We Ask 10 Questions For High-End
During Enjoy the Music.com's very special 25th Anniversary we're asking various high-end audio manufacturers to answer the same ten questions. Their answers may surprise you! This month we're featuring Jim Thompson, owner and chief designer of Egglestonworks. Music is the soul of Memphis: Birthplace of Rock 'n 'Roll and Blues; Home of Sun Records, Gibson Guitars and Stax Records... and Elvis. For more than 150 years, the rhythms of Memphis musicians have spilled from clubs and bars out onto historic Beale Street, which forms the cultural backbone of our city. Only such a music-minded metropolis could have given rise to EgglestonWorks.
More than a quarter-century ago, a group of obsessed craftsmen started building artistically designed, one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture for collectors. Perhaps inevitably, their love of art and music inspired the company to create loudspeakers, which combined the highest possible audio performance with unrivalled aesthetic beauty. In 1997, EgglestonWorks introduced the Andra, which was immediately embraced by recording engineers and music lovers around the world and praised as one of the finest speakers ever produced.
Since the beginning, the underlying goal of all EgglestonWorks loudspeakers is to strike that powerful, emotional chord naturally present in live music, to recreate the palpable realism of a live performance, complete and authentic to the most miniscule detail. Accomplishing this goal involves the two most critical aspects of speaker design: accuracy and musicality.
Q. What is your first memory of falling in love with music?
A. My dad was a musician and owned a music store selling pianos and organs mainly to churches. His real love was playing the organ, and we had two or three of them in our house. Many nights of the week and most weekends, our house was filled with gospel music. I loved how many sounds he could get that organ to make.
Q. How did you first get introduced to high-fidelity audio gear?
A. I worked in a law firm in college running errands, etc. This also meant that I was the go-to person for dog walking, baby sitting and house-sitting. One of the attorneys that i would housesit for was a super gadget freak and had a great system. He spent a lot of time with me showing me how everything worked. I suppose he knew I'd mess with it, so it would be better if I knew what i was doing. I had no idea about hi-fi at that level before. He had Conrad Johnson amps, some Sonic Frontiers pieces, and the absolute mind-blowing (to me at that time) Mark Levinson 31 transport. I couldn't afford those things, but I was hooked.
Q. What is your favorite piece of vintage hi-fi, and why?
A. When i was a kid, who didn't love the Nakamichi RX-202 cassette deck? I also would have loved (still love) to own a Dragon. But now, I am fascinated with the Sansui CA-3000. There is just something about the shiny silver knobs on that black faceplate.
Q. When did you decide to start a high-end audio company?
A. The decision was less about starting a high-end company, and more about deciding not to let one die. I started working for EgglestonWorks in 1996, and in 1999, we filed for bankruptcy. How that happened is a long story, but I knew the company had value. My love of music had also deepened as had my fascination for design. With all of that in mind, I bought the company out of bankruptcy and started down the long road to making it a success.
Q. What, and when, was your company's first product?
A. Our first real product was the Andra. We had some other earlier models, but the Andra was the first viable product. It debuted in 1996/1997.
Q. What challenges did you face during those early years?
A. The main challenge to any new company is being completely unknown. You have to find a way to differentiate yourself quickly and prove that what you are producing has value. We got a quick shot in the arm early on when Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering bought some Andra's and then commissioned a custom pair of speakers for his main studio. That definitely helped get people to take notice.
Q. How have your products evolved over the years?
A. We used to focus on our line of speakers as a line. Meaning that a lot of thought went into where each new product fit within the line. We still do that. But we also used to think hard about how each model competed with the other models in our own line. That is to say, we would not have a lower priced speaker out-perform a higher priced speaker in some areas such as bass response. The evolution of thought now is that each model is going to be the absolute best it can be at that price point regardless of other models in the line. We see this as focusing on building in the highest value to every model in the line. We try to squeeze every ounce of performance out of every model.
Q. What is your company's most popular product(s)?
A. The Andra is in its 4th iteration and still is probably the most popular. However the speakers in the new Artisan Series — Nico EVO, Emma EVO and brand new Oso are making serious moves to take over that title of most popular. If there is a "best" speaker in our line, I'd say it's the Viginti. I feel like the Viginti is the perfect mix of design and performance.
Q. What is your next planned product offering and its' features?
A. We just released the Oso (or we were officially supposed to at AXPONA 2020). It is the top of our entry level Artisan Series of speakers. It features a single 1" tweeter, two 6" mid's and a 10" side-firing woofer. The Oso is a really big sound in a deceivingly small package.
Q. What advancements do you speculate high-end audio will offer ten years from now?
A. I hope to see more ease of use advancements: voice command, etc. The reason is that the easier the system is to use, the more acceptable the purchase becomes as something the whole family can enjoy.