Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shop for Locally Made Goods; then China, a.k.a. Walmart, can keep their junk!

Who knew when I was recently looking to upgrade the sound portion of my home entertainment system, I would end up buying hand-made, locally produced & engineered speakers from a small boutique dealer?

While I have known about Toby Speakers since I was in High School (circa 1980's), and have heard they make a science out of their sound; or is it the other way around? I honestly thought any pair of their speakers which I might be tempted by, would be priced well out of my desired price range. However, my last set of home speakers lasted me 25 years, so I knew I wanted to make a smart choice; one I would be happy with on a long-term basis. Well, I re-discovered a solution which also brought me immediate gratification.

With a reputation for consulting and engineering the sound for local venues such as the Omni IMAX theater at the Ft. Worth Science and History Museum; and more recently depended on to solve the very lacking PA system within the Bass Performance Hall; I just assumed rather than looking into Toby' speakers, I would be more realistic to take my money to Best Buy for yet another mass produced, well marketed, pair of Bose, or perhaps some other "Made in China" solution. Was I ever wrong...

I first chose a custom mix of surround speakers Toby custom made, (4 pairs in total); which are a derivation of Linkwitz Lab's acclaimed Pluto 2, Omni-directional loud speakers. While Linkwitz, as with all of his speakers, prefers to build individual amplifiers into the cabinetry or base of each individual speaker, Toby's version were engineered to operate more conventionally, powered by your existing receiver / amplifier. Which suited me fine, since I had no intention of changing any of the other component or configuration with the rest of my entertainment center.

While Toby's version of the Pluto (which Toby simply produced to explore the claims of acoustic values published by Sigfried Linkwitz,) are a much more modest version of this odd speaker configuration:
(I am only using 1 pair of these to serve as rear surround speakers.)

I was very impressed to see the results other Audiophiles and studios had derived around the world of Linkwitz original design.
(Linkwitz invites others to experiment and construct their own version of all of his works and research through the publications and kits he resales, in addition to his fully constructed products. Some ranging for as much as $8000.00 a pair!)
The craftsmanship of this version of the "Pluto 2's" made by, Charles, Wander & Marcio out of Brazil is truly second to none.

I filled the front of the room (below the theater's projection screen) with a much more conventionally designed set of three of Toby's MPC2011, Home theater speakers.

Toby's lab prides themselves on their exceptional testing and sound reproduction; therefor, they proudly include a copy of the frequency response diagram on the back of each speaker.
Let's just say, there is a reason you won't see these types of specifications boldly included on the back of a typical retailers selection of speakers, such as Bose. I think the saying goes, "no high, no lows, must be Bose." However, it is the level at which a product or idea is marketed which encourages the typical American consumer's adoption and support. Let's face it, we are a country of lemmings... Our ability to consume far exceeds our desire to research.

Finally after placing all of these speakers around the room, all I needed to complete the acoustic experience was one of Toby's "CUBE 14" sub-woofer; which features a 300 watt, all digital, Bash amplifier and uses two long throw, 10" proprietary drivers with rubber edges and carbon doped cones. Each massive woofer is mounted on opposite sides of the enclosure to prevent it from "walking" on a hard surface. This combined with the mitered design (construction type) of the box, all but eliminates any cabinet vibrations.

Once the results of all 6 Toby speakers were placed in the home and connected to my existing equipment, the results far exceeded my expectations!(Any daily computing I am able to do at home, is now taken into the Theater, rather than the office; simply so I can cue up Pandora and listen to my favorite digital music stations, through those exceptional speakers.)

Like so many other minor and major facets of the American Experience, the solutions should rarely be imported or manufactured elsewhere. Experiment with "Google Local" (enter URL local.google.com, then specify your zip code,) when searching for your next locally made consumer experience. You would be surprised how much your "small town" / big city America has to offer when you dig a little deeper than the local "Big Box" retailer.

The only persons who might be disappointed with your well researched choice, will be the local Wal-Mart and Best Buy regional managers. ...but who's seeking their approval? Perhaps they too should start looking in to "buying local"!

Here's to the next 25 years of listening enjoyment with exceptional quality, hand-made, in the U.S.A., sound reproduction excellence. And a lifetime of disappointing the Walmarts of the world...

UPDATE:
To add further dimension to your own home stereo, you might choose to step up your choice of main Toby speakers, to their "D7.5 series". They deliver sound with a functional, diffraction-eliminating geometry on the front of the cabinet, along with an additional 7" reference woofer, adding a special clarity to the mid-range which you really have to hear to appreciate.

Toby also offers Trade-Ins for existing customers, when the time comes to upgrade to that next level.

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