Who's fooling who?

To Doug Schneider,

Who do you think you are fooling? Or whose payroll are you on?! It is great you are Canadian, Doug, and every speaker review mentions the Ottawa facility for the last ten years! You have gone way too far with Paradigm. Do you ever try Volent, Usher, Swans?!! Those Paradigm tweeters cost $8 to make. Please reply.

Yours respectfully,
Nigel Marsh 

This may sound surprising, but e-mails like this one actually bring a smile to my face. Call it my sick sense of humor, but I get a charge when people get so fired up about audio. I am happy to reply.

I haven’t reviewed a Volent speaker, but one of our reviewers, Uday Reddy, has: the VL-3. I haven’t reviewed a Swans speaker because they never sent me one, but I was the first person in the world to review the Usher Audio Be-718, a speaker that was purported to have a beryllium-dome tweeter, although some people dispute their claim. Regardless, beryllium or not, the Be-718 sounds great, particularly in the highs. Philip Beaudette is the reviewer who wrote about the Paradigm SE-1 this month, likely the speaker that got you all fired up (or maybe it was my article about measurements scaring some people), and he also reviewed the Usher Audio X-718 a few years back.

About tweeters: I’d be surprised if many of the Paradigm tweeters cost $8 since they make most of them at their own state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. My bet is that given the volume of their sales and the efficiency of their production lines, those drivers probably cost quite a bit less for them to make. I have no idea how much Usher drivers cost, but I suspect not much because they claim to make their own as well, and they seem like a sizeable company that enjoys similar efficiencies.

On the other hand, have you seen the price of many of the off-the-shelf drivers that some companies put in speakers costing anywhere from about $10,000 to $150,000? There’s one well-known US-based company with a mega-expensive flagship speaker that has an obsolete tweeter from a French manufacturer that costs about $20 retail. If you know anything about manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, and retailer markups, you'll realize that tweeter might be sold by the maker for only a couple of bucks. Then there's the $40 midrange driver on a nearly $30,000 speaker. Some people are touting this midrange driver as something really special even though, from what I've been able to tell, you can buy it from pretty much any online driver seller. Factor in all the markups and you'll realize it only costs a few dollars to make these parts for these really expensive speakers. But now I'm digressing. The point is: don't knock Paradigm because they're able to make drivers pretty cheaply and sell speakers that are very reasonably priced. Instead, you should point your fingers at companies using inferior components on speakers that are priced skyhigh. Who's fooling who?

Finally, it's true, I am Canadian. I'm not sure what that has to do with it. But the “Ottawa facility” you speak of is Canada’s National Research Council (NRC), the place where we’ve measured speakers for the last ten years. It’s one of the very best places in the world to measure loudspeakers because they have a true anechoic chamber, which is why you read about it here so often. . . . Doug Schneider