About AudioQuest

AudioQuest was not so much founded as it was evolved.

When Bill Low created AudioQuest in 1980 it was really just a small variation of the audio activities he had started in 1972. During high school and early college, Bill had struggled to have the best audio system he could. He had built dozens of Heathkit and Dynakit amplifiers, preamps and tuners for classmates. Each US$10 or $15 he earned building kits went to buy records or to upgrade to a better piece of used equipment.

While at college in Oregon, Bill realized that instead of simply offering audio component recommendations to other students, he should sell the equipment. His small appointment-only business evolved from selling BSR turntables and Hitachi receivers in 1972, to Linn Sondek, Radford, Celestion and Yamaha (first dealer in the Northwest) in 1974. In 1975 his little shop was the largest Linn Sondek dealer in the US.

By 1976, with college long over, the urge to move to California was irresistible. The retail business was passed on to a friend and Bill set himself up as a manufacturers’ representative in northern California, an especially conservative market. Dealers were fond of saying: “If I don’t already carry it, I obviously don’t need it.” It was difficult to even get a chance to demonstrate the superb equipment was representing, which included Decca, Audionics, Koss Electrostatic, AEA, Dunlap Clarke, and Celestion among others.

During visits to southern California, Bill learned that the two markets were very different. The standard answer from the southern dealers was: “Sure, bring it in and let’s listen.” So, in 1977 Bill moved south. Unfortunately, the combination of open-minded dealers and excellent equipment (Cizek, Decca, RAM, Koss Electrostatic, RH Labs, PSE, Ariston, Armstrong, Rogers, Chartwell) still didn’t work. The truth was (and is) that Bill was just plain not good at selling! He never became a professional salesperson, he never learned how to sell other peoples’ products.

After six years inside the audio business, both as a retail proprietor and a manufacturers’ representative, Bill once more started a by-appointment-only store out of his living room in Santa Monica. This time Bill made one small but very important decision … he decided to make custom audio cable for his store.

Audio cable became a visible subject in the US in 1976 when Polk Audio introduced a Japanese sourced cable under the name Cobra Cable. This high capacitance/low inductance Litz cable encouraged some amplifiers into self-destruction, but it usually made systems sound better. By 1978, Polk, Bob Fulton, and Jonas Miller Sound had made audio cable an important subject for those at the leading edge of audio.

Since the 1960s, Bill had appreciated the advantages of using better than average cable. In 1977 Bill bought a spool of the 12 awg lamp cord that Noel Lee (future “Head Monster”) was selling to his dealers in northern California (Bill and Noel used to sub-rep each other’s lines in the two California territories). In 1978, Bill and another small retailer cooperated in ordering a custom-made twisted pair litz speaker cable. In some ways Bill is embarrassed to remember this cable which he refers to as “original recipe” … it had 435 strands per conductor and didn’t use very good copper. However, as a starting point it was really very good. It clearly outperformed the Fulton Gold cable that was considered top-of-the-hill at that time. It was spiraled and it did not have any electrical contact between bare strands.

Over the next two years, Bill manufactured this cable, and a second smaller model, simply with the intention to sell them in his small store. However, other dealers in the Los Angeles area began to buy this cable from Bill. It was also distributed in Japan. In 1980, Bill realized that it was time to make cable for the purpose of selling to other dealers. He started AudioQuest.

The evolution of AudioQuest cables has taken place over the entire life of the company, however several of the most important basic design criteria were established very near the beginning. These basic priorities were established as a result of empirical experience and not by abstract theorizing.