Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chris Owen - A Friend for Life

Sometimes a little weird and often very geeky, Chris has the largest heart in the industry. 
Photo of Chris Owen and Melissa Owen from Clarity Cable at the Consumer Electronics Show
Chris and Melissa Owen at CES
Many people know that Chris Owen is my long time friend. But many do not know how we met. I thus thought about sharing the story.
At a local car audio show sometime in 1990 - in Kansas I think -, a guy looked at my red Sentra and said that it was very nice. He listened to it and asked about my 9 pound Cabasse tweeters. He then asked if I was interested in listening to his car.
At the time, I was still quite ignorant about anything audio. I enjoyed every minute of these shows but was not getting predictable or repeatable results in my own system despite of my now well recognized hearing ability. So, spending time with people who shared my interests was a fun way to be useless to society.
Not Chris' Z but close to what it looked like
As we walked out of the show's area and approached a trashy-old Nissan Z, Chris asked me to jump in. I looked inside and wondered how? The car was full of Burger King wrappers and garbage all over the car. I shuffled the clutter around and sat in.
Where's the radio, I asked? With a sinister look, he pulled out a Sony Walkman. While holding the modified disc player on one hand, he reached for a tinny black cable from under the seats. The disc begun spinning and voilĂ .
Radio Shack Minimus 7
Magic appeared right in front of my eyes. I could see a very high and deep stage. The music stretched from outside of the car to outside of the car. And it was all beautiful!
Where are your speakers? I asked, very disoriented. "Under your legs", he said. What? I looked in disbelief as a pair of cheesy Radio Shack Minimus 7's were firing upwards from the floor and towards the windshield. They were not even fastened to the car.
image of an old Audiomobile amplifier
Audiomobile Amplifier
And what amp are you running? "A refurbished Audiomobile", he said. "I got it free".
To be fair, I later found out that Chris modified everything. So don't go out and buy these components thinking that they will create the same magic. In fact, this is what makes Chris awesome. He is the perpetual underdog. He loves teasing people with things that don't make sense. He loved demonstrating that his Frankenstein sounded better than any Phoenix Gold or Rockford based mega system of the time. And you know what? He was right. It smoked everything I had heard. While there were vehicles that imaged very well, like the Speaker Works' Grand National, none did everything as well and as musically as what I had just heard. His system had just proved that you can in fact input garbage, from the car to the components, and get perfection as output.
From that moment on, our relationship started out of my fascination with his great insights. Chris and I would go on to spend thousands of ours together in a never ending balance where we would teach the other something new all of the time. Chris has been the most intellectually stimulating person I have shared audio with.


  1. CHRIS IS ONE OF A KIND. hey alberto, aside from dynamics ,what do you think made the speakerworks gn sound good to you?

  2. I think that, at the time, the Grand National scared many. Let me explain.
    When Eric and Patrick built their car, most sound systems were tonally OK but created a blurry Bose-like effect with space. You were just able to discern right from left, but everything else was lost in a blur.
    Those were the days when more speakers meant better. In the best cars, a center image would bleed all across the dash; scattering fragments of all sizes and weights.
    But the Holdaways created a system that suspended images in mid air without blur. Such experience must have been unnerving at best, if not scary, to the many who were not familiar with spatial reconstruction within a car. Even Mungal's Grand National could not escape distorting physical dimensions and balance. Because the Canadian Audio Radio's Grand National shrunk the images in order to try to achieve balance across the stage and as both cars were contemporaries, it should be evident that the the reason for the Speaker Work's sound was not the car.
    The Holdaways broke out of the proverbial box. They created many of the tools still in use by many of the best today. Because of their innovations, many criticized things like tonal balance, for example. But to discount their accomplishment would be myopic. Thanks to their work, I was able to build many great vehicles that took what I liked and left out what I didn't. And this is the whole point about knowledge. Once you know something new, you are free to use it if you'd like; all without impoverishing the donor.
    So the answer to your question is that what most impressed me was the car's image specificity during a time when achieving one was as difficult to understand as today's thesis that dark matter pervades the universe.

    1. so going outside of the box and into solid forms of application and science, combined with creative and unconventional thinking, is the key to getting great sound. wise words alberto