"THE FUTURE IN SOUND HAS BEEN HERE THE WHOLE TIME"
“To know where you’re going it helps to know where you’ve been”........ Since many things tend to come full circle, it’s no surprise that horn loudspeakers are regaining their prominent place with music lovers. Even though the technology is from the early 20th century, Burwell’s horn speakers offer a distinct, dynamic, and real life listening experience that other loudspeakers cannot duplicate.
“To return to a place, you first have to leave”....A
revolution occurred late in the 20th century as the
VCR pushed the stereo out of many living rooms.
People started to forget how important music is
for the soul. People didn’t walk away from
appreciating music, but playback options pushed
quality aside for convenience and portability.
Earbuds and surround sound systems simply come
up short for music. As the resurgence of vinyl
and tube amps indicates, people are thirsty for
quality music listening at home. Many 2 channel speaker manufacturers aspire to replicate the musical experience the Burwell’s deliver, and some come close.
When people hear Burwell’s horn speakers, they know they’re hearing something organic and wonderful, and discover how much they’ve been missing. They realize the Burwell’s have dispelled many negative preconceptions people had of horns, and know they’re hearing something special. People are turning back to horn speakers because they’re the epitome of high fidelity, which is, the faithful reproduction of sound. The world seems eager to embrace quality over convenience. Purity and perfection are coveted once again.
Burwell and Sons Loudspeakers are offering the next revolution. This is a revolution of old ideas as we return to where it all started long ago. If you are passionate about your music, you owe it to yourself to come and experience the Burwell and Sons sound. Restore your passion for music. It is the sound of the future.
THE FUTURE IN SOUND HAS BEEN HERE THE WHOLE TIME.
The Psychology of Sound
" The sign said "Room Treatment" and after I tried one of them, I thought the Burwell & Sons demo at Rocky Mountain Audio Festival sounded absolutely Phenomenal....I would recommend this tweak to anyone thinking of splurging on cables, isolation footers, or acoustic paneling. They work that well (wink,wink) "
-Eric Franklin Shook
Having not attended university and with no degree in psychology I am not certified to dispense medical advice.
At Burwell and Sons, we believe our loudspeakers are some of the finest sounding loudspeakers on the market today. Clearly we have a bias, but that doesn’t mean we’re wrong. With no formal training, this chapter stems from a lifelong, informal observation of human nature, the sub conscious, and how it affects our behavior. Being in sales, this is an interesting topic as it relates to advertising, which is generally accepted even with the understanding that it seeks to manipulate people’s thoughts and emotions and influence purchasing habits. Understanding subtle psychological cues in advertising and how it affects purchasing is utterly fascinating. The following is what I’ve learned and how we’ve applied it to our speaker manufacturing.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SOUND
As neophytes in the audiophile community, we were surprised to discover a number of audiophiles don’t care for horn loudspeakers. As Burwell and Sons works to dispel some of the negative stereotypes of horns, we’re cognizant of human nature and the realities of life. For instance, if you don’t instinctively reach for the volume control when a good tune comes on you may not want horns. If you live in a cramped apartment, you may not want horns. Although further research is needed, our studies indicate that most audiophiles who don’t care for horns either own or are selling something else.
Manufacturers generally test and measure their audio products, and many feel that if you can’t measure something it isn’t relevant. The Holy Grail for many speaker engineers is what’s known as a flat frequency response. While frequency response is relevant, and does appear neatly on a graph, there still is no tool to measure how something sounds to the human ear, and its effects on the brain. Engineering and measurements become the starting point for most speaker manufacturers.
Burwell and Sons took a different approach. In essence, we started from an aesthetics standpoint. If we were going to build world class loudspeakers, they had to be beautiful. Our expertise leans to the artistic side of the equation, and knowing we’d be building horn speakers, we were confident we could get the sound right. Not being electronic engineers freed us from traveling down a well worn path where many of today’s products look and sound very similar.
As we tested various cabinet designs, we found ourselves frustrated in our attempts to find what we felt sounded the “best”. Gordon Jr. finally observed that better or worse wasn’t what we were experiencing. Some designs simply sounded different. It became clear that our ears and our brains would “adjust” to a particular sound and might not enjoy an abrupt change to a different sound. While A/B testing can be valuable in clarifying various differences it has its pitfalls. A former executive with JBL once commented something to the effect of, “It’s due to the forgiving nature of the human ear that any of these designs sound worth a darn.”
The idea of what sounds better or worse is rather subjective. The human sense of hearing is difficult to define because of how electrical signals from the ear are processed by the brain. There are many factors involved in why a person may believe that something sounded better or worse. Obviously, the quality of the playback equipment is important, and the room and positioning of the speakers have an enormous effect on what we hear. But we believe that psychological factors can sway a person’s perception of what they are hearing as much or even more. Emotions, mood, lighting, or simply the music being played, all play an important role in determining whether a person thinks one speaker sounds better or worse than another.
As second and third generation electricians the Burwell’s have all worked with and sold high end dimmable lighting controls systems, working with some of the best lighting and interior designers in the country. These dimming systems are rooted in theatrical stage lighting. Creating scenes and fade to black are stage terms that have been introduced into home lighting, and offer opportunities to play psychological tricks and cue behavior with lighting effects.
Years ago, I sold a lighting system to a lovely couple who enjoyed entertaining with the opportunity to show their collection of paintings. The wife had me set up a “scene” for dinner, where the dining room was the focus, and the dimly lit living room with her paintings were off to the side. After dinner was finished and the wine was poured, she would activate the next scene from a discreet button at her chair. Over a 45 second period of time, imperceptibly, the dining room would slowly fade down as the living room brightened and her artwork would come into focus. Invariably, without her having to appear too eager to show off, the guests would stretch, and politely request a guided tour of her collection. It was beautiful.
Some years back, we purchased a historic lodge and steakhouse in the mountains outside Burney, Ca. The food and the service were fantastic so we chose to keep the staff and the menu intact. Our personal touch centered on the ambiance. We tweaked the lighting, added dimmers, and played proper background dinner music in the dining room. In the bar, we rendered the Juke box obsolete with our collection of horn speakers and good music. The one big noticeable change was outside, where we lit the trees, the creek, and the meadow properly. It was spectacular. The exterior lighting came into play
as you were seated, and the effect was dramatic and immediate. People would sigh, their shoulders would relax and a smile would appear. Couples held hands across the table as they made small talk, in no hurry to order. They felt good, and they lingered. The cocktails flowed, the food tasted better, tips were bigger, and the people came in droves like never before. Our first year, we doubled the traffic of the best previous years. Many loyal customers demanded to know what we’d done differently to the recipes. I would shrug and suggest maybe the music and lights were the culprit. Most refused to admit that good ole country folks could be affected by a dimmer and some Nat King Cole. Good music and nice lighting can’t make a cheap steak taste great, but it can turn a great rib eye into the best steak you ever had.
Early on, we felt we had built some beautiful speakers so we set out to make the sound world class. We designed and built our first crossovers and tuned the ports for greater bass response. We were quite pleased with the performance, even in the wretched acoustic environment of our shop. We had our electronics technician over to hear our wooden horns, and discuss speaker theory and designs. At one point he decided to let us in on a big secret when he asked quite seriously, “You wanna know what really makes a speaker sound better?” “What ?!” we asked, leaning forward, expecting some great revelation. After a brief pause, he looked both ways and whispered, “Scotch!” Hmm.
Our second generation of prototypes included tweeters and sub woofer package that catapulted the system to world class sound. A subtle yet significant design change referred to as the “Infinity Edge” was introduced. Having accomplished our goal of building one of the best sounding most beautiful loudspeaker systems, we set out to show them off to the world and see if people agreed. We participated in audio shows around the country, and used them as opportunities to gather input and make improvements along the way.
Audiophiles are a tough crowd, and we learned a lot from them. In the process we discovered that we were in fact, not audiophiles, but merely music lovers, and we’re honored to have been embraced by them. Many die hard audiophiles believe they can assess the caliber of sound without being influenced by external stimuli, but we didn’t leave anything to chance and applied some of the tricks we’ve learned over the years.
At the shows we’re usually thumping some jazz funk, often a tad louder than many exhibitors, so people instinctively turn their heads as they come to our room. From the brightly lit hallway, they stare in to a dimly lit room where they can only see the warm glow of beautiful wood and glossy black objects that appear to be the source of the glorious sounds. As they step into the entry, lighting directs their attention to bowls of wonderful chocolates and carafes of refreshing ice water. As their mood brightens, this step also gives their eyes a moment to adjust to the light. They enter the room and start to notice all the shimmering, glowing jewels of audio gear and wooden beauties, and realize people are standing, waiting their turn in the big comfy chair. As they consider waiting, they notice the self serve bar off to the side, and the choice becomes easy. Pour a scotch and hang out. Most audiophiles realize we’re poking fun at them as they see the “Room Treatment” sign posted at the bar and smile as they pour. The time it takes for them to get their turn in the sweet spot has kept them in the room long enough for a couple of tunes, and the scotch has started to take effect. Once a person makes it to the big chair, their emotions have been stirred, their ears have adjusted to the sound levels, their eyes to the light, and they feel wonderful. Picking the right tune for that person usually brings them to the tipping point. By the time we’re finished with them, they know they’ve just heard the best loudspeakers they’ve ever listened to!
If you believe the old adage that “Loud is beautiful if it’s clean”, you may like our horns. If you think a Shelby Cobra is impractical and that a Prius is pretty zippy too, you may not like our horns. If you’ve been convinced to invest a small fortune in a speaker that couldn’t drown out a polite conversation, you may not like our horns. But, if you want music to be a magical life altering experience, you should own a set of Burwell and Sons Loudspeakers.