A Labor of Love
It all started in 1999 just after opening a high-end store in Indianapolis, Indiana. A new speaker manufacturer brought a high efficiency speaker and an older Wavelength Cardinal 300B SET amplifier to pitch for my representation. The speaker design was not complete and that kept me from taking on the line. But before he left, he asked if I would sell his older Wavelength amp as he had a new one coming in. Not wanting to pass up on an opportunity to get more familiar with this intriguing SET sound, I gladly accepted.
I hooked the amp up to my reference speakers and after I lifted my jaw off the floor, sat mesmerized ... listening to the sound I had searched years for! After just two songs I researched Wavelength’s contact information and called; begging to become a dealer. Once that was taken care of I quickly discovered that my reference speakers as well as my entire inventory were not able to fully satisfy all musical needs with such low power. My next mission was to find one or more compatible speaker lines at the upcoming 2000 CES show. Unfortunately the only speakers I was able to find that had the efficiency, compatible impedance, and sound quality was Avantgarde Speakers. I immediately became a dealer and subsequently one of the top dealers in the US, but there was still the need for a less expensive and smaller speaker that would be able to reveal the magic locked in these amps had without any compromises. Thus, Vaughn Loudspeakers was born, with the mission to rival the very best performing speakers and to do so with power efficient designs.
At the time, I knew very little of speaker design. I was fortunate to get Gordon Rankin of Wavelength to spec the initial design that I subsequently spent the next 6+ years tweaking and fine tuning until we developed three designs ready to introduce at the 2008 CES show. Not nearly as soon as we had hoped, of course, but creating a new loudspeaker category did take time. Our aim was to develop remarkable designs that would be able to take full advantage of all of the musically superior qualities of the best low powered amplifier designs while not revealing their handicaps.
We experimented with several paths, always trying to keep the designs as simple as possible. First we tried full range drivers but they were peaky in the upper midrange, lacked top end air, and had pitiful bass response. A ribbon super tweeter added the top end we were looking for but the aggressive midrange was still there. After getting the upper mids tamed and real extension on top it became obvious that we needed flatter and deeper base for the foundation of the music. Wanting to avoid a complicated 3 way crossover, we ended up successfully mating a woofer with a simple three-part crossover that would handle all three drivers in a way that is very tube amplifier friendly, with 8 ohm impedance.
Finally, Single Ended Triode(SET), Output Transformerless(OTL), Push-Pull and low powered Solid State amps had tight deep bass, glorious midrange, and a clean, clear top end that revealed the soul of the music. Next began the long process to voice the speakers by picking cabinet materials, wiring, and crossover parts. Hundreds of parts and cabinet designs were tried finally settling on what we felt best represented live music.
What you hear now is the result of this labor of love. Solid engineering principles - yes, but the ears and the heart were always the final judges on what was used in each design. As excited as we are about cabinet resonance, premium wiring and crossover design, if our labors do not elicit visceral and emotional responses to the music we love, we know we still have work to do.