Richard Thiessen at home with some of his handmade audio equipment. -Leah Blain photo

Addicted to sound

Shuswap man creates his own audio systems to satisfy his quest for quality.

By: Leah Blain

Observer Contributor

However impossible it is to sum up a person in one word, if a person had to sum up Richard Thiessen the choice of word would be simple: audiophile.

“I’m very fussy,” he says. He confesses his worst…”I’ve been known to walk out of live concerts.”

He explains this preoccupation with pure sound came quite naturally: “I’ve been blessed with good hearing.”

In 1957 Thiessen bought a Fleetwood record player and he wasn’t happy with the sound. He was only 15-years-old. He figured there must be a way of improving it by adding speakers.

“So I built a large three-way Electro-Voice corner horn system. After perusing the Allied Electronics catalog, I purchased an 18-watt Knight kit amplifier (mono in those days) and a high-quality turntable. The system was a vast improvement – wow. That was the beginning of becoming an audiophile. I was hooked.”

He started reading many books on electronic, speaker design acoustics engineering and he bought a collection of audio test equipment. The next year stereo sound hit the market and he was determined to master the new sound. Thiessen ordered the LK-48 HH Scott stereo amplifier kit, his first audiophile quality amp. Naturally he needed good speakers. He bought a pair of Stromsburg Carlson speakers but they came with no enclosures.

“Now I had to design and build a large pair of speaker enclosures for these units. This system was awesome for a period of time, and I was content with it for quite a few years.”

His hobby became a career. He was technician in a high end audio store in the 80s and 90s in Saskatoon and he went on to testing, designing, researching and experimenting with many new types of drivers and enclosures. He designed and manufactured the Omni and Forte speaker lines in Canada.

Thiessen has been retired and living in Salmon Arm for 11 years, but like most people who turned their hobbies into careers, retirement only means doing the same thing in a relaxed pace and not getting paid for it. In the corner of the room that is dedicated to the enjoyment of listening to music he has some very different looking speakers.

“My last speaker system incorporates every known breakthrough in the field, and is more compact in size,” he says.

It took him a year to make it. He automatically starts talking in technical terms explaining what makes his latest system so impressive. He puts in a CD (not an ordinary CD but one that was made especially for the Taipei International Hi-End Hi-Fi Show) and selects #10, Under the Boardwalk.

The music is so crisp and pure that the sound itself is almost palpable and the band seems truly, albeit invisibly, present.

“It puts you in the ambiance,” says Thiessen, “It feels like the band is right here.”

His music collection includes CDs and vinyl records and his taste ranges from classic to country. Unlike most audiophiles, he prefers CDs to vinyl records.

“CDs are way better but audiophiles will argue till their blue in the face that vinyls are better.”

Why is so important to have this pure sound? He thinks about this question for a minute and answers: “Why is it important for a musician to have a good violin?”

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