HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE is December  8, 9 & 10 –  RSVP here!

Unique SPECIMEN audio horns at Garfield Conservatory, Show Room. Protea, Hornlets, Hornling, Eremurus, Liatris, Calla, Liederhorn designed by Ian Schneller, produced by Specimen Products. 2014

Unique SPECIMEN audio horns at Garfield Conservatory, Show Room, 2014. Protea, Hornlets, Hornling, Eremurus, Liatris, Calla, Liederhorn designed by Ian Schneller and produced by Specimen Products

An assortment of different Specimen horns seen in the Show Room, Garfield  Conservatory, Chicago. Among them are Ian Schneller’s new singular new horns, which featured the premier of new music by composer Glenn Kotche at the Packer Schopf Gallery, Chicago.

“Eremurus” and “Calla” Specimen Audio Horns graced the Mosaic Fountain, Horticulture Hall, Garfield Conservatory, Chicago


“Calla”, “Protea” and “Eremurus” Specimen Audio Horns, Show House, Garfield Conservatory, 2014


December 28th, 2013 | no comments

Get Fueled


Get Fueled is a collection of answers for the question: What is your creative process? Founded by Brenda Bergen, the creative force behind Wink Design Atelier. The Blog includes interviews with numerous visual artists, interior designers, photographers, musicians and authors.

Brenda interviewed Ian Schneller, Specimen Products founder and designer, asking questions about his creative process ranging from how he made things as a child, how he designs his present work and how he gets his inspiration. Check out the interview here.

The Ceiling Janus from FRUIT BONUS on Vimeo.

Specimen was fortunate enough to be selected by the kind and talented people at Fruit Bonus films to be featured in a series of short doc videos about our work.

We met with Mark Pallman and his crew last September right at the time Ian was finishing the Upside Down Ceiling Janus. After nearly a year in development, this Specimen was due to be delivered to its new owner in a couple weeks. It seemed the perfect opportunity to document this one-of-a-kind horn speaker.

On the day of the shoot we invited a musician and good friend, the amazing Jim Elkington, to demonstrate the magic made possible with this unique speaker. After months of editing hours and hours of footage, the video is now complete. We couldn’t be prouder.

Check it out!

Filmed in September 2012 at Specimen Products in Chicago IL.

This video features owner/engineer Ian Schneller detailing the internal structures and functionality of his first ever upside down spinning double horn speaker.

Musical demonstration by Jim Elkington

Directed by Fruit Bonus
Director of Photography – Drew Wehde
Camera Operator – Amanda Speva
Camera Operator – Mark Pallman
Camera Assist – Gary Maloof
Production Audio – Erik Rasmussen
Data Management – Abbie Hamilton
Editor – Mark Pallman
Assistant Editor – Tim Cahill
Animation/Design – Tyler Nelson
Titles – Jason Oberg
Color – Jeff Greco
Audio Mix – Marina Bacci

January 28th, 2013 | no comments

Inhabitat LogoSpecimen’s Hand-Crafted Horn Speakers Are Made from Recycled Newsprint and Dryer Lint
by Lea Stewart

Below is an excerpt from a feature about Specimen at, a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future.


Specimen Custom Horn Speakers featured on

Founder of Chicago-based Specimen Products, Ian Schneller, and his team craft unexpected materials like dryer lint and recycled newsprint into sonically wonderful and highly sculptural horn speakers. These amazing sound vibrators are showing up on stage with indie music artists like Andrew Bird, table-side at the hangouts of Chicago’s most serious foodies, and winning space inside modern art museums and the tech-geek offices of Instagram. We recently spoke with Schneller to get the inside scoop on how Specimen’s speakers buck the electronic trends for miniaturization, high wattage output and planned obsolescence.

Read the full story here

SPECIMEN Hornling Hi-Fi Stereo speakers look right at home in the new corporate headquarters of Instagram which was designed by the Geremia Design interior design firm.  See more pictures of our horn speakers in homes around the world: Horn Speakers: Customer Photos.

Specimen exhibited for the first time at the SOFA Art Expo in Chicago. The SOFA (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art & Design) exhibit has been presented in Chicago for the past 19 years and provides an opportunity to galleries from across the globe to present artists whose media includes wood, glass, metal, plastic, and other materials. Ever since attending the show back when I was in art school, I have always thought of it as “the non-painting show.”

Chicago’s Packer Schopf gallery invited Specimen to participate. Aron Packer, the gallery’s owner/curator is known for representing artists who create idiosyncratic work, usually with exceptional craft or some obsessive quality. We’ve known Aron for years, and have always admired his singular vision. Specimen was honored to exhibit in Packer Schopf’s booth alongside artists such as Ellen Greene, Casey Gunschel, Brian Dettmer, Matthew Cox, and Jim Dingilian.

Apart from exhibiting our horn speakers and hi-fi stereo tube amps in the Packer Schopf booth, Specimen’s Aerosel Horn Sculptures could also be seen in the cafe suspended from the ceiling of the Exhibition Hall. The show’s presenters (The Art Fair Co.) created custom walls that curved behind each Aerosel. Under the spotlights, the Aerosels cast shadows on these curved walls creating mysterious, undulating forms. The effect was amazing!

We were also an integral part of another space at the show – the Audi Conversation Space. In this space our XL Horn Speakers were exhibited and used when various lecturers gave presentations throughout the show.

SOFA opened on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 1., to massive crowds who perused the booths, enjoyed cocktails, and exhibited their personal style. My favorite visitor was a tall, thin, elderly woman with cropped white hair dressed in full equestrian attire: black velvet riding hat; jodhpurs; and riding boots!

The exhibit was opened to the public Friday, Nov. 2 – Sunday, Nov. 4. Below is a slideshow of pictures from the show. Thanks go to Scott Shigley for his amazing photos of the Aerosels.

– Nadine Schneller

October 16th, 2012 | no comments

Art in Print

Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue

By Courtney R. Thompson

Columbia College commissioned Specimen’s Ian Schneller to participate in a special exhibition titled Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue. For the exhibition, contemporary artists were asked to create new work using abaca and cotton paper handmade by graduate students of the college’s Center for Book and Paper Arts.

The exhibit was reviewed in Art in Print, a bi-monthly journal and website devoted to the history, theory and culture of the print. The piece leads off with a great review of Ian’s submission to the show, a pair of White Hornlet Audio Speakers made from abaca paper and mounted on clear acrylic bases.

Specimen Custom Paper Hornlet Audio Speakers

“Material Assumptions” is a provocation to reconsider paper specifically handmade paper, and its potential to support, hold and challenge form. The exhibition was developed through an independent study graduate course at Chicago’s Columbia College led by Jessica Cochran, who with co-curators Elizabeth Isakson-Dado, Hannah King, and C.J. Mace, invited more than a dozen artists to imagine new artworks to be made from abaca and cotton paper by graduate students at Columbia. These commissioned pieces complement the second part of the exhibition that showcases the work of artists in residence at Dieu Donne, a New York-based non-profit paper workshop that has been providing opportunities for artists to engage with the process of handmade paper since 1976.

Ian Schneller’s White Hornlets is a wonderful introduction to the premise of the show. Schneller is the man behind Specimen Products, a company that originated out of his sculptural work in the early 1980s. As a producer of guitars, amplifiers and speakers, the company is a testament to innovative acoustic aesthetics and experimentation in technology and design. Here Schneller’s iconic speaker horns are made from handmade paper, resulting in the ethereal white horns atop acrylic cubed bases. They assert clarity, transparency and purity, conceptually aligning themselves with a criterion of desired sound performance. Additionally, there were intriguing parallels between ancient formal histories of the horn as a vessel for sound amplification and paper as a carrier of information. While the form was a familiar one for Schneller, the properties of the handmade paper were new, as the horns are usually constructed out of “recycled newsprint, baking soda and dryer lint,” and the change in material forced a shift in aesthetics.

Read the rest of the review by clicking the images below.

Art In Print Magazine Feature about Specimen Horn SpeakersArt In Print Magazine Feature about Specimen Horn Speakers

One day about a year ago I received a call from Jack White. He inquired about a Janus spinning double horn speaker. He said that he wanted me to turn it upside down and hang it from the ceiling. After a long pause, I said it would take a little engineering. He suggested I embark on the project.

Below is more detailed information about the building of this newest Specimen including photos and a slide show of images taken during the building process. You can see more images of the finished Specimen here.

Original Janus Double Spinning Horn SpeakerCeiling-Mounted Janus Double Spinning Horn SpeakerWell it did take a little engineering, quite a bit actually. I quickly realized that not only was I grappling with the typical rotational forces, I was now defying gravity right above people’s heads. The prospect of a sharp-edged spinning projectile hurtling through space and chopping off someone’s head was terrifying to say the least.

To ease my conscience, I decided to fabricate all the support structures from half-inch steel plate instead of the aluminum I used on my other models.

Posing another engineering challenge was the diameter of the shaft. The Janus Horn Speaker features a half-inch shaft which is appropriate for the horn throat diameter, but I needed to drill through it and install a cotter pin of some description in order to hang it safely. My other Janus Spinning Horn Speakers rely on gravity to seat the bearings, instead of having to defy it and hang. Half-inch was the maximum diameter I could use for the shaft. Any larger than would obstruct the sound passing through the horn’s throat diameter. What to do?

After quite a bit of research I decided that key-less bushings were the way to go. One of them properly torqued is good for eight hundred pounds of thrust. If I added a backup bushing in case of failure, I felt reassured enough to go with it. With this stumbling block out of the way it was time to solve some aesthetic issues.

I was having a fundamental difficulty with the idea of simply inverting the Original Janus Horn because mounting a box on the ceiling just didn’t seem right. Coincidentally, I had started doing research on ceiling fans for my living room. After looking at scads of nasty designer fans I settled on the Hunter Original— a heavy industrial-looking fan with oil bath bearings. Very impressive. Then it hit me. Of course! The enclosure for the Specimen Ceiling Horn would be cylindrical. I made a cylindrical form out of laminated MDF and used 1/8″ thick bending plywood to create a custom 3/4″-thick cylinder. Once this was done I was on a roll.

At one point, I had mentioned to Jack that a cable controller might be a little awkward coming down from the ceiling and that I could look into a wireless system with a handheld controller. Careful what you wish for! Luckily, Blaise Barton from Joyride Recording Studio has expertise in such matters and made me a custom transmitter and controller. In spite of its ultra modern, etched board, surface mount, micro processor technology (essentially the opposite of the Specimen ethos), the unit has worked flawlessly and is a wonder to behold. I am very happy to have it on board (pun intended).

After installing the transmitter, circuit board, motor, fittings, and silver-foil backed sound-deadening material, the inside of the Ceiling Janus was really starting to look a little like the lunar module.

Instead of relying on wood screws alone to attach hanging components, I used long, 1/2″-13 stainless steel bolts running up through the whole assembly. This ensures that the unit will continue to defy gravity.

The threaded rod and clevis used to mount the unit to the ceiling was not visually inspiring, so I embarked on a modular carapace to enclose the whole upper unit. A bit of whimsy here resulted in a rather interesting onion dome. Following the format of the octagon, I created a single section of the carapace carved out of wood. I then made a mold of this and layed up epoxy into it. Repeating this process seven more times produced all the sections for the carapace. These eight sections were glued together and lacquered in alternating black and white colors.

One of the last steps was to install portholes around the cylindrical main body. I decided to use screens normally found on National/Dobro guitars and swaged them to hug the radius of the cylinder. This allowed for ventilation and I thought it might assist with the telemetry.

Last week, we delivered the Ceiling-Mounted Janus and successfully installed it in its new home. For having just a six-inch speaker, the Ceiling Janus sounds like a psychedelic Twin Reverb! It is a wonder to listen to.

Columbia College commissioned Specimen’s Ian Schneller to participate in a special exhibition titled Material Assumptions: Paper as Dialogue. For the exhibition, contemporary artists were asked to create new work using abaca and cotton paper handmade by graduate students of the college’s Center for Book and Paper Arts.

The horn speakers we usually make using recycled newsprint, baking soda, and dryer lint yield surfaces that are ruddy, organic, and wild like an untended garden. By contrast, the handmade paper fabricated for this project is so pure, white, and structurally profound that Ian chose to use it to create a pair of Hornlet audio horn speakers that are pristine, stripped down to the lines, and completely naked. Only hand-pulled paper can come close to this organic purity. It is similar to working with porcelain versus terra cotta or stoneware. Naturally, it seemed fitting that the bases for these paper horns also have a quality of purity or transparency which is why Ian chose to use thick acrylic sheets. “It is a little bit eery to listen to them and realize visually to what extent the internal volume of air plays a role in sound production. I think of them as a “full disclosure” version of the Hornlets.” -Ian Schneller

These one-of-a-kind Hornlets will be on display along with newly commissioned works by 11 other artists as well as work by artists-in-residence at Dieu Donné, a New York-based non-profit artist workspace dedicated to the creation, promotion and preservation of contemporary art in the hand papermaking process. The exhibit opens June 15 and runs through August 11. For more info: Material Assumptions. Below is a slideshow of photos taken during the building process.

Specimen Horn Speakers created for Columbia College's Book + Paper Arts ExhibitSpecimen Horn Speakers created for Columbia College's Book + Paper Arts Exhibit

On a beautiful night in May, Andrew Bird and his band performed at Chicago’s esteemed Auditorium Theater. On stage with him were six Aerosel horn sculptures we created in January.

Throughout the performance Andrew’s lighting wizard, Ryan Murphy, dazzled the audience by casting an amazing array of colors, textures, and shadows onto the Aerosels as they gently spun around moving to the music. Below is a slideshow of photos taken at the show. Pure magic!

Designed to be suspended from ceiling, the Aerosels created for Andrew Bird range in height from 5 to 8 feet and will become available after his 2012 tour. We will be posting more photos, descriptions and prices soon!

On Monday, April 30, 2012, Andrew Bird appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! performing two songs from his newest album. With him on stage are two of the four Specimen Aerosel horns he is touring with and his Specimen Janus spinning horn speaker. Mesmerizing!

Yesterday we received an amazing email from Felipe Bravo who lives in California and has been a big fan of Andrew Bird and Specimen for more than a decade.

Specimen Horn Speaker tattoo

He spoke of how much the Sonic Arboretum inspired him and of a tattoo design he had been contemplating for a couple years.

On March 30th, Felipe sat down at Traditional Tattoo in San Luis Obispo, California, and with the help of tattoo artist Jake Schroeder, made it real. This is his first tattoo!

We at Specimen are flattered beyond words.