A Short HISTORY of Toby Corporation, a speaker manufacturing business in the “Cultural District” of Fort Worth…
Toby Corp. was started by a jazz musician who played in the North Texas One O’clock Lab Band. Following is the story, told by the bass player turned engineer–manufacturer, Toby Guynn…
I always thought I was a cerebral person, but when I was getting my master’s degree in music in 1963, I discovered I liked to make things with my hands… a string bass pickup, a bass amplifier, and eventually electric basses and guitars. I stayed up late in the night winding coils for bass pickups. They were used by some of the best bass players in the nation, often seen on the Johnny Carson Show.
After college, I pursued two careers–one playing bass with my combo in Fort Worth country clubs, and two, making and selling electronic music equipment and hi-fi speakers. In 1968, I started Toby Corporation of America. It was a good time to be in that business, when people (mostly young men) wanted big loud speakers. I was working 6 nights a week with my combo in country clubs and 6 days a week at the speaker business. After ten years of this workathon, I had quit the music job and concentrated on speakers. I still play bass occasionally, but no steady engagements.
The most wonderful thing about getting in the speaker business was meeting a variety of people. It still is today. People I met in the music–night club–business were of a narrow spectrum. In the speaker business, I meet all kinds. I have dear friends and customers who believed in me and my speaker systems 30 years ago, and still do today.
My first retail store was at 4620 Camp Bowie. What fond memories I have… Finley’s cafeteria two blocks west, now Lucille’s, and the burger–grocery store five blocks west–Kincade’s. Giant burgers were 65 cents.
After two years, Toby Corp had outgrown the little mission style Sinclair service station. I bought the building I’m still in, at 2060 Montgomery. It was originally a paint and body shop. I doubled the size of it two years later.
Now, we move a decade ahead…
The first part of the “history” was about old times, but as always, Toby Corp is a young man’s shopping place. The bulk of our business is right where we started–in bass speakers. Young men and even a few stealthy young women buy our prize-winning subwoofers for the trunks of their cars. They contribute to the boom-booming sound you hear around town. Slightly older young men buy a room full of speakers for their “home theater.” We also sell Toby speakers around the country to a dozen dealers, and have a web site, www.tobyspeakers.com.
Toby Speaker fans are indeed fanatics. Their loyalty is amazing. Often they ask how we do it–how can this little speaker company compete with the big guys? I think the main reason is that to the customer, we are teachers, and in turn, we are students. As teachers we take the time to determine what the customer needs and can afford, but with a view to the future. As students we relentlessly listen to fine competitive speakers and analyze their materials and methods. We are fortunate to have some of the most advanced computer equipment to assist us in our research.
Our efforts have been recognized internationally. In 1988, a Chevy van with all Toby speakers won the Alpine Grand National contest. In 1994, our best selling automotive subwoofer, the Sheriff was named “Best of the Year” in Car Audio and Electronics magazine, after a review with six nationally advertised brands. Two years later, our CamFire placed first in a similar review. In 1998, a car with Toby Ranger subwoofers placed second in the World IASCA finals. It was the loudest bandpass subwoofer in IASCA competition history.
In the stereo field, over 20 recording studios use Toby satellite and subwoofer speakers for monitoring purposes. (Perhaps it takes a musician to please a musician?)
Again, one might ask how do we do it. Indeed, what do we do?… We make our own woofers, from 5 inches in diameter to 12 inches, all with the most modern materials, plastic cones and rubber edges. Most of our enclosures are exotic– bandpass for the bass, and transmission line for the satellites. Both types must be carefully adjusted in the manufacturing process. We make crossover networks with high quality parts. We carefully install the components in our cabinets, and computer test them when they are finished. A printout of the test result is provided with each speaker system. We sell the finished products to walk-in customers, and we also ship them to our customers and a few dealers around the country.
Toby Corp does not have millions to spend on research, but proportionately we spend more than very large companies spend. The results speak for themselves. Why aren’t we rich? We are rich in the pride we have in our products and in the support of thousands of satisfied customers.
The Future: As always, research is looking ahead–into new materials for the woofers we build, into electrostatic speakers, in ways of reducing distortion, and in developing products to fill the niches that our customers find. Young customers and young employees keep the energy flowing.