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Speakers and art, together at last

Josh Ray's Urban Fidelity Kickstarter project puts art and clever speaker design together in California.

The Urban Fidelity speaker, decorated with Liam Brazier's art Josh Ray

I first spotted Josh Ray's Urban Fidelity Kickstarter project on the Stereophile Web site, and it looked really interesting. The speaker is less than an inch thick and uses a made in the U.S.A. 8-inch driver. Completed speakers will sell for $399 a pair! The Urban Fidelity speaker is an "open baffle" design that uses sound from the front and back of the 8-inch driver. The speaker panel is made with formaldehyde-free wood sourced from North American forests and manufactured in Los Angeles, and the paints and inks are water-based and free of harmful chemicals. The Urban Fidelity speakers' gold-plated binding posts accept banana plugs, spades, and bare wire; the speaker is 41 inches high.

Though the panel will be available in painted finishes, the Urban Fidelity speakers will also feature art supplied by artists Liam Brazier, Craig Watkins, Herman Lee, Daniel Teixeria, Hyein Lee, Tobe Fonseca, Wojtek Polak, Maxime Archambault, and more. The speakers will be assembled in California, and the artists will be paid royalties for their work on each speaker sold.

The box speaker on the left, and the super-skinny Urban Fidelity speaker on the right Josh Ray

Ray is a passionate 31-year-old audiophile, with a manufacturing background from the time he ran an automotive accessory company. The main reason he can bring out a high-end speaker that sells for $399 is Ray's speaker doesn't have a cabinet, which is usually the single most expensive part of any box speaker. Since the Urban Fidelity speaker has just one driver, it doesn't need a crossover network, and that parts saving also lowers manufacturing costs. A somewhat higher-end speaker, matching subwoofer, and power amplifier are all in the planning stages.

Ray's Kickstarter pledge drive ends August 8. You can pre-order speakers for $269 per pair on the Web site (quantities are limited). Urban Fidelity will be playing the speakers at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in Denver in October. I'll check them out at the show, and possibly get the speakers in for review.