Vol'ti - v. - to turn over a new leaf; to move forward


11/8/2012 - NL20

Welcome to my twentieth newsletter.  Rocky Mountain Audiofest was really a blast this year!  Written below, you'll find my full report on how Volti did at RMAF2012.

Volti Audio is really starting to make headway in this industry, and as we do, I'm finding no shortage of advice on how we should be running the business!  It is all appreciated, really, I mean that, but how much of that advice do I take to the bank, and how much do I want to allow it to shape Volti Audio?  This is an issue that I begin to explore here in this issue of our newsletter  -  Where does Volti Audio go from here?

I received an email with a simple question in it this morning, and I want to share that question and my answer with my newsletter readers, so read on readers!

Welcome new subscribers.  If this is your first Volti newsletter, I would like to remind you that all of the past newsletters are available for viewing anytime by going to the Volti website and clicking on the "News" tab.  I would like to remind all my subscribers that your feedback regarding this newsletter format and content is always welcomed.   Send me and email anytime.

Did you know that the industry average "Open Rate" (out of the total sent, the number of email newsletters that are opened and presumably read) is less than 20%?  By contrast, the Volti Audio email newsletter has an open rate that averages 78%!  Now that's a dedicated and interested group of audiophiles.  Thank you!!!   It takes me an average of ten hours to write and publish a newsletter.  Having so many of you opening and reading it makes me feel like my time is well spent.

The Show

This really isn't going to be a show report on RMAF2012.  If you want really good show coverage, with some very entertaining writing and a lot of nice photographs of each room, Scot Hull of Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile has some great content on his site.  I'd like to give him credit and thank him for many of the room photographs you see here in this newsletter.

This year my wife Laurie decided to join me at Rocky Mountain Audiofest.  Since I had my own room this year (instead of sharing with other vendors as I did in 2011), I really needed the help.   It gets so busy at these shows that you can't even stop for a bite to eat in the room, let alone leave the room for any reason!

Laurie and I decided to spend a few days in Vail, CO, enjoying the scenery and relaxation of the Rocky Mountains before the show.  The Rocky Mountain area is one of the most beautiful places we've been to.

It was below freezing with a stiff wind, and we don't have our winter blood yet!

Room 586

In room 586, we showcased the Vittora speakers and Vittora subwoofer.  Last year we shared a room with several other vendors, but this year we had our own room, and I think having a familiar system really made a big difference in the overall sound quality.

I used my EMM Labs CD/SACD player with the EMM Labs DAC/linestage preamp, a BorderPatrol S10 S.E.T. with 9 watts per channel, a Marchand MB42 subwoofer amplifier, and power cables and interconnects by Mojo Audio.

In the months prior to the show, I made several key improvements to the Vittora, including a new tweeter and a new bass contour filter section for the crossover.  The show helped me confirm that the sound quality is now markedly improved in the Vittora, especially in bass smoothness and in the extended high frequencies.

The bass contour filter couldn't have worked better.  Every time I've done a show I've had some kind of bass peak in the room that is hard to deal with.  These small rooms always present a challenge, and this room was no exception.  This time I decided to do something about it, and I developed a tunable filter that tames that particular band of frequencies that is causing the resonance in the room.  The filter is tunable by changing the component values.

So on the Thursday night before the show, after I had the system set up and going, I did some testing in the room, and determined where the bass peak was.  I fiddled around with the contour filter for an hour or so and I was able to tune out the peak and smooth out the bass response.   When I switched the system back on and listened to music, it was evident that this bass contour filter was doing quite a nice job.  Very exciting stuff.

A fixed version of this filter will be standard in all future Vittora speakers.  The filter has the cabability to be tuned to the customers room, and I will offer the service of coming to my customers home to test and adjust the filter for them.

As with all the shows we've done, the response to the Vittoras was the same.  People just love the vintage look of the speaker, they almost always comment on how beautiful they are and how nice the workmanship is, and most people really like how they sound.  Some people were really surprised that a big horn speaker could sound so laid back.  One person said he could sit and listen for hours.   Actually, I think that was Marc Mickelson of The Audiobeat magazine that said that.  I even had one guy who said he worked for Bruce Edgar for a few years, and he told me the Vittoras were the best sounding horn speakers he's ever heard.  Then he asked me how they sounded turned up a little bit.  Well he asked the right person for that demo!  I put all nine watts into the Vittoras and he loved it.

We set up a dry-erase board in our room this year and solicited people to write their comments on the board.  Here's a picture:

Volti received more than our fair share of press after RMAF.  Here's a few links and some notable quotes:

Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile report on room 586

"Tone was reach-out-and-pluck-it rich, and the extension was full, tuneful, and engaging.   The Vittora sub does do wonders for overall reach.  Not surprisingly, but perhaps oddly, this is one of the very few long-wall setups I found at the show that did not have wild bass problems (hello, bass contour filter!).   Just thought I'd throw that out there.   No, instead of "hot mess", the bass here was seamless and thoroughly enjoyable."

An Audiogon forum member:

"Small Jazz ensembles just suck you in; extremely intimate, breathy, extended and voices are simply magical"

Paul Bolin of the Audiobeat on room 586

"This is one of those speakers that simply makes you forget about hi-fi as such when you hear it"

Volti sold two pairs of Vittora speakers at the show!  I didn't hear of other vendors making big sales like this at the show, so I was pretty excited about this.  It's really a thrill to have someone come up to you and say, "I'd like to buy a pair of your speakers and I'm leaving to fly home in a few hours, so can I pay for them now with a credit card"?

Since both customers wanted different veneer than I had on the show speakers, I still have these beautiful Curly Cherry veneered Vittoras for sale at the discounted price of $12,600, and $2,200 for the subwoofer.  This will be the last pair of Vittoras available at this price.   These Cherry Vittoras are currently with Scot Hull of Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile, and he'll be doing a full review on them.

Room 590

The Volti Audio Veretta speakers, featuring the Feastrex 5" full range drivers were used in this room, along with a BorderPatrol preamplifier as well as a P20 amplifier with two 300B output triodes delivering 20W/channel in a push-pull configuration.  Ben Zwickel of Mojo Audio provided one of his wonderful music servers and all the power cables and interconnects.  Ben also took on the duties of running the room, which we greatly appreciated.

The Volti Audio Verettas continue to receive great feedback at these shows, and yet I haven't sold one pair.

This is the second show in a row where the room shared with Mojo Audio received some kind of "Best Of" recognition.  At Capital Audiofest our room got a "Silver Sound Award" from AV Showrooms

Here's what Peter Breuninger had to say:

In the Mojo/Volti room the beautiful Volti loudpeakers sounded as good as they looked.   Hat's off to the Deja Vu amplifiers and Mojo cables and digital front end that made the Volti's sound breathtakingly believable.

And at RMAF2012, Anthony Kershaw of Audiophilia said the Volti/Mojo/BorderPatrol room at RMAF was

Audiophilia's Best Sound Value

Here's what Anthony had to say:

Mojo Audio and Volti Audio are a value added marriage made in audio heaven.   If you love a true musical connection, this system should be on your audition list.   The intimacy created from Mojo Audio’s DAC and Media Server, driven by Border Patrol amplification into Volti Audio’s single driver, Veretta Loudspeaker was almost tactile.   I listened four times and each time the sound was very refined, pure of spirit, and felt like a cool stream on a steamy day.   Absolutely lovely.

I think the Verettas get even more attention and positive comments than the Vittoras, so why the heck can't I sell even one pair, even with price reductions?  It's baffling to me.   Maybe it will be different with the Veretta 9.

What?  Wait - what was that?  Something about 9?  Ha ha!  Yes, I will be developing a new Veretta speaker with a 9" field coil Feastrex driver!  I don't know if I'll sell any of these either, but I'm going to give it my best shot dammit!

I had the pleasure of meeting Terramoto-san at RMAF.  He is the designer and builder of the Feastrex drivers.

Late in the show, my friend Kenji Furukawa of Audiofeast , a Feastrex distributor here in the U.S., came to the Vittora room and told me that he and Terramoto-san were just over in the Veretta room, and they really liked the sound.  So much so that he said whenever I was ready, they would send me a pair of the 9" Field Coil Feastrex drivers so they could see and hear what I develop for a cabinet for them!

I learned that in Japan, audiophiles tend to like a sharper sound that is tilted more towards the mids and highs as compared to the American market, which favors a more balanced sound.  They recognized that the Veretta does indeed have that balanced tone, between the mid-bass, mids, and highs, and we are all excited to see what comes of the Veretta 9 project.  So look for that in the future.

Lots of great press on the Verettas and the Volti/BorderPatrol/Mojo room:

Plucked from an online forum:

"I heard this speaker yesterday (at the RMAF audio show in Denver).   The room sounded excellent to me.   There was no sub (most other rooms sounded boomy by comparison, so lack of a sub is arguably a good way to go).

The sound was very balanced.   The treble was on the relaxed / laid-back style rather than bright / overly detailed.   For lack of a better term, it sounded "analog-ish" perhaps due in part to the Mojo Audio music server which aims to sound analog (and does).

The cabinet's front panel port has a few removable "grills" which magnetically mount -behind- the baffle, and (I was told) they modify the port size for different tunings.   I heard the "flat" option, while the others having varying degrees of "bump".

Another listener commented that "this is what it sounds like when you can't hear the cabinet" and I'm inclined to agree (short of an open baffle of course).


"Volti Feastrex speakers that I heard at Capital AF last summer were the best Feastrex speakers I ever heard, and I have heard a great many over the years, and built a half dozen myself.   They are tricky driver to work with, but Volti really has good ears and box tuning talent."


I was also very excited to hear the Feastrex NF5 and thought the Feastrex in the Feastrex cabinet and the Volti Veretta were wonderfully expressive, particularly when listening to vocals.   And then there was the FN9 . . . Wow!   I can't wait to see what some cabinet builder does with that driver.

Scot Hull on Room 590

"The mojo here came from a combination of things  -  the best kind of mix  -  including the new Feastrex-enabled Veretta from Volti Audio.   This single-driver loudspeaker was, obviously, fully coherent and seductive sounding."

"I spent some time chatting with Greg, who's just thrilled with the reception this new design is getting from both show-goers and the critics.   It's a compact package, with beautiful workmanship, and it sounds good, so I'm not surprised.   What I am surprised by, pleasantly so, is how enthusiastic the Feastrex folks are  -  so much so that more drivers will be winging their way to Greg in the coming months, including a big 9" Field Coil, with the hopes that he will be able to settle them into a new, Volti-designed, home.   Greg is thinking that this monster driver will find itself in a cabinet strikingly similar to the Veretta, just one that is proportionally and appropriately "upsampled" to suit the size and outputs of this ultra-driver.   Very exciting stuff!"

In the midst of hubris, snobbery, and audio chutzpah, was a glaringly boorish display

In the last newsletter I alluded to the display that I was going to set up in the lobby of the hotel at RMAF.  Well it was a smashing success!  Here's a picture:

I had life-sized "standups" made of myself and a Vittora, bought a nice backdrop, and used plastic chain to great effect.

I think most people really liked it, and the idea worked perfectly to get the name Volti Audio on the lips of everyone who passed by, and help bring people up to our room.  I got a lot of great comments from people regarding this display.  It was meant to be fun, and it was.

Up next?  AXPONA 2013 in Chicago, Illinois, March 8 - 10

I've got a great feeling about this upcoming show.  The Chicago area has not had a major audio show in fourteen years.  It's a huge, centrally located metropolis that has been underserved for a long time, and I believe attendance will be very good.  This show is in the right city at the right time.

Volti will be sharing a room with BorderPatrol Audio at AXPONA Chicago, and we will also be introducing a new speaker in another room.  So stay tuned for all the details, and start making plans for your trip to AXPONA Chicago 2013.


Nearly every day I receive email questions from people asking about the products I sell, or for advice on something audio related.  I try to answer every email question, and offer the best advice that I can.  Here's an email I received recently:

(FYI - I always ask for permission before using emails in my Newsletter!)

This one here looks so set up!  But I promise you this just showed up in my inbox and was unsolicited.  Rarely do I get concise and relevant questions like this.  Note that my answer is anything but concise!  But it makes for good newsletter content.

From: Bobby
To: gregroberts@roadrunner.com
Subject: Vittora Bass

Hi Greg,

What makes the Vittora's bass bin different from the La Scalas?   Both apparently go down to 50 Hz and look about the same.   Wondering what you did to the Vittoras that would make them better in the bass than LS1 or II's.   You mention that the Vittora's mid-bass is much better than the La Scala's mid-bass, what in your design of the bass bins made that happen?


From: Greg Roberts
Subject: Vittora Bass
To: Bobby


Thank you for asking, I would love to explain the differences.   The Klipsch La Scala was the first real speaker I ever owned.   I bought my first pair when I was fourteen years old, and I still have a pair in my shop right now, some 35 years later.

There are quite a few differences between the Vittora bass horn and the La Scala bass horn.

The shape of the horn, via the internal structure of the Vittora is completely different.   It is a completely unique horn design.   Where the LS woofer throat feeds abruptly into the back wall of the cabinet, just two inches from the front of the woofer, causing reflections and disturbance within the throat area, the Vittora feeds into a straight pathway that provides a smoother transition to the fold.   Unlike the fold of the LS, the Vittora fold is actually a curved section of the horn.   Not only does the Vittora have a smoother expansion from the throat through the fold, but there are far fewer reflections within the pathway, and the result is a greater accuracy to the mid-bass.   Mid-bass is something that can be controlled via the design of the internal structure of a folded horn, unlike low bass which is simply a matter of physics having to do with the length of the horn and size of the mouth.   I spent most of my time (hundreds of hours over an eighteen month period) in the development of the Vittora bass horn working with the dimensions and shape of the internal structure to "voice" the speaker, to provide superior integration with the midrange horn, and to provide the most accurate tonal qualities to music; in what is arguably the most important region to have tonal accuracy.   Almost all musical instruments originate in the mid-bass.   The mid-bass is the foundation for vocals, guitar, horns, stringed instruments, drums, and just about anything else used to make music.   Try unplugging the woofer in your three-way speaker and listen to music for a bit.   You'll soon realize how important the mid-bass is coming from the woofer in a three-way system.   We often think of woofers as just producing low bass, and we forget how much other important information is being conveyed to us at the same time by the same driver.   This is what makes horn bass so good.   The woofer, by design is using far less power to amplify the signal (because the horn is acoustically amplifying the sound), and therefore is moving far less, which results in lower distortion and effortless reproduction of sound.   By contrast, a bass reflex driver that is being fed more power and exerting its cone to produce low bass, will have greater levels of distortion and will not be able to reproduce mid-bass frequencies as accurately.

The larger cabinet of the Vittora provides us with a longer horn and a larger mouth, both of which contribute to a more accurate sounding low bass than the La Scala.   It is true that the LS and Vittora both have approximately the same low frequency extension, however the LS produces the lowest octave via simply having a 15" woofer inside a relatively large woofer chamber - sort of like bass reflex - and not from the horn.   As an experiment, if you put a 15" driver inside a wooden box that is closed in on all sides, where the woofer was not exposed to the outside at all, and placed a measurement microphone a few feet away, you would measure a certain amount of low bass coming from that enclosed box.   This is more or less what is happening with the last octave of sound from the LS - which from about 80Hz and down is not coming out of the horn, per say.   The Vittora produces low frequencies down to about 60Hz right out of the horn, and extends to 50Hz in room response.   The difference here is that the Vittora horn is working as a bass horn down to the designed cutoff, and as such the accuracy of the low bass is significantly better.  

The picture below, shows a comparison of in-room testing of the Vittora prototype (labeled GR9) and a stock Klipsch La Scala I bass horn with a K33 woofer.  Exactly the same test was done on both horns, in the same location in the middle of a room at my shop (no walls or corners around either of the cabinets.  GR9/Vittora is the red curve.  Comparing frequency response curves, one can see that in these tests, the LS has a peak at about 175Hz and then the output of bass drops off sharply from there all the way down to 50Hz.   The Vittora curve has a "knee", where the horn is working between 150Hz and 80Hz, before the drop off to 50Hz.   Note:   The Vittora was designed to be used with a subwoofer to handle frequencies below 50Hz.

The La Scala, especially the La Scala I, has serious problems with cabinet resonance.   The outside walls of the LS bass horn vibrate and cause distortion.   The Vittora is built of much better quality materials and has much thicker sidewalls that are both curved and braced.   The sidewalls of the Vittora are made with eight layers of eighth inch Baltic Birch plywood that are glued with urethane glue and laminated in a vacuum bag over a form.   The resulting panel is very dense.   In addition, the rest of the parts used to build the horn are all Baltic Birch.   The beefier construction of the Vittora contributes to a more accurate mid-bass.

Sitting and listening to music with a switchbox on your lap, switching between the two horns is an ear opener!

In fairness, the LS is simply not meant to be in the same league as the Vittora.   It has been, and is currently priced significantly lower than the Vittora.   The size, construction quality, and components used in the LS meet a certain targeted price point and target market that is quite different than the Vittora.   Where the LS was designed to be built with regard to how many sheets of plywood it takes, and the construction is kept simple enough to reduce labor costs, the Vittora on the other hand can be more material and labor intensive.   So it really isn't fair to compare the two as equals in the marketplace.   Also it is important to note that the Vittora would not be possible at all if it were not for the lifetime of work brought to this industry by Paul Klipsch, a man I have the greatest respect for, and whose shoulders I stand on to design my own speakers.

Greg Roberts

Where Does Volti Audio Go From Here?

I wish I could see the next few steps.  At this point it's hard for me to tell exactly where this company is heading, and perhaps even more difficult to decide where I want it to go.

One thing I do know is that I don't want Volti Audio to become too slick!  "Hyped" is really the word I'm thinking of.  It's just not my style to hype my products.  Good marketing yes, but I want to make sure that there is transparency in the way we do business, and an honest approach to our marketing that reflects the honest value of our products.

On more than one occassion it has been suggested that I should have better photographs of my products, and I don't disagree.  This is something I will do someday when I have the time to set it up, and the money to pay for a professional photographer.  But I would hope that my customers can make a decision to purchase my speakers without the few fancy photographs that show them in a great room, in a house owned by someone who doesn't own my speakers, with distant views out the glass wall, large plants, perfect lighting, and a big stone fireplace.  Do you really need those photographs to be convinced to purchase a speaker?  Will those photographs really help me sell more Vittoras?  I hope not - I mean I hope that my customer base is not that shallow.

Regarding my website.  Have you noticed?   Take a look at it and tell me if that's hype.  I know that it can always use some work to make navigating easier, and I try my best to pare down the information to make it concise, and yes I admit it could use a little flash.  But as it is right now, it's brutally honest, chock full of content, has many links to more information, and is loaded with photos.  Everything anyone needs to make a decision about purchasing Volti speakers is there.  It's transparent and it's my style.   So do we all really need the front page of the site to rotate into place, with the picture described above prominently displayed, and with flashy thingy's and other pictures that fade in and out, etc...?  Is this what my customer base needs to make a decision about buying Volti speakers?  Will this really increase Volti's sales?

How about the distributor/dealer network idea?  Going through a distributor and dealer network would raise the price of the Vittoras to about $40K per pair.  Certainly for dealers to sell any Vittoras at that price there would have to be some hype.  In my view, there goes the honest value to the product, and here comes the marketing machine hypsters to make it happen anyway.  Sorry, but it's just not my style.

What this all really comes down to is what kind of identity is Volti Audio going to have, and who will be deciding what that identity will be?   I recognize that the identity of our company is made by what people see on our website, how we represent ourselves at audio shows, in our photographs, and in what is written about our company.  But I hope that my customers also make the connection with the honest value of the product itself, the quality of materials used, the labor put into building our speakers by hand from scratch, the quality of character of the few people that make up the Volti Audio team, and the transparency and honesty in which we do business.

Will more people buy $40,000 Volti speakers from a dealer, playing on the hype-reviews-hype roller coaster of marketing, using a flashy website with limited content and a few outstandingly setup photographs, using high pressure sales tactics?  Or will enough people buy $20,000 Volti speakers from me; a guy working in a shop up here in rural Maine, giving it to you straight, with a less-flashy website, with lots of photographs and too many words, and with a real laid-back sales approach?

Businessmen wearing ties and making deals, or finish carpenters wearing aprons and making sawdust?

I don't own a tie.

I'd like to know what you think.  Please send me an email and let me know.  If there's enough interest, I'll continue this discussion in future newsletters.

Thank you for your support, and until next time, I hope it all sounds good!

Greg Roberts

Volti Audio - Klipsch Upgrades - New Horn Speakers