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An Hour With Dr. Roger West (A California Audio Show 2019 Experience)

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Dr. Roger West of Sound Lab (Dr. Roger West Seminar, 10:30am, Saturday, July 17, 2019)

I was honored by Constantine Soo, Publisher of Dagogo.com, to jointly moderate with him a Q&A seminar with Dr. Roger West of Sound Lab, which has produced distinctive electrostatic speakers since 1978. It was an honor, since the speakers are legendary, and I had the pleasure of reviewing for Dagogo the Ulitmate 545 last year.

Roger set the tone for the event with his cowboy boots, copiously prepared notes, and fierce resistance to anything but a full out effort at preaching the Sound Lab gospel and entertaining the crowd. Roger is an octogenarian, I presume, and everyone could see that this was not an easy task, yet he proudly worked through his notes and visuals making sure that everyone had full appreciation of the design and beauty of music in life and how Sound Lab products present it. We are losing the fathers of the industry of yesteryear, so I knew we were witnessing a rarity, personal recollection from a seasoned manufacturer.

Roger began with a nod to the mystery of music and ears that enjoy it. Then he proceeded to a brief description of the design and operation of an electrostatic speaker. This was a panacea to the tendency to jump into product design or reduce the experience of listening down to grooves and bits. As he progressively took the audience deeper into his goals of scale, impact and focus in speaker design he visually displayed the technology employed – single diaphragm drivers, critical dampening to ameliorate the effects of resonances, curvature of the driver for proper dispersion, and other enhancements  – to overcome obstacles to better performance. He forcefully denied the perception that electrostatic speakers make more demands on amplifiers by noting that an ESL speaker’s higher impedance occurs in the lower frequencies, where the musical spectrum requires more dynamic power, and the lower impedance occurs in the Treble, which musically demands less dynamic power.

Roger spent several minutes enthusing about Sound Lab’s PX technology, which uses a lattice backing to improve the rigidity of the stators, as well as Bass Focus, which segregates the frequency zones into a vertical mirror image placement with the Bass at the extreme top and bottom, and the treble in the center. In my review I called this a form of D’Appolito arrangement, a concept Dr. West referred to in his seminar. Proudly he announced how it was revealed that by that arrangement the average increase in Bass was a measured +6dB!

As he led the talk to a close, Dr. West showed a visual history of the development of Sound Lab designs, from the first model which looked quite like Roger Sanders’ model 10, to a circular, 360 degree radiating, kettle drum-like speaker with a bass driver in the bottom for light commercial applications. He touched on the more obscure Home Theater models such as the MiniStat and the WallStat In-wall Speaker. The most impressive effort by far was the gargantuan 20-foot-tall installation in what Roger referred to as the world’s largest hall.

In the question and answer period Roger fielded earlier submitted questions including, “Do you ever plan on producing a headphone?” (Answer: Roger is not comfortable putting a person’s head between 35,000 Volts.) Another was direct, and boiled down to, “What do you want to do in retirement, and is there a plan for succession?” (Answer: He is retired, and doing what he loves. The succession inquiry was ignored.) In that respect Sound Lab is a closed lab, which won’t reveal its secrets, at least not yet. Roger doesn’t seem to want to quit. He reminds me of my father, who worked until he was 82.

Long may you live, Roger! You have brought literally a towering achievement to this industry, and ethereal enjoyment to many! Even beholding him in his twilight, it was easy to see the inspiration that has made Sound Lab one of the factories of delight for audiophiles!

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2 Responses to An Hour With Dr. Roger West (A California Audio Show 2019 Experience)


  1. Darryl Lindberg says:

    Owned and loved a per of A3s for 15 years. If my various international moves hadn’t interfered, I probably still would own them–or a larger version!

  2. john vogt says:

    Hi,

    Thanks for posting this, I was not able to attend and was hoping someone would post a recap or video of Roger’s presentation.
    BTW, in the third paragraph next to last line I think you meant to say that LOWER impedance occurs in the treble.

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