Custom Furniture and Loudspeakers by Spectacular Smith
This project, and now business, have been a long time in the works–basically since I was a kid in grade school.
As a musician, I was always interested in how the great symphonies in places like London and Berlin performed the same music I played. So I spent a lot of time trading recordings with relatives and friends in Europe and attending as many live concerts as possible.
What struck me was how even the best recordings didn’t sound as good as a live performance. It came down to the energy of the live performance; the musicians, conductor, and acoustics outperformed any loudspeaker I had at the time.
That started my dual journey of becoming a better musician and building loudspeakers. I eventually could afford pre-owned versions of the audio equipment through the earnings I received as a musician. Still, I had to build loudspeakers because the price for first-rate loudspeakers was well beyond what I ever hoped to achieve.
So I started by studying literature about loudspeaker enclosure designs and speaker drivers. Then a lot of trial and error with a 6″ x 9″ coaxial speaker that I purchased for about $10. Eventually, I got good enough at it that I was commissioned to build loudspeaker systems for a few neighbors.
In middle school, my musician friends introduced me to funk, R&B, and rock music. Because of musicians, including Bootsy Collins and Prince, I learned how to play bass guitar. Sneaking into a Prince concert, I noticed something: it was loud.
After blowing up one of my speakers trying to recreate concert sound levels, a friend who worked in an old movie theatre invited me to repair an Altec Lansing Voice of the Theatre speaker. In return for eventually repairing it, he let me disassemble it to discover how John Hillard, the loudspeaker’s designer, made them so loud with so little amplifier power.
Custom Furniture and Loudspeakers | The Connection
Woodworking and lacking money were common themes in designing and building furniture and loudspeakers. In my case, it started with loudspeakers. Then, thanks to great wood and metal shop teachers along with my two engineering parents, I slowly learned how to craft high-quality furniture for a fraction of the cost of anything available in stores. This was in part because I didn’t count my time in my naive financial equation–something that would take me until high school to learn via another classmate.
My financial education was completed in two days thanks to my classmate. He walked me down to a store that sold what we call today: junk food and soda. He bought a bunch of both, walked back home, and then sold the food and drinks at 100% markup to the neighborhood kids the next day. I thought that was outrageous until he showed me how the net margin wasn’t 100% because of the time he spent walking to and from the store, setting up his home store, and advertising via a simple piece of paper he handed out at school. It also taught me that people will pay for convenience.
Legacy 1 limited edition Loudspeaker
I’m starting with a loudspeaker for three reasons.
- I recently installed a Dolby Atmos sound system. The technology sounds amazing but requires many speakers–in my case, 15 for the Atmos 9:2:4 system. That’s a lot of speakers, so there’s a financial incentive.
- But more importantly, it’s sound quality. Back in grade school, I discovered that a coaxial loudspeaker sounded better because the tweeter and woofer were inherently aligned. It was also less expensive because fewer electronics were needed in the crossover of a coaxial loudspeaker. Then I discovered the Altec Lansing Duplex and Altec 601 loudspeakers and realized that my “discovery” was really a rediscovery of engineering work from the 1940s. So, the Legacy 1 will be based on a coaxial speaker.
- It’s just a lot of fun to make something that requires engineering, a bunch of computer equipment, and craftsmanship (with the help of some modern-day tools). The acid test: how will it sound compared to a live performance?
The Journey | Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Oh, and I’m using AI as part of my design process (check out the video below).
I’ve completed the concept phase for the Legacy 1 loudspeaker, have all the equipment necessary to design, analyze and manufacture the system, and am on to the design phase.
You’re invited to join the journey at SpectacularSmith.com.
Here’s a video I just made that shows the concept phase.