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View From The Top: David Lee, BassBoss

Kicking off his audio career at 19 in the high-end home hi-fi/car audio business, BassBoss president, founding partner and chief designer David Lee spent his days listening to the best home audio systems on the market and his evenings absorbing the best of club sound.

Kicking off his audio career at 19 in the high-end home hi-fi/car audio business, BassBoss president, founding partner and chief designer David Lee spent his days listening to the best home audio systems on the market and his evenings absorbing the best of club sound. The quality he heard in home hi-fi led him to ponder, what if club audio could sound like the best hi-fi systems—“clear and true as those, only much louder and a magnitude of more bass?”

It wasn’t long before Lee began working toward that goal. “I began installing club systems in the mid-80s,” he recalls. “Over hundreds of audio system designs and installations, I was constantly seeking solutions for smoother sound and more, deeper and cleaner bass.”

With a former partner, Lee launched the company that is now BassBoss in 1999. Today, BassBoss products are available to retail customers through select dealers in the U.S. and nationwide through GC Pro. “Our dealer network doesn’t yet cover some areas of the country, so we do allow customers to order products directly. We can connect retail customers to local dealers to complete the sale, or if there isn’t one in their area, we fulfill their orders.”

Lee’s company philosophy and work ethic is closely related to his background as a first-generation immigrant, arriving in America at 14 years old. Growing up in South Africa, Lee cites witnessing the effects of apartheid and its inequity and oppression as a motivating factor in developing a “value-conscious” design philosophy. “We were not rich, so I learned many ways to do more with less,” tells Lee of his family’s arrival in America. “I discovered it was preferable to buy high-quality products rather than something cheap but unreliable; I simply couldn’t afford disposable. Then as now, I ruthlessly eliminated components that disappointed me, whether by poor performance or poor customer service. After immigrating to the USA, I recognized the power represented by equal opportunity and equal access to education and that, even here, these opportunities are still not afforded equally to all.”

Lee continues to say that a comparable inequity exists in the pro-audio field, manifested in the misinformation and misunderstandings that are prevalent amongst end-users and customers; some manufacturers “take advantage of the complexity of the physics behind audio reproduction,” he notes. For example, “certain manufacturers take advantage of the customers’ lack of sophistication by cherry-picking specifications to ultimately misrepresent the capabilities of products. Just as I feel all people deserve a great education and equal opportunities, I believe that all customers deserve to have a level playing field of reproducible, defendable specifications that reflect the actual capabilities of the speakers.”

BassBoss’ business has significantly evolved over time. Today, BassBoss manufactures only powered, processed systems. “I couldn’t deliver the hi-fi aesthetic at very high levels, reliably and consistently, without control over the whole system,” Lee notes. “With the power and processing provided with the products, improvements in performance, reliability, customer satisfaction and consistency have been huge. For example, our Profundo Powered subwoofers went into production in 2008, and we have not had even one customer burn a voice coil. In our market, they are not shy with the volume. I couldn’t create that kind of consistency without total control over the end result.”

In 1999, Lee’s company designed horn-loaded subs in an attempt to deliver extremely high output at low frequencies. “Amplifiers were expensive and the woofers’ power and excursion limits necessitated using horns,” Lee explains. “Over the years, the size, weight and cost of amplification came down while the output power levels of amps and the power handling and excursion capabilities of woofers went up, reducing the need for the efficiency delivered by horn-loading. The low-frequency content of music also continued to increase in level and drop in frequency. This made building horn-loaded subs to produce these very low frequencies prohibitively large. So I began developing vented, combination and hybrid systems to take advantage of the improvements in technology.”

For years, BassBoss sold passive subwoofers and simply made recommendations on amplification and processing. If the customer chose to ignore the recommendations, inconsistencies were the result, not to mention blown drivers. “With my initial mid-high cabinet designs, the problems increased. The same settings loaded into two different processors would measure significantly differently.” Now employing exclusively powered, processed systems, this is no longer an issue.

BassBoss is located in Austin, TX at the Bergstrom International Airport. “We have the use of a very, very large open space for testing with virtually no noise restrictions,” explains Lee. “You can literally park several Boeing 747s in our backyard! We do the product development and testing here. We also build prototypes and electronic assemblies, warehouse some stock and do demonstrations at the facility.”

As the product designer, Lee is also responsible for concepts and parts selection, 3D solid modeling, testing and final voicing of BassBoss products. “I also answer technical questions and assist customers in choosing products or designing systems. I’m on site to oversee final assembly and supervise the end-of-line testing. All BassBoss products are handmade in the USA, and we’re proud of that fact.”

BassBoss CEO Lian Amber oversees operations and marketing simultaneously, supervising sales and fulfillment personnel. “We have outside sales people, web contractors and social media marketers that report to her,” notes Lee. “Customer service is a passion; we develop relationships over the long-term by providing support not only for our products, but for information about usage and overall troubleshooting. We encourage professional and production customers to contact us for information and product advice.”

“Creating intensity without sacrificing reliability and providing great value for the customer are the cornerstones of the company philosophy,” Lee continues. “I believe that extreme bass is the new frontier. The low frequency content of the music I buy gets deeper virtually every time I go shopping. Superior subwoofer products are in demand in order to reproduce the ranges that artists are now able and willing to put into their recordings and performances. The music is changing faster than the industry and we fully intend to lead the industry in meeting this demand.”

BassBoss is experiencing tremendous growth in the mobile DJ market. “It’s hot for us right now,” Lee confirms. “We have products that are game-changers for the high-end mobile DJ, and our customers have been extremely happy with them. Many customers in the DJ market have requested options at a lower price point, so we’ll be releasing a new line that brings entry-level products to that market.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum from BassBoss’ mobile DJ and budget-minded options, Lee has developed something called B.O.S.S. Concept, or the “Built On Site Subwoofer” approach. “It’s a modular system for large-scale performances and installations,” he explains. “It will move the edge of the envelope much deeper in frequency and significantly higher in SPL while being lower in cost and will consume less power and other resources.

On that note, Lee explains that his larger and installed system business is thriving, too. “System providers, nightclubs and venues that need more intense sound systems to differentiate themselves in their market. Many of them are replacing systems that can’t reproduce the electronic music that’s now popular, and we provide products that aren’t phased by the most intense usage. We’re also expanding into the exercise market, where the demand is for compact products that re-create a nightclub experience at the gym. International sales are growing as well. Our systems are plug-and-play ready, extremely robust and reliable—ideal for places where they need to do more with less.”

In dealing with competition, Lee simply encourages customers to compare his products with others’ wares that are currently available in the marketplace. “Much of the competition can be very misleading with their specifications,” insists Lee. “I tend to be extremely conservative with our specifications; when we can’t provide a demonstration, we spend a good deal of time clarifying and quantifying how and why our products are superior. We’re not going to be the right choice for everyone’s situation and budget, but we’re committed to consistently being the better choice for value and intensity. We treat everyone with respect, answer their questions in detail, and do our best to deliver more than we promise.”