Review: Joey Roth Ceramic Speakers


No-one's going to spend $495 on Joey Roth's Ceramic Speakers because of audiophile considerations, then start fretting about whether they look good enough next to the iMac. People are going to buy them because of the looks, and then worry about whether the audio quality lives up to the price tag. So, does it?

It does, so long as you're happy paying a premium for design. The audio is clear and crisp, despite the small size: Roth writes that he used modified Tang Band W4-1052SD drivers, avoiding plastic and metal in the speakers' housing in favor of vibration-dampening materials like ceramic and cork. As long as you don't expect miracles, then, there's little chance of suffering "catalog remorse," as commonly experienced when buying stuff that looks great in print but doesn't live up to its looks.

The cones, vaguely reminiscent of gramophone horns, are gorgeous. They feel reassuringly heavy, and no part of the system shows a cut corner. It appears durable, too--though porcelain is what it is, so take care with setup and positioning. The technical simplicity suggests a respect for function that Roth's beautiful but unweildy Sorapot somewhat lacked.

Birch stands support the cones. The amp is made from sheet steel and sits on a block of cast iron. Plastic isn't used anywhere in the system except for cable insulation and interior electrics. It comes with all the required cables, including adapters, and a power brick.

There are limitations--obvious as they may be, with 15 watts per channel on 4-inch full-range drivers--which must be considered. If you like bowel-clearing bass, these are not the speakers for you. The amp's designed to make a show of the cabling, a choice at odds with the cones' clean vibe. There's a DC power input, standard stereo outputs for each cone, a single 1/8" stereo input, a volume slider and an old-school on-off knob, and no fancy features at all.

Most prominent of the product claims is that the Ceramic Speakers offer detail, that you'll be able to hear the difference between iffy MP3 files and lossless data. Cheap speakers are set up to make the most of noisy audio, whereas these are intended for use with quality sources.

Now, it's easy to slip into synasthesiac jargon when reviewing audio gear, but the ceramic speakers shape up in straightforward terms. Radio broadcasts and low-bitrate mp3 files sounded no better than with any half-decent (i.e. sub-$500) set of desktop speakers. Lossless digital audio and well-kept vinyl records, though, had a clarity I don't get with my $200 M-Audios. (I tried plugging an Akai Miniak into it -- live music! -- and that was another minor revelation compared to the mid-range headphones I'd been using) I don't have any "standard" similar kit in the Ceramic Speakers' price range, however: wait until hardcore audiophiles have had a listen if you count yourself in their numbers.

To be blunt, if you're concerned about the existence of equally good-sounding gear at lower prices, you're probably not the intended audience. The Ceramic Speakers are about marrying distinctive minimalist design with good quality and an open-minded approach to where in the home you stick them.

In any case, they look great either side of a big-ass computer display.

$495, Joey Roth Ceramic Speakers [Official site]


  1. Somewhat unrelated comment!

    I find it interesting that the skeptical community, when not debunking Bigfoot hunters and UFO abductees, turn a wary eye to exorbitantly priced audio equipment. $500 dollars is not really outlandish, But double blind studies have shown that the suggestibility of reviewers goes a long, long way.

    Yet another thing the skeptical community has ruined for me, yet misery loves company.

    1. Keneke, I find the skeptical community’s behaviour quite understandable. The existence of Bigfoot and UFOs is still open to debate , while existence of overpriced audiophile crap has been proven beyond doubt.

    1. @GrymRpr

      The original post was just a post about them. This one is a review of such.

      For me, the price isn’t too bad but for that price I would prefer the stands to not be just plywood. Or at least, spring for some veneer for the edges.

  2. Please see for a bit of prior art. Of course, it probably isn’t a new idea to use a drum shape for sound reproduction.

    Ceramic is indeed a good material for this sort of application.

    My only confusion about these speakers are that they appear to not be ported. Porting is a great way to make a smaller enclosure sound bigger.

  3. Norh has been making ceramic and marble speakers that look very much like this for years. I had a set of 4.0s for several years and loved them.

  4. They are very interesting to look at, and have some design ideas in them that I’ll be mulling over in my designs of other objects. I really enjoy looking at them… but not enough to drop $500 on them.

  5. I’m turning a blind eye to audiophile nonsense here? I thought I was pretty good about making clear that they’re a “good enough” set of speakers, whereby you pay a premium for design, not for audiophile guff. There is a bit of that on Joey’s website, sure.

    GrymRpr, this is a review, the previous item was just the product announcement.

    At the price, I don’t really think of this as a consumer product. It’s more like an object of art for the home that’s well-made enough to actually perform as expected. You’d be surprised how much “art gadget” stuff is complete trash from a functional and technical perspective.

    1. You’d be surprised how much “art gadget” stuff is complete trash from a functional and technical perspective.

      Which is why it’s awesome that these look good and work well.

      You’re really lucky to get to try these things out.

  6. I was also wondering why this keeps getting Boinged! I mean, they’re kinda okay looking, but not that dang amazing. The amp looks a bit like a toaster, too.

  7. sells similar speaker designs, but supposedly with more emphasis on sound quality.

    I think Joey’s creations are beautiful and I like his design ethics. Unfortunately I cannot afford his work, so I only enjoy it vicariously through the Internet.

  8. I think the exposed plywood edging is great. It hearkens back to some really great designs of the past. Veneering the edges would detract from it a lot – plus I like pieces that are honest about what their base materials are.

      1. Eame’s and Herman Miller Co.’s design asthetic was well-chosen and consistent. This use of plywood in conjunction w/the other materials jars, and looks like crap. Good news, though, from you to all who think all they need to be designers on par w/the great ones is to use natural finish ply!

  9. Nice looking, but you cannot get full audio range from 1 driver. Simple as that. If you like mid-emphasis without crisp highs and clear resonant bass these speakers will do fine for you, but for $500 you can do better – much better – if HQ audio reproduction is what you desire.

  10. Occam Audio’s FR4’s would wipe the floor with these ceramic speakers, at a much reduced cost. If Roth would incorporate a CSS driver instead of the Tang Band, then he would have a better value here. As it is, this exists primarily for looks.

    I enjoyed the review nonetheless.

  11. Observations from an engineer’s perspective:

    1. Impractical and flimsy (many issues, for example, air pressure will push the cork out).

    2. Lousy audio quality (no low frequencies, limited coverage of high frequencies, outstandingly poor chamber design)

    Manufacturing expenses (small quantity assumed):

    Ceramic chambers: $5 per pair (likely less)
    Connectors: $1.50*8 = $12 (retail)
    Amplifier module: $10 at most
    Plywood stands: $0.50*2=$1
    Miscellaneous (wires, etc): $2

    Total best guess manufacturing expenses: $30. For large quantities this will be around $15.

    Retail mark-up: 100%

    Suggested retail price: $59.99
    Sale price: $39.99

    1. The drivers alone are $25/each in quantity. Good luck getting any sound out of just the components you listed!

      I’d love to see where someone could get custom made ceramic chambers for $2.50/ea; you can barely get cheap terracotta flower pots for that and these look a lot more complex, heavier, are a more durable material, and are made in much smaller than million-lot batches. Even Wal-mart grade mass produced ceramic pots are $20+.

      Plywood is cheap, working with it is not. Do you look at a $551 Eames molded plywood chair and say “that’s no more than $2 worth of materials. I wouldn’t pay more than $4.”

      But really it all boils down to this: you can’t break a design piece down to its component materials and slap a price tag on it. The truth is that this is a striking looking piece, and that’s worth a lot to people with any aesthetic sense. If your house isn’t full of $5 plastic chairs and milk crates, then you’ve paid way beyond materials cost for something based upon its looks.

  12. I have to agree with the poster above, i’m sick of seeing these speakers being hawked all over the place. For the last several months it seems.

    Of course BB can post about them, but I hope I can also say that they’ve been covered to death almost everywhere, to the point that it’s begun to smell like spam.

    Kickbacks (not that I’m suggesting that here) or successful marketing/lobbying? I don’t know.

    The only thing worse than the protracted, saturated coverage is the cheap-ass-looking plywood stands. Kinda undermines the whole aesthetic, if you ask me.

    1. No kickback! Except the rather obvious one of loaning a set of speakers to us for reviewing.

      Frankly, anyone like Joey Roth could get this sort of coverage if they just asked for it — then you can all complain about there being too many gadget posts! There used to be a lot more on the review front at BBG, of course, and we’ve all been unusually busy with the redesign and merge and all that.

      That said, you’d be surprised how unresponsive many consumer electronic makers are to interview and review requests. PR people are understandably averse to coverage they can’t control.

      So they don’t get it.

    2. re: so-called “kickbacks,” I remember reading something about the somewhat unusual history of Krispy Kreme donuts and it was pointed out that their advertising budget is small and used to be even smaller because the founder (an iconoclast to warm any bOINGER’s heart) decided that in the end is was cheaper and far more effective to simply give away free donuts to any person/organization that might help spread the word. This same tactic can and should be used by any of us with a DIY project, it only makes sense. So y’all can quit hatin’ now.

      One question: the amp’s similarity to a toaster has been pointed out, which i feel is a nice look. damned if I can figure out what the side-lever does–you know, the thing that lowers the bread into the toaster? If they’re still reading, does Joey or RB care to illuminate?

  13. Wow, hit a nerve, I’d say.

    I am a non-audiophile, so maybe this is a beginner’s error, but notice that volume knob doesn’t go to 11.

  14. mcpfol, the ceramic is probably the most expensive component — it can’t be china-sourced as your imply here. Maybe Mr. Roth will jump in and ‘fess up.

    However, I think your numbers generally miss the mark: standard Tang Band drivers alone retail for about your suggested price.

    Also, you didn’t need to disclose that you’re an engineer. As soon as you suggested that manufacturing is 100 percent of operating expenses, it became quite obvious!

  15. Yeah the plywood is a fail, really.

    You’re looking at a minimal cost of materials as far as any sort of wood goes. He could’ve used Mun Ebony and charged the same. Granted they are his speakers, his design, his choices, I’m not gonna say he’s “wrong” but my two cents is that he could’ve sprung for some solid maple.

    Why not make a nice 5 piece laminate if your own? It just seems like a strange choice.

    1. “Yeah the plywood is a fail, really.”


      Too bad Ray and Charles Eames didn’t know about that.

      I’m not even going to provide a link to who they are ;-), I don’t think I should have to.


      1. By that logic, since Picasso painted in acrylic (sometimes), anything painted in acrylic is above reproach.

        1. No, but Picasso painting in acrylic is a good example of why not all paintings done in acrylic are junk.

          Your initial post, and even the followup, have nothing to support why the stands are bad other than that they’re plywood. Plywood, even “natural finish” plywood, is not an inherently bad material.

          1. I do believe I said in my followup that the use of plywood in conjunction with the other materials in the project was jarring and looked bad. To me it just looks like someone with limited imagination or resources went with their first idea when another solution would have resulted in a better look. I. have. nothing. against. using. plywood. in the proper context.

            The post that mentioned a sophomore level design class had it about right. That’s what the plywood stands remind me of. Something like Eames’ chairs show the material’s inherent, great, characteristics to their best advantage, where the use here just seems like an easy way out.

            All of the arguments for the plywood seem to be like yours, that it is a great material that has been used to produce beautiful and useful things, so it’s a good thing to use. I think that misses the point that (to many) in this case it has a visual impact that detracts from the overall piece and strikes a false note in a piece that is being touted for its design excellence.

            Every material that makes sense or looks good in a product is worthy. Honesty in letting plastic be plastic or plywood look like plywood works in many cases. It was just a poor choice in this case.

  16. If I had a 27″ iMac, and was of the minimalistic design/decorating mind, yes, I would have these speakers.

    However, as my Mac is an older G5 Dual Processor, with a 21″ CRT Studio monitor on a plywood topped card table, the Creative Labs speakers I was given many years ago are more than good enough for my somewhat bad hearing.

  17. Thanks everyone for your comments. It’s exciting when something I’ve designed sparks such a discussion.

    I feel incredibly fortunate to be a designer at this point in history. CAD software, access to manufacturers, and communities of likeminded people conspire to allow unlimited design freedom. At the same time, uninspired or boring designs can no longer be saved through marketing. This encourages my natural tendency to design things that I love and can obsess over, but won’t appeal to everyone, and aren’t intended to.

    The Ceramic Speakers came from more than two years of whittling down an endless number of possible components, features, and designs into the most simple, direct form a speaker system can take. Nothing, from the color and grain of the plywood to the curvature of the ceramic shell, is unintentional. I worked with an audio engineer to optimize the drivers and enclosures for clarity, since this is the most enjoyable way for me to experience music. I wanted to cut through the increasing bloat that suffocates most modern sound systems and create the most direct path from source to ear.

    Porcelain, cork, and Baltic birch aren’t typical materials for speakers. I chose them to create a harmonious contrast with the electrical components, and to be as acoustically neutral as possible. The materials are minimally finished, left to add their natural beauty to the design. Pure, basic materials like porcelain and birch ply are more interesting to me than polished veneer or shiny plastic. They also look better over time. Again, this raw, unfinished look won’t appeal to most people. It’s not supposed to.

    re: kickbacks/ spam: One of the reasons I got into designing products is my complete disgust at how companies, through their products, disrespect and underestimate the intelligence of their customers. If my work couldn’t stand on its own without marketing and an ad budget, I would want it to fail. I sent Rob an email, then a system to review. If I had to do anything else to get this coverage, my energy would have been better spent making the product better. If I ever rely on anything other than the product’s quality and singularity to keep my company going, it will be time to quit.


    1. >> I worked with an audio engineer to optimize the drivers and enclosures for clarity

      You might want to work with a different engineer next time… This one convinced you to use expensive drivers where $2 generic ones would sound identically. I am also wondering about the “optimization”… I bet the engineer also suggested to use square gold-plated wires made of high-purity copper to enhance digital sound. :)

      But I admit, the set looks pretty.

  18. Baltic birch plywood is actually a pretty common material for speaker enclosures… you just don’t see it because the manufacturers choose to cover the box with Tolex or Ozite.

  19. I’ve spent a lot more than $495 on speakers. And frankly spent a lot more than that on something because I liked the aesthetics. (ie: Almost every piece of furniture I own) And if they, like my speakers and my furniture, will last 20 years or more I’m not really sure I see what all the rant is about.

    But yeah, these things are deeply ugly. I like the ceramic, but the plywood and brushed stainless look cheap and awkward. I can’t imagine a room where these wouldn’t look out of place.

    PS: Rob, when you go into thread comments and reply to every other comment with a defensive tone it pretty much degrades the whole thing, makes me wonder -why- you’re being so defensive. Post your review and move on. I mean seriously, are you really threatened by the ravings of the average BB Commenter? You’ve already got the job. Relax.

    1. YAY FOR IPODS! The speakers you linked to are, however you look at them, ugly as hell. To the expensive couch man – Anyone can buy something. Not everyone can design something.

      So many haters in this thread. I would like for all the design critics to post their designs for anything.

      Just because you dont like it – doesn’t mean it isn’t worth review. Furhtermore i’m sure theres something you all like which we would all break out in ROFLs at, so who are you to judge? Why should we value your opinion? Comparison, contrast and analysis is better than just saying “I THINK THIS! SO YEAH!”.

      Tip o’ the hat to Rob and Joey for promoting the discussion, and to (the terribly aliased) designernyc for his comment:

      anyone who takes the time to bring something thoughtful and beautiful into the world deserves respect and not vitriol from armchair critics.

      1. The reason I mentioned the Focal speakers is that they are roughly the same price range as these ceramic speakers, and they sound FANTASTIC. Focal is a very well respected speaker company. They design and build their own drivers, and in this product, they’ve put together a system that has iPod integration with a minimalist design, terrific sound, and tons of power.

        I wish BoingBoing would review them, because I’m curious to know how they sound after a month of “living with.”

        I think they’d look AWESOME next to an aluminum-and-glass iMac — you say they look ugly. Well, hey, buy the flowerpots. Enjoy yourself! I won’t cry, I promise.

        Bottom line: If you want to spend serious money on iPod-compatible computer speakers, you need to look at these. They might be the best sounding ones available.

  20. wow, i’m surprised at the amount of internet dbaggery and hate being generated by these. they are gorgeous, imho, and i applaud the designer coming here to explain his reasoning behind the materials chosen. i wish i had the money for them. i would buy them.

  21. Geez, guys. I don’t care for the aesthetic of these, either, but obviously some people do. Different opinions!

  22. i find that the speakers look cool but they look like something i could make myself if i had the time and the porcelain cones. 500$? a bit too much i guess i could shop around and custom make the parts for maybe 100-150 euros.

    but this is not the point of this is it? you could probably make a suit identical to gucci’s for much less (actually a better suit) but it wouldn’t be a gucci. if you buy these you buy an item featured in BB and be smug about it. sound quality has nothing to do with this.

    btw sound quality is long lost in the era of ipod docks and speakers. 600$ for top end ipod all-in-ones? wtf. you can buy a 200-250$ yamaha amp and some b&w speakers for 300$ and you have a great stereo system that sounds great but no one cares anymore. it’s all about the looks, dock and remote.

  23. i love how these forums can really bring out the best in people.

    as a design and music lover, and owner of the speaker system, I can attest to both their aesthetic and aural performance, they are simply wonderful.

    there’s nothing wrong with not liking something or evaluating it based on one’s own personal tastes or opinions but stupid, disrespectful comments only reflect poorly on the character of whoever is “bold” enough to post them.

    anyone who takes the time to bring something thoughtful and beautiful into the world deserves respect and not vitriol from armchair critics.

  24. Wow, so much hatred for the birch plywood. Do you guys get out? Half the trendy world is rocking the finply these days. And it looks fuckin’ good. Only your granddad uses non-engineered wood.

    I love ’em. Probably not where I’ll spend my $500, since my computer area is too cluttered to deserve art and I’ve got 4′ tall function-over-form ML TL speakers on either side anyhow, but I know plenty of homes where these would fit in perfectly.

  25. Has anyone actually measured the frequency response on these? Sealed speakers and single driver speakers are both relatively uncommon, and a bit of an art form to get right. Combining both would be a challenge. But they also have some theoretical advantages. Its entirely possible these things sound great.

    (I still think soft cork is not the best material to be mounting binding posts in though. A metal/porcelain/wood end cap with a cork or rubber seal would have been better.)

  26. The fact that the wire connectors on the back the speakers are crooked and misaligned in the closeup photo says alot about build quality and the awful idea to use cork in a speaker design.

    That said, all of the components used to build the speaker would likely run you about $40-60 dollars, with the exception of the ceramic enclosure which im guessing he also got a sweet deal on. $500 bucks is way too much to ask for a questionably designed speaker system. You can buy a T-amp in an aluminum enclosure for about 30-40 bucks on ebay which likely uses the exact same electrical components as this and a for another 100-200 dollars you can buy or build your own speakers which would blow these out of the water.

  27. The only thing that I’d change is the wood stands. It’s like a fat lady sitting in a beach chair. Perhaps a darker, more contrasting color – like Cherry – and a different design (it’s too simplistic for me).

    1. I have to agree with Myatu. My eyes immediately went to those cheesy-looking plywood things because they look so incongruously BAD (and I mean like, packing-material bad) next to the interesting-looking speakers. Even staining the plywood would be better than leaving it Bright Ikea Natural.

      This is my opinion only, and not meant to be taken as The Truth. I happen to like dark-stained wood. Hence: plywood, LOL.

  28. Happy to have the kickbacks theory thoroughly debunked.

    Rob, more gadget reviews, plz! I miss BBG.

    Re. plywood – I have one of those chairs with the curved plywood and it looks great – and I think the reason it looks great is because of its elegance – and I guess that’s what’s lacking in the solution here: it looks a little kludgy and betrays the other design elements which are entirely more successful.

  29. I like the plywood. Good quality plywood is stronger and less warp-prone than solid wood, and leaving it unfinished is strikes me as the only choice aesthetically consistent with the rest of the speakers. The price seems appropriate for a limited run product. I wouldn’t be surprised if the estimates of the material costs are correct, so that the marginal cost of each speaker is not very high. However, I don’t grudge the designer some recovery of development costs, which get spread out over the relatively few units sold. Niche products are like that. I bought a floor lamp that has a similar style and was not particularly surprised that it was a bit pricy. Were I in the market for speakers, I’d consider them. If they perform similarly to bland-looking speakers at half or a third the price, I might bite.

  30. I actually laughed at the design. If what you are purchasing is the design not audio fidelity than you have been robbed. Robbed blind.

    Can’t use plastic (cause it connotes cheap?) lets plunk a chunk of wood down for the volume control! Can’t be bothered to cast a piece of aluminum for that.

    The on/off switch is in the back of the control unit with a bright blue LED contributing to someone’s insomnia. How fast did bright blue LEDS go out of style?

    The control unit tries for the brushed aluminum esthetic but has cheap easy (and steel) phillips screws interrupting every face of brushed aluminum.

    Oh your control unit needs more heft… Add a slug of cast iron to the base!

    Everything going into or out of the control unit can’t be centered either. You can’t even center the volume control!

    Pink PAIRS of wires ending in banana plugs? The receptacles for some of those banana plugs are jammed into cork in the back of the speakers?

    The ceramic, the drivers, and their stands look O.K. but everything else is a design failure. Easy choices that make for a bad design. Seriously a design that would fail in a sophomore industrial design class.

    1. Dr: Thanks for your worthless opinion.

      I reiterate my previous point:
      “So many haters in this thread. I would like for all the design critics to post their designs for anything.”

      Come on, azzhol… what have you designed? Nothing?

      Thought so.

    2. Wow, I love that you even figured that the Phillips heads screws were some kind of mistake or omission on the part of the designer. “D’oh! I made a brushed aluminum surface, but could work out how to attach it so I just banged some screws in!”

      The fact that you couldn’t tell that the screws were included to add to the industrial look of the amplifier, with its aluminum sides, cast iron base and exposed wiring, means that one can probably safety ignore the rest of your post.

  31. The speakers are beautiful, mostly because of the material used. but the stands seem to strangle the streamlined design of the cones. they look as if they can´t breathe in these small chairs. i can hear them crying! and the plywood is way too thick.
    my first opinion was: beautiful speakers -> clumsy partial aesthetics.
    what about black acrylic/pc/laser cutted aluminium sheets stands or glass? even a thin wire stand would match the cones better.

    for my opion, there are too many different materials (and therefore too many colours, surface structures) used in the design. a more minimalistic version and reworked sizes of some parts (slider knob – or a rotary knob for better handling from distance, thinner cables, smaller ports, cables from amp going hidden from the back, no blue leds!) could make a solid product.

    im also interested in frequency response, resonance freqs and other audio tests.

    greetings and my full respect for your work!

  32. The great thing about trying to design a speaker that both looks and sounds great is that you get twice as many hacks coming out to criticize your work.

    These reminded me of the nOrh as well, but I do not believe that manufacturer has anything in the desktop range. Nor do those speakers come with their own amplification. In fact, it’s the included amplification that suggests to me that the market for this speaker doesn’t really include audiophiles who often like to try optimizing sound by changing out some component or another. Instead, this looks like it’s more intended for the B&O crowd: people who will give up some acoustic design for visual design.

    The fact that the design is not to everyone’s liking, but that some people love it is probably the best evidence that visual design is a profound part of the product; some people despise all of the mid-century modern designers. To me, the speakers are nice enough, but they wouldn’t really be at home with the rest of my decor.

    Since anyone can see what the speakers look like, Rob’s review answers the only real lingering question: do they sound good? While it seems that he hasn’t a lot of experience with truly high end gear, perhaps that’s for the best. Given that this doesn’t really seem to be an audiophile product, the opinion of someone with less specialized taste might actually be preferable. I’d never recommend these to an audionut, but I might consider recommending them to someone for whom visual design is important, but who also will appreciate better-than-Best Buy sound.

    Finally, I just wanted to think Rob for generally being the most open minded BoingBoinger when it comes to admittedly sometimes ridiculous stereo stuff. Rather than rush to judge a product without actually hearing it, as so many “skeptics” do, I appreciate that he actually gives it a listen and tries to evaluate these things on their own merit. Hopefully, someone will reward him with a demo unit of something truly high end so he can start to appreciate what’s just over the hill.

  33. teapot, you have no idea what I’ve designed but you are gonna call me an azzhol and say my opinion is worthless? Thank you my fragile little teapot, in that case give you more of what you can’t stand to hear:

    I’ve spent the last 10 years designing DVDs. When they get posted online my design (jacket , cover, menu system) is gone. Some clients want it done so cheaply or so horribly (with ads before the menu) that I know my design isn’t important to everyone.

    I also know how to design phisical things and have a 4 year degreee in that…

    I know it’s easy to criticize but I laughed at the sight of this. Seriously the wood on the volume control was laugh out loud funny.

    I know how to quickly make physical things. This is not too different from what I might knock out quickly for a one-off. I would be ashamed if I was making even hundreds of these.

    I see it’s driven by a utilitarian need plus a desire for “real” materials, but it’s just not a super design. It tries to be an “honest” design to the point where it’s painfully self-conscious but not self conscious enough to go back to the drawing board and improve itself.

    So what we have here is not audio fidelity, the specs say 70khz-20,000khz reproduction so no deep sound. What we have here is not design but “honest materials” showcased in painfully ridiculous ways.

    It’s easy to see, it’s obvious, and it not a crime or even rude to point that out. I trying to do everyone else a favor by pointing out there is nothing worth buying here. After the endorsement of the article above corrective action is so deeply needed.

    1. So a degree makes you more qualified to judge aesthetics? Ha ha ha… that’s a pretty funny one.

      I think it’s obvious that a lot of people really like the way these speakers look. You’re not providing a valuable service with your opinions presented as some kind of authoritative fact.

    2. I trying to do everyone else a favor by pointing out there is nothing worth buying here.

      Have you listened to these speakers? I’m guessing No.
      Did you respond to my actuall point? No.

      Well then how are you at all qualified to make that judgement? At least Rob listened to the speakers. You really love yourself, don’t you?

      I’ll re-post it because you are obviously having trouble reading:
      I would like for all the design critics to post their designs for anything.

      So…. you tell me you design things (no proof, no posts of work) – things which are clearly not in the object design realm. You then try to regain some validity by stating you have studied object design for 4 years (yet again, no proof, no posts of your work).

      Sorry bro, DVD menus are so far from this system than your comparison is worthless. I can imagine someone buying these speakers and sitting there, enjoying the aesthetic of their purchase, while also enjoying their main purpose – to make sound.

      Now, while I do enjoy easily browsing to the section of the DVD I wanna watch, I dont sit there enjoying the aesthetic of the menu. Well, maybe a 2 second *huh* of interest if the menu is particularly interesting, but thats it. I’m certainly not going to put on a DVD to watch the menu and I cant imagine a situation where a discussion might erupt about its design. Stop big-noting yourself. Your credentials suck.


  34. I’m a designer. My initial reaction to Joey Roth’s speakers was one of anger. Not because I don’t like the design, but rather because they are SO INEXPENSIVE. I’ve been working on a speaker design for years. My price will be around $2000/pr, without an amp. Yes, they will sound better. But my audience and market is the same as Joey’s – design lovers who appreciate good fidelity. So, damn you Roth. Damn you for finding the sweet spot. I wish I had.

    So many spoiled consumers in this world conditioned to expect ridiculously low prices based on an our system of free trade wage slavery.

    1. “So many spoiled consumers in this world conditioned to expect ridiculously low prices based on an our system of free trade wage slavery.”

      huh? so people are spoiled for wanting quality and reasonable prices? excuse me that i do not want to pay every “hand made” product through the nose and i prefer something far superior yet mass produced for the same price. and 500$ for a pair of pc speakers is far from INEXPENSIVE for most people.

  35. absolutetrust has it dead on.

    Dv – If these speakers truly reproduce only sound at frequencies of 70 kHz to 20,000 kHz, then no one will listen to them; you can comfort yourself that you are right about something – they have no deep (and in fact no audible) sound.

  36. OK, I’ve read all the discussion about the plywood stands, and to me, the criticism has a point. Looking at these speakers head-on, the plywood stands are distracting from the form of the ceramic pots, especially the small bracing element below the pot. It’s an annoying bloop.

    I imagine these speakers supported from the back on some kind of black stands, so the “heavy”-looking stone pots just “float on air” — THAT thought is much more appealing to me, especially if you’re putting the pots next to an iMac, which has that idea going on already. — Or maybe it’s just too too cliché and I’m a jerk.

    And yeah, any jerk can second-guess, and I’m an even bigger jerk since I don’t have flowerpots, stands, or the time to actually make it work.

    I am glad to hear that the speakers sound good. I have heard enough other single-driver systems to know that good sound IS possible, assuming you don’t mind the loss of bass response. — And no, that’s NOT a ridiculous statement. Reproducing below 100Hz is difficult to impossible in a small enclosure. Better to send that to a subwoofer jack, and too bad this system doesn’t have one.

  37. Joey Roth has apparently sent a set of these speakers to various tech-blogs of which he has an affiliation with and that do not specialize in audio tech for reviews.

    He has NOT offered these up for review or accomodated requests to review these from any blog or publication that specializes in audio.

    I wonder why?

    1. Assuming that you’re correct (since you’ve provided no evidence of your accusation), I would guess that this has more to do with how he views his market. As I (anonymously) argued above, I don’t think this is meant to be targeted as an audio first product. I think this is more a design first product that happens to have audio that would be acceptable or even good to most people.

      It’s amazing to me that so many people are missing the point of this review which is: if you like the looks of this product, but are afraid that it’s going to sound terrible, don’t worry. The review isn’t about trying to argue that the looks of this should be aesthetically appealing to everyone. It’s not trying to argue that this is the last word in fidelity or even that it’s the best sound at the price point.

      It’s in the article itself, “People are going to buy them because of the looks, and then worry about whether the audio quality lives up to the price tag. So, does it? It does, so long as you’re happy paying a premium for design.” and “To be blunt, if you’re concerned about the existence of equally good-sounding gear at lower prices, you’re probably not the intended audience.”

      Why is it impossible to have a post on audio equipment on any general purpose gadget blog without engendering infinite discourse on value?

      As far as aesthetics, I think I now see the point being made about the plywood. What the Eames and others did was use the malleable nature of wet plywood to bend it into beautiful organic shapes. Looking at these stands again, there’s nothing that was done that took the inherent properties of plywood into consideration. You could have accomplished the same with a solid block of wood. It’s not something I would have seen if it weren’t pointed out, but I do agree that it’s a reasonable criticism. On the other hand (and the only thing stupider than arguing aesthetic is arguing aesthetic online), to me these are far better looking than the Focal system that was linked to above, which looks like a million other products in Best Buy.

    2. He has NOT offered these up for review or accomodated requests to review these from any blog or publication that specializes in audio.

      And……you represent a syndicate of all the world’s audio-specializing blogs and publications? It’s hard to avoid the impression that he didn’t provide you with a freebie.

      Also, after reading all the comments in the course of my duties, I finally looked at the speakers. Having studied furniture design with a top designer, I think they’re quite snazzy. The anti-plywood comments are hilarious. It’s been a featured material in some of the best design of the last seven decades. I recommend Adolf Loos’ Ornament and Crime as a cure for design-luddism.

    3. So which is your audio-blog that he didn’t send the speakers to? Does it have the following that BoingBoing does?

  38. octopod,
    Youre right. A nationally released cell phone gets a single sentence review here, while a poorly engineered speaker designed by a recent college grad gets about 4 posts devoted to this tripe, an interview with the designer Joey Roth and an extensive positive review.

    The difference? Joey Roth is friends with the people on Boingboing and apparently Motorola is not.

    1. The difference? Joey Roth is friends with the people on Boingboing and apparently Motorola is not.

      Apparently you’ve wandered to BB from some online shopping site. BB features the work of artists, designers and makers.

  39. Nothing wrong with using a select grade of Baltic birch plywood if executed with excellence. That little cantilevered stick should be another material, though. Either aluminum billet or solid maple might be nicer to behold. The felt pad could be slightly better concealed but it doesn’t offend. I would reconsider the wood slider know as well and a little narrower would work better aesthetically. It’s slightly chunky.

    I have little doubt that they sound OK and certainly adequate as computer speakers, though I am not familiar with the drivers themselves. The mass of the ceramic can’t hurt bass response and the cone shape would preclude any possibility of internal standing waves.
    I question whether they produce adequate high frequencies without a tweeter but this is not an audiophile offering as much as it is a sculptural statement or something.

    I have a pair of Creative T10 powered desktop speakers that I got for $35.00 and they are more than adequate for PC playback (I am not mixing or editing audio ot anything, but I do have a studio/musician/pro audio background). They are two-way and have surprisingly high mass ported enclosures that deliver pretty decent overall sound for the money. The volume pot is cheap and noisy though, as usual with cheap speakers, so I control it elsewhere. Good bang for the buck.

    For serious playback I have some kick-ass re-vamped vintage Tannoys (1979 HPDs) in correctly-engineered (by Tannoy) custom-made floor-standing enclosures of top quality that I have had since 1980.

    BTW, I seriously doubt you’ll be achieving sufficient back-pressure to blow the corks out. LOL.
    Not at desktop SPL levels, unless if you substitute a 1Mw Carver power amp.
    Then again, I’m not an engineer but I have my own pocket-liner.

    Here is a rather interesting and clever application of Baltic birch (AKA Russian birch) in loudspeaker enclosures.
    Note the driver looks quite similar in design to the one in this post, though accompanied by a tweeter.

  40. jjj, Are you angry with the designer, BoingBoing, or the moderators? Whomever has raised your ahckels, I would advise that your own blog is the best place to grind your axes.

  41. If design can have aspirations of being art, then mission accomplished. Its clearly controversial, unique, and destined to be rather exclusive.

    Personally, I think they are beautiful. Personally.

    That’s not to say that as a designer I might make some different choices. But I can certainly respect the decisions made…

    As an anthropological aside, I enjoy posts like this that result in responses that start with “these are crap” and gradually mellow to, “it is my opinion that these are crap”.

    Now if Mr. Roth would design a ceramic popcorn popper for me, I would enjoy this all the more. Shame I am so late to the party.

  42. like some other products, was designed for a special customer target meabe, all those who look the balance art & tec, for my is a decent and functional art-tec-vintagedesign gig, congrats Mr.Roth, the only problem i hace ti save money 6 months to have one, I live in Mexico :-/

    Sorry for my bad english.
    greetings from Mexico.

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