This is a very vulnerable story, a story that most companies would rather keep hidden. This story reveals the history of a product’s weaknesses, how we overcame those weaknesses, and something about a grandmother’s underwear.
I came to Clark Synthesis in 2006. At that time, Clark Synthesis had the best Underwater Loudspeaker in the industry. The Diluvio™ was, and still is today, the world’s only full range Underwater Loudspeaker. Nothing else comes close to the beautiful, full-fidelity sound. It also had reliability issues. The warranty returns were too high. The question I needed to answer was, “Why are so many speakers failing? “
Building the speaker is tremendously difficult. The components must be manufactured to very tight tolerances. The manufacturing process required extreme attention to detail. It only took a little bit of sloppiness to create an unreliable speaker.
We started tearing down every failed speaker to find the failure. We relayed our findings to the factory in China. We started making small product changes. The reliability started to improve. I visited the Chinese factory, and met with the product engineer. We designed a new strain relief and instituted changes to the manufacturing process. This brought the failure rate down some more, but not enough. More improvements were needed.
Then, we hit a wall. No matter what we did, the reliability did not improve. Some shipments were better, some worse. Old issues started reappearing. New problems appeared that has no reason to exist. It just didn’t make any sense. As the months went by my frustration level was increasing. Then, an event happened that changed the direction of Clark Synthesis.
One of our distributors sent pictures of speakers that were doing something strange. The customer was suspending the speakers in a swimming pool. They had attached a rope to the rubber ring just like the installation manual stated. So far, so good. In the pictures, though, the rubber rings were stretched to almost twice their normal size. The distributor said, “The rubber looks like my Grandmother’s underwear.” Wait!! The rubber ring material can’t stretch like that. This is impossible. Then I realized something, and got that sick feeling in my stomach. The factory had changed the rubber ring material. They didn’t ask. They didn’t tell. The material they used was completely unacceptable. When I asked the factory what was going on, I was met with evasive answers. No one would talk about the changed material. No one would agree that there was a problem. With no one dealing with me honestly, I realized that it was time for a change. A major change.
So, we moved production from China to Colorado. We became directly responsible for the product’s quality. It was a great decision. Now when we ran into problems, we could rapidly make changes to the product design and to the manufacturing processes. Now the wall was gone. Once again, the reliability started to improve.
About a year later, something fortunate happened. A local synchronized swim team started using our speakers, and breaking them, and breaking them. They broke more speakers in the next few years than any other synchro team anywhere in the world. We don’t know how they did it, but they did. While others would have complained about a bad customer, we saw this as a great opportunity. We now had a local customer who could find product weaknesses faster than anyone else. Whenever they broke a speaker, we would trade them a new speaker for the broken speaker. We would take the failed speaker, break it down, and find the failure. We would then make a change in the design, or in the manufacturing process, or in both. Our goal was to never see the problem again. As the improvements came into play, the reliability increased.
Slide to see the old AQ339 vs. the new AQ339
Today, there is only one component in the Duluvio™ that is the same as in 2006. Every other component has been redesigned. The manufacturing process we employ today only slightly resembles the manufacturing process from 15 years ago.
In 2019, we realized that we had come to the end of the improvements that we could make to the speaker. The number of problems in newly manufactured speakers is practically zero.
So, in 2020, we decided to let the world know that Clark Synthesis manufactures not only the best sounding Underwater Loudspeaker, we also manufacture the world’s most reliable Underwater Loudspeaker.
And now, the Diluvio™ has the best and longest product warranty of any Underwater Loudspeaker anywhere in the world.