Through a twist of fate, I met B&W maverick acoustic engineer Laurence “Dic” Dickie. Dic. Dic was working, unbeknownst to me, on a pioneering loudspeaker project called the Nautilus under B&W’s then owner and audio visionary Robert Trunz. Robert incidentally through the Nautilus project was following the legacy of the late John Bowers, founder and the “B” in the original B&W partnership.
I showed Dic my loudspeaker concepts and designs for the first curved Pod enclosures and discussed with him the materials that I was proposing to make them from - GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic). The material was a point of interest for Dic who was considering his options of the Nautilus’s construction. This meeting was the beginning of Dic becoming not only my first mentor but also a very dear friend. He arranged a meeting with Robert Trunz at B&W Research and Development Centre.
We spent a whole afternoon together in the listening room of Steyning B&W. It was a magical day. We got on well. We shared music and discussed my audio ambitions with the Pods. I listened to the history of the legacy Robert had created and his goals with the Nautilus and B&W. Robert then offered a proposition.
If I could produce prototypes of my Pod design, then Dickie would help with the acoustic engineering and component design. Most importantly Robert Trunz would throw the weight of B&W behind the project investing in production and distribution.
In his own words, as Dic recollects, "It was one fine sunny day at SRE (B&W Steyning Research Establishment) when I heard the front doorbell go, not something which happened all that often. To my surprise and slight consternation it was an officer of the law, but there was no going back, the door was glazed, and he’d seen me already so I could only slide the door open and hope for the best! “I’ve had reason to search the premises of Steyning Video Hire and have reason to believe I might have found a quantity of property stolen from these premises” he announced. “The occupant” he continued ”claims the material all came from the skip and was free for the taking. I don’t believe him for one moment so I’d be very grateful if someone could accompany me to the shop and verify his story”.
Well now I was getting interested because we did use to throw away all sorts of good stuff, which pained me, and it was interesting to think someone was doing useful things with it, so I set off behind him and walked the 200m to the shop.
We met a young dark-haired chap who did seem a bit nervous but not unduly so. The policeman guided me to a back room where he proudly waved his hand at a pile of very familiar looking objects. “There,” he said proudly “you can’t tell me that’s all rubbish, there’s good stuff there.” But as I looked more closely I recognised bits and bobs that I fashioned with my own hands and regretfully had had to consign to waste under pressure from the boss.
“Oh Wow! You picked that up” I said pointing to a cabinet experiment I remembered from way-way back. “Oh and this! Well, that was an experiment in driver design, but there was only one, so you have a job making a stereo pair”. Very soon the two of us were deep in conversation while the officer looked on in mounting disbelief until eventually, he had to interject “So can I take it that all of this is, in fact, junk and none of it stolen?” “Absolutely!” I replied. “And it’s great to see someone has put it all to good use!” and at this the policeman turned and strode out of the shop, disgruntled at the loss of a possible arrest and the attendant brownie points he would undoubtedly have gained.
So the general chat about turning junk into gold carried on for a while until we reached the natural break in the conversation. Suddenly Simon turned to me and said “actually there’s something I’d like your opinion on” and disappeared for a few seconds before re-appearing with a portfolio. “These are some ideas I’ve been working on,” he said, unfolding the cover to reveal some immediately intriguing graphics drawn in a heavy 6B pencil. The shapes before me had essences of Buddha, were totally curvaceous and just an amazing design for a speaker - because they were exactly speaker designs
We talked around the subject for a while but, with a little modification, I agreed that these shapes would totally work. “So,” asked Simon, “If I make a couple of cabs to this design will you fit the drivers and sort out the crossover?”. I happily agreed, but in my mind, I doubted anything would happen and had almost forgotten our meeting when three months later who should turn up at the R&D lab but Simon, bearing the completed fiberglass shells. A bit speechless I accepted the cabinets and agreed that I had to keep my half of the deal and would have to sort out the drivers and crossover."