Home > Drew Spence, Hardware and Hardwire, Producer's Edge > Brand Spotlight: Smith Audio

Brand Spotlight: Smith Audio

Smith Audio

High power high output loudspeakers

By now you might be familiar with Davidson Electronics. We featured this wizard-run workshop in issue 08 with DJ Premier. They are one of a small number of manufacturer-authorized repair shops. That certificate of quality means sending your unit to Davidson is the same as sending it back to original factory for work and repairs. Beyond that, I felt like a valued customer. They gave me the honest truth about my options and even guidance on what I could do to save costs. If you’ve ever worked with an IT department or a mechanic, you can understand what’s it’s like to walk away unsure or unsettled. Gear repair is a mix of both and it takes a solid approach to walk way feeling smarter about your gear and have trust in the finished job. Davidson nails this so my curiosity was piqued when they asked me to walk in the back and see what they had cooking.

powerful, natural sound reproduction in a uniquely tight, efficient package

Enter Smith Audio

Down the hall and to the right is an empty room with just a mixer and a set of speakers. The wizards threw a switch and I was blown away. It was a huge sound, but maintained detail. Lots of detail. They sounded incredible, but looked…smaller than they should. I discovered a new brand called Smith Audio that brings us high output, high-powered loudspeakers for live venues, arenas, clubs and concert halls. Their Pro-30 Series is also suitable for theaters, hotels and churches.

What we have next is the story of an American product (wholly manufactured here in the U.S.A.) set to remind us of what’s possible when quality is more important than quantity, when craft saves in cost and service serves the client. To get the full story, PE Mag sat down with Smith Audio for this exclusive one-on-one interview.

—  We are giving our clients “what they want”…NOT “what they need”. Only those big fat companies with huge ad campaigns insist upon “what you need”. Smith Audio is all about “what you want”. —

Could you please tell a little about your personal history and how repairing gear became so important to you?  Smith Audio: Servicing gear, in the beginning, was a necessary evil. I ran an entertainment company. At that time, we couldn’t afford “down time” and equipment problems were dealt with “in-house” as much as possible. As my career progressed, I eventually became the service manager at a well known Lighting Distributor that sold intelligent lighting and pro audio equipment. My “hands-on” repair experience became sharper and sharper.

Where does the technical skill come from and what tools are available for learning how to repair a piece you may have never worked on before?

Nothing beats experience. At age 16, I owned a vending machine business. My earliest repair experiences were repairing the vending machines that I sold to various locations. My knowledge of tools came from my childhood. My father owned a couple of hardware stores in Brooklyn. Talk about tools?!?! I was using many tools by the time I was 12…repairing everything from door locks to toasters. I learned, early on, that there are many similarities between seemingly unrelated pieces of equipment.

Smith Audio Speakers image

Critical Craft conserves cost

Somewhere there is a transition from providing a service to becoming a manufacturer. Why speakers as your main focus?

Speakers are the very LAST link in the audio chain….the final delivery of sound to your ears comes from the speakers. Having serviced thousands of speakers is what gave me the “vocabulary and criteria” to judge speakers for their qualities, attributes, and shortcomings.

I don’t want you to go into Loud Speakers 101, but what makes up a Smith Audio system? Is it a combination of speakers for lows and highs, an X number of drivers? Is there a need for a sub?

A Smith Audio system is comprised of a highly developed cabinet that was designed around the characteristics of specific drivers/speakers. The 2 most important aspects of our design are: a unique chambering system that eliminates unwanted anomalies in the lower frequencies, while enhancing the projection of desirable sound waves. In conduction with a proprietary crossover, less power is needed to deliver a very potent and coherent sound pallet. Although lower frequencies can indeed come from smaller speakers, subwoofers are designed to deliver the lowest possible frequencies. In order to project the lowest frequencies and create a “sensation” that can only be produced by moving air, subwoofers are specific to these lowest frequencies. Our mid-high cabinets are usually flown, or at least off the floor. Subwoofers perform best when on the floor. Thus, the combination of subwoofers AND mid-high cabinets will satisfy the most demanding audio requirements.

How does your history and familiarity with the top manufacturers influence or affect the design of your own line?

Over the past few decades, I have been inside of nearly every pro-audio speaker for repair purposes. Upon teaming up with Davidson Electronics Corp., my repair experience has expanded exponentially. The Davidson Electronics team consists of some the best technicians I’ve ever known. Over the past 9 years, my relationship with Davidson Electronics expanded and enhanced my knowledge of audio technologies that I have applied to the R & D of the Smith Audio products.

Does you product lean on any of the technology or systems and is there an idea of doing the same thing but cheaper? Are you looking at what you repair the most in their systems and avoiding those parts and components?

Smith Audio made a critical decision, early on, to avoid anything that is dictated by cost. Our goal was simply to produce the best possible product with NO concern for costs…the best woods, the most reliable speakers and drivers, the best crossovers, the best hardware.

At Davidson Electronics, we repair virtually every product in the industry…The best, the worst. One thing we discovered, along the way, was that there is absolutely NO need to outsource anything. Unlike other companies that have hundreds, or even thousands of employees and huge costs of doing business, Smith Audio is a very small company that would rather concentrate on ultimate quality as opposed to a huge ad campaign and trying to disguise outsourced products with fancy graphics and cosmetics. The larger companies spend more time and energy on cosmetics cause they figure the public reacts to the visual aspects of their products. Our products are 100% American made. …and THAT is the extra bonus. The advantage to being 100% American-made makes it even easier to support our products with immediate attention and availabilities. Our warranty is 7 years. No other company offers a 100% American-made product with this warranty. If they did, they would have to charge so much for their product that it would be cost-prohibitive.

Smith Audio diagram

I see. Once you introduce better components and create a system meant to deliver more sonic power, you then leverage you position as a boutique manufacturer to keep prices down. As I understand Smith Audio is Made in the USA. Seeing that you could save on costs by manufacturing overseas, why decide to have all your products done here?

We never really “made a decision” to be American-made. It just turned out that way. Let’s face it. Any company, regardless of the type of product they manufacture, can be American-made. As these huge companies become greedy for market share, they simply have to outsource so they can continue doing business. Outsourcing has become the magic bullet by which manufacturers can boost profits. Smith Audio will not compromise its “build qualities” for the sake of profit. We believe that profit comes from quality and hard work…Quality and hard work will ultimately lead to a great product. It’s no different for musicians is it Drew? The best artists/musicians don’t compromise their craft for the sake of profit. Go back in time and you will see that the best songs throughout history were not written with a dollar in mind. Ask Paul McCartney or Stevie Wonder, or any great performer whether they wrote their music with a single dollar in mind. Ask ’em… [heh heh].

Let’s talk about deployment in the field; how large a venue can your system support and do you have any real-world examples of Smith Audio in larger spaces?

Smith Audio is about an ever expanding system. It starts with our 1230 and Mobile sub. The more cabinets added, the bigger the system becomes. Yes, just those 2 products can be tailored to smaller venues and/or arranged into huge systems that could cover an arena.

One more reason Swizz Beatz is unbeatzable

In the opposite direction, it’s no secret that a producer’s edge is the use of loud speakers to monitor and tailor their mixes for the club. It’s the reason so many records sound incredible for that sonic space and has helped us properly define the term club banga. Super-producer Swizz Beatz has just had a fresh installation of Smith Audio. Could you tell us a little bit about how this happened and what problems you were expected to solve.

We were approached by one of Swizz’s engineers. He came to us with a dilemma. Swizz needed to monitor his mixes at nightclub levels to fully understand the potency of his mixes. Upon cranking up the levels on some of the world’s greatest studio monitor systems, the amps and drivers were failing simply because studio monitors were never designed to be used in nightclubs. On the other hand, larger PA-type systems typically don’t sound very good in a recording studio. Due to the smoothness and coherency of the Smith Audio products, Swizz was now able to hear a higher quality of sound that has typically not been associated with high power sound reinforcement systems. This has given rise to a new definition for term “reference”. The music has progressed, the listening criteria is progressing too. We believe Smith Audio is ahead of it’s time. Soon, others will realize that high SPL does not mean less sound quality.

We are giving our clients “what they want”…NOT “what they need”. Only those big fat companies with huge ad campaigns insist upon “what you need”. Smith Audio is all about “what you want”. Swizz has exactly what he wanted: High SPL without compromising the quality that he demands. Just ask him!

And he has your flagship system? What level system was Smith Audio replacing?

OMG! At Swizz’s studio, they were struggling with all sorts of products sold commercially…none of which were holding up to the demanding criteria. Yes, Swizz has our “flagship system”…the same system that has become the cornerstone of our live install applications. We are ecstatic that he has found a solution with our products.

What about clarity at these loud volumes? How does Smith handle the lows and critical highs as those decibel levels?

Our tuned chambers, patent pending design, in conduction with mechanical time-alignment are the key elements that make the Smith Audio products so “listenable”. These principles will soon be clearly explained on our new website…coming soon!

I understand this is a high-end company that makes pro-level products. Is there any interest in distilling this technology and system into pro- sumer level products like regular studio monitors?

Wow! That’s a good question. We are presently developing our “Lounge Series”. This new series will address the needs of high quality sound in “near field” contexts. We have pioneered an entirely new high frequency device that may revolutionize high frequency delivery as we know it. No, it’s NOT a ribbon tweeter. That’s all I’ll say for now.

I see. As a final thought, I’d like a summary of what it means to you, personally, to add your product into the stream and what you learned in doing so.

Personally, it has been a long awaited pleasure to serve great talented musicians and engineers. What we have learned is what we kinda suspected all along…and that is: When you stick to your convictions, it’s only a matter of time that others will come to respect your efforts. Our conviction was primarily to serve the needs of those dedicated to their craft. Those people are musicians and the engineers who struggle to present their craft to the rest of the world. Without technology, communication is stifled. Technology must couple with creativity. When they couple, the sum becomes greater than the parts.

And finally, you have a solid list of clients and some high words of praise from notable people. But there seems to be no interest in making Smith Audio a generic household name. What is your final ambition and what should we think about when we come across Smith Audio products?

Uh…actually we would relish making Smith Audio a household name. But the public will decide that. Not us, not a slick ad campaign. This is evidenced by the internet, social media, etc. We know that the “word” gets out faster than ever. Good AND bad. We’re counting on a bright future that will be riding a wave of quality. People talk. Sound travels. There’s no better advertisement than “word of mouth”…so to speak.  You’ll hear from us.
Producer’s Edge thanks Smith Audio for taking the time to talk to us. Find out more by visiting http://www.smithproaudio.com/

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