Interview - Troy Joseph Crowe of Joseph Crowe Audio

[Italian version here]

Author: Arvind Kohli - TNT USA
Date: October, 2020

[Crowe Audio design]

Arvind Kohli >Tell us about where the interest in audio began?
Troy Joseph Crowe> Audio has been a fascination since childhood, especially speakers. Once I took the speaker out of my dad's alarm clock, and tried to put it back together. But the alarm didn't go off, and my dad was pretty unhappy to say the least. Then I wanted a subwoofer at age 9, my granddad built a cabinet based on my hand sketch. And then in high school every single project was a speaker project, that was how I built my first pair.

Arvind Kohli >How did you get into Audio as a career choice?
Troy Joseph Crowe> I attended the Durham College in Toronto, Ontario to become a Mechnical Engineering Technologist. Then started out in the automotive industry in machine design, for 16 years. In the middle, there was a stint with Adamson Systems Engineering in their R&D dept and I designed their first 21" subwoofer, called the T21, which is still in production.

In 2011, I started building speakers as a hobby, and a blog to go along with. I began to get a lot of requests for my speaker plans or help with custom designs. As a result, in 2019 I founded "Joseph Crowe Audio". It was a huge plunge, especially with 3 young kids. I have to give credit to my wife who supported my dream, and she continued to work her full time job. I quit a well paying job, and announced it on my YouTube channel. Immediately a follower from New York, Madera Handcrafted, gave me several projects. Two more companies followed after that.

A few months into the venture, I purchased a 3-axis CNC machine, this allows me to makes prototypes not just designs. This machine is also used to build flat packs for direct retail customers. The CNC machine also provides very high quality control. To-date I am very happy with where things are at, growth seems to have been measured but steady and 2 hands have been added to the operation.

Arvind Kohli >What products and experiences have inspired you?
Troy Joseph Crowe> I have always been awed by horns designs, even back from the days at Adamson. The dynamics and realism are the draw. This inspiration translated to wanting to build horn designs, that would be a solution for the domestic environment. Though some of my current customers are from the pro-sound world, but that is not the main focus.

Also, my nightly ritual is to listen to a bit of music to wind down the day. The equipment is a means to an end. If you allow yourself to be drawn into the narrative of the song, and only very high fidelity gear provides that window into the emotional depths of the music.

Arvind Kohli >What is the state of horn design?
Troy Joseph Crowe> For the past 50 years or so, horns have been used for live sound reinforcement. That application exclusively uses the Constant Directivity design, and there has been advancements made in that realm. Constant Directivity is characterized by a pyramidical shape with fairly flat sides - off axis typically is very linear to on axis throughout the frequency range, but there is quite a bit of diffraction that is not condusive to very high fidelity requirements of high end audio. The remaining designs, especially those suitable for high end - exponential, have not had much development. My designs have springboarded from the Jean Michael La'cleach designs from about 20 years ago, a type of exponential - Jean had no commercial interests and had widely shared his calculations, but I do not have those equations. Avantgarde, for example, seems to also be similar to JMLC designs.

I have also developed his take on a bi-radial. Bi-radial is also a 4 sided design but the top and bottom walls are curved. I use a proprietary curvature design, that combines a JMLC and bi-radial design.

Arvind Kohli >How would you summarize your value proposition?
Many other outfits provide design services, but don't always also provide protypeing and measurements. I provide all three. This has helped to drastically reduce the lifecycle of development for my speaker manufacturer customers.

I have developed my own equations for horn curvature, and can see the validation of the formulations in the measurements. So meticulous measurements validate the creative designs. Madera was originally considering a 30+ year old horn design, but I was able to show the measurements of my design accomplished the same objective but with better measurements and these are now used in their flagship design.

[Crowe Audio design]

Arvind Kohli > Describe your current lineup of consumer products, and any new developments in the works?
Troy Joseph Crowe> It is important to note at the outset, that standard Consumer direct products are all unfinished, and flat pack only. Custom products can be finished, if needed. There is an intentional decision for us to never offer a line of mass produced finished product, and focus only on the DIY community. The mainstay of the business is design work for other manufacturers, and also Professional and Commercial engagements.

We currently offer the 1159 bookshelf series, there are several options available. The base of the offering is a solid hardwood front baffle, which is CNC machined with a waveguide and facility for rear mounted drivers - $450CDN per pair. Plan for the cabinet are included, or can be ordered as a flat pack for an additional $450CDN per pair. There are additional options for drivers and crossovers, or you can add your own. Customization is available for your choice of drivers.

Model 1198, which is a floorstander is also in the works. Only the floorstander will be offered with a Purifi woofer, and a SB Acoustics Beryllium tweeter. The full package is $3,175CAD per pair; and $1,680CAD per pair without drivers.

Another product line is a series of solid wood bi-radial horns. The basic models are designed for 2000, 1200,800 or 290 hz; or can be customized for any size in between.

There also is a series of bass cabinets for 8", 12" or 15" drivers; all of course only available unfinished in flat packs.

And finally, there is the E250 dual planar front horn. It is nominally designed to be used with the BG Neo8 Planar drivers [not included]. And can be customized to other similar profile drivers too. The nominal material choices are Baltic birch ply or solid Walnut or Cherry. The design has now been evolved, instead of layers that need to be glued, now there are 4 petals that are simply screwed together.

Arvind Kohli > In terms of speaker design and components, what preferences have you arrived at?
Troy Joseph Crowe> Objective test data is foremost. If I start to like the sound of a component, then I dig into why that is, thru testing and data analysis [watch his YouTube channel to get a sense of his approach]. My business strategy centers around providing context to design and component choices, thru data and analysis. Some of the preferences that have developed over time are;

I only work with Baltic Birch ply or hardwoods, and never MDF - it has very poor mechanical properties. I have also been debating to use clay, ceramic finishes have wonderful properties and aesthetics too.

When choosing drivers, I have been very focused on the motors, materials and topology. I have been very impressed with ScanSpeak, they go to great lengths in their designs, eg 10F, has very powerful neody magnets and copper shorting rings. I am also working on developing my own driver, that is all I can say right now.

I have also developed a preference for the EVO line of capacitors by Mundorf. I appreciate that there are differences in speaker wire, but have not spent the time yet to confirmed via measurement to my satisfaction. I am still focused on many other aspects still since there is so much knowledge still to gain there, one day I will focus on investigating wire as well. Connections are very important, and proper soldering is very important. The use of liquid flux is critical, since bare wire will oxidize and oxidized metal is an insulator. Otherwise, gold plated connectors are important.

Arvind Kohli > As far as upstream gear, what preferences have you developed from your experiences?
Troy Joseph Crowe> I mainly listen to digital, and also some vinyl. DAC technology has come a long way, and generally newer is better . I am a fan of and use Chord products. For amplification I have a custom built class-A solid state at 15wpc, all pure silver wire. For the most part I do not use a preamp and drive directly from the DAC.

Arvind Kohli > Given the year of this interview, I have to ask - how has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted you?
Troy Joseph Crowe> There actually has been no significant impact overall. Some customers did put their projects on hold, some others seem to have gained time on their hands and started projects.

[Crowe Audio design]

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