Unique iPhone Amplifier from Sisters

What does rising entrepreneur Justin Crofoot do after creating a sensation with his bamboo-wood iPad and Macbook cases?

He tops it with something new!

Paying tribute to Pacific Northwest heritage and a love of music, his Volta Sound Company in Sisters produces a rustic, iPhone amplifier for your iPhone 4 and 5. These bison-horned beauties have been on the market just over a month and are already causing a stampede. Each Volta Sound Block is hand-made from a solid block of regional alder and packaged right here in Oregon.

“I came up with the idea about a year ago,” said Crofoot. “I wanted some way to amplify my iPhone that didn’t include any electronics, to produce a purer, more natural amplification. I was tossing around ideas and went to Portland and ended up at a leather store and ran across one of these bison horns. From there we realized that would be something totally unique.”

Partnered with good friend and graphics designer, Chad DeWilde of Hood River, Crofoot is hoping their retro-chic amplifiers will take off with Apple’s loyal army of tech purists.

Each four-by-seven inch sound block is crafted from native Northwest alder wood, hand-burned with the Volta Sound Company logo and accentuated with rubber foot pads.

Every Volta unit is decorated with a distinctive Pendleton wool square protecting the iPhone insert point. Once the device is inserted into the block, music played is amplified three-four times, injecting songs with a warm, concentrated tone, eliminating the tinny, electronic notes from the Apple speaker.

The name Volta comes from Volta Laboratories, where Thomas Edison once brought his scientists to help improve the phonograph.

“So in a sense that’s what we’re doing too. Taking something basic and essential and giving it a Northwest twist. Right now there are two types of limited-run designs for the fabric accents, the native print and a solid dark grey with plans for a third,” said Crofoot. “We buy a yard of Pendleton fabric and once it’s gone, that’s it for that run of twenty to thirty.”

Volta Sound Company strives to separate itself from the mass-produced, disposable-minded world by creating a lasting product, combining timeless simplicity with modern styling.

“It requires no batteries or charge cords or blue-tooth gadgets so it’s pretty much indestructible. We live in such a beautiful area and so many people enjoy nature, this blends right in with the environment and fits the rustic setting.”

The device operates on the simple principle of passive amplification, similar to old Victrola phonographs. Each bison horn measures between ten and twelve inches, and attaches snugly via a magnetized end to the Volta box.

“We get the horns from a supplier in the Midwest and each one is completely different, lending a variety of colors, swirls and patterns and shapes to each one,” he explained. “We polish the edges of each sound horn and cut it down optimum fit.

“Once we got the concept nailed down, that’s where Chad came aboard to fund and help develop the product for sale. He’s amazing and did all the stickers and aesthetics of the packaging and website. We also sat down and threw out every good and bad idea on how this thing should work.”

In one of their many brainstorming session, Crofoot and DeWilde came up with the idea of magnetizing the block and horn for easy transportation and handling.

“The first prototype was glued in and it was too big to carry around practically. Chad’s dad collects old phonographs so he wanted to mix the old-style lettering with more modern methods of design.”

Crofoot broke down the idea for colors and fabrics to utilize in the final design and came up with a dark-stained alder and a natural alder.

“We decided on using Pendleton wool since that’s a traditional Oregon-based company and was another way to make the product stand out with an endless variety of patterns to choose from.”

Crofoot and DeWilde wanted the Volta website to be warm and appealing and be inviting to all types of people. It has a homey, old-time feel sprinkled with images pulled from vintage postcards, antique outdoor calendars and iconic western photos.

“We tried to make it fun for the reader too. We also blog new and upcoming local bands we enjoy listening to on our sound blocks.

“We made these to take camping or enjoy on your back porch. I want people to make them a part of their lives as well as be a cool conversation piece.”

Crofoot views the unboxing experience as all part of the product ambiance itself. Each Volta Sound Block is packed with old-fashioned wood-strip packing material containing the bison horn, numbered certificate of authenticity and a selection of colorful logo stickers. The actual sound block is slipped into a handsome silk-screened muslin bag.

“Chad is really good at what he does,” Crofoot said. “We wanted to make it a pleasure to open, similar to Apple’s philosophy.”

More and more people are realizing the uniqueness of a local, handcrafted item you can be proud to use and display. Crofoot is personally selecting and branding the wood, polishing the horns and cutting the wool patch.

“There’s a lot of work involved, but in the end we’re confident it’s something people will find useful and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into our Volta Sound Blocks.”

Volta Sound Blocks are priced at $190 each. www.voltasound.com, 541-678-0153.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. CascadeBusNews.com • CBN@CascadeBusNews.com

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