Industry Watch: July

Thiel Audio’s New CS1.7

Photo 1: Thiel Audio CS1.7

Thiel Audio recently launched its first new product since the company was acquired last year by a Nashville, TN-based equity company. The product, designed prior to the acquisition, is the company’s new CS1.7 two-way tower design priced at $3,999. The speaker uses 1” MDF on all walls except the front baffle, which is 2” thick (see Photo 1).


Photo 2: Niles Audio Cynema Soundfield

Niles Audio Offers New Soundbars

Niles Audio recently launched a new series of horizontal in-wall soundbars (see Photo 2). The Cynema Soundfield systems are the first of this specific type of product to be offered in consumer electronics. The four systems comprise one passive model and three active models in 48”, 55”, and 65” widths. The passive CSF-48P model costs $1,195, and the active models (the CSF-48A, the CSF-55A, and the CSF-65A) cost $1,599, $1,749, and $1,999, respectively. All of them are left-center-right (LCR)-type soundbars.

The Cynema soundbars’ modular design accommodates in-wall installation without having to cut wall studs to make room for the speaker. Instead, installers mount a horizontal rail onto the wall studs, and then snap the speaker and amplifier modules into the rail. Installers move the modules left or right through an opening in the wall to position them between the studs and align the speaker modules with a wall-mount TV.

The powered models include a separate low-voltage power supply that mounts to a stud next to a wall outlet or behind the display. The low-voltage power supply eliminates the need to run new high-voltage wiring in the wall, eliminating the need for a licensed electrician. The powered models come with 3 × 30-W preamp/amplifier with Dolby Digital processing. The module turns on via IR remote or via an audio-signal-sensing input that turns the soundbar on when its audio input senses audio signal. The in-wall soundbars also integrate with whole-house distributed-audio systems and connect wirelessly to Niles subwoofers.


Photo 3: Mike Detmer

Detmer Launches New Company

Industry veteran Mike “Sparky” Detmer, former president of Niles Audio, has launched a new company offering strategic planning and business-optimization services to manufacturers, distributors, and dealers in the technology-integration and consumer electronics industries (see Photo 3). His new company, Mike Detmer Business Solutions, offers business-optimization services (e.g., business planning, sales-force optimization, training, marketing coordination and budgeting, product management, portfolio planning, and demand planning and coordination).

For more information, visit mikedetmer.com, e-mail mdetmer@mikedetmer.com, or call (305) 798-8510.


MISCO Partners with Digital Audio Labs

MISCO (Minneapolis Speaker Company) recently partnered with Digital Audio Labs (DAL). MISCO and DAL share two key passions: creating great sound systems and meeting customer needs by delivering the exact sound they want. MISCO and DAL complement each other, effectively anchoring the middle and end of the signal chain. DAL is the expert in amplification and digital audio processing. MISCO’s expertise is in loudspeaker design and manufacturing to fit the specific audio needs of a variety of industries, including pro-sound, home audio, musical instruments, medical, aerospace, and military.

Like MISCO, DAL brings its own long track record of innovation to the partnership. DAL rolled out its first audio interface in the late 1980s, when digital audio was still in its infancy. It went on to develop audio interfaces (e.g., CardD and CardDeluxe—the standard in broadcast and measurement markets). Today, DAL provides expertise in digital signal processing, A/D and D/A conversion, amplification, and manufacturing.

Photo 4: Misco PowerShape 2.1

DAL’s most interesting new product related to the MISCO partnership is the PowerShape line of integrated Class-D amplifiers. The key benefit of PowerShape amps are their simplicity—integrating input, signal processing, mixing, and amplification into one box. PowerShape currently comes in two models. PowerShape 2.1 is a cost-effective solution for small-to-midsize installations such as classrooms and corporate conference rooms (see Photo 4). It features digital or analog inputs, stereo or 2.1 output, along with DSP and mixing controls that include gain, five-band EQ, compression, and crossover. It’s easily configurable over Ethernet, USB, or RS-232.

PowerShape 8 is the “audio workhorse,” designed for medium-to-large installations with multiple speakers or zones. It features 12 inputs with DSP on all channels, a 12 × 10 matrix mixer, four-band EQ, compression, and crossover. It also delivers eight, crystal-clear 50-W Class-D output channels.

Photo 5: Misco product concept

Working with digital audio enables DAL to shape the sound audio engineers and OEMs want to achieve, a job that’s completed in the analog realm by pairing DAL electronics with the right MISCO speakers. DAL calls its proprietary DSP algorithms “building blocks” in the signal chain. These algorithms give the customer finely tuned control over parameters (e.g., EQ, compression, and crossover). Now, it’s easy for individual engineers to easily customize, control, and adjust the signal chain to get their desired sound or effect. By working together, MISCO is now able to offer complete, stock, and customized audio systems for gaming, kiosks, digital signage, medical applications and a list of other commercial and industrial sound applications (see Photo 5). For more information about turnkey systems using DAL electronics and MISCO speakers, contact MISCO President Dan Degre at (612) 825-1010 or visit www.miscospeakers.com.


Audit Confirms CEA Show Statistics

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) said an independent audit confirmed that 152,759 people attended the show in Las Vegas, NV, in January, 2013. Also, a record 36,206 international industry professionals from 150 countries attended the show. The 2013 CES featured 3,282 exhibitors, including a record number of startup companies, located on more than 1.92 million net square feet of exhibit space.

The Veris audit confirmed that 43% of 2013 CES attendees were senior-level executives. Presidents, CEOs, and business owners made up 15% of attendees. Nearly one-third of all attendees are the final decision makers when it comes to new product purchases or partnerships with other companies, with 84% of them identified as having buying decision influence. More than 11,000 attendees represented companies with more than $500 million in total annual sales. More than 13,000 retail-buying organizations, 8,000 manufacturers, and nearly 6,000 engineering/research and development companies came to the 2013 CES. Additionally, more than 32,000 professionals from the content development and entertainment industry were in attendance, as part of the Entertainment Matters program, providing entertainment executives the chance to experience the latest devices, technologies, and platforms that will broadcast content to the consumer.


Congress Considers Patent Legislation

Given the increase in patent lawsuits being filed against inventors and manufacturers, the US Senate is considering new patent legislation. Gary Shapiro, CEA president and CEO, released the following the introduction of the proposed Patent Quality Improvement Act of 2013:

“We applaud Senator [Charles E.] Schumer for introducing legislation that promises to make it easier for companies to fight back against frivolous lawsuits by so-called Patent Assertion Entities (PAEs or patent trolls). Patent litigation abuse has reached a crisis level—innovators, businesses of all sizes, and even individual end users are being targeted by firms that do not produce anything, but simply exist to bring lawsuits. In effect, trolls have hijacked our patent system—they now account for the majority of patent litigation in the US, at the cost of tens of billions of dollars to our economy and to American consumers. By enabling defendants to seek review of a patent’s validity, the bill creates a quick cost-effective alternative to litigation. Without having to face the immediate potential of millions of dollars in legal fees, companies targeted by trolls will face less pressure to pay money to resolve frivolous lawsuits. In combination with other measures like the SHIELD Act, the Patent Quality Improvement Act will help drive patent trolls back under the bridge and allow our innovative economy to move forward.”


SuperCube2000 Recall

Definitive Technology has voluntarily recalled its SuperCube2000 powered subwoofers built in September 2012 because of a potential shock hazard, according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announcement. About 900 units with serial numbers containing the characters 0912HB are covered by the recall. According to the CPSC, Definitive has received two reports of consumers who were shocked while handling the unit. For its part, Definitive said on its website that in some units built last September, “an improperly installed internal lead could cause 120-V current at the connections on the back panel of the subwoofer, potentially causing an electric shock if the connecter is touched while the unit is powered.” Definitive recommends that consumers who bought a SuperCube2000 after November 1, 2012, unplug the subwoofer AC cord at the wall, check the serial number, and immediately discontinue the use of any SuperCube2000 subwoofers with the letters “HB” in the serial number. The Chinese-made subwoofer was sold at electronics stores nationwide and online at Best Buy and Amazon between November 2012 and January 2013 for about $600.


Home Technology Market Remains Stable

The home technology market’s overall growth remained consistent from 2011 to 2012, demonstrating its strong, stable foothold, according to new findings in the 11th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study released today by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Technology installations in new homes reached or exceeded 2008 levels, providing more evidence that the market for built-in home technologies is recovering. Structured wiring remains the most common installed technology (70%), followed by monitored security (44%), and home theater pre-wire systems (27%)

Home technologies have become valuable marketing tools for new homes. Builders say marketing these technologies is important; close to half of builders surveyed (49%) said they find it much more or somewhat more important to market these technologies today. Builders increasingly work with home technology experts, including electricians, security installers, custom installers, and electronic systems contractors. Builders reported that they were most satisfied with electrical (79%), security installer (77%), system integration (75%), and electronic system (66%) contractors. The primary factors driving builder decisions to work with installation service providers remain price (80%), reputation (75%), completeness of offerings (73%), and prior experience (71%).

Overall, builders report installing popular technologies like structured wiring and monitored security in remolding projects. Small builders (42%) saw a greater revenue portion from remodeling efforts in comparison to luxury homebuilders and local builders. The study also finds that almost all (92%) new homes are equipped with broadband cable, up 36% from 2002. With greater broadband access, the report notes that in 2012, one in four newly built homes (23%) have a dedicated home theater room as opposed to one in 10 in 2010.

The 11th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study comes as CEA and HGTV announced their partnership, building the first-ever high-tech home in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Using CEA’s TechHome Rating System (THRS), HGTV built the Smart Home 2013 to meet the THRS’s gold specifications for technology infrastructure. The gold rating provides a whole-house network that distributes audio, video, data, telephone, television, home automation, and security signals into multiple rooms. VC

Member Profile: Fabio Camorani

Fabio Camorani

Location: Forlì, Italy

Education: Electronic Engineering, University of Bologna, Italy

Occupation: Fabio is a lean production and audio expert for a big international company. He also has two small Italian audio brands and a very small top-quality vinyl label.

Member Status: Fabio said he doesn’t recall the exact year he started subscribing to the Audio Amateur publications, but he said it was sometime during the 1990s. He added that he has all the The Audio Amateur and Glass Audio issues, and now he subscribes to audioXpress.

Affiliations: He has been an Audio Engineering Society (AES) member since 2000.

Audio Interests: Fabio said he is interested in all audio aspects, from recording to speakers.

Most Recent Purchase: His most recent purchase was a Fidelity Research FR-1 mk3 phono cartridge.

Current Audio Projects: Fabio is working on a system that contains  a 32-bit dac and four power amplifiers, including one big output transformer-less (OTL) amplifier, a phono preamp, a line preamplifier, and a super phantom power supply unit.

Dream System: Fabio said his dream system is a four-way speaker system with Goto Berillium diaphragms and multiamplified compression drivers. The system would also have eight mono pure triode single-ended amps and an air-bearing turntable.

July New Products and News

Photo 1: The D-fend SA300 protects passive loudspeakers from excessive power conditions.

Eminence Speaker recently introduced the D-fend SA300, a fully programmable stand-alone unit designed to protect passive loudspeakers from excessive power conditions. With patent-pending technology, D-fend enables maximum driver performance while ensuring damage-free operation.

D-fend eliminates worries about blown speakers, HF drivers, or crossovers; or even worse, fire caused by excessive heat. D-fend keeps your system safe as well as your venue and audience. You simply set the thresholds and D-fend monitors and limits the amount of input power it passes through to the loudspeaker. It’s USB compatible and can be programmed to your specifications from a desktop or laptop.

Operating from a standard speaker-level signal, the D-fend SA300 requires no auxiliary power unless it is used in low-power applications. D-fend loudspeaker protection is ideal for system installers, PA gear rental companies, OEM manufacturers, and end-users who own passive loudspeakers.

The D-fend SA300 is available to resellers through Eminence’s dealers and distributor networks, and direct to consumers through www.D-fend.net. For more information, visit www.D-fend.net and www.Eminence.com/d-fend.


Photo 2: KICKER Cush Talk headphones now provide a lightweight microphone and single multi-function button.

Cush Headphones Receive an Upgrade

KICKER has added more features and conveniences to its Cush Talk headphones. KICKER Cush Talk headphones now provide a lightweight microphone and single multifunction button for listening convenience and to easily transfer sound during phone calls. Cush Talk headphones also come with a protective storage pouch.

Featuring an ultra-lightweight design and thick over-the-ear cushions, Cush headphones provide comfort, detailed acoustics, a lavish fit, and now a microphone. With 54-mm speakers and a 118-dB maximum output, these headphones provide the bass response and tonal accuracy for which KICKER is known.

Cush Talk utilizes a 53”, Kevlar-reinforced, flat cable to provide more freedom for movement. The flat cable is smooth and less prone to tangles. Kevlar, the same material used in military and law enforcement bulletproof vests, enables the KICKER Ultra-Gauge cable to perform under the most strenuous factory testing. The angled “L” plug (0.125”, corrosion-resistant) provides strain relief and connects to any iPod, iPhone, MP3 player, or KICKER Docking System. For more information, visit www.kicker.com.


Photo 3: The SlimSub 10” aluminum driver is encased in a narrow enclosure with a flat flush-mount grill.

Triad Speakers Offers A Space-Saving Subwoofer

Triad Speakers, a leading custom manufacturer of home reference-quality loudspeakers, now offers the InWall Bronze/4 SlimSub. Measuring 3.938” deep to fit into a standard 4” deep wall cutout, the SlimSub’s flat grill, flush-mount design represents an aesthetic   improvement over the InWall Bronze/4 Sub, which protruded several inches from the wall.

The SlimSub delivers deep bass at high volumes, achieving a 109-dB maximum output from 40–80 Hz with –6-dB bass extension at 25 Hz. This performance rivals the company’s larger, 6” deep InWall Bronze/6 model.

The SlimSub fits into the same cut-out (size “V”) as the company’s other in-wall subwoofers, making it ideal for retrofit opportunities. To blend with a home’s décor, the SlimSub incorporates all three types of Triad’s Acoustimesh grill (wide, narrow, and frameless), which the company can custom paint-match at the factory.

The InWall Bronze/4 SlimSub is paired with Triad’s 350-W rack amplifier and costs $1,400. Dealers can contact Triad Speakers for more information at 800-666-6316 or visit www.triadspeakers.com.


Photo 4: Updatemydynaco now makes a regulated power supply upgrade kit for the PAT-4 preamplifier.

Kit Updates Classic Dynaco Preamp

DIY and vintage audio upgrades received a boost with Updatemydynaco’s regulated power supply upgrade kit for Dynaco’s PAT-4 Preamplifier.

According to Dan Joffe, of Updatemy dynaco, the regulated power supply circuit board replaces the old silver capacitor can while reusing the same mounting holes.

Updatemydynaco, a product line of Akitika, makes upgrade kits for Dynaco’s classic solid-state audio equipment. A range of enhancements are available for the Stereo 120 power amp and PAT-4 preamplifier. For more information, visit www.updatemydynaco.com.


Photo 5: The Audion Super Sterling 120 is a single-ended KT120 amplifier.

Single-Ended KT120 Amplifier

True Audiophile, an exclusive US importer for Audion Tube Audio, introduced what it describes as the world’s first single-ended KT120 amplifier at T.H.E. Show in Newport Beach, CA (May 31–June 2, 2013). The Audion Super Sterling 120 uses Tungsol KT120 pentode tubes. The amplifier delivers approximately 24 W into an 8-Ω load. The amplifier has been designed to work with lower-efficiency loudspeakers from approximately 86 dB and up. This product marks Audion’s move to less efficient speaker dependency for its amplifiers. Audion designs and manufacturers the transformers and chokes. Even the capacitors are made to Audion’s exact specifications. To ensure quality, the chassis are finished in-house, including the powder coating and electroplating. Every component is hand built, usually point to point. The Super Sterling 120 will also be available in a parallel single-ended 40-W amplifier and a 60-W push-pull amplifier. Both are mono blocks. For more information, visit www.trueaudiophile.com


Photo 6: B&C’s new DE980TN high-frequency driver shown here is just one of the new models B&C officially launched at the 2013 ProLight + Sound show.

B&C Adds New High-Frequency Drivers

B&C Speakers officially released several new and interesting products at the ProLight + Sound show, held in Frankfurt, Germany (April 10–13, 2013).

The updated range of 75-mm (3”) voice coil high-frequency drivers are particularly noteworthy. These drivers feature a robust titanium diaphragm that incorporates next-generation surround geometry with a new, optimized phase plug. Significant research has yielded a new coil former that solidifies the diaphragm with negligible increase in mass. The result is improved high-frequency linearity and reduced distortion. The 1.4” exit DE90TN (ferrite) and the DE980TN (neodymium) provide a solution for two-way point source enclosures, as well as for mounting a waveguide horn in multi-driver line array systems. The 2” exit DE985TN (neodymium) is also available.

The DE14 and the DE14TN are considered to be the next evolution of the industry standard DE12, a 1” exit ferrite magnet high-frequency driver. The 44-mm (1.7”) diaphragm driver features an optimized phase plug and rear cap that improve frequency response with lower distortion. Finally, the new DE254TN, 44-mm (1.7”) voice coil, titanium diaphragm high-frequency driver offers an excellent value in a 1.4” exit driver.

All new high-frequency driver models are now in production. For more information, visit www.bcspeakers.com


Photo 7: The MIGHTY G is a pocket-size D.I. box that plugs directly into most acoustic and electric guitars, basses, and keyboards.

sage ELECTRONICS Introduces a D.I. Box

sage ELECTRONICS now offers a direct input (D.I.) box called the SE-D.I.3 Mighty G. Designed by Quentin Meek of QZIC Engineering, in partnership with sage ELECTRONICS’s founder, Phillip Victor Bova, the MIGHTY G is a palm-size D.I. box featuring new old stock (N.O.S.) vintage germanium transistors.

The MIGHTY G is 3.5” long and 1.5” wide. It is housed in a showroom-finish die-cast enclosure. It fits in your pocket and plugs directly into most acoustic and electric guitars, basses, and keyboards. It has been designed to sound great, look important, and perform flawlessly in live and in-studio settings.

The unit is phantom powered. The input connector is a Switchcraft 0.25” male-switching jack. There is also a female input model (the SE-DI3 F MIGHTY G) for use with instruments with hard-to-get-to output connectors. The truly (not quasi) balanced output jack is an all-metal Switchcraft gold-plated three-pin XLR connector.

The MIGHTY G’s germanium transistors contribute a sonic presence not heard in passive transformer and integrated circuit (IC) direct-box designs.

The MIGHTY G features Class-A active electronics (no ICs) and hand-tested and matched vintage (N.O.S.) germanium transistors. The direct insertion (i.e., plugs directly into your instrument), eliminates signal loss, which lowers hum and interference in both single-coil and humbucking pickups. It is phantom powered (no batteries required), with symmetrically balanced outputs (not quasi balanced). A silent plug built into a 0.25” jack stops hums, squeals, and pops when the plug is removed from jack.

The SE-D.I.3 MIGHTY G costs approximately $300. It is available from the manufacturer. For more information, visit www.sageelectronics.com. aX

Q&A: Tom Danley

Photo 1: Tom Danley is the Director of Research and Development for Danley Sound Labs.

The Innovator Behind Synergy Horns
Curiosity and ingenuity prove to be a powerful combination

SHANNON BECKER: Tell us a little about your background and where you live.

TOM DANLEY: I grew up in northern Illinois in an area that wasn’t heavily developed, in the same neighborhood where my mom grew up. My brothers and I spent a lot of time outside, playing in the woods and exploring the marsh. We were poor compared to most people in our town, but I wasn’t aware of that until school, when I seemed to be reminded of that regularly. To this day, I have a fondness for wildlife and nature, and I prefer the woods as scenery.

My dad was a DIYer and very mechanical. My parents built a structure that had been used as a chicken coop into the house where I grew up. Dad was very handy, skilled at building things. He had a workshop where I spent time watching him, and eventually I was able to use Dad’s tools.

By about age 12, I knew how to arc weld with Dad’s homemade V-8 powered welder and I had used his metal lathe. At one point somewhere around that same time, I made the transition from taking apart everything I could find to fixing my first radio.

It’s funny. Back then, the garbage man, several neighbors, and some of our relatives brought me broken radios and electronic stuff to take apart. My mom didn’t like my bedroom full of electronic parts and the occasional broken vacuum tubes, and so forth, but she allowed it. Dad was a mechanical guy, but he didn’t like electricity. I think that may have been my secret ally. Mom had an amazing knowledge of the local nature, history, plants, and animals. And a few times, I thought she might have ESP, which as a teen was kind of creepy. In high school, I got my first job in electronics. It was a part-time job at a local TV store called 20th Century TV. I tested tubes on incoming TVs at first, then later I repaired black-and-white TVs and I put new eight-track players and speakers in cars for customers and a couple of car dealers.

While it was my first real job in electronics, I still think of Mr. Reynolds, my boss, as one of the most fair, even-tempered bosses I ever had. At this time, I was in a band playing bass, building loudspeakers and 200-W tube power amplifiers with repair output transformers from Sunn and other parts from Fair Radio.

Several publications of note turned out to be very important in my life. A quick perusal of my bookshelf shows Audio Amateur magazines going back to April 1976, a thick row of Glass Audio and Speaker Builder magazines.

One reason I agreed to be interviewed is that these publications changed my life in a significant way. No doubt there are countless others whose paths were affected by Ed Dell, and I believe strongly that one thing our country needs are more people who do things, experiment, and invent. Trust me, even a guy (myself) who took five years to graduate from high school can teach himself a great deal. An education doesn’t teach curiosity, problem solving, or creativity.

While I have built loudspeakers most of my life and I have occasionally mixed sound, I have also had to have something significant others have helpfully called a “real job” and that was usually in electronics repair. I had built and repaired a lot of electronics by the mid 1970s, and I expected the job at Grommes Precision, an amplifier company, to be an easy “real job.” Funny how wrong one can be. The point being, when you repair something that is broken, you know it is wired correctly but you have one or more bad parts. When you troubleshoot hand-wired tube amplifiers (every one that is produced has to be tested), you find the parts are usually good. If it doesn’t work, anything could be wired wrong—emphasis on anything. Anyway, it was a good experience, a completely different kind of troubleshooting than what I was used to, and I eventually got to work part of the time in engineering, but it was too far away.

In 1979, I worked for a company called DSI that made computer tape readers and punches. These long paper tapes that had the instructions on them were used to program CNC machines back then. At DSI, I learned digital electronic logic repair. Compared to analog, that is simple in operation but large on complexity. Anyway, when I was asked to take a crack at the Kleinschmidt Teleprinters and managed to fix one, that became part of my job. These were very complicated machines and while this made them slightly fun to work on, I grew to dread them too.

Photo 2: Tom Danley is pictured during a payload delivery at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Hunstville, AL.

A co-worker had applied at a small NASA contractor that oddly was right down the street. He didn’t get the job so he told me about it. I applied and got the job at Intersonics, a small company that was trying to do acoustic levitation. That is a non-magical way of suspending an object in midair using intense sound. The idea was, in zero gravity, one could position a sample within a furnace and melt/process it at very high temperatures without any adverse effects from the container. For me, those 17 years were spent in a wonderful environment. One of my bosses was an English acoustician from Mullard Labs who developed the BQS6 sonar transducers. Another boss was a physicist who taught and then worked at Fermi labs.

It was a great opportunity because they really did have sort of a blank sheet of paper and a big list of questions. I was able to find solutions to a number of the problems and I invented a new sound source at 100 times greater efficiency. I became more confident in my work and when I got my first and second patents, I really started to feel like I had overcome my experiences at Deerfield High School.

Eventually, the company grew, I had more inventions, and we flew payloads on several sounding rockets, zero-gravity aircraft flights, and the space shuttle flights STS-7 and STS-51A. My title eventually became Director of Electroacoustic Research. But, the shuttle disaster was the beginning of the end for the company. The work on the space station manufacturing bay stopped and all of that work gradually dried up. I had designed and built large portions of several flight payloads and had the chance to begin astronaut training as a payload support specialist about a year before the accident. I elected not to continue because of my interest in loudspeakers. I wasn’t sure about that decision then, but later I was glad I had made it.

SHANNON: How did you become interested in audio electronics?

TOM: I would say several steps led up to it. Around age 5, I heard my grandfather’s Heathkit mono hi-fi playing a recording that had French horns.  Grandpa lived next door and played a French horn (which didn’t make as big of an impression on me), but I was baffled about how the wooden boxes and his stuff with the little light bulbs (tubes) made the sounds. Also, what eventually became just as interesting, I wanted to understand how the music got into the black discs on the thing I was told not to touch (the turntable).

I did chores for Grandpa and in exchange he bought a Heathkit crystal radio kit for me. I’ll never forget lying in bed with an antenna wire strung around the room and over my bunk bed, listening to WGN while I was buried under my covers. For most of my life, I had a shortwave radio next to my bed as well, which over the decades resulted in a healthy skepticism of our domestic news media. But it was entirely entertaining and awe inspiring for my two young daughters, who shared my fascination with how the radio worked. (I guess they took after their father.)

At about age 7 or 8, my uncle demonstrated an old telephone’s hand-crank generator by giving me a decent shock. That was baffling, how something that felt so strong could be invisible. The shock was a mystery but happened every time. He later gave me the generator. I eventually brought it to school and had my third-grade class hold hands (including me and the teacher) in a circle. It gave us all a mild shock. Electricity was cool!  If you hid the wires carefully, you could even electrify swing set chains turning the swing into something like an ejection seat. (I know from experience, as did the neighborhood kids.)

Another turning point in my life occurred around 1974. After high school, I made live sound speakers for TC Furlong and did the sound mixing for bands. I had a bunch of friends who were going to meet at the club where I was mixing, so I thought it would be fun to record the night on my reel-to-reel tape deck.

I plugged into the full-range output from the board, Y’d it into my tape deck, and flipped the tape at break. When I got home at 3:00 A.M. that night, I was too awake to go right to bed, so I set up the tape and listened to it. I was dumbstruck. At home, it was near record quality. It sounded so different than the live club that I listened to it twice, both sides. What I had on tape was the full-range signal that went to the active crossover, amps, and loudspeakers. It was apparent that the huge difference in sound recorded vs. live was a result of the loudspeakers.

I wouldn’t have guessed it at the time, but each of these events sparked an interest in sound, electricity, and loudspeakers or seemed to have set my compass heading.

SHANNON: What was your first audio technology project? Can you describe it? Is it still in use today?

TOM: The first audio thing I was ever paid for was a pair of speakers I made for my grandfather. When I was about 17 or 18, he commissioned me to build a pair of speakers for his basement. I made many pairs of loudspeakers and a couple sound systems in the 1970s, but I doubt any of them still exist. My first successful commercial loudspeaker product was in the 1980s.

During an airplane trip, I was paging through a surplus catalog when I thought of trying to use a surplus low-inertia DC servomotor to replace the voice coil in a woofer. One motor caught my eye, and I had seen two of them at the local surplus store, Harrison Supply. When I got home, I went and bought them for $12 each.

My third prototype sounded good enough to bring to work and demonstrate. My bosses were both impressed, and Roy, who was a hi-fi buff and World War II acoustician from Mullard Labs, later told me I could start a small loudspeaker division in the shop as long as its only cost was space and lights. I had some “cred” by then with Roy, who knew I had hand built electrostatic speakers, and he asked me to disable the protection spark gaps in his ESL-63s. (They sparked at just the wrong times.) Very hesitantly I agreed and took them home to take apart and “fix.”

The servodrive woofers we made there were used for special effects at Disney World, the Mirage casino’s volcano, and the “low end” for tours for Michael Jackson, U2, Garth Brooks, Def Leppard, and so on. While these were much more powerful than conventional subwoofers, the motors were remnants of the computer tape memory era, and when they were no longer needed, the price for the motors skyrocketed them into extinction.

SHANNON: Tell us about your company, Danley Sound Labs, and the role you play within the company. To what do your attribute your company’s continuing success?

TOM: I credit my associate Mike Hedden (Danley Sound Labs president/CEO) with much of the company’s growth. And he followed a very logical but nontraditional path to expand the company. I am blessed to have him as my co-worker and friend. As for my part, I invented and developed the technologies we use, including the Synergy horn, the Tapped horn, the Paraline, the Shaded Amplitude horn, and the Layered combiner. I also designed most of the products that use them.

Actually those things are a small part of what a company does. A good idea on its own is something like a one-legged table (not that useful on its own). While my job is the most fun (I think), when I send my drawings to Tom Wilson, our CAD guy, he figures out the easiest/best ways to make the product. After a final look, his 3-D CAD drawings are sent to the cabinet shop where the CNC machines get programmed based on those drawings and so on. Early on, I may make a prototype or mock-up a part of it to test, but the very large cabinets are too complicated to build at home.

Our success? Again, it is a number of things acting together, a synergy. The team Mike has assembled including  Ivan Beaver, Chad Edwardson, Tom Wilson, and Doug Jones, and so on are people who are passionate about sound. Some years ago for a trade show, we had T-shirts made that said: “Sit down and listen. It’s about the sound, it’s why you got into audio.”

For my part, the team members have more of an idea what they need to do than I do. When they tell me what they need, it is more an outline of what a product needs to do. The “how and what” part is entirely up to me. I like to say that the better I see the target, the more likely I will be able design something to hit it. The best part is no one says you have to do it this way or that way. I can design and test whatever I imagine, as long as it gets the job done.

Sonically, Synergy horn’s success is simple but one has to hear it. It is a way to combine more than one driver in more than one frequency range into a single, constant directivity horn with the appropriate crossover. The outcome literally appears to be, measures like, and sounds like a single crossover-less driver.

That sounds simple, but it is surprisingly hard to do. An example of its effect is that you can walk up to the speaker, move around, literally even put your head deep into the horn mouth of a three-way Synergy horn, and never hear any clue there is more than one driver. Many of them can even reproduce a square wave over a broad band, even with a passive crossover. In large-scale sound, this sounds dramatically different than the concert-style arrays.

SHANNON: You hold 17 patents on a variety of acoustic and electromagnetic devices. Where do your ideas originate?

TOM: Well, there are a couple new ones to add. To be current, the Tapped horn, Synergy horn, Paraline, and Shaded Amplitude horn have been issued, and the Layered combiner will be soon.

As to where they come from, I can try to describe the process.  It begins with a problem to solve. The best solutions come when you find the simplest answer whose form is driven by the problem and conditions. With the Synergy horn, for example, the solution should have constant directivity, and it should act like one source in time and space so it will not have lobes and nulls in its dispersion pattern.

Sometimes solutions to these issues happen in a flash, sometimes it takes months to work out a solution. The Layered combiner used in the J-series horns was the hardest loudspeaker design I have worked on so far. It took four months to get from a fleeting mental image of “I think I see how” to a drawing that could be built.

SHANNON: Can you describe one or two of your inventions?

TOM: Thirty years later, I still get a kick out of acoustic levitation. Using high intensity sound you can position/levitate an object in midair. In the 1990s at Intersonics, I demonstrated acoustic levitation for a movie called “Mystery of the Sphinx.” If you visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhDmCuffwOI, the scene is about 50 min into movie.

If you Google “Argonne acoustic levitation,” you can find a link to a recent video demonstration using the levitation sound sources I developed.

Photo 4: Tom Danley’s Synergy and Tapped Horn loudspeaker system design can be found in the Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry’s IMAX theater.

My inventions include the Synergy and Tapped Horn systems, and Shaded Amplitude Synergy horns. The Synergy and Tapped horn system is used at some of the large Omnimax to Imax conversion theaters.

The Shaded Amplitude horns are the “things” that look like birdhouses that overhang the edge of the balconies at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA. With the Shaded Amplitude horns, energy projected to the front row is much louder than that projected directly below, so the measured sound pressure level (SPL) only varies about ±1 dB over the seating area.

SHANNON: Which of your inventions would you describe as a “game changer” in your field?

TOM: My “game changer” would have to be the large J-series Synergy horns.   In the stadium sound area (e.g., football- and baseball-sized venues) it is most difficult to get good sound.

Photo 5: Shaded-amplitude Synergy horns are shown overhanging the balcony at Atlanta’s Turner Field.

It is also an area where the decision makers don’t care about brand identity or who tours with X, Y, or Z speakers. There are no live-sound style riders and basically the only thing they care about is getting better sound. So for a company like ours that doesn’t do a lot of marketing, this is a level playing field. The concert systems that evolved for that market may be the best they know how to make, but they radiate an interference pattern you can hear if the wind blows. Every location has a different sound and radiate sound in the wrong directions. When you can eliminate all that interference, radiates enough acoustic power with one single source, and have more directivity, then it becomes a pretty obvious sonic choice. It’s as close to hi-fi as you can get on a grand scale.

The familiar large sound systems are a huge array of sources, which depend on DSP, and sound worse the larger they are. The Synergy horns work because the source is acoustically correct at the origin.

SHANNON: Do you have any inventions that might soon be released?

TOM: Oh, now that wouldn’t be fair. But, at InfoComm 2013 (in June), we introduced a new stadium-sized Synergy loudspeaker with a working distance of 1,000’ that  utilizes more than 100 drivers acting as one source.

SHANNON: Where does your affinity for low frequencies originate? What makes them so appealing to you?

TOM: At about age 9, I remember helping my grandfather clean up after a service at our church. I used to explore the building and on a previous visit I found a ladder in a back closet that led to the organ pipe loft where I found a confusing maze of tubes and pipes. Very complicated plus wires plus sound equals very interesting to me. I was especially interested in the device after hearing about a time when the organ’s blower motor failed. The organist banged on the floor and my grandfather and two other church members managed to turn the shaft with their feet enough for her to play weakly. As a child, I loved fans so this was already cool.

That day, I spied the organist coming back to practice and, being curious, I snuck into the pipe loft. In that room, the pipes—rather the sound—shook my body. I didn’t know if I should run or stay perfectly still. Nothing was moving or otherwise scary, there was just the intense sound, so I stayed and listened for a while. It was by far the loudest musical experience of my life for a good number of years.

SHANNON: Where do you see the audio industry in 10 years?

TOM: In a way, the direction some of the industry has gone is disappointing. I would have given a great deal to be able to record like you can now with even a MI grade recorder, yet there are fewer bands. And, there are even fewer bands that can play well live or even have people who are interested in playing instruments. Like many industries, the home audio market is so focused on profits that fantastic technology goes unused, and many companies have lost focus on the need for high-quality audio products. Great progress exists for measuring and DSP products but often the companies are more focused on profits than  the advancement of the art.

In the late 1990s, I brought a state-of-the-art TDS measuring system that was the size of a suitcase and the weight of a car battery to Egypt to measure the Great Pyramids’ acoustics for a movie (www.livesoundint.com/archives/2000/julyaug/pyramid/pyramid.php). It was a serious armload to carry. Now, you can perform many more measurements and do them faster using an iPad and an interface.

As for me, I would say we still have a ways to go before you can be reliably fooled by a reproduced sonic “environment” or even being able to capture a remote environment. If you include a loudspeaker in a simple “old-time” generation loss recording test, even an anechoic one (where there is no room contribution), you find even good loudspeakers—unlike any other part of the chain—only go a few generations before sounding bad. I hope the industry eventually puts more emphasis on sound quality, the recording industry ends the volume wars, and the listeners win. Keep building. aX

Audio Crossword Answers (July 2013)

The answers to audioXpress’  July audio crossword puzzle are now available.

Across

1.    TUNGAR—An early tube rectifier
3.    PEAKOUTPUT—Outputting its maximum [two words]
6.    AMBISONICS—Recording technique that creates 2-D and 3-D sound fields
7.    BUSBAR—Conducts electricity [two words]
9.    CLIPPING—Makes intense high-frequency energy
10.    ANECHOIC—Absorbs sound or electromagnetic wave reflections
12.    LEYDENJAR—Early capacitor [two words]
14.    CHEATERPLUGS—Used to break the connection between the earth and the instrument chassis [two words]
17.    COHERER—Glass tube used in receivers
18.    GAUSSMETER—Detects magnetic anomalies
19.    OSSICLES—We use them to transmit vibration
20.    HAASEFFECT—Human ears’ ability to localize sound [two words]

Down

2.    GAINRIDING—Tweaking to get the best amplitude level [two words]
4.    TONECONTROLCIRCUIT—Modifies signals, making them louder or softer [three words]
5.    UPSAMPLING—Often denoted by L
8.    BAXANDALL—English audio engineer (1921–1995) who revolutionized audio analog electronics
11.    PENTODE—This type’s elements include cathode, plate, control grid, screen grid, and suppressor grid
13.    KLYSTRON—Helps generate or amplify microwaves
15.    HYSTERESIS—Occurs in ferromagnetic materials
16.    TREBLECLEF—Includes a G key [two words]

AX July: Audio Showmanship

When you’re finished reading this issue of audioXpress, you might want to make a note: Tune in next month. In August, we’ll be featuring an extensive report on the HIGH END Munich 2013 audio trade show, which draws manufacturers and retailers from around the world.

Ward Maas, owner of Pilgham Audio in The Netherlands, will be your guide through the event, which features many innovative audio products, some of which are not yet for sale. Examples of the broad range of products displayed include:

  • The Pivetta Opera Only amplifier designed by Italian Andrea Pivetta. At a maximum 160,000-W output, this is a huge cylindrical amplifier that opens up into sections once the power is turned on. Listeners can literally step inside this high-end amplifier, which has a sci-fi look that suggests it could beam you down to the surface from the starship Enterprise.
  • The PureAudioProject open baffle (OB) stereo system. At the polar opposite of the Pivetta in complexity, this item is a DIY kit of matched components for quickly building your own stereo system (including screws, rubber washers, loudspeakers, and high-quality German oak). “PureAudioProject Baffles were designed for simple and easy self assembly, while having OB acoustical guidelines in mind,” according to the project website.

Be sure to pick up the August issue to read about these and many other HIGH END exhibitors.

Regards,
Mary Wilson
editor@audioxpress.com

Editor’s note: An incorrect biography for audioXpress contributor Ron Tipton was published on p. 44 of the June 2013 issue. To see his correct biography online, please visit http://audioamateur.com/errata-corrections-updates.