TOM VU: The Man Behind The Art

The Analogue Fellowship recently hosted Tom Vu, founder and designer of TriangleART, as he showcased his latest turntable, the Master Reference. We learned a great deal about passion, craftsmanship, patience and nerves of steel from this humble and fun-loving man in a marathon 3-city listening session.

Tom Vu came to America at the age of 12 and was promptly sent to Minnesota to finish his education. Leaving behind his home and parents in sunny California, Tom found that the Upper Midwestern climate was a test on his character, something that would be a reoccurring theme throughout his adult life and career.

Then, there was an encounter with a fortune teller who told him that his success and fortune would follow his Chinese astrological element. Tom often wondered about that statement and could not fathom how the planets and stars would align for him to start TriangleART later on.

But before all that, Tom studied and majored in finance & business. A steady and no-risk career choice lies ahead. Armed with steely determination and lots of hard work, Tom became one of the youngest CEOs in a Fortune 500 company before turning 40.

Somehow that job came with all its attendant issues. Like stress. Lots of it. Managing a company like that, according to Tom, takes a lot from you. At this point in time, Tom sought to release the pressures from work and started to dabble in turntable designs.

His love for music and, specifically LIVE music, drove him to create and manipulate different materials in his early designs. From his first prototype (given to a good friend since), Tom realized early on that the sky’s the limit for incorporating different materials and each time, a different sound would develop.

“The early designs were not the best looking turntables, but sonically, I was getting there,” admitted Tom. What he sought was the distinct sound that was the unique property of combining different materials like steel, copper, brass, aluminium and others. This process was costly and tedious, but he found a willing party to indulge his metallurgical fancy.

Finding the unique and correct combination was not the only issue at this juncture. Tom decided to quit his day job and the family was living off his savings and whatever limits the credit cards can withstand.

“I was so lost in my own thoughts one day that I overshot my house by an hour, driving down the freeway,” Tom said.

Much like the story behind the WD-40 lubricant discovery, Tom actually found the right combination and the sound he was looking for. The eureka moment may have taken a while but the painstaking process was worth the blood, sweat and tears.

Word got around of this ‘artisan crafted analogue’ turntable that was great sounding and looked a million bucks.

One day a call came in from a high-flying Hollywood personality who requested for a unit to be placed in his palatial Bel Air home. Tom quickly went to work and came up with a few designs for this client. Everything was conducted by phone and e-mail.

“It was a strange arrangement as I never met him,” said Tom. “Anyway, the client bought a design that I managed to deliver on time and on budget.”

Tom laughed when asked about the price of that fateful turntable. “It costs the same as the house I was living in at the time,” said Tom.

From there, Tom managed to build a formidable team and started his operations in Anaheim where his main offices are also his production plant. Tom oversees everything from design to the CNC programming and actual material cutting on the factory floor. These days, TriangleART products range from ultimate reference series turntables to tonearms, cartridges, pre and power amplifiers to super conducting cables and are progressively being distributed in many countries outside of the United States.

“I am blessed with good friends like our local distributor Chris and Rajah, and Dato Danon of Analogue Fellowship, here in Malaysia,” said Tom, “For it is with their support that the TriangleART brand can be enjoyed by more music lovers everywhere.”

Remember the fortune teller earlier? Well, he told Tom Vu that he will find huge success and fortune in metals…


By JayKay of Analogue Fellowship