The Talon & The Roc
|Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen
|4 October 2000
Bandwidth (-3dB): 17Hz —35kHz
Impedance: 6.5 Ohms 8 Ohms nominal
Continuous power handling: 1000 watts
Transient Power: 3000 watts RMS
Sensitivity (1 watt, 1 meter) 90.5 dB
Input 100 watts @ 110 dB continuous output (1 meter)
Reactance: Linear, non-reactive impedance
Depth: 18.75″ (19.75″ w/ binding post)
Weight: 93 lbs.
Powered by 350-watt amplifier
Frequency cutoff control
If you’ve been following these pages you’ve seen some enthusiastic reviews of reference-quality loudspeakers, e.g., the excellent Wilson Audio WATT / Puppy Sixes (Mike Silverton), the excellent Piega P-12’s (Lou Lanese), and the excellent Super Eclipse (yours truly). Each of these loudspeaker systems represents their designers’ ultimate statement. Mike Silverton and Lou Lanese purchased their review pair. I, however, did not. As good as the Super Eclipse is, and it is indeed very musical, it did not beat out the VR6’s with respect to overall musicality, visceral impact, and dynamics. I ultimately returned the review pair and wondered whether anything would ever unseat the VR6’s as my reference. Patience is a virtue! That day has arrived! Enter the Talon Audio Khorus.
Built in Utah, the Talon Audio Khorus’s design philosophy (I’m informed) is that of the infinite slope. The Khorus is shaped like an obelisk, which, according to the manufacturer, naturally time-aligns the enclosure, placing the tweeter slightly behind the midrange. The speaker’s height is 46″ with a width of 8″ at its flat top. The base widens to 18 inches. Removing its grill permits a view of cloth-treated baffle and driver configuration. All three of the Khorus drivers stand about 24″ from the floor, closely aligned near the top of the enclosure. We begin with a highly modified pair of 10″ midrange/woofer drivers working in unison to cancel out exaggerated cone movement. These dual drivers are said to accurately reproduce without strain all frequencies from 17Hz to 2200Hz. The method of this — let’s call it madness — designer Tierry Budge explains: “Midrange-based suspensions and cone-geometries can be mated to subwoofer-like motor structures and moving masses, if the resultant dynamic response displays proper execution of progressive damping principles. We designed the 10″ driver we use in the Khorus with these midrange/woofer traits, along with the widest range of musically-conducive capabilities.”
Six inches above the mid/woofer, looking more like a midrange driver, sits a 1½” cloth-dome tweeter handling all frequencies from 2200Hz before rolling off at 13kHz. Picking up on this high-frequency frolic, its duties extending to 35kHz, is a 1″ titanium super tweeter said to free up the compound tweeter, permitting it a more effortless extension. Dual tweeters working in such close unison yield its 2.5 designation
A first order, 6dB slope is the outcome, since the goal has always been transient purity. Normally, first-order designs are power hungry, but the Talon’s inversion circuit allows great power handling as the first-order slopes keep transient purity intact. The rear sports what looks like a port but is actually what Tierry calls a “laminar flow valve,” not so much an exhaust pipe as a pressure release valve. (I go deeper into this in the interview portion following this review.)
Before getting ahead of myself, let me first explain how I came across the Khorus. The story begins with an excited email from Delve Audio’s Oliver Solomon: “Yo, P, you better get set to sell your speakers and buy these new speakers I just heard by a new company called Talon. Man, it’s the finest speaker I’ve ever heard.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m the coolest of dudes. Stuff like this rarely rattles me. I hear wild claims all the time, especially from dealers. Yet I felt I’d been dissed because Oliver had listened to my system for a couple of hours only days before. Dissed, yes, but my curiosity was nevertheless aroused. I visited the website. Much to my amazement, I saw specifications that read like the back pages of Mad Magazine: “100 times quieter and 20 times faster than any loudspeaker!” Oliver, I now believed, is definitely off his meds. But, as I say, my attention was engaged. There I was again doing the Absorbine Jr. thing, taking it all in. I soon got in touch with national sales manager Mike Farnsworth and requested a review pair.
We’re talking so far about what Oliver says he heard and what the website claims. I envision a dream loudspeaker encompassing the clear, see-through quality of the finest electrostatics, as in the Crosby-modified Quad I heard at HiFi ’97 in San Francisco. For the very best top end extension, the very finest and most delicate treble, let’s have the five-foot ribbon tweeter in the large Magnaplaners I once owned. This dream transducer should also be capable of the midrange body and ultra quick bass response of my beloved VR6’s, along with the enormous stage width, depth and spaciousness I’ve always come to admire in the Avalon and Audio Physics. And finally, the dream transducer should disappear against a velvety black backdrop and be absolutely free of compression like the Near Field Pipe Dreams. Yes, all of this. No compromise!
I’ve spent three months with the Talon Khorus. Let’s not mince words. I truly believe Tierry Budge has produced a near-perfect loudspeaker, and I’m saying “near” mostly to cover my butt. After long and interesting chats with Tierry and my sidekick, Stu McCreary, I’ve come to two conclusions: one, how very serious and experienced a speaker designer has to be in order to succeed, and two, how difficult a struggle it must have been to come up with the likes of the Talon Khorus. I’m convinced it’s the best speaker I’ve ever heard.
Let’s backtrack. The Khorus arrived in impossibly large shipping crates weighing 150 lbs. each, necessitating the help of my buddy Terry Smoak to get them up to my third-floor inner sanctum. Unpacking was relatively easy. Let’s get appearances out of the way before we get down to the serious stuff: my review pair came in an appealing, high-gloss dark Rosewood finish. We set up them up in about the same spot — about four feet out and three feet from the sidewalls — where my long-time reference Von Schweikert VR-6’s stood. Apart from bi-wiring capabilities, the Khorus employs a unique locking screw-on speaker terminal located underneath its belly.
The Khoruses connect to my usual array: Sony’s SCD-1 DSD player feeding the Tact 2.2 Digital Room Corrector/preamplifier. The newest addition to the system is the Ortho Spectrum AR2000which a number of us here reviewed with enthusiasm. Amplifiers, the stunningly good Bel Canto Evos (I’m running a pair in mono configuration for the added support we all need and love). Cabling is Walter Fields NBS Monitor One and Robert Lee’s new and remarkable Acoustic Zen cables. Power cords are the highly addictive Power Chords by Audience, Inc. The Sony and Bel Canto rest on the Sistrum Isolation platforms; both the Tact and AR-2000 occupy Rosinante’s Dark Matter Isolation devices. Seven Richard Gray 400-S line conditioners monitor the power going to the amplifiers, while the front end benefits from the PS Audio P-300 Power Plant and Quantum Symphonies.
The Khoruses are highly critical of location. I have them toed in about 30 degrees, where you just barely seeing their sides. My listening position is relatively close, about 7 feet from the speakers about 9 feet apart, which some listeners think too much for their tastes. I disagree. The VR6’s have such wide dispersion that they perform well this far apart. It was immediately apparent that the Khoruses could do this too, though, I must admit, not to the degree that the VR6’s succeed off axis, with the listener in a standing or sitting position. After many hours of extensive evaluation and nit picking, this is the only distraction I found.
Oh yes, there is one more tiny little thingie — break-in! It’s insane! These speakers won’t sound anything like what they’re capable of until you’ve put in at least 400 hard-hitting hours. No, I’m not joking. Never mind the Olympics — this, for me, is Guinness Book of Records stuff!
Stu McCreary has the Khorus and he comments too. We both agree that the burn-in should be done patiently or else you suffer from what I like to call “decompression.” I find attempting to adjust to the Khorus’ too fast is akin to what deep-sea divers describe as the bends, a painful and dangerous condition. Equally, long term exposure to sizzle, hash, pop and boom can prove inadequate—when done away with.
Just as my view of audio has been irrevocably altered by the experience of the Bel Canto Evo amplifiers doing their imitation of a fine single-ended, class A triode amp with bass handling capabilities like the finest solid-state, so have my views been changed by the Talon Khorus. More often than not, analytical listening sessions turned into pure listening pleasure. The Khorus provided utter clarity and sense of ease and resolution, regardless of volume. It’s a dynamic loudspeaker that, by purposeful design, or some form of voodoo, does not sound like a dynamic loudspeaker. It comes lots closer to mimicking the speed, transparency and linear smoothness of a hugely efficient electrostatic driven by 1000-watt single ended triodes!
We all know the effects of turning up the volume. Some loudspeakers rely on high levels to achieve claimed performance. I believe that the Khorus also enjoys being played at loud levels, but that doesn’t mean it won’t outperform the field when played low. Unlike many a speaker system I’ve heard at low level, the Khorus doesn’t lose its signature. When played loud, things get only clearer, more dynamic and musically expressive. I have never before witnessed such an analytical transducer sounding this musical.
The benefits of an absence of noise are enormous, especially when it comes to instrumental truth and tonality. Bass is quicker and ever so delicate, contributing to a much greater perception of individual instruments and their location relative to the microphones and each other. Amazingly, the Khorus’ brings new definition to tympani, drum and kick-bass transients. Attack, presence and sense of location never sounded this good. I gain a better awareness of a recording’s venue. Images stand out in stark relief in a deep space of blackness. I’ve never experienced this level of silence, even when playing in the middle of a hot and sunny afternoon, which we all know is hazardous to good sound regardless of A/C conditioners.
By comparison to the Khorus, every speaker I’ve reviewed compresses dynamic range. None, not even the VR6’s, come within a country mile of reaching down into the quietest of musical passages of many CD’s. I entered Miles Davis’s incredibly musical phrasings, squeaking chair and all, on “Old Folks” from Someday My Prince Will Come (Columbia CK40947) as never before. Here, on this somber and slowly rhythmic recording, I can, for the very first time, feel Miles’ loneliness. I can actually see him sitting, alone, desolate, blowing into his muted horn. These images, prior to the Khorus, escaped me. And to think I thought I knew that disc! My notes after this experience read only: Amen
On the very same disc is one of my favorite minor modals, “Teo.” Miles, once again, making use of choked notes, sets the stage for John Coltrane who proceeds to blow an emotion-packed solo, that to this day is still argued among jazz aficionados as being his finest. What makes this so different sounding through the Khorus is Wynton Kelly’s performance on piano. It is alleviated of what I can only describe as haze. I listened in disbelief. I’m accustomed to his piano, as well as most other pianists, being usually diminished in both presence, truth of harmonic overtones, and timbre, making Wynton’s performance seem apart from the main events. No longer.
Let’s call this the domino effect. Consider: once Wynton’s freed up, he sets up greater soundstage linearity for ‘Trane, who sounds now as if he’s coming from behind the left speaker, deeper in the corner instead of between the speakers. This positions Miles dead center, tight and neatly focused, against that deep-space blackness. The Khorus is not doctoring any of these recordings, making them sound better by emphasizing or de-emphasizing frequency regions. The speaker’s accuracy in retrieval of detail is without peer. What I hear is a superior recreation of what is on the disc — not crossover and phase anomalies occurring at the speakers.
Excellent DSD recordings, driven through the Sony SCD-1 proved a perfect match. The Khorus’ responds like a high-resolution microscope, clean through the electrons, right to the original venue, once again demonstrating to this audiophile that the Khorus stands above the competition and beyond criticism.
Enter the Roc…
More Will Be Revealed
So colossal that its wings could eclipse the sun, so strong that it could carry off elephants, the Roc was the mythical Arabian bird in whose talons Sinbad of ‘The Thousand and One Nights’ was carried off to a mountaintop. What an appropriate name for this super-duper subwoofer! The Talon Roc has not only lived up to its handle, it meshes with the Talon Khorus so musically, so seamlessly, that its very qualities are bound to become legendary.
The Talon website states that “the Roc uses a 12-inch woofer to deliver deep, tight, accurate bass without ever bottoming out. The Roc will only deliver the fundamentals and not the second harmonics (boomy bass).” Let it be known the Roc uses dual 12-inch woofers in the same fashion as the Khorus. Employed solely in conjunction with the Khorus, the Roc takes this already incredible loudspeaker to yet another level! I first placed this quite a large box in between the loudspeakers directly in front of me. That worked well enough, but my hunch was that this wasn’t the ideal position. It took up too much floor space where it was, and more importantly, the Roc needs to breathe. This meant finding a place off to the side where it could dispense its low-end frequencies more evenly into the room. Placing it about six feet to the side of the left Khorus provided a better result.
In this position, and leaving the phase in the normal position, the total performance became easily the most natural sounding I’ve heard. In addition, when you stuff the laminar valve on the Khorus, you increase its impedance, which naturally begins to roll-off their low-end delivery beginning at about 80Hz. I repeat, merely stuffing the laminar “port” does this naturally. Setting the Roc’s crossover to 60Hz results in a perfectly matched low-end.
Moreover, I didn’t need the Roc for greater low-end authority. The Khorus provides this better than any speaker I’ve had in my listening room. What proved a revelation was that by adding the Roc I immediately alleviated two sources of distortion: intermodulation, caused by the drivers’ rapid movement, and harmonic, caused by overtaxing the power requirements placed on the amplifiers. The Roc therefore contributes to better sensitivity, dynamic range, stereo focus, transient attack, decay, dynamics and definition throughout the frequency range. I take it that you think I’m hugely impressed by the Roc. You got that right!
The Khorus plays louder, goes deeper, is significantly quieter, and produces greater yet subtler dynamics. It provides a greater sense of ease than my reference VR6’s. The sense of soundstage scale, height and depth are state-of-art. The Khorus/Roc combination combine to create the highest degree of musicality I’ve yet heard from a speaker system. In other words and to repeat myself, state-of-the-art! I guess I don’t need to add that I purchased them as my new reference standard.
At a combined price of $18,000, the Khorus/Roc is a steal for the audiophile considering buying a world-class speaker at any price! For me, their arrival couldn’t have come at a better time. My wisest purchase, absolutely!
Clement Perry Interviews Tierry Budge
CP: Tierry, you seem like quite the experienced type. How long have you been an audiophile and what made you want to become a speaker designer?
TB: I was introduced to High End in 1973 when I heard a Kenwood marble-bass turntable, and Crown separates driving AR3 speakers. I was struck by 2 things (that sent me on my “quest”): 1) I was pleased to hear that I could get more than I thought possible out of a stereo (I had been devouring everything that I could—reading—about stereo since 1967), and 2) I was even more disappointed that it was still that far away from the absolute.
From 1973-1986, I heard a number of systems that seemed to do various things quite well. I won’t list them all, but suffice it to say that they all did things that led me to believe that if a system did something really well, it did something else very poorly—it was all trade-offs…no clear-cut “winners.” The one system that seemed to come the closest was one that I heard in 1984, I think. ARC SP10 and a D250 Mk II (I believe), driving some heavily modified Quads. The system also used a pair of Entec subwoofers which must have been judiciously and carefully integrated because I’ve never heard them (since) sound anywhere near as good. It was tonally balanced quite well, evenly dynamic (if a bit foreshortened), detailed, and seemed comfortable with most any kind of music. (I’ve heard the WAMM’s sound better on a number of different pieces and styles, but never so evenly footed as this system was.) This was also, perhaps, the most transparent system that I ever heard, BUT, even the images had the see-through quality that the soundstage did. It was a fun experience, but a bit disconcerting as well. I’ve heard Meridians (late 70’s), Celestions, Linns, Wilsons, and even some Yamaha NS1000’s do a few things musically right, but always at the expense of other musical virtues. As each “reference” system did certain things well, I started to make a mental checklist of just what those things were. I found various musical strengths in specific products; However, I realized that there were a few “virtues” that I had never heard out of any speakers: 1) real-world dynamics (large AND small scale), 2) the sense of energy or “vibrance” of the real thing, and 3) timbres that bring true instrumental character and dimensionality. This, of course, was above-and-beyond the fact that no speaker had managed to assemble ALL virtues into one package. (Perhaps I should add that I feel that from about 1982 on, speakers, in general—not specific—have been getting brighter and boomier.
It’s almost as if we’re saying that we can’t get the excitement that we want out of our systems, so we try and liven it up a bit.) I began to feel that vibrance, dynamics and timbral control had to be the pursuit. Not because they seemed the most important, but because they seemed the most difficult to attain. So, I made it my goal…hoping that if I attained these attributes, the others would come along for the ride, as it were. Each of these elements seemed to depend, intuitively, on pistonic movement. Since it didn’t seem possible to make a panel speaker perform like a perfect piston, I chose to pursue dynamic-driver-based speakers. (Yes, some panel-types have come close to pistonic movement, but they still sound a bit thin, timbrally, and dynamically compressed.) However, dynamic drivers seemed to possess a few dichotomies of their own: Soundstage width/depth, solid fundamentals, timbres, and “pace and rhythm” all seem to need large moving mass. But, to have detail, good transient definition, and transparency, you need low moving mass. Broadband agility and low bass seem to require a loose suspension; but, power-handling and absolute output require a stiff suspension. Loose suspensions seemed agile, but not “detailed”; responsive, but not vibrant. These kinds of questions and dichotomies represent some of the more challenging “troubles” and “difficulties” in getting a dynamic speaker to “get close to the music.” I figured that if they seemed mutually exclusive, it was only because I hadn’t found the answers yet.
CP: How long have you been tinkering at this new midrange / woofer technology?
TB: I began my own efforts in 1981, but I wasn’t sure where to start. (I have lived and breathed speaker design ever since.) I suppose that, for me, dynamics came first. Since the overriding dependence on driver function was the interaction between the box and the woofer, I started with loading techniques. I tried everything: Transmission line, closed box, B4, QB3, etc. Nothing seemed to work. However, everything seemed to point, dynamically, to using stiffer suspensions and smaller boxes. While this improved dynamics to measurable degrees, I was losing my low-bass extension. (no surprise) In 1993, I designed a smallish box (1.5 cubic feet) around a high moving mass, yet relatively stiff 10″ woofer. (the high mass was my attempt at bringing in low bass.) The low-frequency cut-off was around 30Hz. But, I still had a number of problems: 1) High moving mass drivers want to stay in motion, 2) the high mass of the woofer precluded any midrange response—forcing a 3-way approach (which was o.k., but it introduced a whole new set of variables), and 3) there was still entirely too much distance between the “speed” of the tweeter and that of the woofer.
CP: Can you tell me how you got the “20 times faster” and “100 times quieter”?
TB: I have always used tweeters that have “rise-times” (measured with a “step” or impulse response) between 6-12 uS. The 6.5″ “midrange” that I used for the 3-way that I designed in 1993 had an out-of-box rise-time of about 70 uS. But, when this woofer was dropped into the box, the rise-time was close to 1500 uS—more than 20 times slower!! The 10″ woofer that I described had a rise-time of about 150 uS, free-air; but, it was closer to 2500 uS in my “small box,” QB3. This kind of disparity (12->1500->2500 uS) was actually quite good, by market comparisons, and the whole 3-way did quite well in it’s day. But I couldn’t help but think that since the voice-coil of each driver sees signals which travel at—or near—the speed of light, there had to be more information “in between” this great disparity in speed. I have since learned that both a) musical “energy” and, b) dynamic gradations, are lost when the differences in speed are so great.
You asked how I came up with the numbers “20 times faster, and 100 times lower in distortion.” Well, the answers are, perhaps, a bit more practical than technical. The 10″ woofer that I designed for the Khorus has a free-air rise-time of about 130 uS. In a 1 cubic foot box (like the Khorus’), QB3 loading, the 3dB down point would be around 60 Hz (not good), but the woofer/box combo. would have a dynamic rise-time of about 1500 uS. (Progress, compared to my system of 1993.) HOWEVER, in the “Group Phase” loading (explained in the attached technical paper) the rise time is less than 50 uS, and the 3dB down-point is 17 Hz! So, as far as the “gain in speed” goes, you divide 1500 uS (“old” QB3 loading) by 50 uS (Group Phase Coupling), and you find that GPC brings a gain of 30 times, for this particular woofer.
As for the “100 times lower distortion,” we took a low-frequency organ note (around 28 Hz), IN A MUSICAL PIECE, and turned up the volume until we got to the point of hearing a “tremolo” kind of a sound. (the point at which intermodulation begins to dominate) With the QB3 loading, this occurs at a continuous sine-wave output of about 105dB. (1M) Under the same conditions, the Group Phase loading showed no signs of this sound…even at 126dB, where the amplifier gave out. Here’s where the numbers get a bit tricky: 126-105= 21. We’re getting at least 21 extra decibels out of this loading. If you add 21 dB onto 10 Watts, you end up with close to 1300 Watts. Since every 10 dB greater is a multiplication factor of 10, we figured that there wasn’t much difference between saying that we’re getting 100 times the output wattage, or saying 100 times lower distortion, since it’s all measured logarithmically. I suppose that it’s more of a marketing thing, but we couldn’t think of how else to describe it.
Group Phase became a perfect solution since it overcame a number of different issues: 1) “speed” disparity, 2) the apparent dichotomy of the virtues of low/high moving mass, and 3) suspension control vs. low-frequency extension. One of the unforeseen strengths turned out to be that the overall speed allowed us to have much better integration with a tweeter than using a low-mass 6.5″ or 5.25″ woofer. (the latter two, at best, are 900 and 1300 uS rise-time-performers, whereas the Group Phase 10″ is down below 50 uS…as fast as a dome-mid.)
As the system got faster and faster, we began to notice something: Yes, the system had more detail, more transparency, more “blackness between the notes,” but it was SO clean that it almost sounded like it was “missing some highs.” In fact, we can’t tell you the number of times we’ve had audiophiles say, “I don’t get your speaker…I only hear the highs when there’s high-frequencies in the music.” Perhaps it’s just me, but this statement seems to involve a bit of pretzel logic. Nonetheless, we use a couple of tests to confirm the existence of the highs: 1) a 1500-2500 Hz square-wave, and 2) live music—typically massed violins. We use square waves because the leading edge will demonstrate both high-frequency extension AND high-frequency control. The “control”—lack of ringing—is important to rich and delicate harmonics in the same way a linear damping factor is for an amplifier. The rest of the square wave demonstrates how coherent the system is…timbrally, dynamically, harmonically. As for the massed violins—it is extremely difficult to produce their unique set of fundamentals + harmonics; due, in part, to the fact that there are lower-frequency-based “beat frequencies” as a result of the various playing styles of the individual violinists. Having the group sound large AND “sweet” is a horrific challenge for tweeters to negotiate.
CP: Please explain why this speaker sounds rolled off until well broken in?
TB: If we listen to harmonics alone, the system isn’t “rolled-off” at all, but if we listen for the “air” that we’re used to hearing, then I would have to say that all 3 speakers sound rolled-off. Of course, Talon would like to believe that what’s missing is all the modulation caused by the (uncorrected) beat frequencies of the various phase shifts, which exist naturally in dynamic drivers. (see “inversion circuits” in the Technical Paper.) We also feel that there are several arguments supporting this: 1) no instrument produces its own air. Such “air” only exists through the interaction of the room/microphone/mic-preamp with the instrument itself. In other words, this is the province of the recording engineer, not the speaker designer. (just think about how a given speaker’s presentation of “air” is superimposed on every piece that is passed through it. It tells you—even if you’re blindfolded—”oh yeah, I recognize this speaker…it’s______.” Live music has no omnipresent “air.”) 2) Listening to a good set of headphones. (I use this example because with headphones, the “mechanical” problems are on a much smaller, and more manageable, scale.) The better, and faster, the headphones get, the more you are aware of the harmonic richness of the music, not the grainy/shushy sound of the “air.” They get cleaner, and more controlled, and LESS hissy.
In the end, it’s hard to make excuses for the high-frequency balance, because the speaker meets the design criteria. Basically, we feel that we have to have the discipline to leave it alone and trust that the future will bear it out. It may sound “softer,” but only by direct comparison. If we turn the whole “problem” around, we realize that we can get far greater (and cleaner!) dynamic output this way. In any case…So far, this presentation of “air” seems to be the closest thing to an identifiable “weakness.” And yet, it’s probably closer to a “flavor” choice, than an absolute weakness.
The Khorus DOES measure like it’s about 3-5 dB down in level compared to the midrange (2KHz on up), but there reasons for this: Mostly, it’s because the Khorus has two tweeters which overlap, electrically, from 3-20 KHz. Placing a microphone at a “listening distance” helps show the true in-room output, but now the distance from the microphone demonstrates all kinds of room cancellations. Actually listening to something like warble tones, or 1/3 octave bands (like on the MF Sound Check 2 disc) will demonstrate, empirically, that there isn’t any terrible disparity.
CP: How did you meet sales and marketing president Mike Farnsworth?
TB: Mike and I met because he had spent a few years building speakers, and he was convinced that no 10″ woofer could ever do what I claimed it could. (sound familiar?) He had to come and hear for himself. (This was almost 2 years ago.) After hearing, he called me every day for two weeks. His first comment in each conversation was, “that speaker has thrown me for a loop.” He was actually only looking for a subwoofer, but ended up saying, “this is what I’ve wanted to do all of my life.” He has become the driving force behind refining, and getting all of this to market. I have always wanted the Technology to be “complete” (meaning, an assembly of ALL musical virtues and/or minimum of weaknesses), and Mike has wanted to make the COMPANY “complete.” (i.e. finished look and feel, brochures, ads, reviews, manufacturing, everything.) I couldn’t have met Mike at a more perfect time. Any sooner, and some of the Technology would have been set aside for manufacturing concerns. As it is, he took no convincing…he knew it instantly, as if he had been doing this for years.
CP: So how did you come up with all the names at Talon?
TB: For about 6 years, we’ve gravitated towards raptor names. (Khite is actually Kite with the Khorus’ “h” in it…we also have a product by the name of “Khestrel,” in the works. “Roc” is the name of a mythical raptor that could hold an elephant in its claws.) It took a bit of time and effort to come up with a name that was fairly simple, strong, and represented our tendency to raptor names. For us, “Talon” works. (The logo was another struggle altogether, but we feel even better about its “look and feel.”)
CP: This sounds all too easy, which I know it couldn’t have been. Were there trails and tribulations?
TB: “Trials” are a bit more difficult to enumerate, both because a) they bring up difficult memories, and b) we feel so fortunate to be a part of a technology that is more than the sum of its parts. Sure, we’ve been through debilitating lies and rumors. (sometimes at the hands of those we were only trying to help.) We’ve had more than two dozen potential associates who have either graciously offered to separate us from our best ideas, or run off with cabinet plans, take us to court over their own mistakes, take our services but not pay, steal and copy crossover designs, or try to beat us to market with our own product. But, through all of this, the biggest challenge has always been the following: Locating an answer that you KNOW is there, but has never seen the light of day…then moving to the next “answer, “…and the next one…and the next one…not knowing when you’ll feel it’s “complete.”
CP: What challenges do you see in your bright future and what type have you encountered thus far?
TB: Over the last two years, the biggest challenge that we’ve anticipated has been that of finding a way to express the reality of the technology, and our excitement over its introduction, in such a way that people know that we take the technology—not ourselves!—seriously. When you think about a marketing-hardened industry, it takes as much creativity to genuinely provide a new technology as it did to “invent” the stuff in the first place. Along these lines, one of the biggest struggles has been to present a market-accepted line of speakers. This Technology is more expensive than most, to implement. At one point, we discussed the possibility of diluting the technology, in order to make a more affordable product. But, it was decided that a) those who would criticize the higher price would likely find something else to criticize if it were less expensive, and b) those who could afford, or stretch to, what we had to present, would greatly appreciate the “no compromise” approach. Obviously, we opted for those who would both support and appreciate our efforts. As it is, because of the total lack of compromises, each one of the speakers belies its size—even the Khite. This is a hallmark of “Group Phase Coupling.” The Khite, properly demonstrated, can portray the full size and weight of the Symphonic Double-bass Drum…in a way that most $20,000 speakers can’t.
Through all of this, there have been a number of staunch supporters…some, of whom, have been responsible for my not giving up, through the hard times. Now, just the promise of the technology is enough to keep us going for years.
CP: Okay, so what’s in the future for Talon Audio?
TB: The plans for our future might border on the “overwhelming” to go into. Suffice it to say that we have at least 5 products planned, above the Khorus, and 2 products “below” the Khite. As for those “above,” the idea is to make them bigger, more efficient, and more tailored to an individual’s home…not sonically better, per se. (This is not an attempt to minimize these products, but an admission that the scope of the Khorus is truly SOTA.) Those “below” the Khite would be the first Talon products to experience judiciously chosen compromises. In all actuality, we would love to license out Technology to some of the bigger companies so that the compromises are limited, and the technology is more accessible. We hope to meet, and become involved with every aspect that will better the “experience.” We don’t wish to be anything but speaker designers, but we’d like to “lend a hand” wherever possible. We have patentable applications for Sound Reinforcement, and multi-media presentation. In either case, we believe that we can provide something that has far greater performance out of much smaller and more manageable packages. We have a patentable idea for a speaker with a boom-microphone-like reproduction of sound. (for exhibits and displays) We even hope to take the time-related reconstruction concepts to a University, and spend the time developing the associated equations. We hope to leave no stone unturned.
In the short term, the “products” that we have coming up are 1) some seriously cool retrofittable spikes that make use of correct mechanical-grounding principles (dare I say…more openness on top?), 2) visually matching stands for the Peregrines, 3) a more “exotic,” “export” Khorus enclosure (read—expensive), and 4) visually sprucing up the Peregrines and the Khites, while increasing their own ability to dissipate mechanical energy. In the long term…while we have already received the initial prototype drivers for the more expensive systems, we have decided to hold off, in an effort to provide the best product line that we can right now.
CP: Can you provide a cutaway photo of the Khorus?
TB: Although I don’t have a cut-away of the cabinet, there is a reasonable description of the loading technique in the Technical Paper that I’m sending you. (We won’t mind providing a cut-away, once the patents have been granted.) As for the Roc, it uses all the principles outlined in the “Group Phase Coupling” section of the Technical Paper. But, in its case, I designed a 12″ woofer with a 4″ voice-coil, almost 2″ of “throw,” and the suspension/motor-structure of a high-powered 18″ pro-sound woofer. It’s a beast. (For whatever it’s worth, the Roc has enough “speed” to successfully negotiate a 900 Hz crossover point, but this probably doesn’t surprise you, by now.)
CP: Explain what occurs when I stuffed the ports on the Khorus’?
TB: The Khorus’ impedance looks like a classic QB3 design, with two separate peaks in the low end. (one at approx. 50 Hz, and one at 17Hz.) But, unlike the QB3, the Group Phase loading doesn’t set the low-frequency cut-off at the trough between the peaks. Rather, it is at the center of the lower peak. With the port plug in, the system has only one low-frequency peak, coinciding with the upper of the two peaks. In other words, it now has the impedance structure of a closed-box. The low-frequency cut-off, under these conditions, is about 50 Hz. But the plug causes the appropriate phase shift to begin around 80 Hz. Having removed the “duty” of the bottom 2 octaves, the Khorus plays with even lower distortion, and actually sounds more efficient. Of course, the performance of the Roc helps elevate the response of the entire system. You almost have to think of it as bi wiring from the preamp->out, instead of the normal amp->out.
Well, I just estimated that you’re getting about 10-12 pages worth of information…but then…dare I say it?..”you asked for it.”
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