5/15/2014 - NL27
Hi everyone. Here we are, half way between the end of AXPONA and the start of T.H.E. Show in Newport, and so I thought this would be a great time for a newsletter.
I'm busy as ever in the shop right now with several new speaker orders making their way through the process, quite a few Klipsch upgrades orders, a couple of amplifier plinth orders, a new batch of Vittora cabinets in the works, getting ready for the next Audio Show, etc.. Add to that, all the things having to do with buying property in Tennessee, selling property here in Maine, and working on the design and construction specifications for the new shop to be built in TN, and my days are more than full right now. Oh, and don't forget that we are still in the new home construction business for a while longer - finishing up the outside landscaping on a condo unit that we just completed, and overseeing the construction of the last new custom home that our construction company will build. Yeah, it's more than one person should ever have to deal with. I just take it one day at a time and prioritize, but it's a daunting list. One of the reasons for the major life change we're embarking on, is to simplify a little bit.
After telling you how busy I am right now, it may come as a suprise to hear me say that we need more sales. That's the way it is though, it is necessary for us to have steady sales to keep the shop running, and new speaker sales have slowed down as of late. The roller coaster ride continues. I'm hoping that once I get a chance to develop one or two more speaker models, we'll be able to have steadier sales in the future. It may be time to consider a different marketing strategy too. Things are always changing in business.
It's amazing how word spreads. It seems like everyone knows about Volti's impending move to Tennessee. Some of our friends and family still don't believe we're going to do it.
So . . . read on - about the move, the show, the show, using points, having fun, petty theft, beer, AC/DC,
fire alarms, and many more interesting things.
Well we did it! We are now landowners in Baxter, Tennessee, a small town right on I40 about an hour East of Nashville. We bought twenty acres of land on Rt70, (Old Nashville Highway) that has a 65 year old brick house in need of some attention. This location is perfect for us. It's a rural area, fairly quiet, yet situated right near the cross-roads of Rt70 and Rt56, and just a couple miles from an I40 exit, with good access for trucks bringing us materials, picking up our crates, and for visitors to find us easily. We're just ten minutes from Cookeville, which is a major service center for the upper-middle TN area, and as I've pointed out before, centrally located to a very large percentage of the U.S. population who will be within striking distance of a Vittora demo in our new showroom.
The land itself is really nice. It's actually a corner parcel, and the old home is right at the corner, leaving the rest of the land open and ready for development. It was once a farm, and the family that built the home in 1948, lived there until just a few years ago. There's a couple of old barns that I don't think will be of any use to us. The highest part of the land is a big open field with 700 feet of frontage on Rt70, just perfect for a big Volti shop.
Originally we were going to remodel the old house to live in. It needs a lot of work - new roof, new windows, new kitchen and baths, new flooring, heating and AC, etc... but one thing that does NOT need attention is the beautiful exterior brick work, which still looks like new. But after some discussion, we realized that it would be better to concentrate on just one building - the new shop. The front showroom of the shop can serve us quite well as a living room for a while, and of course I'm going to have a kitchen and bathroom in the shop, so really, we can live there comfortably for some time until we decide what to do for permanent living quarters. The old house would be perfect to rent out for income.
I'm designing the shop right now and I'm very happy with the way it's looking on paper. We're especially happy with the design of that front showroom part of the shop, which has a Frank Lloyd Wright influence - think 'Robie House'. The woodshop area is three times the size of our current one, and we'll have a dedicated shipping/receiving area. The whole building will be built on a slab foundation, all one level, with 10' and 12' tall ceilings. I wish it could be larger, but we're building what we can afford right now and future expansion is being planned in from the start.
Construction costs are lower in TN, and we can have the shop built with split-face masonry block for cheaper than wood frame/vinyl siding, so that's a no-brainer. The inside of the front show room will have polished and sealed concrete floors with area rugs, split-face block masonry, some drywall on the ceilings, and rough-sawn wood surfaces and trim.
We're very excited to make the move, but we'll have to sell one of three properties we have here in Maine before we can start building the shop, and who knows how long that will take. Meanwhile we will continue Volti Audio right here in Maine, so please don't y'all wait until we move to Tennessee to put in orders for new speakers! We need to keep the business rolling all year long.
This move is a big one for us - exciting and scary at the same time.
AXPONA 2014 was held April 25, 26, 27, at the Westin O'Hare hotel in Rosemont, IL. Volti was there last year too, and like last year, this year's turnout was very good, and the show very well organized. I said it from the first email that I received two and a half years ago when they announced AXPONA was going to be permanently located in Chicago - this show is going to be a great success. If they keep up the good work they are doing, this will be the premier audio show in the U.S. within a few years. The time of year is just right, they have a great venue, Rosemont has lots of restaurants and entertainment, they're right near O'Hare, and the central location in the U.S. and proximity to Canada is ideal.
This year I teamed up with Pete Grzybowski (Triode Pete) from Triode Wire Labs, and I think we put together a terrific system. I wanted to put together a system that highlighted the Alura speakers, and keep the electronic components very reasonable in price. The exercise was to show that Volti speakers sound great with normal everyday electronics - that expensive high-end gear is not necessary to obtain exceptionally good sound quality when you start with great speakers. I purchased all the electronics especially for this show. I found a really nice CD/SACD player made by Yamaha that has a very nice design and is well constructed. For the preamp, I decided on a Peachtree NovaPre, with a built-in DAC and remote controlled volume. The amplifiers were Quicksilver Mid-Mono monoblocks using EL34 output tubes with 40 watts per channel of power. The gear worked flawlessly. The whole system, including the Alura speakers, the matching Volti stand and amplifier plinths, the electronics, and the cabling can be purchased at retail for less than $25,000. I think we did demonstrate that reasonably priced gear can sound great when paired up with Volti speakers, although I got the sense that in the sea of high priced gear all around us, the point was lost on many people.
Everything was wired together with
Triode Wire Labs interconnects and cabling, and the system was quiet, quiet, quiet - and I mean dead quiet.
The 'Black' background behind the music was very nice, and generally I really felt like the cables were letting the music come
through the system in the most natural way. Made in the U.S. with great materials and craftsmanship, and reasonably priced,
I highly recommend Triode Wire Labs for your system cabling.
Here's a few pictures of our showroom, courtesy of Scot Hull.
By the way, Volti has a new product offering this year. The stands and plinths that you've seen me building for the Audio shows over the last year or so will be featured on the website as soon as I find some time to make a new webpage for them. They are made with 2" thick Baltic Birch plywood and veneered/finished just like the speaker cabinets we build. I can make them in any size/configuration. Do you like the slanted amplifier plinths? Me too - I like to see my amplifiers.
Not everything went well at the show however. Someone actually stole my Eagles 'Long Road Out Of Eden' CD! I mean come on! Really?! So that cost me eight bucks to replace, shipping included. I hope they enjoy it.
The other thing that was a disappointment was my performance. Yes, me, moi, ich, mig, mir, mi, . . . it is my fault. (I Googled)
I did not do my best at this show and I'm disappointed in myself and I've also learned some valuable lessons.
You see, after setting up all the gear on Thursday, I only spent about an hour or so tweaking the system, and even though there was a noticeable and irritating bass node in the room, I didn't continue to work on it. Food and beer was more important to me. I should have had food and beer, and then gone back to the room to get it straightened out. Instead, I just figured it was good enough. Everyone else was having problems in their rooms too, or so it seemed.
This bass node was right around 125Hz or maybe 150Hz. I don't know if you realize it, but that's not a good place for a node. My listening room at home has a 50Hz node - now that's a nice node! - as far as nodes go. But 150Hz is just plain irritating, and for the entire days Friday and Saturday I was irritated with the system. At the end of the day on Friday I wanted to switch the whole system around to another wall in the room, which would have been a lot of work, and might not have even solved the problem (square room). But Pete talked me out of it, based on the great feedback from nearly everyone who came in the room, and based on the fact that we both thought the system did sound really good except for that bass node.
But after Saturday, I couldn't take it anymore, and on Sunday morning, a couple of hours before the show started, I started tweaking things. After an hour or so, I was making some progress, and the node seemed to be less noticeable. That's when Bruce Jacobs walked into the room. I didn't know who he was, but he took an interest in what I was doing and started talking to me about using isolation feet under the speakers, and how bass waves were bouncing off this and that. I was half listening because there really are a lot of quirky people milling about these shows, and I was making some progress on my own. But he said he'd be right back and he disappeared out the door. He came back in a couple of minutes later with four Stillpoints and put them under the preamplifier. I politely sat down for a listen, not expecting much, and was completely floored by what I heard. You won't believe it, but I'll tell you anyway. The bass node was nearly gone! The system's sound had cleaned up, tightened up, and straightened out a full 180 from where it was the day before.
Bruce was sitting behind me, and when I turned around he had this funny grin on his face. I think I said something like, "Holy F***ing Sh*t". I'm not easily impressed, but what I heard in that few minutes was freeking amazing. Bruce is the Stillpoints rep, and I've since learned that he was a very busy guy at AXPONA.
Now I have to tell you, I've had this experience before, and as Bruce was placing the feet under the preamp, I realized it - it all came back to me - a flood of memories from years before, and I felt foolish for not remembering my past experience with isolation feet when I was setting the system up on Thursday. I even wrote an essay about it several years ago called "Stupid Cone Feet" - 'stupid' because there's just no way that little plastic cone feet can do what they do, and I couldn't believe the difference they made in my own system at home.
So anyway, there I was, borrowing several more Stillpoints and putting them under the CD player, and steaming mad at myself for not doing something with this system before the show started. I had what I needed with me (my stupid cone feet), and the knowledge was in my brain, and I just didn't follow through.
Yes, I'm being pretty hard on myself. But 80% of the people who heard the Volti system at the show didn't hear what it
sounded like on Sunday. These shows are a big outlay of money and time, and the number one job I must do at the show
is make a good sound, and I failed. Well, 'failed' is too strong a word, but I didn't do my best. I've learned
something from this show, and I can assure you this will not happen again.
On The Other Hand . . .
. . . it couldn't have been too crappy sounding, we were getting great comments all weekend long. After listening, many people came up to me and shook my hand and told me what a great job I'd done on the speakers, and how much they enjoyed the MUSIC from this system, etc... I'm very thankful for that feedback, it means a lot to me. Those who made especially poignant remarks were asked to write their comments on the board - take a look:
Here they are typed out:
I heard a lot of comments over the weekend about how bad other rooms sounded. I've noticed that
a lot of the rooms don't necessarily sound bad, it's just that they seem to be going after the "audiophile" sound,
which tends to have lean bass, smooth but forward midrange
and high end, and a lot of detail - which contrasts sharply to those of us who prefer a sound that is more like
The contrast between the typical "audiophile" sound (think Wilson Audio), and the Volti sound is significant, with the Volti speakers producing
bigger dynamic swings and a more involving and realistic presentation that is how live music really sounds.
The Volti room seems to appeal to music lovers, not audiophiles, and I'm ok with that.
In spite of the bass node and some petty theft, we did have a lot of fun that weekend. Have any of you noticed the "Have Fun" campaign on the Volti Website? No? Well go there right now and take a look
Purple color, Freestyle text, as though it was hand-written across the rather serious looking Volti logo. It's subtle, but important. In a hobby that is taken too seriously by too many, Volti Audio reminds you to HAVE FUN! If you own Volti speakers, you WILL Have Fun.
I brought that message to AXPONA with my own little covert, "Have Fun" internal Volti promotional campaign. I had 500 of these little Have Fun stickers printed up and Pete and I were giving them out at the show. I also had a big sign down in the lobby that said "Have Fun" on it - no Volti branding on it, so how could they possibly say no to letting me put that down there? I think it worked pretty well. It's something I'll have to expand on for the next show.
forgetful (busy), I didn't take a picture of the sign in the lobby. In fact I didn't take any pictures at all! Duh.
There's another thing I learned from this show. The shine is off the apple!
I haven't been doing this that long, but for the entire time I've been showing Volti speakers at audio shows, I've had more than my share of press coverage. It's partly due to my association with BorderPatrol Audio, but mostly because the Vittora speakers are remarkable in many ways. It's not every day that a big horn speaker with nice design, fine craftsmanship, great sound, and a reasonable price comes on the scene. Put that together with the vintage Klipsch tie-in, and there's something of interest here for readers of magazines, blogs, and websites to enjoy. It's a story of interest that lasted a long time.
But Press coverage for Volti at AXPONA 2014 was noticeably light. Whether it's that I only had the Alura
speakers at this show, or the Volti speakers story has run the course, I don't know.
I've been searching the web, as I usually do after a show, for quotes and stories on Volti Audio at AXPONA 2014, and there's very little
out there. If you know of something else, please tell me.
From Scot Hull, the publisher of "Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile" who always has nice things to say about Volti stuff:
I planned ahead of time to do a new video with AV Showrooms, now that Volti is a sponser there. So Peter and Terri came to the room before the show started on Saturday and shot some footage. One of the things that Peter has been doing lately that I really like is a new video format for audio show coverage, where he sits down with Myles Astor, and just casually talks about the show and what they liked. You can view one of those videos here.
I wanted to try the same format for my new video and below you'll find the two videos that Peter produced.
From the 'Audio Circle' Forum:
And just because there is so little out there for Volti AXPONA 2014 comments, I'm sticking
THIS in here.
It was really cool to meet two current customers in person at the show. Ian, who purchased a
set of Vittora speakers a couple of months ago, and Larry, who purchased a pair of Alura speakers recently.
Both of these guys purchased their Volti speakers prior to hearing them! Something I would personally not do,
but over half of my customers are comfortable with it. So both of these guys got to hear Volti speakers
for the first time at the show, and fortunately neither thought they had made a mistake! In fact, Larry made a
point of coming back to the room on Sunday to let me know that he had listened to everything at the show, and other
than the big Sadurni horns, there was nothing he thought was as good as 'his' Alura speakers. Larry's been
an audiophile for a long time, and he's owned a lot of gear over the years, so his opinion is something I value.
I never drank a drop of alchohol until just a few years ago. It's true, I had no interest in it at all - didn't like the taste - didn't understand why someone would choose to drink something bitter over a sweet cola. But as I got into my 40's, I finally became self-concious at social events - while my adult friends were enjoying cocktails, I was drinking 'bar coke'. I grew up slowly. So for my New Year's Resolution a few years ago, I decided to take up drinking.
Social drinking. As you all know, it's not easy to keep Resolutions. It takes a lot of hard work on my part, and every once in a while I find myself back on the wagon, and I have to be strong-willed and make the time to have a drink or two and get back in the swing of things.
Why in the world I would begin my journey into social alchoholic drinking with Martini's is beyond me. The first one tasted like I was drinking perfume. I blame my best friend Lionel (16 years my senior), who dubs the Martini a "proper" drink, and "part of my education" as he's always telling me. So every Sunday evening we get together and I make one of my 'perfect' Martinis. I have perfected the process, making sure the Gin is frozen, the vermouth cold and fresh, shaken over ice, producing the proper amount of ice shards floating in the top of the drink, etc...
When I started doing the audio shows, Gary Dews got me drinking beer during the after-hours get-togethers, and I really took a liking to Guinness Draught. So much so, that now I always have a few cans of it in my fridge, and I search out bar/restaurants that have it on tap (much fresher). And so the search was on for Guinness on tap for the AXPONA evenings, and it wasn't too far away. Right in Rosemont, just a mile from the hotel, is "The Five Roses Irish Pub". Oh Yeah!
The Guinness is great there, and the food is good too. One evening, Pete brought me to the "Hofbrauhaus" German beer garden, complete with a house band, freshly brewed beer on site, and a lively scene.
Pete is not allowed to order me beer anymore. He bought us all a round of a Yeast beer, 1 Liter. Yeah, 1 Liter. I took the first sip, and the look on my face must have said it all, because Pete asked me what was wrong. I told him it tasted like I licked someone's armpit. Yeah, 1 Liter. I drank the whole thing.
Other Pictures, Courtesy of Scot Hull
The food at the show hotel was fantastic!
It's a "do over"! That's how it feels to me. I'm anxious to get to this show and this time I'm not going to settle for anything less than the best sound I can possibly make.
It'll be easier this time simply because I'll be sharing the room with Gary Dews of BorderPatrol Audio, and his gear will make the Vittora speakers sound their very best.
'Triode' Pete will be sharing the room with us - long distance. He won't be there, but his Triode Wire Labs cables will be.
We'll also be using an UberBUSS power distribution box
The combination of BorderPatrol and Volti was a real hit at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest last year, and this system is more or less the same, except this time we'll have better cabling and better power, so I'm confident that what was called a Best Of Show system at RMAF last year, will be even better in Newport.
The show is being held May 30, 31 and June 1, 2014. For complete information, visit the
Over the years I've had a lot of people from California ask when I was going to bring my speakers out their way for a listen. Well come on guys, now's the time!
I'm bringing a beautiful set of Rosewood Vittora speakers, and as usual, I'll be offering free shipping on these speakers
from the show. The special veneer upgrade cost is being waived on these. Being demo speakers, there may
be a discount on this set. You should ask.
I got an email last year from an editor at The Absolute Sound magazine. He asked permission to use an image of the Volti Audio Vittora in a book they were publishing called The Absolute Sound's Illustrated History of High-End Audio, Volume One: LOUDSPEAKERS, Edited by Robert Harley.
Naturally, I was a little taken aback. The Vittora? In a big hardcover book about the history of high-end audio? Seriously? What the heck has Volti Audio done to add to the "History" of high-end audio?
But I'm not complaining! Because on the first page of the Horn Speaker section of this beautiful book, is a color picture of a Volti Audio Vittora! What a hoot! On the next page is a picture of the big Magico horn speakers, in black and white! Boooyah!
So there you have it, Volti Audio is a part of the History of High-End Audio, just like that.
I can retire now.
Chief Executive Magazine: 2014 10 Best States For Business
THE TOP TEN:
Chief Executive Magazine: 2014 10 Best States For Business
THE TOP TEN:
Everything is for sale! It feels that way these days. We don't want to drag it all down to Tennessee, so it's all pretty much got to go. But don't worry, I won't use this space to list household items, tools, clothing/shoes (uh em . . . Women's), snow shovels, furniture, or real estate. I'll limit myself to just audio equipment.
The system I used at AXPONA is for sale. Well all but the Yamaha CD/SACD player which I sold at the end of the show.
The Alura speakers in beautiful walnut finish - $15,900
The Walnut equipment stand and amplifier plinths -
Quicksilver Mid-Mono amplifiers (used, no warranty, includes almost complete set of extra tubes ($175 cost) -
Peachtree Audio NovaPre in rosewood (with warranty) -
I still have that big, kick-ass Volti subwoofer for sale. Remember the one that was made for a pair of Vittoras, but the customer bought them without the sub? It's the old version, front-firing 18" driver and a big cabinet with Bosse Cedar veneer.
This thing rocks, and it's beautiful too. It's a steal at $1,500, basically the cost of the driver and materials
used to build it. Somebody please buy this thing! This is not a boomy home theater sub - it's a
design that is able to keep up with bass horns, in the most musical sense.
I'm just going to quickly mention these last two items, and I apologize for not having pictures and details on them. But I do want to mention them in case someone out there is interested. Just contact me and I'll get pics and information to you. I am selling my 1967 original Klipsch Khorns that have the full Volti Audio upgrade package of components and wiring. I'm also selling my complete Klipsch MCM 1900 system.
(That last one hurt)
So that's it for now. Next newsletter will be published sometime after the Newport Show.
Thank you for your support, and until next time, I hope it all sounds good!