In some quarters, it's popular to paint Big Corporate as an evil profit-driven empire which lacks all comprehension of good sound or interest in it. The usually cited suspects are Bose and Bang & Olufsen. Such a myopic world view presupposes that only tiny niche players are endowed with the necessary passion, perspicacity and pluck to advance our hifi arts. But are limited resources—financial and engineering—really the sole mother of invention?


Put differently, do more unlimited resources prevent true progress? As Pioneer demonstrated with TAD, Sony with their latest speakers and Panasonic with the recent relaunch of Technics, Big Corporate and High End needn't be mutually exclusive by definition. Unlike privately owned companies, publicly traded corporations are simply beholden to their shareholders. They must be profitable. Apple are a poster child for how profitability and corporate scale aren't antithetical to quality. When it comes to our sector so obsessed with top sound above all else, Apple also show how a change in leadership can shift focus. Steve Jobs was an audiophile who had secret meetings with Ed Meitner. Nobody believes that about Tim Cook.


In short, resources and scale are guarantors of neither high-end quality nor lack thereof. Large engineering teams and better more expensive laboratory equipment aren't fixed determinants. The vital differentiator is corporate culture. It decides on how one's resources get applied. If the focus is on advancing top-quality sound, bigger resources can only be an asset. Now vertical integration and scale of operations can even lead to higher value than a cottage industry maker who pays up to 10 times as much for the very same parts; or lacks the wherewithal to roll his own. In high-end circles, Fostex certainly look like a niche player but what they're plugged into is anything but. Consider exotic diaphragm materials to chase ever better stiffness-to-mass ratios (greater imperviousness to deformation/breakup plus lower weights to improve sensitivity). TAD under Andrew Jones pioneered the use of Beryllium. Mitsubishi first introduced Boron as seen in Diasoul speakers from Japan. With their MG models, Fostex propose Magnesium*. We'd first seen such transducers in the short-lived Esoteric MG10 and MG20 speakers co-authored with Tannoy. What single owner/operator brand could invest in such exotic technology to get proprietary Magnesium drivers made? Very few if any.
20mm Fostex MG dome tweeter, 10cm Fostex MG mid/woofer in their signature hyberbolic paraboloidally rotated surface geometry.


As the Wikipedia tells us, "Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg and the atomic number 12. It is a shiny gray solid which bears a close physical resemblance to the other five elements in group 2 of alkaline earth metals in the periodic table. They each have the same electron configuration in their outer electron shell, producing a similar crystal structure. Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and the fourth most common element in the Earth after iron, oxygen and silicon. It makes up 13% of the planet's mass and a large fraction of the planet's mantle. It is the third most abundant element dissolved in seawater after sodium and chlorine. Magnesium only occurs naturally in combination with other elements where it invariably has a +2 oxidation state. The free element (metal) can be produced artificially and is highly reactive though once produced, it is coated in a thin layer of oxide, which partly inhibits this reactivity. The free metal burns with a characteristic brilliant white light, making it a useful ingredient in flares. The metal is now obtained mainly by electrolysis of magnesium salts obtained from brine. In commerce, the chief use for the metal is as an alloying agent to make aluminium-magnesium alloys, sometimes called magnalium or magnelium. Since magnesium is less dense than aluminium, this alloy is prized for its properties of lightness combined with strength."


Since magnesium is less dense than aluminium, this alloy is prized for its properties of lightness combined with strength.
Any such statement epitomizes a transducer designer's mutually exclusive goals. The thinner and bigger he make her diaphragms, the less rigid and stable they will be when driven. Increased material thickness adds strength but also weight. And for pistonic devices meant to move many thousands of times per second, less mass is better. This basic setup is behind the current trend into 'hi-tech' materials particularly for tweeters which undergo the most rapid of movements. The expense of laboratory-grown diamond prized for its ultimate hardness thus far limits it to mostly tweeters. But in the costliest of speakers, diamond has begun to appear in larger midranges. For drivers with increased breakup/deformation challenges from larger surfaces and excursions, clever engineers exploit dissimilar material bonding. For woofers, this could be carbon skins over foam, vapour-deposited metal on paper, harder oxide layers over softer cores or similar variations on the theme. With Fostex, these transducers are 99.9% pure Magnesium, not an alloy or multi-lam.