On (not) making loudspeakers and the future…

open door policy

A summary of the current state of affairs from Biro Technology’s founder.

At the present time, Biro products are not available for sale in the USA. However, our custom services are still available to those in Istanbul, Turkey or to anyone willing to deal with shipments from Istanbul. I sincerely hope this is a temporary situation. If you are interested in how this situation came to be, I encourage you to read on.

For many years, there has been a close professional association between Biro Technology and Audio by Van Alstine, Inc. AVA was the first and eventually became the only dealer of Biro products, and in between the demands of running Biro, I would often provide technical and editorial services to AVA. That relationship grew even closer in 2001 when I decided to move to Istanbul, Turkey to advance my academic career. To keep Biro products available for sale in the USA, AVA agreed to manufacture and sell Biro products under an exclusive license. Around the same time, I took over most of the engineering duties at AVA on a consulting basis as well. Biro and AVA started to resemble two beans in a pod. Life was good.

I was therefore a bit surprised to read in the premier issue of Inside AVA that the recent lapse in Biro product availability was due to the unavailability of a critical L/1 system component. In actuality, while reliable supply of a critical L/1 component did indeed dry up last year—forcing us to retire production of the L/1—I had engineered a new design to replace the L/1. However, this new design was never put into production because of AVA’s increasing need to focus their available labor resources exclusively on their own line of electronics. Thus, the lapse in Biro product availability is actually due to labor pressures at AVA, not because of a lack of manufacturable Biro designs. For those who enjoy this kind of thing, the gory details follow.

In the summer of 2005, having recognized the need to engineer a solution to the obsolescence of a critical high-frequency subsystem component, I finally succeeded in producing a prototype system to replace the L/1 that was superior overall to the original, but at the same time was much easier to manufacture. This was preceded by a couple non-starters and involved an incredible amount of reanalysis and reevaluation of some subtleties in design goals. The process was aided by significant advancements in instrumentation since the original L/1 was designed. It was long, hard, sleepless work, but the result was worth it.

When I went to meet with AVA to play them the final prototype and to go over the manufacturing process, I was informed that current labor pressures at AVA, which we briefy had discussed before, meant that something had to give. Regrettably, the most logical choice was for AVA to stop manufacturing loudspeakers. Given this state of affairs and the overall level of exhaustion all around, none of us saw much point in auditioning the new system, and as a result nobody at AVA ever heard the new system, a design of which I remain very proud.

To AVA’s credit, it must be said that it takes a special kind of person to want to make speaker systems. On the surface it seems to be a relatively simple process, but in fact it places heavy burdens on a manufacturer, particularly with respect to material handling (cabinets are heavy) and storage (cabinets are large). Given AVA’s increasing need to support the labor on their own line electronics, coupled with the difficulty in finding adequately qualified labor in general, they simply couldn’t carry the burden of making speakers anymore.

The above notification took place mere days before I was due back in Istanbul to start a new semester. Sure, I would have appreciated some advanced notice of the situation, but, you know, la merde se produit. The situation left me with a couple choices: return to manufacturing systems myself or find someone else to manufacture them. The latter was not really possible given the fact that I spend all but about 4 weeks a year in Istanbul. Implementing the former, while conceptually possible, was not do-able in the available two-day time frame. That left me with no choice but to suspend product availability in the USA until a solution to the manufacturing problem could be found.

Ultimately, for our clients it doesn’t really matter why there is a lapse in Biro availability. To you the only thing that really matters is that we are not there for you, and for this I am quite sorry. Trust that in between my fulltime teaching load, thesis writing, other projects and research, and my Biro activities here in Istanbul, I will be trying to find a solution to the manufacturing problem in the USA. And if you have any ideas, I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime if you would like to visit an old version of the main Biro Technology website, which has information on the most recently available Biro products, you can still do so.

Warmest regards,
Mithat Konar


5 thoughts on “On (not) making loudspeakers and the future…

  1. I’m glad you like your Kensington enough to want another one. I am afraid that our supplier of the driver used in the Kensington can no longer supply the driver we were using, so even a one-off custom job isn’t possible.

    I think your best bet is to let AVA know that you are looking for another one in case one of their clients decides to sell one.

  2. Ron,

    Thanks for the suggestion. Others (including AVA) have also recommended Mr Salk. The issues with the model in question at the time were that there was still a fair amount of fine detail work requiring face-to-face training and (more importantly) there was a need to cull HF drivers from the supplier–about 10% of them exhibited what I considered out-of-tolerance behavior. (Compare this to the HF driver used in the L/1 which had a 100% yield!) Since then, another issue has emerged: the LF driver used in the design is no longer being manufactured.

    However, I will certainly consider Jim Salk when I find the time to develop a new design. I have seen several samples of his work and his reputation for quality work is very much deserved.

  3. I recently happened upon a set of L/1 in the SF bay area and sold to me by the original owner. He auditioned them at AVA bitd. As an AVA gear fanboy generally, this pleases me immensely

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