I've always tried to write these newsletters as though I'm writing an email to a friend. By the way, this is not how your supposed to do marketing newsletters! What they tell you is that your newsletter must be a quick read, hit the bullet points, sell product, get people to take action by clicking on a link that ends with them wanting to buy something from you, etc...
I'm sure they're right, but I choose to do things differently, and I hope you appreciate that difference. It means that my newsletters can be long-winded and not blingy. Are you ok with that?
The last quarter of 2019 was a slow one for our business for some unknown reason. Our business is always a roller-coaster ride anyway, but man, it just died off like that was the end. We still don’t know why. I talked to others in the industry and they seemed to be doing fine, if not great. We just chalk it up to shit happens and keep moving forward – which we did.
Things picked up in 2020 as my wife knew they would. Whenever things slow down, she’s always the one to remind me that it won’t last, and she’s right. Klipsch Upgrades sales came through nicely and a couple of speaker sales, and all of a sudden we went from crickets chirping to having too much to do.
During that slow time, I decided to get back to work on a project that I have been working on, off and on, for the last five years, the new “little” Volti Audio speaker. This project has taken many twists and turns over the years, and my shop is littered with old test cabinets that are everyday reminders of just how difficult it is to design a successful world-class product. They were all ‘good’, but not ‘great’, and for those of you who’ve been following along with me for years, you know how many times I’ve told you that in this business, ‘good’ just doesn’t cut it. There’s a lot of competition out there, and my speakers must stand out as being the very best, or we’re just not going to ‘make it’.
I had that breakthrough moment during this last development stint with the little speaker. It’s the same kind of breakthrough moment I had with the Rival. These moments happen during the long and arduous process of build-test-listen-modify-test-listen-modify-test-listen-build another-test-listen . . . . and on and on it goes, day after day for as long as you can stand to do it. People generally have no idea how much time is spent developing a product like a Volti Audio speaker.
But it happened. I finally got the size and shape of the cabinet, the right woofer, the right port tuning, the proper amount of bracing and damping and a few other tricks that gave me ‘that Volti bass’ that I’m looking for.
Not boomy - but tight, musical, with great upper bass (lower mids), and a nice deep bottom that is not overbearing and doesn’t draw attention to itself like so many other speakers on the market. This is bass that integrates, and makes you hear music, not bass. This is exactly what makes the Rival such a success, and it finally happened with this new little speaker. I don’t want to even think about how many woofers I had to buy, or how many cabinets I had to build to get to this point.
Then I continued working on the midrange. My shelves are full of horns and drivers. I’ve been selling off some of the drivers lately just to try to get some of my money back. It’s amazing to me how midrange drivers can sound so different from one another, even when the specs and testing shows that they should be very similar. Test measurements DO NOT tell you how a midrange driver is going to sound. I wish you all could have been here for some of the midrange ‘shoot-outs’ we had. The same four pieces of music played over and over and over and over and over and over and over and so much over and over that they ceased to be music, and became bits of piano, male vocal, female vocal, and guitar. With a switchbox in my lap, these musical bits playing through ONLY the midrange drivers or ONLY the midrange drivers and horns, over and over and over again.
Which one captured the real ‘weight’ of a piano key being struck, the subtle vocal nuances of a particular phrase being sung, the depth of the instantaneous pluck of a guitar string? Which one gave us the dynamics without shouting? Which one opened up and separated the instruments? Which one made me see the singer’s head as being ‘round’ versus a flat presentation in front of me. These are the details that set one driver/horn combination apart from all others, and WILL set the new little speaker apart from all others. We live in the midrange. It’s really important to get that right.
I had a great tweeter on the shelf. In fact I’ve had a bunch of these for years. Almost the entire ten years I’ve been in business. They are great sounding tweeters, but I haven’t been able to use them up til now because they don’t work well with speakers that are 100db sensitivity or higher, which is all I’ve built up til now. The new little speaker clocks in at 97db sensitivity, a perfect match, and so I finally got a chance to use my tweeters. Fortunately too, the company is still making them.
Not many high-sensitivity tweeters on the market (I’ve tested and listened to almost all) will increase in output as the frequencies rise – meaning that the output is higher at 18Khz than at 10Khz. My friend Gary says that I shouldn’t tell people that because they’ll think that the high frequencies will sound too bright – that they won’t understand the subtleties of what I’m describing. He may be right, but here in my newsletter I often open up about things and tell my subscribers things that I wouldn’t put anywhere else. You folks understand me. I think. I hope anyway.
The problem with almost all high-sensitivity tweeters is that they peak in output somewhere around 8Khz to 10Khz. This would describe any Klipsch tweeter I’ve ever tested. Yes, they may extend up to 15 or 20Khz, and that’s easy to write copy for your spec sheet and say that. But what does the curve actually look like? More importantly, what do they sound like? I can tell you, for the vast majority of high-sensitivity tweeters, they peak at 8-10K and then slope off from there, and that creates a high point or peak in the response at a very unfortunate frequency range. Tweeters like that end up sounding like crushing glass - harsh - tizzy - not musical. Volti Audio speakers do not sound like this in the high frequencies because I take the time to find those 'gems' to use, and then integrate them properly through the crossover so that the highs are smoother, with ‘air’ around them, much like a soft-dome tweeter will do at 88db sensitivity. Believe me when I tell you, this is a very difficult thing to find and implement at 104db sensitivity. The Vittora has this, the Rival has this, and now the new little speaker has this too.
Ok Greg, so enough boring stuff already!
Did you get it worked out or not?
Yes I did!
And as a speaker designer, I think this new speaker is my greatest accomplishment to date.
Warning: This newsletter is about to become a little slicker! lol