying to do. John is not alone in trying to pull this off, so there will be more to this story. But, trust me, John and Classic is story enough alone.
What sounds a little sketchy gets even more so when you roll up to John’s place in Brighton, Michigan – an exurb of Detroit. Classic operates out of John’s house, though from what I could see it is more like John and his wife operate out of John’s laboratory and factory. Let’s just say John is committed to speaker building. Saints be praised, the audio business is filled with Romantics and John is one of them, head to toe.
I walked into John’s lab and listening room not really knowing what I was getting in to. Call it open-minded or call it confused, both would be right.
I knew, of course, what I’ve concealed from you until now dear reader: John’s attack on the business goal outlined above doesn’t use electrostatic drivers. Nope. Classic, as the name suggests, uses horn drivers among other technologies to aim at the goal. That said, I had no idea why he took this path, nor how it would sound.
Turns out John knows exactly why he’s doing what he’s doing. The explanation starts with a little history, which we’ll take up in my next installment (part 2 of this series): The Lost Loudspeaker.