May I take you back with me to 2005? Oh go on – let me. It wasn’t all bad; did you know that?
I'm going to tell you a true story. It has a moral of sorts and yes it relates to editorial arrogance, blindness and in a very small way a bit of redemption too. First, the ‘back story’
Since 1976 when I entered the retail side of the industry friends have asked me if they really need to “spend so much on the system to get high-performance music from it?” Those of us that stop to think about this know the answer. Quite simply … No, you don’t. How so? My approach then and now is to connect with designers and brands who infuse passion into their designs and cheaply too.
I rarely listen to any of their hype. I listen to the product to detect the passion. If you’ve listened to enough music in enough rooms during enough years it’s easily done. It’s what I do. There’s no big deal about it. Anyway, back to 2005 and Pinsh Co – designers and makers of hybrid cone/ribbon loudspeakers.
Two aspects stood out during my first encounter. The prototypes had considerable potential inasmuch as the quality of sound for the asking price was absurdly good. Moreover they not only built their own ribbon drivers but through metal deposition (not dissimilar to Yamaha’s novel construction of drivers notably in the NS 1000 range) produced their own ribbons. Pinsh used a proprietary method and point-blank refused to OEM their drivers or in layman’s terms supply drivers to anyone else. This was, I thought either foolhardy or a tacit demonstration of confidence. I was wrong on both counts. Anyway, back to the point of this post.
They gave me a pair of self-designed speakers that were apparently virtually perfectly flat and measured fine too; they told me. I guess they did achieve this. Most new entrants into the brand side of the industry do this. The head-in-the-sand (gosh, just look how much money I've spent on all this lab gear, etc) editors demand it.
These original Pinsh speakers didn’t reproduce music in a consistently convincing way. There were glimpses of brilliance but only glimpses. So the importer (Pinsh was based in S. Africa) brought bits and pieces to my demo room and the crossover was altered this way and that. I didn’t know what he was doing and I didn’t care either. It was the outcome that intrigued me, and it was fascinating.
I heard the differences between one brand of component and another of identical specification, adjusting phasing and much more. The outcome was that we arrived at a pair of speakers that sounded great on every sort of real music we pumped through it and at varying SPLs too.
So I rang up Channa Vithana, a friend (where are you now dear boy?) at Hi-Fi World (a fine magazine in those days before the mass exodus of talent) and he came around, had a listen and was smitten. I briefly told him the story. He asked … “What equipment did you use to measure them?” I replied along the lines of ‘nothing but my ears.’ I wasn’t being modest; merely realistic.
“Are they flat?” he asked.
“No idea Channa. Does it matter?”
“You like them – correct?
I'm paraphrasing of course but to the best of my ability that’s how it went.
I asked him: “Could you listen and enjoy music on them for hours?”
Yes he could he thought.
So this first Pinsh pair was reviewed in Hi-Fi World. The link below should give you access. Then subsequent models were reviewed, very favourably.
As it turned out, Keywood being a measurement nutter found they were essential flat. Strange really given all the frankly amateurish faffing about on my part and the initially hapless experiments of the importer. And so as their only retailer I sold a few pairs. None ever went wrong and to date, despite the passage of nine years none have appeared in the used market; none!
What happened after that is a story for another time – maybe – and anyway to go there would deviate from the point of this post.
I moved on to other brands including a commercially dispiriting relationship with Harbeth which you can read about elsewhere. However to summarise the Pinsh experience, neither I nor the importer had any desire to fiddle about with measurements, meter and equations. In short our ears told us how to uncover the passion locked away in the music.
That’s what it’s all about and whatever the effort, probably worth it. So in retrospect did I have ‘flat ears’? your guess is as good as mine.
“Golden ears then?”
“Nope, sorry, I very much doubt that”
“How about experienced ears then?”
“Yup – I'll go with that”
Maybe I’ll give Pinsh a call in S. Africa. Now where’s that number?