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My name is Dave Strohauer and my wife Lisa and I own an independent music store in Atlanta (Earthshaking Music Inc.). I think our store may be unique in the retail world. We offer all kinds of musical instruments- guitars, basses, drums, hand percussion, world instruments- such as sitars, tabla, djembes etc., strings and accessories, pro audio gear (pa systems, lighting, recording gear, keyboards, midi controllers and music production software), solid-state and tube gear repair service, music lessons- and, here's the unique part- ultra-fi tube stereo equipment and service.
In 2003 we opened two Hi-Fi showrooms in our store featuring affordable, two-channel, single-ended amplifiers and single-driver loudspeakers from several well known manufacturers. On any given day, you could visit us and hear six different systems- all with single-ended amps and single-driver speakers systems. I know of know other hi-fi showrooms with this clarity of purpose and focus.
However, as the retail market changed over the past couple of years, we began re-focusing our Hi-Fi efforts. We began a gradual transition away from retailing other manufacturers products, to designing and producing our own line of Vivid Audio products, to be marketed and sold direct to the end-user, the music lover, with no middle-man markup, saving you 40-50% on every item. Our long term goal is to create complete Vivid systems with a consistent design philosophy throughout.
The first Vivid branded Hi-Fi products are a line of cotton insulated interconnect and speaker cables, (eschewing teflon or plastic insulation) which feature fine silver or 24 carat gold conductors (the wire, not the plating on the plug). As far as I know, we are the only company offering a solid 24 carat gold conductor. We feel our cables offer vivid, transparent sound at a fairly modest web-direct price (especially when you consider the current cost of gold!). Our cables represent our audio philosophy in a microcosm, and can be summed up in our slogans- "Nothing more is needed, nothing less will work" and "Your music feels good in cotton".
A year and a half or so ago, we began work on the first of a line of single ended tube amplifiers, designed by Chief Designer Randy Cail, who had joined us in 2004 to help with hi-fi sales and quickly began designing cables, amps and speakers. Our initial goal was to integrate our philosophy of circuit simplicity and directness with attractive, original aesthetics and materials selected with sonic performance in mind. In planning our amps, we drew on Randy's 30+ years of audio experimenting and critical listening tests and my background designing and building interiors and furniture. Our first amps proved we could perform all aspects of design and construction in-house, (with the exception of transformer winding, which we contract out), and make spectacular music.
At the request of a customer, who had borrowed one of our earlier amps (the Si66T) we designed the Vivid Chameleon. Our customer wanted a user-friendly, great sounding amp of modest power to drive his Cain and Cain Abbys and his Avantgarde Duos. He also wanted to be able to easily "roll" a variety of tubes to learn how they sound and to "voice" his system. The Chameleon has a very simple signal-circuit, with only 4 components: Input tube, Interstage Transformer, Output tube and Output Transformer. There are no capacitors or resistors in the signal path. The Chameleon is very revealing of any changes made in the system- cables, tubes, source, even the table or shelf material, etc. and will quickly reveal the importance of system synergy and balance.
Where too next? Most recently, we have been commissioned to design and build a premium quality headphone amp for a customer using the legendary (and, sadly, discontinued) AKG K1000 headphones. The K1000s are also notoriously hard to drive, with a high-ish impedance (120 ohms) and very low sensitivity. The high impedance made possible the Vivid Koala, a single-ended tube OTL (output transformer-less) headphone amp with nearly 4 watts of power- more than enough to drive the K1000s.
Also, as I mentioned above, our long term goal is to produce an all Vivid system. This means amplifier, cables, dac and loudspeakers. We've had steady interest from customers world-wide in our T:dac, which we have been listening to as a prototype for the past year and half. We are excited to resume development work on this and hope to have a production T:dac available early in 2007. Also, we are in the early design stages of a line of speaker systems which will offer full range response and high sensitivity. Look for these new products over the next 6 months to a year.
I welcome any questions or comments, and of course, orders for Vivid Audio.