It's like something you may’ve seen in the infamous “home” of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. If you’re an LA hipster, perhaps you even spotted a pair in some experimental director’s pad in the Silver Lake hills. But even if you don’t aspire to some Angelino coterie, designer Joey Roth’s new speakers will give your desktop, kitchen or bedroom a much-needed physical and aural makeover.
The stark majesty of the speakers begins with its name. While Roth dubbed his last creation- a sleek but robust teapot- the “Sorapot,” this latest creation goes by nothing more than “Ceramic Speakers.” For some products, a name as straightforward and naked as that would seem like a lazy oversight. However, as you set up the porcelain white horns and crank out a few tunes, you will understand just how apt a name it truly is. These speakers don’t hide behind fancy masks or clutter your space with useless features. Rather, they cut to the core, both in design and performance.
Each speaker is housed in shiny white ceramic with a cork disc that juts from its rear. The speakers themselves are exposed with hefty silver center knobs jutting from each speaker like a perky nipple. Nude indeed. Beyond the speakers themselves, there’s plenty peripherals to catch the eye. Pink cables connect to inputs within the cork backings. On the other end they slip into gold-plated binders attached to an aluminum/cast iron receiver block. Each speaker rests on minimally treated Baltic birch plywood stands.
“Enough of aesthetics for a minute,” you may demand. After all, what good is a centerfold that sounds like Sylvester Stallone when she opens her mouth? Don't worry, they won’t let you down as long as you play something that they deem worthy. See, the Ceramic Speakers are like truth serum for recorded sounds. Case in point: a low-quality MP3 version of the Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca sounds like a snail shouting through a tin can. You can’t fool these speakers. They’ll just as quickly expose the flaws of a weakly produced album as they will reveal the nuances of a layered masterpiece. This point bears special weight in a music industry epicenter such as Los Angeles. If you’re in an up-and-coming band and want to get a small crowd excited about your project at a listening party, these speakers could definitely make you stand out… as long as you produced your baby well. Don’t expect them to hide the imperfections. Your crowd will hear every wrong note, off-key backing vocal, blown-out mix. However, if you constructed your work with care, they’ll reveal nuances far better than most speakers under $1000.
To test out whether the Ceramic Speakers held any preference for one genre or another, I tried a range of sounds. First up was The Band’s self-titled “brown” album, which I listened to on both vinyl and MP3. While the vinyl won the sound battle in most regards, the MP3s held their own, especially on Richard Manuel’s haunted “Whispering Pines.” Yet no digital file could stand up to the vocal harmonies of “Across the Great Divide,” or the guitar crunch of “Lookout Cleveland.” Other albums known for their dense production, such as the Beach Boys’ perennial top-fiver Pet Sounds, fared even better. You’ll have no trouble picking out each individual voice in the “God Only Knows” coda. It didn’t seem to matter what genre I put on- reggae, folk, new wave- the intricately produced albums sounded like delicately blown-glass mobiles floating over a newborn’s head. The exquisite drum separation on T-Rex’s “Planet Queen,” the mounds of fuzz that bubbled over Funkadelic’s “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock,” the surreal organ and guitar swirls of Beach House’s “Silver Soul.” As long as you have $495 to drop and a batch of well-made music, the Ceramic Speakers will delight at least two of your senses. Petting them feels pretty damn nice too.
Where to buy in LA:
121 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice CA 90291. (800) 913-0071
424 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036, (323) 782-0173
And everywhere else: www.joeyroth.com
Output: 15 W/ channel Sensitivity: 89 dB
Frequency Range: 70 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance: 4 Ohm
Driver Materials: Paper diaphragm, aluminum phase plug, neodymium magnet, die-cast basket