|Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson|
The Stepmother of Invention
"OK, Ill pack up the guns."
I never thought I'd hear that while visiting an audio company.
During a recent trip to Minneapolis, the details of which you'll be reading about between now and year's end, I visited Magnepan to get some background for my Feature Review of the MG20.1s. After all of the work had ended, Magnepan's marketing manager Wendell Diller took me into his sanctum sanctorum -- a locked room on the top floor of the factory. Wendell is a hunter with a fertile mind, and he has invented a few accessories for hunters and shooters, all of which came to life in this room.
Two of the inventions are nearing the end of development -- an inexpensive non-pyrotechnic shotshell tracer, and a deer slug that breaks apart on a slight glancing ricochet. Another of Wendell's inventions is something for which he's known in the Twin Cities area -- the Quiet Gun, a 13-ounce, 48" barrel extension that reduces the noise from a shotgun to an amazing degree. It also has a gun-safety angle: It's difficult to shoot someone close to you accidentally when the barrel of your gun is four feet longer.
I followed Wendell to a local gun club, where we shot clay pigeons with a Quiet Gun-equipped shotgun. As soon as Wendell emerged from his car with the gun, he drew stares -- and a few words from a man who was leaving until he saw Wendell.
"I have one of those," he said loudly. "It doesn't work."
"You don't have one of these," Wendell shot back.
Sure enough, the Quiet Gun earned its name. All around us the loud "rap" of shooting echoed, and it drowned out the "poofs" of the Quiet Gun. I had never shot clay pigeons before. It's sort of like hitting a baseball -- mostly a matter of timing. I broke some of the saucer-sized targets and missed others, but I won't forget shooting on a muggy July afternoon with Wendell's Quiet Gun.
Perhaps working in high-end audio has rubbed off on Wendell; his inventions certainly have similarities to the kind of accessories that audiophiles buy. More important, though, is the spirit in which the Quiet Gun was created, which is discernible by its function. Guns are loud and potentially dangerous; the Quiet Gun reduces both the noise and the danger. It isn't exactly a necessity, but it fills a niche that was empty before.
The same is true of high-end audio. An audio system is also discernible by its function; hear it and you immediately comprehend its purpose. Like the Quiet Gun, and all of Wendell's inventions, a fine audio system provides something that was previously unattainable.
And then there's SoundStage!, which began monthly publishing in 1995. Before us, there were only audio chatrooms, a fact that's hard to believe given the abundance of audio websites today. While we obviously didn't invent audio reviewing, we did work hard to legitimize the Internet as a medium for information about consumer electronics. When I first met Wendell at the CES nearly a decade ago, he was beyond skeptical of us and the Internet. Since that time, I've visited Magnepan twice, and we've reviewed many Magneplanar speakers on SoundStage! Network sites.
If you want to find out more about the Quiet Gun, visit www.quietgun.com. If you want to find out more about high-end audio, you're already in the right place.
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