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Today's episode involves bozos, bumbling fools, lurid sex, gratuitous violence, exotic locales, explosive special effects. No plausible story line or any character development however. Not quite - though some might wish. Let's begin this beguine at the beginning. Walter Liederman is an industry veteran who was a senior partner in the Atlanta-based HiFi Buys chain before teaming up with Mark Schifter in Perpetual Technologies and, launching his own highly successful Underwood Hifi business, creating various mod collaborations with Chris Johnson of the PartsconneXion and Rick Cullen of Cullen Circuits, starting Peachtree Audio and other ventures. In short, "been there, done that, no longer easily impressed" describes the man. When Walter gets excited about something, I take note - especially when I've already taken note of the very thing myself. Hence second coming.

30 out of 30.
That's how many Emerald Physics CS2s Walter has sold since he signed up for the line recently. Without using his Atlanta demonstration facility to conduct auditions. Just presenting the evidence and concept over the phone. From his second residence in Hawaii. With every single owner ecstatic. "That has never yet happened in my entire career. I always find and sell the good stuff. But, to come across a $3,500 speaker that, no matter what, trumps what the customer presently has to make it categorically, incontestably, universally killer ... believe me, that just doesn't happen. Out of the first 30 pairs, only two ended up getting sold again - to make room for Clayton's flagships. In fact, I have six people waiting in line for those. And they're not even out yet."

Episode 1 in June 2007 expressed that exact suspicion - that this could be a groundbreaking product. Apparently it is. Which is why you haven't heard much about it. True, a golden-eared Abso!ute Sound reviewer's findings might shortly change that. Yet a speaker that crushes the competition at a fraction of the price is no friend of the retailers who've spent years developing pricier brands with higher profits. Why let a wolf into your stable of sacred cows only to kill them off, thus destroying your own long-term investments in developing brands and becoming their destination?

While this reads perverse, it's a real concern for business men. So according to Walter, Clayton Shaw, previously of Evett & Shaw, has a problem. He's made a speaker far too good for what he charges. That's the kind of problem product Walter lives for. As an Internet dealer, he can afford to. The entire US of A is his market. He's not restricted to walk-in customers. He doesn't have the heavy overhead which prime retail locations with a good salaried staff must carry.

Clayton's speaker is a 15" two-way with twin woofers crossing over at 1000Hz to a short-horn/wave-guided tweeter with an ultra-steep 8th-order digital filter network. The active biamp requirement places this digital network ahead of the amps and can thus incorporate electronic compensation for perfect driver matching; frequency, phase and time linearization; and LF equalization. The pre-programmed Behringer crossover with 5 files for 3 to 7-feet front wall distance tuning in 1-foot increments makes setup a snap. A minimum of 3 feet is mandatory because below 1000Hz, the CS2 is a dipole. It fires out-of-phase information at the wall behind it. This creates the typical cancellation null on the sides of the speaker to allow placement as close as 1 foot to the sidewall. The usual reflections are neatly avoided. Controlled directivity.

Because the speaker is only 2 inches deep, the 3-foot rule is easily swallowed. To get going, simply remove the panels from their flat-pack cartons. Screw in the floor braces and tweeters, aim the left speaker at your left ear, the right one at the right ear, connect four amplification channels to the outputs of the Behringer, select the appropriate filter file for your front-wall distance and presto.

Even though Emerald Physics has additional bass panels with dual 15" woofers, Walter indicates they're going away. "Nobody has bought 'em. They're categorically unnecessary. The CS2 speaker is flat to 20Hz in a good-sized room as is. From 100 to 20,000Hz, it's flat within +/- 0.5dB. That's unheard of. " Because the Behringer is a pro device, it sports balanced i/o ports exclusively. Emerald Physics thus offers $50/ea. Mogami RCA-to-XLR cables. But it gets better.

California's Cullen Circuit's prime OEM customer has been PS Audio who recently shifted assembly offshore. Hence CC has launched a new electronics line called Wyred4Sound. The amplifiers are fully modular ICE-based affairs with a custom Bascom-King designed switchable input buffer to raise the input Ω to 100K for compatibility with tube preamps. "We can do up to 7 x 500 watts in a single chassis. At $2,495, I package a 2 x 250/2 x 100wpc amplifier with Clayton's CS2s. Their 100dB compression driver above 1kHz requires far less power than the twin woofers. For $2,995, I will upgrade the amp to 2 x 500 watts in the bass." As Cullen Circuit's only Internet dealer, Walter's prices are identical to their own direct sales.

"Clayton started out with the dBX box but there were gain and noise issues. So he switched to the Behringer which works beautifully. Of course audiophiles assume that an affordable pro-arena device couldn't possibly be quality. Busy after-market modifiers have already discovered how to make this overachieving $3,500 loudspeaker into a $9,000 misery - by throwing stupid money at the Behringer. I've heard some of those mods already. Sorry, they were all bright. If that's what they call increased resolution, fine - but I much prefer the voicing Clayton has achieved with his custom program settings. Still, for those who want even better, there will be a Clayton-programmed Dolby processor solution. And the CS1s.

"At first, those were three-way concepts. I heard the prototypes. But now Clayton discovered a brand-new hi-tech compression driver which he can take down to 400Hz with his steep 48dB slopes. Imagine that. His flagship will be a
4 x 15" two-way with one premium tweeter covering 400Hz to 20kHz. How is that for point source? The additional two woofers will live on their own panel staggered behind the main panel and connect to it for an integrated solution. Doubling cone surface on the bass system halves excursion requirements for even greater precision and articulation."

Walter's excitement was boundless. Naturally, I just had to chill it with a gallon of ice water. Where would people be able to audition these wonders if traditional dealers pretty much had to avoid them unless they were prepared to let a fox into their hen pen? "I'm working on a home-based audition program. My own customers will allow prospective buyers to listen to their setups. They won't be involved in the sales transactions at all, just an evening of audiophile socializing. If a sale transpires, I'll pay them a small commission." Mind you, I caught up with Walter at the onset of this strategy. The full plan won't be in effect until probably later this summer. But he had more to share.

"Can you imagine Clayton's current bass panels custom-filtered to augment Magneplanars or Quads? He could program the Behringer or Dolby processors to high-pass the main planars very steeply at 80Hz, then bring in his dipole subwoofers perfectly matched for what I predict would be the world's best bass systems for planar magnetics and electrostats." Walter is a visionary. His success in the industry doesn't come from a wait 'n' see attitude which only gets you run over. He makes things happen. I suspect Clayton Shaw hasn't quite realized yet just what kind of whale his first encounter with Walter Liederman at RMAF 2006 landed his brand. While according to Walter Emerald Physics' foreign business is doing very nicely, the US has been a mess. The premium dealers thus far have stayed away from the brand while the few third-tier ones that signed on spent more time on the phone or computer quizzing Clayton than doing any real business. That's why Underwood Hifi got involved. This product deserves better.

And yes, this speaker must be actively biamplified. It does add redundant A/D/A conversion after the preamp. It uses a pro-arena digital crossover device. Four premium amplification channels, in the ordinary scheme of audio retail, could quickly eclipse in price what seems reasonable for a $3,500 loudspeaker. It's obvious why the entire Emerald Physics concept might prove too challenging for certain dealers. "That's their loss. This is such an easy proposition to the actual customer especially when we package Cullen's 4-channel amp. The 500-watt ICEpower bass modules are identical to what's in the big Bel Cantos, Jeff Rowlands and Red Dragons. Except ours add Bascom King's switchable input buffer to increase the input impedance to what tube preamps want to see."

It's no surprise that Walter has targeted moon man John Potis for the deed. John has reviewed and then bought Bel Canto's Reference 1000s. He knows the ICEpower sound intimately. Also, John's room isn't palatial. The need for a big room and decor-upsetting front-wall distances -- that whole dipole myth -- is one of the mental hurdles Walter means to pulverize on Clayton Shaw's behalf. You see, Walter's on a mission. After 30-some years in the biz, he's discovered something he believes is revolutionary and spells major trouble for conventional, far pricier speakers. And he's not just grasping at straws or slinging baloney. He knows exactly what his customers are replacing. But that part of the story is reserved for those intrepid enough to actually call up Underwood Wally. That's his nome de guerre. After all, part of the fun is in the chase. We shan't ruin that for you. In closing, should the proposition of a $6,500 4-channel amplification + digital crossover + speaker pair combo with world-beating potential twist your noodle, you've got some homework to do. That's why it seemed worthwhile to talk of Second Comings well prior to John's formal assessment. Who knows, you could have earmarked $20,000 for an audio upgrade allowance to go on a shopping spree right quick. You'd not be pleased one bit were you to discover about the Emerald Physics and Wyred4Sound promise after the fact. Just be warned. Walter makes one helluva mean pitch. He had me all hot and bothered. And I love my wife. And system...
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