The White Van of the Apocalypse

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by Josh Ray on May 26 '06

 Img.Autos.Yahoo.Com Ag Chevrolettruck Expresscargovan G1500Regularwheelbaserwd 2006 Exterior 4 346X270

Here's the scenario: you're out grocery shopping and minding your own business when, walking back to your car, a white van suddenly pulls up and out jumps two burly men. You think some sort of physical harm will come to you. Did you bring up polarity at Audio Asylum? Whatever flashes through your mind, you think your life is done.

In fact, your life is safe but your audio is not because you've been selected by the Theater Research direct marketing campaign. Yes, the burly men open up the back of the dealership-on-wheels to reveal incredible equipment at unheard of prices! Why, their boss is going out of business or the speakers fell off the truck or they stole them from some grandmother, whatever. The point is that, according to their website and the recent Stereophile ad, the speakers costing upwards of six grand are available to you for a fraction of the price!

Are these those bizarre speakers HP was talking about? Who knows, but the deal is too good to pass up. You get them home and, surprise, they are junk. Then you go on ebay to sell the speakers, thinking you'll at least make your money back if not a nice little profit. But, alas, ebay is already packed with identical models going for pennies. And that's when you raise your fists to the sky and curse the audio gods.

 Homespeaker Tr-2810-2811B

The company is Theater Research (and their alter ego Elite Audio) and white van direct marketing is their gimmick. They're a Chinese company "creatively" styling their "speakers" to look like famous models from B&O, B&W, Krell, NHT, Sony, "Bose" and others. They overprice the speakers on their website and engage in all kinds of marketing fun:

As our world continues its transition to a totally digital environment, TR Theater Research leads the way with pure digital home entertainment products. People who know sound, know "TR Theater Research". It's a name that commands respect because for many years TR Theater Research has consistently set the very highest standards in loud speaker technology development.

 Homespeaker Tr-1610-1611A

The best part? Elite Audio's new Z-3 A/V Receiver has 3000 watts of tube power in "patent pending" technology. That's right, 600 watts into 5 channels of pure tube glory. If you're not familiar with tubes, that's about as big on the BS meter as one can get. Tubes are all about low power and monsters of tube like VTL are able to hit 800-1250 watts with their monoblocks the size of Balkan countries, not slim receivers. Oh, and Elite Audio's Z-3 receiver gets all 3000 watts from just one tube. Judging from the picture in Stereophile, it's General Electric's single-ended incandescent.

I've been visited by the white van and, in truth, it made my day. Never hurts to have a little humor. And, yes, Stereophile does have 8 pages worth of TR ads in their recent issue. The non-audiophile ad department and the reviewing staff at S'Phile don't talk to each other so TR was able to slip through the cracks. Rest-assured TR won't make it into the next issue.

Moral of the story? White vans are for ice cream, not audio. Then again, having a roving audio demo is kinda cool. As someone or other said, the outdoors are gods-own acoustic chamber. Maybe I'm too harsh. Public audio demos may be a great way to reach the new blood. Could TR be the Moses to our industry's promised land???


I have the issue of Stereophile that has those ads. There is a ten-page long spread in it. There are lots of funny parts about the ad, including quotations with no source: "Z3 is by far the sweetest sounding receiver I have ever heard." That statement alone makes me laugh. But then the pull out close up of the tube featured in the receiver is hoaky beyond belief. Plus all of the fake awards at the bottom of the page. It's priceless.
I posted a thread in a forum populated by teens today asking if any of them had a dedicated audio system. The best I got was "I have a 350 watt Aiwa desktop system. I kicks ass!" God forbid if these people get sucked into buying these "speakers" thinking that they've got audiophile grade sound. I swear I'm the only teen on Southern California with a barely decent sound system. Oh, and another priceless quote I got from my thread: "I DOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! But I use my computer more often because CDs suck" I can only hope that she encodes her music at at least 320kbps.
I was puzzled when I got to see those ads on the latest Stereophile. It was like, something's fishy in here: Here's a mag where a setup that size can easily set you back a five or six-figure bill, and suddenly, out of nowhere these guys come offering the same thing, for a tenth or less of the price. Only explanation may be precisely what you said, reviewers and ad staff completely oblivious of each other. In other words, "D'oh!" TR is sort of the audio equivalent of the "Our Version Of" knockoff fragrances so common on these lands.
Don't link to their site, it only bumps their page rank higher on Google higher.
C'mon! Look on the bright side! First, it's not likely that any Stereophile readers to speak of will fall for it so these guys have spent a hell of a lot of money for nothing. Second, those 10 pages of ads gave Stereophile readers 10 more pages of editorial content they wouldn't have had otherwise (JA maintains a 50/50 editorial/ad ratio). And third, Sonic Flare gets a blog entry from it. :) se
i sold speakers out of white vans for 6 years of my life. what do you all want to know? i was walking down the street one day, 21 years old and nothing to do, and was asked if i wanted to buy speakers. next thing i knew, i was IN a van selling speakers. FOR 6 YEARS!!!!! i was their top salesman globally (by the way there is more than one company and it's not always a white van - that's speakerman myth). i also happen to be HARD CORE audiophile. (tom evans, gamut, gryphon, avid, audiomecca and more). sales gimmick yes. but people get what they pay for ultimately. can't expect much for a few hundred bucks. more than 50%of the time, we hooked them up for people in their houses. they liked them.
When I worked for Stereo Exchange in the late 80's, we bought and sold a lot of used gear. At least a couple of times a year, someone would come in to sell their old speakers and they would be one of those 2 or 3 brands (they were actually listed in the Blue Book) that were sold exclusively out of vans. When I asked them if they bought their speakers out of a van, they would usually look startled and mildly deny it, then ask me how I knew. It's a powerful scam, but I agree with Mr. Eddy, I really appreciate their sponsoring some Stereophile content.
Stereophile readers may not fall for it, but they'll more than get their money's worth from these ads. If anybody doubts that the speakers are actually worth what they say, they'll pull out the issue of Stereophile as proof that they are a 'high-end' audio manufacturer.
hey guys. i got scammed too but not in a white van but a 4 runner. the guy asked me for 800 but i only payed 280. worth a shot..its cool though. oh well. its looks nice as a display.
I remember the white van over 20 years ago in Maryland Mall parking lot. In those days the scam product was a full sized bookshelf speaker. A local TV report uneathted a puny 6 inch speaker inside of each big box. When connected to an audio source, they did "play" so there was no "real" ripoff to report. I happened to see a pair of those in a second hand store a few days ago. When I inquired about the price, I was told - Thats vintage audio equipment there... man...
Hello I stumbled across this site while we were having a discussion on our message board, anyway I had to tell you guys about my white van experience. I was walking out of the bank & guess who's out there yes the white van. They gave there little speech we were over stocked , they said these speakers are killer they can handle like 1000 watts & so on & so on, well I knew about the scam & I sprung into action. I told them Oh man I need a new set of speakers they gave me a great price & I said Ill take them so the guy started unloading the speakers & I said whoa whoa we need to test those out first he said there new the work fine , I said I live right around the corner follow m to my house I said I have a brand new 1000 watts per channel stereo I just bought & we can test them there . Now mind you I didnt live around the corner & I didnt have a 1000 watt stereo so they said ok lets go , we started driving I went up the road & found a side street turned & the van went straight gee no surprise there right. So that was the end of it I haven't seen a white van since . Josh
Well, I just walked through the door and sitting on the living room floor is a whole Elite Audio setup. My roomate must have got scamed! Im usualy the one who talks sense around here and I wasnt there to protect him from the white van. The first thing I did was a google search on the brand, followed by adding +scam. I knew I remembered something about crappy speeker scams. I'll break it to him easy when he gets home. The funny thing is he knows a lot more about audio equipment than I do...
I just started working for a company selling speakers out of a truck...for $200 I will buy set for myself...I dont want to pay $4000 for speakers. I agree with the dude up top that used to sell get what you pay for you know youre gettin some kind of deal if youre buying anything off the street. No scam here!!! If you want high end speakers take your ass to the store!!!
I was also scamed by some fucking dick head in a white truck. He had a $4000.00 Elite audio home amplifier that he was willing to sell for $500.00. I thought good deal. That is until I hooked the worthless piece of shit up. Not only did it have poor function, it only had basic RCA hook-ups for old VCR's. I would like to send a message to you greasy,dirty,lying cock sucking fuck heads selling garbage. Next time some one tries to sell me some piece of shit from the the back of a truck,I will smash each and every worthless product over thier fucking head and get my money back. P.S. GO FUCK YOURSELF IN YOUR STUPID ASSES ELITE AUDIO.
Well, I must confess that I was scammed. I knew least I thought I did. When the guy pulled up and asked me if I wanted a great deal on some speakers there were all sorts of alarms going off in my head. I then made the mistake of giving him an opportunity to push me down the path to stupidville. I just ignored what I was thinking and put my mind in jersey cow mode. But, I do take complete responsibility for my stupidity. No one put a gun to my head, I did it all on my own. When I got them home, I didn't even hook them up. One look at the owners manual told me I was had. I won't sell them on ebay because I wouldn't want to do the same thing to someone else. I just consider it to be one very expensive lesson that I had to learn...again. What I don't understand is how people can live with themselves when they scam people for a living. The money is not worth that sacrifice.
I kinda knew i was taken in on this gimmick, they caught me also coming out a grocery store, i bought 5 systems from the for 1500, but turned 7 SOLD eack 1 for 1500 a piece, HA HA thanks alot i sold all but 1