An Interview With Joey Roth: The Designer Behind This Incredible Speaker Set

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Jack Archer
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Joey Roth considers himself a “design entrepreneur”, someone who not only designs things, but is the driving force behind the manufacturing, distribution, and sales channels.

“I've found that the best work comes from this simple process, which is an execution of my unadulterated vision, rather than part of a walled-off design department within a larger organization.”

His claim to fame are his porcelain speakers, highlighted here, which were launched onto the scene at the 2010 New York Design Week as part of a collaborative presentation with some of his favorite artists like David Lynch and Sruli Recht. He’s recently added a porcelain subwoofer to finish off the set, giving it a more complete sound with the added thump.

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His goal with the ceramic speaker set was to create the anti-Jambox and Beats by Dre Product, as Roth feels they resulted from design choices very different then his own. “They trade sound quality, build quality and beauty for convenience, features, and popular appeal. They're designed to be disposable, whereas I intend the Ceramic Speakers to be the last system my customers need to buy.”

The physical and digital quality of these things certainly leads one to believe Roth is right. They’re made from porcelain, cork, and Baltic birch, with each material minimally finished, giving it a simple and sturdy look. From a digital perspective, Roth says “The ceramic speakers will reveal lossless audio's previously inaudible details, especially with the subwoofer, but low-bitrate mp3's and YouTube content won't benefit, since the source doesn't have enough resolution in the first place. I designed the system to be physically beautiful, but minimal and unobtrusive. The electronic design follows the same philosophy. The system is a vessel for sound.”

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With the help of an audio engineer, Roth designed a completely analog signal path (that’s the route from the source ---iPhone, computer, television, record player, etc--- to the speaker) that preserves the quality by being as short and simple as possible. Roth detailed, saying “The signal quality will inevitably degrade as the information travels from source to output. This degradation can be mitigated through design choices however. For the ceramic speakers, my design goal was to make the path as short, direct and smooth as possible, thus preserving the source's detail. This involved a very minimalist circuit layout and removal of algorithms that make compressed audio sound better, artificially boost bass, and simulate surround sound at the price of detail and clarity.”

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Roth also intentionally left out anything that could potentially become outdated like an iPod dock, wireless connectivity, or digital signal processing. His dream, as he put it, "is to see these speakers still in use 50 years from now, just like the midcentury hi-fi systems that inspire me."

This beautiful speaker set is some of the top industrial design we’ve seen and the added addition of the subwoofer plus the thoughtful design choices Roth has made led to something that is pretty special. It’s a can’t lose investment in quality audio.

Available now on his website, here's a breakdown of the prices:

Speakers + Amp only: $495

Amp only: $695

Complete System: $1,096