Sorry it has been a while. Spending time with my wife and dog has been top priority since returning from California. There is no substitute for family, big comfy beds and snuggle time. Ahhhhh…
Folks, let me tell ya. I have had some great times and I have had some REALLY great times. Without a doubt, THE NEWPORT SHOW 2015 will absolutely be filed in the REALLY great times folder.
First off, I have some thank ya’s to hand out. Not small ones either. BIG MONSTER ONES!
Mom, I can’t tell you enough… Mitch and Rece (our new California team!!!) We love and adore you. Many mahalos for everything. Michael Koetsier from GreenHIFI.com , for the awesome chat about green and sustainable audio. Alun Yun from Silverline for the smiles and friendly listening session. Peter Hansen from Synergistic Research for just being a nice guy. (I’ll giv’m a shot before RMAF!) Rick Vides from Brooks Berdan for being a great hall mate and the fun, but short chat about the state of the industry. Mark Freed, I will certainly heed your advice and also see you in Chicago next year! Paul Mah!!! What a great time I had talking with you! I appreciate all your words and look forward to more of them in the future.
To you Mr. Reichert of Stereophile Magazine. Read here. “I’ll take hearts and stars all day long”! I can’t thank you enough for the amazing words in the Reichert Report. The description you used, “Luscious detail” nailed it. There is a secret place that exists somewhere near laser detail and a true warm live experience. We hope to bring each and every music lover into this place.
Your report brought smiles to my wife and I and a tear to the eye of my amazing Mom. The time you spent in our room was above and beyond. For a new guy on the scene, it means the world. You certainly have a new fan out here on the islands and I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
Sasha Matson of Stereophile Magazine! Read here. Your description of the sound coming from the ALYSON AML as “very full-range, with a burnished warm dimension to the sound” is EXACTLY what we are aiming for. Being accurate to the source does not mean that one needs to have laser beams aimed at their ear drums. Nor does it mean the need for 8 foot tall cabinets full of huge drivers. Especially for the recording engineer who must sit in front of monitors for 8 hours a day. Our speakers may have a pedigree that originated in the studio, but we feel that taking the studio-to-home approach in speaker design is working beyond our greatest expectations.
Also, Thank you for recognizing the “hard work” that goes into hand crafted equipment. I for one, never want to see “Hand Made” disappear. The art of building speakers, turntables and other pieces in our shop is taken extremely serious. Except for the machine we use to burn in our logo, no CNC is used at this point and we will hold out as long as we can. If one is to spend so much time and expense seeking out that perfect piece of equipment for their musical passion, it should have all of the same attention to detail as a fine piano or cello. After all, should it not last for as many generations as well?
A giant Aloha and thank you to Michael Koetsier of GreenHIFI.com Read here. I can’t thank you enough for the write up on GreenHIFI.com! Although we are not perfect stewards of the planet, by golly we are trying. My wife Jeanette and a few of her friends, including the amazing furniture maker Thorbin Wuttke, have truly influenced us over the years. They have made us aware of the simple things that anyone can do yet few bother to put in motion. For instance, saving our sawdust for the local farmers. We also create accessories such as Cable Cradles and turntable record clamps from the smaller cutoffs in the shop rather than discarding them. In addition we collect small scraps from other wood workers to be repurposed. As JWM Acoustics grows, we will continue to implement conscience practices to balance our production.
If you are ever interested in how we offset our audio material use by planting trees and donating to the Hakalau Forest Reserve, look me up and I will be happy to elaborate.
Again Michael, thank you and mahalo for the mention and for recognizing our effort towards sustainability. Being green does not require that we compromise quality on the quest for perfect sound. For us, the two just work together. Simple as that.
Last, but most certainly not least. Many, many mahalos to Robert Lee of Acoustic Zen Technologies. I won’t even try to tell you how our time together impacted me. Your kind words and encouragement are so special to me. The huge time you took in my room was above and beyond. The ensuing critique of my work I will cherish for many years to come. From afar and for many years, you have influenced my work and sound. Now, from in front of my own creation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope to see you again soon. And yes! I too hear the wood in the instruments when played on my speaker systems. I assure you, it was no accident. THANK YOU again Mr. Lee!!!
So many more deserve my MUCHO MAHALO! You know who you are, so hugs!
We arrived early on Tuesday. We had hoped to get into the rooms early enough to get started with setup and perhaps rest after the long flight from Hawaii. Mom flew in from Texas, but still, not a short hop. Unfortunately, the hotel made it clear that running behind was the theme of the day and we may not get our room until that evening. “OUCH”! Well, no matter. We ended up in the fine restaurant in the hotel lobby. We set up a computer and proceeded to stuff ourselves with pancakes, eggs Benedict and mimosas. I got to tell ya, that was some good Eggs Benny. The mimosa, not so much. It did hit the spot though.
Fortunately, the ring came around 1:00 PM that our sleeping room was ready and we could check back around 3:00pm for our show room. It was sooooo nice to get a shower after traveling overnight. Nap time! Ahhhhhhhh…
The equipment began to arrive and setup began around dinner time. We had the system up and running by 9:00PM. No small feat considering the amount of gear we were traveling with. Wednesday by noon, the dial in of the room was really coming along. First, we tried and tried to get the best staging possible with a wide frequency range using the JANE JKM. Over and over again, the speaker would either have one or the other, but never both. This speaker must have a large room to breathe in, but I really wanted to give people an idea of what she can do. By 10:00pm Wednesday night, the conclusion was made that I would be shooting myself in the foot by trying to show a speaker made for a room 10 times the size of this 13’X19’ shoe box. The decision to use the ALYSON AML and NET-1 as the primary speakers in the room was made. We left the JANEs in the room on static display. We did manage a few demos for select attendees, but they too agreed that the ALYSON was perfect in the room and I should let them sing. And boy did they sing!
We also had two KAREN turntables up and running. One outfitted with one of my favorite cartridges, the Ortofon Windfeld, the other with the amazing Ortofon 2M Black. Using the new Balanced Audio Technology VK-P12 SE Phono stage, both carts sang like the wind. I am so happy to also announce that as of THE SHOW 2015, JWM Acoustics is now offering Ortofon cartridges as package deals on all of our decks! WoooHooo!!! By the way, the P-12 was so good we bought it…
The BAT Phono stage was not the only BAT in the room. I was running the whole thing with the killer REX preamp. As usual, this preamp demonstrated that tubes may be neutral while still allowing for that perfect and lush vocal range we all love so much. I threaten to upgrade to the REX II almost weekly, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? I’ll revisit the idea with Geoff Poor from BAT before the RMAF, but as it stands, this machine works beautifully in our reference room back on the island. It is nice to have a piece you can count on to deliver the goods, day in and day out. Stay tuned!
The amp was also from BAT. The VK-655 SE was in the house and powering anything we threw at it with ease. You know, it is a brand new amp. Hardly any break in time, except for the LSAF and a few late night sessions at THE SHOW. Yet, it still manages to not sound constipated or rough! I was warned by BAT and a few show goers, that running this new machine could be a mistake, but I have to disagree. The combination of all of these pieces was stellar. The synergy with my speakers was heavenly to say the least. BUY THIS AMP!!! ESPECIALLY if a set of JWM Acoustics is in your future. Great combo…
I was never a big digital guy. Kicking and screaming, I am being dragged into this world of Bips and Bops. I was finally convinced that I needed to load J River and begin the task of collecting files. So I did. The verdict is in. I like it. Yes I said it. I LIKE it. Don’t love it, LIKE it. There comes a time in every audiophiles life when he has to admit that one thing may be as good as another, or at least close. Horns verses electrostat. Maggies or Kings. MC or MM. 10101010111010001111000 or analog. I guess 10101010101100100101011000 now has a place in my living room alongside the record spinner. Just need another shelf for the DAC! Speaking of!!! The DAC for the show was the kick butt one in the OPPO BD105D! The files were being fed by my HP ENVY laptop. HOLY!!!!!! That be some good sound folks. If you have the budget for a DAC, do consider the all in one option with the OPPO. You will love it. It was nice to have the option to spin up some of the attendees discs when asked. We actually got to keep a few of them for our own collection! Thanks attendees!!!
I can’t forget to mention the cables. Oh the cables. NORDOST was so kind to lend us some fantastic specimens for the last two shows and I can’t thank them enough. We had everything in the room from the Blue Heaven line, up to the Hiemdall II. And I must say. WOW. They just worked in this setup. Not only did people notice their quality, when I did a few demonstrations between levels of cable the distinction was unmistakable and stunning. If anyone tells you there is no difference in cables, invite them over to our reference room for a demo. ‘Nuff said.
You know, I forgot to mention our cable cradles! More of those little fellas walked out the door than I had anticipated! We sold them to the likes of D’Agastino, Silverline, even Mr. Lee from Acoustic Zen grabbed one because he liked the wood! Since getting home, all the rage is for NORDOST and other ribbon cable users to have a set of the Split Cable Cradles for their system! We love that! The Cradles started as a way to cut down on the waste in the speaker shop. We needed to find a way to utilize as much of our scraps as possible. Mostly because waste is not an option for us. We try to use every part of the tree. To have people embrace the idea as much as they are is wonderful! Even if you don’t believe in the sonic characteristics of lifting your cables away from statically charged floors, the organizational benefits of the cradles is fantastic! Thank you folks! We will make more for RMAF!
Well the show ended and it was time to pack up. Two of our best friends Mitch and Rece showed up just in time to begin the work. It took us until 3:00AM to pack it all up, but we did it! Oh man! We were beat. I crashed HARD!!! Honestly, as fun as this show was, I was so happy it was over. I definitely need the break before RMAF comes along. We certainly hope it draws the crowds we had at THE SHOW. So tell all your friends! Speaking of friends, we made some great ones. We had hundreds of people come through the room. I sincerely remember almost everyone that wanted to engage in conversation. Thank you all!
Thanks to all involved. We will see you next year! Now it’s time to build more stuff…
Before I even begin, let me thank Steven Solazzo for all his efforts with LSAF! Great work man! Additionally, I’m not sure who took all the images in this post but certainly much credit goes to Kelly Parham, wife and obviously cuter half of Wayne Parham and PI Speakers! What a pleasure it was meeting you folks! Mucho mas aloha as well to Dave and Gabrielle Thomson. You two are an inspiration and we hope to see you again soon. OK OK. There are more credits to give out including those earned by my family and friends, but you know who you are. A big hug to all of you! Onward!
Mama said there would be days like this…
Then she told me those days would be followed by ones filled with amazing music, art, people and libation. That is exactly what Lone Star Audio Fest was. I can’t tell you enough how wonderful this little known show is. With a little word of mouth and a lot of commitment, this humble show will become something huge one day. Or not! Frankly, this show is one of those things that file neatly into the “Ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category.
This show was a first for us. With the prodding and encouragement of our friends, family and clients it was time to take our products on the road. What better place to do it than back home in the state where it all began for this little company? TEXAS! I had heard about LSAF on a few forums and web pages, but had never attended. When I saw that RAVEN AUDIO, a company based in Texas whose growth I had been tracking with keen interest for quite some time, was making an appearance at this little show I knew I had to look into it.
I wrote letters to Dave Thomson, the owner or RAVEN AUDIO, Steven Solazo who for all intents and purposes, runs the show, and reached out to a few others who had attended in the past. As the show approached the LSAF social network began to grow and come alive. It started to become clear that LSAF was not just another audio show. This was more like a family of music lovers, gearheads and deep audiophiles, who have found a place to share their love and art. I say art, for more than half of this community of geniuses is DIYrs! Not your run of the mill garage type. We are talking the upper crust here folks. For anyone who thinks that the HIGH END needs to come with a gold plated logo and genuine Corinthian leather baffle, think again. Get in the car, plane or train and high tail it to this show next year. You will be floored and maybe a bit upset that those $40,000.00 leather speakers you bought last week don’t measure up! HEHE...
I was a bit concerned at first, for the talk on the web and forums were inconsistent. One week the chatter was loud and colorful, the next it was gone. For a small company like ours, this is not very comforting. We have a long way to travel from our home base in Hawaii and 2,000lbs of speakers, turntables and heavy equipment don’t travel cheap. “Will anyone be there”? “Is the show still a go”? Only a few of the questions I kept posing to the groups and to the community at large. I never got a clear answer actually. But what the heck! Even if not a single soul was to show up, WE WOULD! For us, this show would have to become a dry run for the next few shows we have on our schedule. Test run if you will. This was a chance to weed out what we would need for the next bigger and more published audio shows. Time to polish up! As for our concerns of attendance, that most definitely was not an issue…
Setup begins: We were a bit concerned at first, for one of our pallets looked like it had been pushed out of the plane from 30,000 feet into the parking lot of the hotel. Perhaps to save on fuel? Well, it turns out the damage was only minor and was not going to be an issue sonically. Lacquer can be re buffed. For our first show, I think we did OK on time when it comes to unpacking and setup. For the next few shows, we will clearly need to tidy up this part.
We were glad to have booked the room 2 days before the opening of the show because we ran into a few issues that nearly had us a “NO SHOW”. While tuning the room, Our Phono stage suddenly lost a channel. NOOOO!!!! Early birds were already entering the room for listening sessions and our finest KAREN 6 Turntable was dead in the water. Luckily, we had a second entry line KAREN 3 already setup with a small MM phono stage to take up the slack for the day. My hat’s off to Balanced Audio Technology. I got Geoff Poor on the horn. He immediately got me on the line with the gentleman who built the amazing VK-P10SE Phono stage, Victor Khomenko. He walked me thru a series of diagnostics to determine the cause of the lost channel. The conclusion was a power supply issue that could not be fixed on the spot. OUCH! BUT WAIT! The next morning, waiting at the front desk was another Phono stage sent overnight! Now you tell me, have you ever had customer service like this? Have you been put on the phone with the designer of any piece of equipment that is down for the count? Have you had a replacement waiting for you before you could finish your breakfast bagel at the hotel restaurant? BUT WAIT! THAT’S NOT ALL! The hotel had a surge that killed the left channel in the brand new VK-6550SE amp we are showing with as well! WHAT?!?! One more call to Victor and that problem was solved in about 5 minutes as well! “HOLY BLOWN FUSES BAT MAN”! Again, I can’t tell you what it means to a little company like ours to have support from a big company like Balanced Audio Technology. Thank you BAT!!!
Remember the part about “Mama said there would be days like this”? Boy howdy, was that one. Thank goodness Mama was right about the following as well… those promised days filled with amazing music, art, people and libation! That is exactly what LSAF was. My wife Jeanette and I met some of the coolest folks over this long weekend. We would name them all here, but my long windedness would become tiresome quickly if hasn’t already. Let me just put out a blanket ALL THE FOLKS AT THIS SHOW ARE AWSOME!! Each day we shared breakfast with the group, tossed around ideas and talked tunes. Usually, most of us would head to our systems after this in order to get ready for the day. In some cases we were able to get out and see some of the other systems before the spectators would arrive. Not for long though! For a show that is supposed to start at 1:00PM each day… Ummmm… well I think it was more like 9:00AM! In the JWM Acoustics room we had a steady stream of folks from about then till 11:00PM each day! By 11:00AM (which happens to be when the hotel bar opens) that stream of people was also carrying colorful bottles as well. Like I said before, this is a fun show folks!
We had great music in tow, but of course many brought their own to spin up. A few folks were even kind enough to bring JWM Acoustics into the 21st century and load up JRiver on my laptop and stuff it full of great music. Who knew digital could bring a smile to this old analog geeks face? Well it did with the help of the OPPO BD105D we had in the rack. It turns out the internal DAC is FAR better than I had known! The DSD files streaming from the laptop were divine to say the least. (I better not say too much. I’m trying to sell turntables!) Now it looks like I’m going to need a lesson in organizing all this music into playlists for the next show. One more reason to love analog, alphabetical order is about as deep as it goes! Hehehe.
The system worked perfect. The REX preamp fed the mighty VK-655SE power amp with gusto. Having one of the quietest all tube preamps in the world powering a true super amp is nothing short of stunning. Put one of the best Tube phono stages in front of that and now we have something to marvel at. Now, pair the famous PW Windfeld from Ortofon on our new KAREN 6 turntable and I simply can’t explain what happens in words. Cables you ask? A full set of Nordost all the way around, including the Heimdall II speaker cables, Blue Heaven and Red Dawn interconnects and power cables. To clean it all up we added a few QV and QK line enhancing units to our power distribution systems.
The results were fantastic. Yes, we already knew what this system is capable of because many of the components are integral to our reference system at home. What fun we had with that conference room and all three of our newest speaker systems to play with! And boy did we play! For the first day, we tried as hard as we could to break in a brand new set of the JANE JKM speakers that had only been put together a week prior to their debut at LSAF. We moved them all around the room trying to get the most out of them. In one spot the imaging literally had them disappear, but bass response was lagging. Move them 5 inches and suddenly the low end enveloped the room, but staging began to lag. This is a common dance we do in almost any environment the speaker will live in permanently. The toughest part of this room was the drop ceiling and lossy walls. The whole room wanted to become an echo-y rumble chamber to say the least. In the end, we decided on a compromise and the entire system locked into place. Ideal? No. Pretty freak’n good for that room? Absolutely! Even on a bad day setup in a cardboard shoe box, this system would still be better than 90% of the systems I have ever heard. The synergy of these components is that good.
On day two and three we began playing with the other speakers in the lineup. First the ALYSON AML, then the NET-1. It took less than 3 seconds of Fever on Lyn Stanley’s Lost in Romance LP before the entire audience looked back at me and said “NO WAY”! The room locked in with grace and a sense of ease I had not heard even in our studios. We didn’t even attempt to voice the room or go through the usual speaker placement steps. It just worked. Obviously this speaker was a FAR better match for the room than the giant JANE floor stander. Why? Great question! For anyone interested in dropping this kind of coin on a system of their own be advised. Bigger is not always better in your particular room. In this case, you would have saved yourself $10,000.00 between the price of the two speakers and would easily have doubled your capabilities. I have a renewed pride in our smaller speaker offerings, but as always, we recommend hearing our entire line before making the determination we did on this day, in that room.
The fun didn’t stop there! How small can we go was the next question? Well, let’s see! The NET-1s were dropped into the same footprint of the ALYSONs and away we went. REALLY?!?!? A two way mini monitor filling a 4,620 cubic foot room full of people like a full range floor stander is simply not heard of. (Pun intended) The NET-1 did exactly that. I built the damn things and still had no idea of what they could do in a room like this. I heard of such sound coming from our designs, but never paid much attention to what was said. This was not the design goal after all. This was supposed to be a mini monitor turned into a near full range speaker for small environments. BUT I’LL TAKE IT! The little NET performed like a rock star without a hiccup. I am so proud of this little giant killer and will yell it from the roof tops! “Viva la NET”! “Viva la NET”! “Viva la NET”!
We had a chance to meet and get to know the owner of Raven Audio, Dave Thomson. I had only seen his equipment in reviews and on line, but as in art and fine wine, this never does justice to the actual piece in person. Trust me when I say you owe yourself the pleasure of giving these pieces a listen. Although our time with the equipment was limited, what I heard in the Raven room was fabulous. What I heard from Raven paired with our speakers was fabulously promising! On the last day before packing up the show, Dave was kind enough to bring down his killer new BlackHawk integrated amp to our room and plug it into our ALYSON ALM and NET-1 Speaker systems. The pairing seemed the most logical for the size, price point and output capabilities of the pairing. With limited time, in less than ideal conditions, every eyebrow in the room was raised and the tiny NET-1 opened up like a Oklahoma double wide in the middle of storm season! No tight lipped brick and mortar mini monitor sound with this pairing folks. PLEASE go hear this amp if you get a chance. The NET-1 is not the most efficient speaker in our lineup, nor does it have the depth capabilities of our larger offerings, but for some reason, in that room, on that day, with that amp, like we never heard, they blossomed.
Next, Dave was kind enough to allow us to bring a set of the ALYSON AML up to the Douglas Connections room to hear them paired up with the Spirit MK2 300B tube mono block amps and Silhouette Reference preamp. Folks, The specks on the ALYSON mean nothing when combined with this system. The true monitor characteristics were apparent from the first track that was spun up. Focus and detail were my first impressions, and then I realized that the low end of the drivers was being taken down to a level by that 300B tube I had not heard before. It is true that the 300 may not have the grip of other tubes I have heard on our speakers, nor the power, but the rumors of that tube bringing chills to your spine are all true. I WILL be looking into purchasing this amp in the future. It is truly a reference design that needs further investigation. Don’t believe me? Look into what Art Dudley said about it in the May issue of Stereophile magazine. Still need more proof of this design. Get off your butt and go hear it. It is impressive.
We truly hope to have a chance to hear some of RAVENs other offerings in the future. Not only for the obvious stellar sonic quality, but also for the fit and finish of the product. Perhaps I’m picky due to my industrial design background. This is truly well put together equipment kids. I have a few other reasons for wanting to explore RAVEN as well. This is a true American product built in Texas with love. If you hadn’t noticed, the system we are showing with for the next few events is all American as well. As a proud MADE IN AMERICA company, this means a lot to us. We plan to keep it that way. Lastly, much like JWM Acoustics, it would seem that RAVEN is a family affair. We were so happy to meet Dave’s wife Gabrielle, Mrs. RAVEN herself. Talk about lighting up a room! If you guys are reading this, it was a great pleasure meeting the both of you and we will keep the porch light on for ya if you ever decide to come out to Da islands…
OK FOLKS! That's enough for now. Again, big thanks to all responsible for this awesome weekend. Hope to see ya'll next year, ya hear!
Where we headed?!
After 15 years in HAWAII, in the month of May, JWM Acoustics is coming home to TEXAS! JWM will be showing the latest creations at the Lone Star Audio Fest in Dallas, Texas. The show runs May 1-3 at Embassy Suites Dallas - Park Central, 13131 North Central Expressway, Dallas, Texas, 75243
JWM Acoustics will be showing their newest equipment in the Carrollton Room on the ground floor off the main lobby of the hotel. JWM plans to bring all the music that can fit into a suitcase, but feel free to bring your favorite vinyl, CDs, SACDs or files to hear on the system. JWM’s goal is to introduce as many people as possible to what this growing audio company has been doing out in the Pacific Ocean.
For the Lone Star Audio Fest, JWM has chosen to bring 3 sets of speakers. The NET-1 mini monitor, the ALYSON AML large monitor and the JANE JKM floor standing flagship. Also included in the collection will be the KAREN 6 turntable and several examples of HI-FI accessories including Cable Cradles in various wood species and sizes.
We are proud to say we will be showing with some great American companies as well. The main system will be largely comprised of Balanced Audio Technology, including the REX Preamplifier, VK-P10SE Phono Stage and the newest amplifier in the line, the mighty VK-655SE. Sources will include the OPPO BD-105D Multi reader and files supplied from several storage mediums. Ortofon cartridges will be in use as well! We will have examples of MM and MCs on hand including the 2M BLACK and Windfeld. Cables and Power supplies are being provided by NORDOST and we will have numerous examples on hand to sample, including the Leaf, Frey and Norse lines.
In short, this will be one heck of a system that is guaranteed to raise some eyebrows and the hairs on your neck. The goal was to create a system that was as neutral as possible, with the ability to provide the extreme dynamic capabilities inherent to JWM Acoustics designs. Whether you are a fan of Opera, Rock or Jazz, this system provides a black background from which the performance can project in stunning transient fashion, yet whisper the most subtle detail.
As some of you know, JWM Acoustics is a custom audio company catering to the individual needs of the client. Each product is handmade and as unique as the person who chooses it. JWM is pleased to create one of a kind pieces that will enhance the life of each person who experiences it. JWM products are not only built as sound reproduction tools, but as instruments that will last for generations.
Joshua Weston Miles has a background in visual arts, music, industrial design and audio engineering. Combining them has been a lifelong passion. Miles has succeeded with the products being shown at the Lone Star Audio Fest in May, representing state of the art sound reproduction and timeless design. Each product is designed to be equally at home in the recording studio, home theater or audiophile listening room. Nearly unlimited combinations of custom woods and finishes enable him to design a system that will perfectly fit within your space.
JWM Acoustics is located in beautiful Hawaii on the Island of Oahu. Currently, there are two locations where these instruments are created. The woodworking and finish facility is located in the heart of Honolulu. The electronics, testing and listening studios are located in the town of Kaneohe on the East side of the island. Visitors are always welcome if you would like to see the works in progress. Accommodations for private viewings and listening sessions are available in the Kaneohe location by appointment.
We hope to see you all there.
Aloha, Mahalo and Thank you.
JWM Acoustics jwmacoustics.com email@example.com (808)349-6661 PO BOX 944 Kailua, HI. 96734
“Many years ago, our father named a beautiful boat for my sister. Unfortunately that vessel sank and too did the name. I never thought that was fair. It was like my sister had been cheated somehow. I know if my father were still alive, he would have named another vessel for her. I am proud of the machines I build, much like my father was of his boat. I know my systems don’t float, or provide a steady platform for sunbathing in the gulf, but perhaps they should be named for my sister anyway. After all, there was enough pride in my father to name his vessel for this amazing woman. Like my sister, and that boat, I feel these machines are not only powerful, assertive and poised, but delicate and graceful at the same time. So be it then. I give you the Alyson.”
The idea for these machines came while working on another design. A design I am still working on as a matter of fact. They are floor standing, rear horn loaded, transmission line speakers that I have been building for many years. The design has always been a challenge though. Don’t get me wrong, after 15 years of research and development, they are remarkable. The trick has been downsizing them into a real world size that can be aesthetically pleasing for, well; let’s just say the average spouse. (I hope I’m not in trouble here.) To do this, one must do a ton of dancing with the tuning of the machines. This takes time and patience. Both of which I am running out of. Often, I must take a break from the project and turn my attentions elsewhere. Call it a hiatus if you will. This is my way to get a fresh perspective when I return to the project. This also stands true for my other artistic endeavors. Stay tuned. They will be great indeed. Some day.
In the meantime:
About 5 years ago, several people asked if I had any smaller monitor designs. During this time, I had also noticed a trend toward smaller and simpler systems. In other words, more compact audio equipment that has less of a footprint on the living environment. Also around the same time, I had received a phone call from a studio where I had installed a set of my monitors many years ago. They had asked if I was still building and if I had made any improvements or updated the designs I had built for them. Truth is, I had thought about it many times, but the answer was no. I had not put thought to paper on these designs in a long while. Perhaps there was never a demand big enough to sustain building small near field monitors that cost as much as a Hyundai. Building one-offs specifically for the environment the client resides in was always my way. But alas, it may be time to open this can of worms again and see what I can do!
The research begins:
I spent several weeks in the shop revisiting the design I had built for the studio. I built a set identical to theirs and began tearing it down. I found so many flaws in the design, it was almost embarrassing. Not the overall sound mind you, just the overall lack of life and timbre. As a studio monitor these pieces were wonderful, but they would never pass the muster in a real world HI FI system. At least 10 times, “Clinical and flat” was scribbled in my listening notes. But that is what the client wanted! They wanted me to tune this system to sound like “NOTHING!” flat frequency response with as little coloration of their own as possible. The system they would be driving the monitors with was also as flat as it gets with no sugar coating what so ever. Spectral Audio amplifiers and preamps were chosen to feed the system from front to back. Flat, flat, flat…
Why did it sound so bad to me now? Why I ask?!?!
To me it all boiled down to two things. First; my lack of knowledge at the time of the original design execution. Second; the lack of technology at the time. The fast and silky capacitors of today simply did not exist. Nor did the amazing new foil inductors and Vishay resistors modern designers use now without a thought. Yes, back then the thought of spending 200 bones on a single capacitor was unheard of, but for a few manufacturers. Today, not so much. I’d spend 700 without a flinch if it is what it takes to get “That Sound”. And “That Sound” is exactly what I set my sights on. Don’t forget, the speakers in the studio were more than 10 years old now and permanently installed. I had to do this from 4,000 miles away. Challenge accepted!
I called the studio back a few months later and gave the news about the new crossover system. I made it clear that this may be just what they wanted. “Same system, just with new life and a powerful new sound”. I explained. They took the bait and off the crossover boards went to the FedEx shop down the street. It’s always hard to see your children off for the first time. Especially when some other technician will be in charge of the installation and final judgment. Studios don’t usually mess around and having their main monitors out of commission for two days is a BIG deal. So, cue the fingernail chewing Maestro!
Shortly after I ran out of valium while waiting on the verdict, the call came. That call set the stage for what I decided to spend the next period of time and energy on. That time ended up being 5 years. “Josh, thank you! This system has never sounded as good. You really should build this design for the commercial market. It may work. How much do we owe you?” Let’s just say he was not as happy as he was when the phone call was initiated. None the less, he agreed it was still one hell of a bargain! Remember those $700 capacitors and inductors I mentioned earlier? I integrated a LOT of them.
So, here we are. A few years later and several gray hairs to show for it, the Alyson AML is born. Of course, it’s true that a near field monitor retailing for the price of a Hyundai is still a narrow market. But when you tune that monitor to thrive in every real world environment outside of the studio, dress her in some pretty cabinetry, solid hardwoods, piano lacquers and the best components available, now we have something! A design within reach of most music lover’s pocketbooks. One that will also continue to thrill for years to come. You see, these are not just machines to me. They are instruments. Pieces of my industrial design should not be chosen like any other high-end speaker system. No, these are to be chosen as if purchasing a piano that will be in the family for generations to come. That is exactly what these are. Instruments. My pianos. Alyson.
At first glance, The Alyson is a D'Appolito design. Inside it is a whole other ball game. Some call it a MTM, or Midrange – Tweeter - Midrange design. This design configuration was created by Joseph D'Appolito as a way of correcting the inherent lobe tilting of a typical mid-tweeter (MT) configuration, at the crossover frequency. I opted to spend the design hours and Doe-Ray-Me on a time-aligned configuration (Which is featured in all JWM designs). In this arrangement as is found in my smaller NET-1 design, the loudspeaker uses one shallow wave guide loaded driver, a mid-range (or mid-woofer/woofer) for the low frequencies and a shallow horn loaded, ring radiating tweeter for the higher frequencies, with the tweeter being placed above the other larger drivers. The configuration desires 3rd order (18 dB/oct or 60 dB/dec) crossover allowing the drivers to have similar horizontal dispersion, resulting in the absence of any sudden change in directivity with frequency.
Since it is rare for a tweeter and mid-range (or woofer) to have their diaphragms or acoustic centers in the same physical plane, sound waves emitted by them (of the same frequency) will not reach a particular listening position in the on-axis plane at the same time. Conversely, the MT or TM combination's on-axis plane is not coincident with the physical on-axis plane - it is tilted w.r.t. the physical plane. (Say that 10 times as fast as you can.) The overall effect is that at the crossover frequency (when both drivers are reproducing the same frequency) the sound from both drivers does not acoustically sum ideally at the on-axis listening position. There will, however, be some off-axis listening position where the acoustic sum is ideal - but the listening position itself may be such that it is not practical. Thus, with a typical TM or MT loudspeaker where the drivers are not time-aligned, the main lobe is tilted away from the horizontal.
The direction in which the lobe tilts (i.e., the vertical orientation or angle of the lobe) is a function of the difference or offset between the acoustic centers of the two drivers. In order to remedy this effect, a great deal of measurement and listening must take place. Correcting the time alignment in JWM speakers is not necessarily to achieve a perfect dead center alignment. It is however, another tool in my box for tuning any given design to perform well in most rooms. How often do you sit directly in front of your speakers and perfectly in line with their acoustic center? Never you say? I know!
So why MTM for the AML Josh?
Well, you would think when another mid-range or mid woofer is added vertically and symmetrically opposite to the existing one, the result is that the tilted on-axis plane gets corrected such that the differences between the mid woofer and tweeter planes become immaterial - the on-axis plane is always w.r.t. the tweeter's center. Sure, it makes sense all right. But, time is not always on our side.
The design requires that the two mid woofers are in exactly the same plane, and exactly the same distance from the tweeter - which is much easier to do physically than in the crossover. Up until recently, there has been a price to pay for this - although the MTM's on-axis response is near perfect, its radiation pattern or main lobe can be much narrower than that of the MT or TM configuration. As a result, the off-axis response (i.e., response at locations vertically away from exactly opposite the tweeter) should be much weaker. There can be obvious and discernible change in tonality at the crossover as one's listening height relative to the tweeter changes, and the effect is perceived more as the listener moves closer to the loudspeaker. In the Alyson AML and many other designs, this is corrected by (1) mounting the mid woofers as close to the tweeters as possible (so that the listening distance is much larger than the distance between the drivers) and (2) operating the mid woofers and tweeter in quadrature, i.e., achieved by ensuring that the tweeter lags the mid woofer by 90° in phase at the crossover frequency, and this in turn can be achieved if the crossover has a 3rd order Butterworth characteristic. To achieve the smallest distance between the mids and tweeters requires the drivers to have the smallest possible size - but there are design limitations to this (lowest mid-range frequency, for example, will place a lower limit to the mid's diameter). As you see in the Alyson AML, this small driver issue is not a problem, for there is a third way. (3) In conjunction with the other aforementioned methods, I also use the magic of wave guides and shallow horns to not only increase the width of the lobe, but much, much more. I can create a deeper stage effect, more focused dispersion pattern and a faster presentation. In addition the efficiency is increased substantially with the use of these wave guides. Voila!
I mentioned the inside of the Alyson AML being a whole other ball game. This is true. Not only does the shape play a crucial role in the design, so do the inside baffles, materials, and damping. In concert, (pun intended) the combination of all the above elements are tuned to the specific task of helping each other compress and release the back pressure of air within the cabinet. These elements must do so without one affecting the others performance through stray vibrations or standing waves within the interior chambers. This also is true of the driver components and electronics attached to the speakers. All work as one.
Let’s start with her curves baby:
There is a graceful curve to both the Net-1 and Alyson AML. In almost all curved cabinet speakers, the initial idea is to avoid standing waves between parallel surfaces inside the cabinet. This is true in my designs. This is but one reason for my utilization of the concept. The curved design also allows me to compress the back wave of the drivers into separate band pass chambers (two in this case) tuned to any frequency I desire. The most obvious drawback to most designers would be the speed of the rear exhaust being out of phase with the front of the speaker. You may have heard the effect in your average boom car going down the street. ONE NOTE BASS, SLOW AND OUT OF SYNC. Well, if you treat the port as an extension to the interior chambers and utilize it as a transmission line, it seems to speed things up and increase the overall efficiency of the lower frequencies! Voilà! What we have is a band pass transmission line design in a compact architecture. It gets way more complicated, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
I cannot stress enough the importance of the materials used in not only musical instruments, but musical speakers as well! After all, they do the same thing don’t they? At least they should. You would not expect a melamine violin to sound like the padauk one in first chair. Or a cardboard bass drum to have the same attack as the shaped maple beauty on the marching field. Thus, you will find no cardboard or melamine in my machines. What you will find is carefully chosen materials. These materials are selected for their damping abilities, resonant characteristics and so much more. My background in the visual arts and industrial design demand that materials I select must also sing to the eye. You would think it stops there, but no. Even the finish plays a crucial role in the overall sound of the machine. Just the specific lacquer used on a violin is crucial to its tone, so is true of the speaker. The bonus of this approach is obvious. The combination of art, audio and design create a product that will satisfy on a multitude of levels for many years to come.
Internally, all kinds of things take place that produce vibration and resonance. Some of these effects are desirable, some are not. I have spent a great deal of time deciding which should be exploited in my designs. I have spent equally as much energy in the pursuit of taming all of them with as little material as possible. Those materials are extremely important though. In some cases, even more essential than the cabinets themselves. Each has been selected from numerous manufactures for their ability to do precisely what I need them to do. No more, no less. Efficiency is the name of the game when taming resonance.
The curved cabinets and stand wing components are made from the same materials and finished in the same way as well. The reason for this was to create a symbiotic relationship between the stand and speaker cabinet. Both components have nearly the same mass and surface area, thus react to vibration in the same way. The shape of both allow for any unwanted stray resonance to be channeled silently down through the stand and terminate in the lower plate. In the rare case any further damping is required; the choice of spiked feet couples the units to the floor and bleeds the vibration away.
When it comes to the finish on the speakers and stands, I spare no expense. The bodies of the system and stand wings use a 12 layer process, followed by a 6 step polishing regiment. I utilize the latest conversion varnish technology. Each layer is sprayed, dried and sanded. The final coat is then sanded several times down to 3,000 grit. Next, final polishing begins. Polishing is also a labor of love and takes a minimum of 2 compounds before final polishing. This not only provides a durable and long lasting finish, it allows for a deep and rich mirror finish that rivals any piano manufacturer’s proprietary technique. The possibilities are endless as far as solid colors, but if the end user wishes, I can custom match any top finish with automotive lacquers and/or clear coated bases. As long as the damping factor of the coats fit within my acoustic parameters, I’m ready to play!!!
The hardwood components of these systems are treated in the same way. Hardwoods are picked first for their acoustic properties, then beauty. Form must follow function in this case, but in every case thus far, the two have worked together perfectly. The very same 12 step process is used in the finishing of the hard wood components. Rather than using pigmented primers and bases, as in the body and wings, I use crystal clear sanding and leveling materials to start. Again, each layer must be dried, sanded and inspected before the next. The end result is worth every bit of sweat. Don’t forget, I can create these in any hardwood you wish, as long as it fits within my parameters of the ideal acoustic wood. No, Balsa will not work! Lol…
In the near future, I will be adding more visual options to each line of speakers. This will include custom veneers, hardwoods and a rainbow of colors to choose from. Depending on demand, I may also choose to keep custom automotive finishes on hand as standard practice. Stay tuned!
The bottom line of the Alyson AML:
My mission was threefold. First, to create a fast and efficient MTM design, utilizing a transmission line and band pass cabinet layout. Second, to provide many options to the end user in finishes and wood. Yes, a high “Wife Factor” coefficient is always a plus! There, I said it. They are easy on the eyes! Third, I believe it important to have my machines HAND MADE and manufactured in the USA! Yes, I have some parts made in Germany, Canada and Denmark, but I feel there is no manufacturer in the US for those certain parts, that can meet my demand for perfection. "YET"! As soon as that is possible, ALL of these systems in my collection will be made here at home in Hawaii. I feel satisfied that I have exceeded my objectives and confident that the listener will agree. As I said in the beginning of this post, These machines are to be picked as if they were a piano for your family. After all, I build them to last for many generations.
Joshua W. Miles
Specifications: Frequency Response: 35-35,000Htz Short term max. power: 600 Watts Long term max. power: 450 Watts X-Over frequency: 2,500Htz Impedance: 4 Ohms Sensitivities: 89dB SPL Recommended amplifier: 40-400 Watts
Questions and Inquiries:
All questions and inquiries, including pricing can be directed to the fallowing addresses. All dealers are also welcome to call at any time. Systems will be available in person as well as at select locations in the very near future. Also, stay tuned for my personal on-line shop as well!
Joshua W. Miles Designs LLC PO BOX 944 Kailua, HI 96744 (808)349-6661 (808)421-9991 firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to send a special and warmhearted thank you to Thorben Wuttke. Owner and master woodworker for Honolulu Furniture Co. Without your MAD SKILLS and exceptional taste, these machines would still be just a scribble on a bar napkin. Much Mahalo!!!
- "Article by Rane discussing the Linkwitz-Riley crossover, time-alignment, lobing and correction of lobe tilt in TM or MT speaker configurations."
- "Biro Technology article showing lobe correction with MTM loudspeaker configuration, and other analyses"
- "Biro Technology article, section 3"