Wayne Parham of Pi Speakers is an Electrical Engineer with a software consulting business, Parham Data Products, and the very passionate belief that everyone should have high quality speakers he’s become the John Beresford Tipton of Audio. Pi Speakers will sell you a completed speaker for your living room, saloon or church, but Wayne would much rather give away the plans for his speakers and then answer all your questions on how to build or modify them. Why? “I’m proud of these designs, and they work”, he says.
Just visit the Pi Speakers section of the Audio Roundtable Forum (http://audioroundtable.com/), and you will see numerous requests for plans for the various models and Wayne’s never-wavering reply: “you’ve got mail”.
Wayne says, “while I was a high school computer nerd, I wanted speakers to play Yes and Genesis louder than my friends speakers; and began looking for components to build my own.”
He was captivated by the work of Jobs and Wozniak in computing, and that was complemented by new discoveries by 2 Australian engineers, Thiele and Small, that aligned computers with speaker design. Wayne became one of the ‘first generation’ of computer- aided speaker designers and at the precocious age of 17, and wrote the PiAlign White Paper and computer program, which are the basis of his design work. It’s dead easy to stuff drivers into boxes. The real challenge is to make the drivers work together, and for that you need a crossover. After trying this and that driver and crossover alignment, Wayne came to use the woofers of Eminence and Motorola piezo tweeters. They were cheap and played loud with the few watts at his disposal from a cast-off console amplifier. That first speaker became known as the 1 Pi and is still offered on the Pi Website.
Pretty soon, the word got around town that 17 year old Wayne Parham’s inexpensive little 1 Pi sounded, with it’s 6” woofer and piezo tweeter, better than Cerwin-Vegas and Infinity’s that you could spend 3 or 4 times as much on. The reason why had to do with Wayne’s grasp of the Thiele-Small numbers and how they related to crossover design.
When you look at a speaker you see the drivers, the woofers and tweeters. What you don’t see are the crossover components that are buried in the box that tell the drivers when to play and when to shut up. And how quickly to get softer or louder as the music goes up and down the scales. That knowledge and the experience gained from building many, many variations of the 1 Pi enabled Pi Speakers to begin with a few orders from his friends’ parents.
He says, “the parents wanted larger, more sophisticated speakers and had the money to satisfy those wants.” The Theatre series with 15” woofers and compression horn tweeters evolved and took the shape
of large bass reflex boxes, both conventional and as corner horns.
According to Wayne, “of all large speaker systems, corner horns are the least obtrusive in terms of furniture arrangements and also have the potential for tighter, better controlled bass. It’s somewhat of a
mystery why they are so rare and the box-in-the-middle-of-the-room became the audio paradigm.”
Pi Speakers helped with college expenses, and helped pay the bills while he was building his computer business. And still helps to finance his other great hobby, muscle cars:
Studley Wayne at the wheel of his “trick” Olds 442
Pi Speakers has now evolved into mainly a parts and design business. Although he will still sell you a finished speaker system shipped to your door, the Pi website with it’s ubiquitous shopping cart is focused
mainly on providing driver and crossover parts for the Pi designs.
Wayne has also begun annual speaker get-togethers, the Lone Star Audio Fest (previously called Great Plains Audio Fest) and the Great Sub-Woofer shoot out. Both are held in his hometown of Tulsa,
Oklahoma although the Great Plains Audio Fest will be next held in Dallas. The GPF’s have been the ‘bring-your-own-DIY-gear’ informal shows – Wayne simply making the venue available to kindred spirits who want to meet and share ideas. As it has grown, more and more manufacturers have exhibited and the new Dallas site promises to have more of everything.
The Great Sub-Woofer Shoot-out was also held, appropriately enough at a drag strip, in conjunction with the “mine’s louder than yours” car audio guys. Pi Speakers Pi 12 sub took “loudest sub-woofer in the
world” honors with sustained 30 Hz tones at 127 decibels!
Seems like everybody on the internet wants low power SET amplifiers, which demand high-efficiency speakers. High-efficiency means Pro Audio Drivers and the conventional wisdom deems them inferior to
“audiophile” components. For those few willing to put aside their shibboleths and discover JBL, Eminence and other high efficiency, low-distortion components, Wayne Parham has designs that take ‘Pro Audio’ into the realm of ‘high end audio’.
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