Horns are mysterious.
Harvey "Dr. Gizmo" Rosenberg, 1941-2001

Terry once said that Harvey was definitely a catalyst for what he's doing now. Gizmo's offbeat humor, coupled with some honest-to-gosh smarts about what he was hearing and seeing in the industry really spoke to Terry.

And not getting sucked into the head stuff?
Yeah. He let his ears do the walkin'. Very few preconceived ideas of how things should be. When I asked Harvey what he thought of my idea for the double horn, he answered: "How the hell would I know? Horns are mysterious."
So why did you go with it when this subject matter was so enveloped in ambiguity and vagueness?
Because I knew it would work. Symmetric radiation. It's what the D'Appolito design had proven. I'm kind of shocked that someone left me the avenue to do it in the first place. Well, Loth-x had done it before, but with a different kind of loading. They put the ports up next to the driver. My design gives things a little more breathing room.
How did this all begin for you?
Probably when I was 12 years old listening to a Lafayette 4" speaker. I couldn't afford woofers and tweeters on a paper route, so I bought a 4" driver and ran my Fisher tubes through it. It sounded great! But, for some nagging reason, I thought I had to have "solid-state" woofers and tweeters.
(Laughing) How'd you know that?
Well, I was reading (insert name of hi-fi magazine here). So, I've built speakers ever since then, including pro-sound gear. Later, I had some Magnepans and loved them. Then, I got this (mental) shock while researching how to integrate some subs I was going to build with them. (Quotes the following): Most of our faults are more pardonable than the means we use to conceal them.[François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) - Maximes, 1665.]

Once I found the single-driver website, things really started spinning for me. It made so much sense. I had avoided building speakers for a while because I really enjoyed the Magnepans for so many years and I knew I couldn't build a box speaker that could compete, given the frustrations of trying to tune a multi-driver array. But with the single-driver? Well, I know how to tune a box. Besides, it just made so much sense to use a single driver without crossovers. And then, when I actually heard a good one, I knew that that was the route I wanted to take.
Which one was that?
Herbert Jeschke dug the Voigt design out of some archived materials he found and brought his version of it to New York Noise in 2000. It impressed everybody. And, it used a $5 Radio Shack driver.
Kinda like what you started with in your Abby?
Yeah, exactly. And it sounded as good, if not better, than my Magnepans. They're still one of my favorite speakers, but, they are inefficient. So, the whole triode thing then kicked me into gear, too. Knowing that those amps could deliver the clarity that I wanted, coupled with a speaker that had no crossover. It would be really kicking.
What do you want people to know about what you are doing?
I'm not really doing anything that's groundbreaking at all, except the packaging. I think aesthetically it's new. And, I think the quality of materials and details of the construction improve the sound. Eliminating voids behind reflectors in the horn path and making the cabinet solid to minimize resonances are key elements. The firmer you can make the box, the purer the sound will remain. In keeping with Sakuma San's theory about systems in general, the goal is to preserve the initial energy coming from the source. Pushing it through a high-efficiency speaker with a low powered tube amp tends to preserve the purity of the signal due to simple circuit paths. It's the best way, near as I can tell.
Your first speaker?
With respect to Cain & Cain, it was the Voigt pipes. I had built other 3-ways, with rear-firing tweeters, for example. I was a big fan of Snell. The ambient diffuse soundstage led me to Magnepan. But then I started realizing that dynamics are the core of where the musical energy lies. This requires high-efficiency, and again, not a lot of power but the right kind of power.

Largely what I am doing with the single driver thing has been done in Japan and Italy for many years. There's a strong single-driver following all around the world and here in the Northwest. They're not gonna leave it. Italians seem to be a little more experimental. And, the Japanese have developed incredible basic theories about speaker building that we're only beginning to understand.
What was that the impetus for the BEN?
The doublehorn came about because I thought symmetric radiation would enhance what the single driver does already. Since you need more real estate for the bass in the size of the horn -- you need a big horn --one way to do it elegantly without making a refrigerator would be to make it taller. I could keep it slim by making it taller and then redesign the pathways into a slick chamber. The other designs (shorter, fatter, deeper) work good, too, but the ear still hears a bit of directionality due to the single horn.

I thought about it a lot. I was sure it would work well a full two years before I actually built it. I had seen the Loth-x Bard and knew that that was an excellent way to symmetrically load those drivers. Ray Newman had done it with ElectroVoice in the 50s. There are a lot of PA horns that work split again. It's just a way to make path lengths bigger without taking up more floor space. But, I was also a big fan of the D'Appolito, with its symmetric loading around a tweeter which essentially mimicks a point source. It goes a long way toward making sound which is reproduced a lot more believably.
So, you're going off to your first CES next month?
Yeah. Thought I'd never go to Vegas in my whole life. But I'm going. It looks like a lot of fun. I've always loved music and gear. This will be a good way to meet all the people I've only read about over the years. Whoever wants to visit us can find us at T.H.E. Show in the San Remo Resort & Hotel, rooms 928 and 929.

Reflections on VSAC? Was it good for you?
Definitely. It was my first day of speaker business. Didn't sell any speakers but we definitely had a good show. I got to meet Josh Stippich (of Electronluv) and he's become a huge inspiration for me. Undiluted creativity is what he is. It's rare - especially in HiFi.
Other heroes?
George Cardas. He has a real passion for what he is doing. Unobstructed - he's just following his passion. He's brought a lot of insight into areas of the industry where others might never have gone were it not for him. Stan Ricker is certainly another, as is the Positive Feedback crowd. Gordon Rankin. Sakuma. Jean Hiraga - his famous papers in "La Nouvelle Revue du Son" from the end of 70's and the beginning of the 80's led to a deep change in the minds of the French audiophiles.

Gizmo won't be there, but he's a real influence nonetheless. Also, "GM" Greg Monfort who is a regular at the Single Driver Website. He's a walking acoustics/speaker-engineering encyclopedia who freely dispenses the most enlightened math and physics. I'm truly in awe. And, James Melhuish for hosting the site; a saint of high fidelity. [Click on site logo to visit. >]
Any parting words of wit and wisdom for our readers?
Some people do have to adjust to the different character of the single-driver sound. They're not the perfect speaker. There is a break-in period for the ears, adjusting to no crossover and some limited frequency extremes. This manifests for unfamiliar listeners in a couple of ways. Most people are just drawn to it immediately; other people can hear the difference if they are seasoned listeners. The frequency extremes do roll off and that is something that you have to deal with either by system tuning or by addressing your expectations - but the clarity is something that draws most people in. I think we will see more full-range, single driver speakers on the scene down the road. People hear them and they like them. I'm certainly not the only one building these things.

Right now I'm happy with my progress. Especially the WAF response. There's a lot of stuff I want to do: the corner horn and redesigning the TQWT. I'm going after more elegance - trying to package big designs elegantly and include more artistic touches.

Implementation is the key. Americans tend to require more bass, almost an artificial enhancement of it. Most systems I hear have too much unnatural bass. Good natural bass is strong but you don't want to mask or boost it with EQ to balance it against the rest of the music. Good natural tuneful bass that is well integrated is very difficult except with a single driver. Crossovers work against you on this front. They remain another audio circuit to be perfected. Drivers are more developed than crossovers. Many are far better than others. A lot of this requires a great deal of investment in facility and research and some labs are making headway. But, with multiple drivers, there remains the integration problem, period. Your ear can hear right through the problems with it.
So we're back to the future?
I believe in classics. The Japanese have all along. They took our technology and ran with it, but they didn't run too far. They knew it was good. (More on Terry Cain's thoughts on speaker building can be found on his website.

Specifications on today's review subject, the Studio Series Double-Horn Ben 168

Intermediate-size cabinet with 168 mm. Fostex Sigma Driver
Sensitivity: 95db ~ 1 watt ~ 1 meter
Frequency Response: <45Hz ~ 20kHz (+/- 3db)
Nominal impedance; 8 ohms
Minimum impedance: 5 ohms
Dimensions: 11" W x 15" D x 72" H
Price: $5,500/pair

To e-mail the reviewer/interviewer, click on his name