Tech Trends: Rebirth of the American Loudspeaker?

My greatest CES disappointment led to my greatest discovery. After a cable manufacturer bailed out on the bacchanalian dinner he’d promised me, I ended up at the New York New York hotel nursing a glass of watery house bourbon while dropping quarters into a video poker machine. I soon noticed that the man next to me was sketching electrical circuits on his napkin. He was wearing a threadbare lab coat, too — not exactly standard garb for a night out in Vegas. He didn’t have a CES badge, but he did have one of those “Hello! My name is . . .” stickers on his lapel. To my shock, it bore the name of Dr. Loof Lirpa, fabled founder of Lirpa Labs.

Lirpa Labs earned renown for deploying technologies other manufacturers feared even to experiment with, such as a chain-drive turntable. Several of its products were famously reviewed in Audio magazine, the former sister publication of S+V.

I asked Dr. Lirpa what he was doing here when all the audio action was over at the Venetian. “This hotel is 100 percent American, just like Lirpa Labs,” he replied, smoke from his Marlboro wafting through his thin white hair. “Let those other audio companies sip their fancy pink martinis by the fake canal in the fake Italian city. They can afford it because they build everything in China. If they loved America, they’d be here. But no — they’d rather support Communism. And Socialist European culture. And fake gondoliers.”

When I mentioned that I measure speakers for S+V, Dr. Lirpa grabbed me by my CES badge and dragged me toward the guest elevators. As he opened the door to his suite, I smelled stale coffee, burned resistors, and a great story. Armed with little more than RadioShack’s Engineer’s Mini Notebook Vol. 15: Speaker Projects, this fearless entrepreneur dared to attempt what others said was impossible: to return speaker manufacturing to the United States.

A brief listen to the, well, loudest speaker I heard at CES inspired me to call fellow S+V scribe Geoff Morrison. His CES report on the Boomphones — headphones with drivers on the inside and outside — proved to me that he’d be able to appreciate a truly innovative product like Lirpa’s Liberty Freedom 1776 A-FY speaker.

Dr. Lirpa graciously agreed to give S+V the worldwide exclusive on his exciting creation.

Brent Butterworth