Andrew Jones, famed loudspeaker designer now working with ELAC, gave a wonderful seminar about loudspeaker design and engineering. As an identical mirror twin (Andrew is right handed while his brother is left handed) he was born in stereo! In his teens he became very interested in electronics and hi-fi. Andrew gravitated towards speakers and, he admits, did not know what he was doing. He wondered, how does one really know what they are doing when it comes to loudspeaker design. Sure a kit educates you, yet does not really teach you the why and what. Seeking to design something right, he felt measuring was the way to go. He soon learned that measurements alone did not tell him all the answers, and left him with yet more questions.
Andrew studied physics and acoustics in university, plus quantum mechanics and other subjects that were perhaps not fully relevant to speaker design. He later went into post-graduate research in computer aided X-over network design and optimization. Later, Andrew did work with noise cancellation and control. Still, he longed for getting into hi-fi speaker design. This wish was fulfilled when he received an invitation to join KEF.
He began work at KEF starting in 1983 until 1994. This is when the 104/2 and other legendary designs came about. As a point of interest, i personally used a set of KEF 104/2 floorstanding loudspeakers during some very interesting audio experiments within my LEDE (live-end dead-end) audio lab years ago. Andrew initially sought how to better measure speakers to find some correlation between measurements and what a loudspeaker design sounds like. While KEF did have impressive technology to understand design to achieve accurate results, Andrew also had access to many great people including such luminaries as Peter Walker of Quad, Peter Baxandall, professors Lipshitz and Vanderkooy, Richard Small and Neville Thiele (of Thiele/Small parameters fame), and of course his mentor and great friend Laurie Fincham, KEFs technical director. Membership in the Audio Engineering Society (AES) was a requirement and a superb resource. Andrew was able to draw from the knowledge and expertise of others to learn about how to design and measure speakers. KEF was in fact his loudspeaker university.
After a three-year post as chief engineer at Infinity, an invitation extended to him from Floyd Toole, he joined Pioneer and began designing and implementing designs with exotic materials such as beryllium. The Japanese provided Andrew access to new materials to further his knowledge in personally exciting ways, culminating in the launching of TAD Consumer and the development of the Reference One.
Today Andrew Jones is with ELAC and once again has been given the chance to play with technology to innovate and push forward to achieve the sound he hears in his head (and no, it's not just voices!).
Once again a new set of technologies gives him the ability to design speakers at all price levels. He approaches the task the same regardless of price. While Andrew admits it is great to design $80,000 speakers, and is very happy to find that it is largely the music enthusiasts who buy them, these designs reach only a few people. By carefully planning the materials and strategy to achieve a more obtainable price point, his designs can benefit a far broader audience.
In seeking the cost-effective approach, it was first while he was at Pioneer that retailer Best Buy was looking to offer a value level product to their customers. Since they were Pioneer dealers and quite familiar with the Andrew Jones designs, this gave him the opportunity to design something more attainable for the average consumer and music lover. Best Buy's national retail presence meant that this new project would mean large scale production. This allowed Andrew the ability to spread out the cost for design and engineering over a far greater quantity of speakers. Thus Best Buy's capability to purchase a high quantity gave Andrew the opportunity to begin his new project with a price point that was within his preferred price target. The resulting popularity of the speaker bears testament to the success of this approach.
Now with ELAC, Andrew is continuing his mission of bringing great value to the design of his speakers. The upcoming entry-level ELAC speakers, soon to be released, will adhere to delivering great sound at a reasonable price. By keeping to his goals in knowing what price point they need to achieve, Andrew ensures cost structuring to meet these targets.
Andrew has a feeling in his head of the sound he is trying to achieve. The technical approach is a mix of art and science. There are things you can do by measurement, yet that only works if you can measure correctly, since it is a three-dimensional process. There are numerous axes to consider when measuring, and how a speaker interacts with its environment. Understanding the experiment, measurements, design, etc is critical to correlation. The process is to set a goal, build and check that you meet that goal by measurements combined with listening and then making any necessary changes. Then measure again and listen again. It is this process that keeps him on the path to achieving what he had in mind. There are a whole host of other factors that come into play in finalizing the sound including equipment, the room, music, etc. that must also be considered in order to meet his goal.
During around CES 2016 we may see ELAC offering a concentric design if Andrew follows his established design philosophies. Further along it will be interesting to see what Andrew does with ELACs famed JET tweeter, though this may take time to come to market. How to optimize it to then see how it can be integrated will be the first step.
There are lots of different ideas and technologies out there for speakers, and lots of potential for improvements. Andrew Jones feels that one shouldn't lock themselves into a single design or technology. Keeping an open mind and experimenting with what's possible, plus how to best optimize it all, is highly desirable. Understanding and appreciating each part within a loudspeaker so as to better comprehend what is achievable is what drives Andrew.
As a teaser, we asked Andrew: So, are electrostatic headphones in the future for Andrew? Maybe a modern day Sennheiser Orpheus? The future is not written.
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