Article in Navarra Capital

Originally posted in and translated from Spanish.

Alastair Waugh and Craig Thorburn settled in Pamplona more than a decade ago with their partners, both Spanish. His love for mountain bikes united the paths of this Brit and this New Zealander, who also share their love for music, surfing and the sea. From this combination, the design speaker company Saltwood Sounds was born, which is already preparing the launch of its first pieces on the market. “We are going to sell them in special stores internationally,” they tell Navarra Capital.

The smell of freshly cut wood fills the workshop of Craig Thorburn and Alastair Waugh, located in Mutilva. Leaning on the walls of the company, planks of different sizes and varieties wait their turn to be transformed into one of the speakers that Saltwood Sounds has begun to design and manufacture by hand. “The name of our firm means ‘salt and wood’ because we both love the sea. We wanted to express the strong sound that waves make when they break on the beach. Those that, sometimes, even drag pieces of wood and sticks to the shore,” the promoters of the project detail to Navarra Capital.

Graig, 48, was born in New Zealand, where he built luxury boats. “I came to Pamplona for my wife twelve years ago. There are not many boats here, so I set up my own workshop to specialize in home furnishings,” he says.

He now shares that space with Alastair, a 46-year-old British scientist who also came to the Navarrese capital for love, specifically a decade ago. They both met through a mutual friend: “The three of us ride mountain bikes and one day he introduced us.”

He first worked in a medicine company and then became self-employed. “That gave rise to the creation of this project,” clarifies the entrepreneur.

At this point in the interview, the two partners go to the back of the ship. There, on the carving table, lies his first project. “It is the prototype that will go on the market. We are finishing it and it will be the largest one we have made so far, since we developed the first ones for our homes. It will measure 82 centimeters and its name is Finisterre,” they detail.

The names of their products are related to the sea, as is their shape. “There is another speaker that is called after the Sargasso Sea. We love surfing, boats, the beach… We have tried to capture this concept in the speakers. And, therefore, they have a natural and curved shape, which flows like water,” they specify.

When Alastair decided to leave his company to work for himself, the pandemic hit. A time that, as he remembers, was inspiring for him. “I spent many hours at home and felt the need to accompany my days with music. So it occurred to me to propose to Craig to make our own speakers. It was the perfect time because we had time and we liked the same things. I decided to train to know how the inside of the boxes works and the elements they need to sound good,” recalls Alastair.

Although they helped each other throughout the entire manufacturing process, Craig took on more of the carpentry, while Alastair took on the sound testing and interior design of the speakers. “When we saw that they were working well, we decided to go one step further and considered launching them on the market,” they recall.

At that time they began dealing with Neal Taylor, their third partner, a resident of Cambridge and an economist by profession. “He runs the website and marketing. We have just established the SL and we can now buy the components. “It’s time to do the commercial project,” the two say.

They are currently preparing six speakers, which they will send to different distributors with the intention of starting to market them. Its structure is made of walnut wood and birch plywood. “They are all made by hand and their shape is unique. The sheets are about 30 centimeters thick,” Craig specifies.

In addition, they buy their internal elements from a specialized factory in Denmark: “It has the best in terms of sound. We want to enter the market in style and for our name to be associated with quality. We want the experience to be incredible for the user.”

A few days before the interview, the founders of Saltwood Sounds attended a fair held in Munich, which brought together the best international loudspeaker manufacturers. “The most expensive one was worth more than 3 million euros, was designed in China and generated a three-dimensional sound experience. It was as if the band were there,” they highlight.

For their first units, they estimate a starting price close to 10,000 euros. “We are going to sell them in special stores internationally. For example, we have spoken with a store in Toronto that has these types of products. The sound is incredible,” they say. At this time, they are also looking to expand their distributors. “We have spoken with stores in Bilbao, Madrid, Catalonia, Bordeaux or Cambridge. If everything goes well, we will start large-scale production,” Alastair attests.

In addition to the three partners, the company has closed a new addition to the team: Tom Curlewis: “He is half Australian, half from here. Things seem to be going well and we decided to propose working with us. He is in charge of the renderings of the prototypes and the three-dimensional designs. “It helps us a lot to see what the pieces will actually be like.”