Any audiophile worth his stylish cable suspenders and anti-glare goggles knows. Beside the world's best snow, Salt Lake City
-- host of the 2002 Winter Olympics -- also hosts Kimber Kable, Zu Cable, Wasatch Cable Works and, of course, the Rolls Royce of dynamic speakers, Wilson Audio Specialties of the leather-bound owner's manuals.

Granted, Scots take serious offense at being mistaken for Brits. Likewise, these various audiophile manufacturers from the Ogden and Provo townships just outside SLC might find it sorely disingenuous to be lumped in with the denizens of the famous metropolis proper like some sticky Tapioca pudding. But the hero of today's tale, young Josh Stippich -- from somewhere in the highlands of the greater SLC hood -- could care less. Spoons up! This savant sauvage of the coolest, hippest SET amps this side of Capt'n Nemo and Flash Gordon is wired to think differently - literally. Being blessed/cursed with dyslexia, his brain doesn't operate in conventional linear fashion. It won't conform to or swallow lead-feet-on-the-ground limitations. Rather, he leapfrogs like a spaceman [left] from point A directly to point M to intuit potential for M-squared. He connects that to Z and makes a U-turn to A in one flash of insight that is typical for many artists and genius inventors but confounds, eludes and thereby frustrates others endowed (handicapped?) with more conventional horizontal thinking.

Josh Stippich [physical resemblance to Tubeman on left not coincidental]
Josh first popped onto the scene during VSAC 2001, the Seattle-based annual enthusiast's show dedicated to all things tubular, horned and high-efficiency. It embraces DIY-ers and first-timers as well as established small (or larger) nichy or mainstream manufacturers. In its wake, the cyber waves rippled with talk, pix and rumors about one clearly out-of-the-box wunderkind. Josh Stippich of Electronluv had landed. Apparently newly hatched and from out of nowhere -- but with preternaturally complete and mature designs that clearly defied any instant gratification theories -- he impressed even jaded old-timers like Lynn Olson to no end.

During the same event, he was invited to take his creations from out of the Craftsman's room. He installed them in the active exhibit of Fostex-based single-driver speaker makers Cain & Cain. Proprietors Terry and Leslie took a quick liking to the young gent -- got "joshed" in insider parlance, shorthand for having your mind blown by a 26-year old -- and ordered up a custom 2A3 amp on the spot. They've been friends since and arranged to show together during the upcoming
T.H.E. Expo at CES 2003 in rooms #928 and #929 in the St. Remo. Consider this a must-hear must-see insider tip from yours truly. It's solidly based on my very recent -- infrequent flyer miles -- trip to the city of the Tabernacle (whose Sunday organ recital of the slow movement from Widor's Symphony Gotique attested beautifully to the famed acoustics of said venue: five manuals; 206 ranks; 11,623 pipes with 32-foot bass units).

An invite by Alan Kafton, maker of AudioDharma's Cable Cooker 2.5, facilitated my dispatch to the state of Utah last weekend. An informal pre-CES get-together between Josh and the Cains promised lotsa fun, good food, great company, excellent music and a story waiting to be told. Boy did it ever deliver on all counts.

Hosted by Linda Stippich, Josh's mom, and her second husband Dave Adams (Josh's step dad), our impromptu meeting also included the already mentioned couple of Terry & Leslie Cain of Walla Walla-based Cain & Cain who delivered a pair of Abby and Ben speakers for our enjoyment. Via a subsequent stint to a local grocery store, they also delivered an awesome seafood gumbo on Saturday night, kind of a "smiling challenge" repartee to Linda and Dave's most excellent feast from the prior eve.

Custom amps for one Ed Sawyer where a VV45 (front) drives an 845 rectified by twin 866 mercury vapors (right blue tube) while an RCA 83 (last tube) rectifies the VV45. Power output is 20 watts, intended speaker load a pair of MartinLogans.
Also present were Alan Kafton as well as Jim Dowdy upon whom the late Harvey Rosenberg levied sainthood with the tongue-in-cheek honorific Dowdy Lama - for his tireless, decades-long pursuit of the Thermionic Arts as well as being a key player of the Dixie Bottleheads, a DIY community in North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee.

Lastly, our pointy-eared posse included one Jay Fisher, infrequent contributor to the Robb Report (watch for his write-up on Josh in the November issue) who is also one of the artists and thematic designers responsible for the famous "The Dig" of the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island/Bahamas. That's a massive underground aquarium styled around "time capsule" rooms that represent fictitious remains of the empire of Atlantis to give this exotic feature its antique theme of submerged splendor. Jay recently completed a mural painting project on the late George Harrison's estate in Hana/Mauii, the former Beatle's beloved home away from home. Fisher looks forward to his next project, an even more formidable, far-reaching one than the Atlantis jewel, this time on St. Thomas Island. It will revolve around an as-yet non-disclosable theme suitable for its location in the buccaneer straights

The Dowdy Lama
Jay flew in from his Santa Monica canyons home to have fun but also to dial-in further specifics on a pair of custom monoblocks he has on order with Josh. Asked how he commenced his audiophile sojourns, Jay grew temporarily misty-eyed before reminiscing over a pair of original Quad electrostats he owned at the tender and impressionable age of 18. Where does one go from there, Jay? He's wondering himself. Perhaps single-driver Fostex horns? Another reason to attend. Not that Jay needed one. His delectable assortment of CDs clearly marked him a very sophisticated music lover and tune enthusiast of the first rank - muchos gracias for gifting me with your copy of 1GiantLeap (world music review forthcoming shortly).

As for me? I had heard of the Cains in passing. I had visited their website and there also stumbled over images of their personal 2A3 Josh amps. But that, frankly, was the extent of my prior exposure. In other words, I was an unwashed heathen descending nakedly into Mormon Country. For charmed protection and to fatten my displayable inventory of wives, I hastily added pix of former girlfriends to my wallet before boarding my flight. Here's what happened - not with the fake wives or the uneventful flight across the Arizona desert (though I did spot Airforce One parked on the Phoenix Airport tarmac during my return) -- but chez Stippich/Adams.