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How much is too much? My friend Dan is unusually patient. You might say he can afford to be since he's well off. But that's no reason for abuse. Consider the gestation of this order which was solicited by the manufacturer, Clayton Shaw. The exchange begins July 9th, 2012. "Hello Dan. Spatial is introducing two groundbreaking new products so a newsletter is in order. The Summer 2012 newsletter is attached in PDF form. Feel free to call or email with any questions."

To which Dan replied: "Hello Clayton, before I pre-order a speaker, could you tell me what kind of driver is inside and what would be the explanation of the linearity?" Now came the expected tech explanation. Or sales spiel if you're cynical. "The drivers are from Selenium, a large Brazilian company who supply high-end pro and studio drivers. They're a competitor to Beyma who produce the coaxial unit in your Emerald Physics CS2.7. The linear acoustical response is achieved partially by the characteristic frequency response of the drivers themselves but mainly due to passive analog circuitry that controls acoustic beam formation. Normally line-source and point-source speakers will exhibit changing amplitude response and radiation pattern as you move away and to the side of the speaker. Controlled directivity designs can minimize polar response irregularities (Emerald Physics) but there has not been a way to maintain the frequency response as distance increases.  The Soliton employs a technique from underwater acoustic communication technology that solves both problems at the same time (known as a Spherical Cap Beam Formation Radiator). This is some pretty amazing and nutty stuff and works perfectly in air-acoustics applications as translated by Keele. Basically, if you can generate a perfect cylinder-shaped acoustic phase front, all your problems go away. Normally a speaker's response shape will continuously degrade as the microphone moves away from the speaker surface, even at a distance of a few inches. This technique shows no degradation up to 35ft away and almost 360° about the horizontal axis. The use of an array of small wideband drivers in a one-way format allows a much more cohesive coherent listening experience plus treble extension to beyond 20kHz and lightning-fast rise times. Since the sound level does not drop with distance, the best analogy might be listening to a full-range driver like the Lowther from 6 inches away. It appears to be impossible to get separate woofers and tweeters to ever sound correct on music so I am very happy about going to a full-range approach without crossover. Hopefully this explanation is sufficient. Let me know otherwise. Btw, we can provide custom colors besides black and white based on the Plexiglass solid colors available."

Having previously dealt with Clayton, Dan was agreeable. "I trust you and your skills and decided to order a pair. Would prefer  either dark burgundy red or black please." He received an invoice and wired the funds the same day. Now set your clock to July 12th, 2012. Tick tack, tick tack. By September 8th 2013—not a few months but more than a year later—Dan requested an update. I did say that he is one patient man. Clayton's reply shows that by then he'd abandoned the Soliton design and was back to Emerald Physics derivatives (by that time the company had been acquired by former dealer Walter Liederman of Underwood Hifi).

"I owe you a major apology for letting you down on this order. As mentioned previously I've had a major financial setback with my 9-year old having 2 brain surgeries over the last 18 months. The medical bills have completely overwhelmed us. I would like to offer you the option of applying your payment to a new speaker coming out soon called the Lumina. I have attached some information about it for your review. The Lumina is an extremely high-performance high-efficiency design with open-baffle beryllium coaxial driver and active bass section. Efficiency is 100dB at 8Ω. There are several models to choose from shown on the spec sheet. If this is a more appealing option, I would be happy to change the order. If not I will continue working toward finishing the original order." Bait'n'switch?

Dan proved surprisingly understanding. "Sorry to hear about your problems. The answer is yes. However could you please define 'coming soon'?" The answer was another sell. "The Lumina is an amazing speaker so I think you will really enjoy it. We are just now starting to take orders so our plan is to start shipping in about 30 days. The high-gloss painting portion is sub'd out to a high-end automotive painting shop in Salt Lake that specializes in exotic cars so it is a premium surface finish. Take a look at the different models shown on the spec sheet. There is a 10-inch diameter Beryllium model (10Be) and a 12-inch Beryllium model, the 12Be Reference. They both sound essentially the same but with the 12Be Reference designed for larger rooms and better low bass extension. The new coaxial unit is extremely smooth and extended. It represents the state-of-the-art in high-efficiency drivers. Also please indicate colour as shown in attachments: Graphite, White or Yellow. We can also arrange custom colors if you prefer."

By October 16th 2013, Dan had been put down for the Lumina 12Be Graphite and wired what by now was a total of €11'000 to Clayton. Dan asked for a delivery date. "Your pair is scheduled for shipment on Wednesday November 27th." That day passed by. On December 24th Dan requested another update. After receiving no reply, he asked again on January 23rd. Now we're obviously in 2014. This inquiry was answered. "Everything is going well, it is just taking longer than expected. We did a second round of baffles to be painted to obtain a flawless finish. We still have several steps such as wiring, crossover installation, packaging and building of crates. I appreciate your patience and don't worry, we are working through this."

By February 3rd Dan requested a delivery date. "I expect that we will be ready to ship by the end of this month" was the reply. Then the radar signals disappeared again. By April 9th Dan contacted me about it. On his behalf I asked Clayton what the hold-up was and why Dan's latest inquiries had gone without replies. "The speaker project has obviously been through multiple delays primarily to get the gloss finish perfect. I have replied right back to Dan each time he emailed me within a day or so. I am betting his junk mail filter is intercepting my emails.... The latest is we are down to wiring, testing and shipping. The shipping crates should be ready in the next week or so. With the Chicago show looming I expect to pack and ship the speakers as soon as we return from Chicago. Let him know how sorry I am that the project has run on this long." Was there only one pair to require waiting until the show was over?

With that show scheduled for April 25-27th, Dan now was looking at a May 2014 delivery at the soonest. With his original transaction dating back to July 2012, how much patience was too much? Who could fault him for losing trust and worrying that he'd been ripped off? Checking out Clayton's Lumina pages, cynics would have noted that by publishing date (April 10th) all representations of the Lumina models were still computer graphics. This reminds us that on the web, anyone can be anyone as long as they've got some basic graphic design skills to throw up an HTML page.

On May 5th I checked in with Clayton to find out how this story would conclude. "We are preparing Dan's shipment this week as planned. The speakers are ready. Crates are due here Wednesday. The plan is to complete the packing and paper work by Friday. I will be emailing Dan with the freight quote this week after we get it." I took the liberty suggesting that considering how two years had passed, the very least Clayton could do was not to bother Dan with the freight for yet another payment prior to delivery. But that wasn't really my business. When the first shipping quote came out higher than expected, Clayton promised to furnish a more attractive one by May 12th. I took off for the Munich HighEnd show that week and would connect with Dan the following week. Hopefully he'd have his long-awaited prize by then.

Not. By the 15th the InXpress Denver office had informed Clayton that Dan could pay them directly for the ship fees with a wire transfer or PayPal. Dan only needed an invoice to settle this final bill. By the 19th he inquired again. "Hi Clayton, another week has passed and no news from you." By June 6th however he'd "just gotten news that the speakers are in customs awaiting clearance because the paper work is not proper." Now things were finally on the home stretch. By July 4th Dan had returned from a few weeks abroad. The next morning he'd set up the speakers and "listened for 5 hours. Much to my surprise, the sound is very good, unexpectedly good I can even say. You must come and listen for yourself if only to insure that I didn't somehow lose the discrimination of my ears." In the end, extreme patience did turn out to be virtuous after all. One practical takeaway of this tale could be never to pay the full amount upfront if you're a customer but hold back 50% until a shipment is ready to leave; and to really manage communications in a fastidious manner if you're a manufacturer who for whatever reasons must default again and again on promised delivery schedules.

Or as Dan put it when Clayton on July 6th asked "please let me know that the speakers arrived safely, how the setup went and whether you happy with the sound and look of the product?", "other than that they arrived late, then stayed two weeks in customs and I had to pay another $3'000 to get them cleared, everything else is good. While I'm still testing them, I'm pleasantly impressed with the sound."