Tom DeVesto, Tivoli AudioJanuary 1, 2009 By Nancy Klosek
Tom DeVesto, founder of Tivoli Audio, worked at building his reputation as an audio industry innovator long before he ever got involved in producing a single model.
Well ahead of his own involvement in the manufacture of high-performance audio gear at Advent, his years in hi-fi retailing brought him the recognition from his suppliers as a marketing genius. But early on, he developed a Champagne taste for well-reproduced music that was hard for someone fresh out of the Navy, and of modest means, to satisfy.
The pursuit of high-fidelity audio in the late ’60s was ordinarily the province of hobbyists with the financial wherewithal to feed their habit for sublime music reproduction. That was part of the reason DeVesto had to settle for buying a lower-priced compact system at an appliance store, one that paled in comparison to the gear his buddies had brought back from overseas. “I went to a local hi-fi store and they had products there from a company called KLH, these compact music systems that sounded as convincing as some of the bigger, more expensive hi-fi equipment. I bought it, and that was my first real hi-fi. And that system would live with me the whole time I was in college.”
Soon, DeVesto started and ran a small chain of hi-fi stores in his North Carolina college town, and branched out to build concert P.A. systems for artists including Jimmy Buffett, Alice Cooper and Helen Reddy. DeVesto’s acquisition of the Model 20 would eventually lead to a 30-year business relationship with the “K” in KLH, the late Henry Kloss, an Audio Hall of Fame member and nationally acclaimed inventor. The acquaintance dates back to 1976, when DeVesto sold his company, moved to Boston and started working for Advent.
Tom Hannaher, president of ZVOX Audio, who was at Advent then and in charge of dealer advertising, recalled that DeVesto had stood out to him as a storeowner before he even came on board. “He had three stores in North Carolina, but Tom, unlike most small dealers, promoted by doing really interesting things.
So I used him as my example dealer in an advertising seminar at CES. He’s always been interesting. He’s not a boring suit-and-a-tie, go-to-work, do your job and go home type of guy. He doesn’t fit into a cookie-cutter mold of anyone’s opinion of what somebody in this business ought to be. He thinks differently, and has a more open mind that doesn’t go down a predictable path, the way everybody else tends to.”