About Us

AAW is a boutique audiophile design company located in Austin, Texas, USA, the live music capital of the world. In 2015, we began developing our ideas and principles, circulating prototypes and exploratory hardware among local listeners for critiques and reviews. Input from many experienced listeners helped us to improve our products’ sound quality and user-friendliness. Add in continual, relentless refinement, and you’ve got The Black Swan and The Black Amp. We won’t say they’re perfect, because nothing is—but we’re pretty happy with the way they’ve turned out.

Our technologies blend contemporary physics —no, really—with the best practices in circuit design and layout discovered and developed over half a century.

Barry Thornton

AAW’s founder, senior designer, and CTO, has been active in the audio design community for over 60 years—Barry prefers “experienced” to “old”. He started out in the 1950s, modifying existing products from Heathkit and EICO, and went on to design and build touring sound systems for Jethro Tull and many other bands. He created the Quintessence Audio Group products in the ‘70s and ‘80s, lost the company in a divorce, then developed products for SAE, Parasound, QED, Adcom, Audionics of Oregon, and Hegeman. From there, Barry created products for Monster Cable in the mid-’80s, and in the early ‘90s developed digital audio technologies for the entertainment industry.  In the mid-’90s he created ClearCube, pioneering development of the blade computer, along with virtualization hardware and software. 

After his first retirement, Barry created Austin Medical Research and spent 10 years developing  pain-reduction technology. After his second retirement, Barry returned to his love of audio technologies, creating Austin Audio Works. In 2015 he evolved to a new way of looking at audio technology, exploring current domain signal processing, rather than the more-common voltage domain—laying the foundation for current AAW products.

Bill Leebens

AAW’s President, has been involved in audio since he was a teenager, long, long ago: a charter subscription to The Absolute Sound while still in high school, warped him for good. Shortly thereafter, Bill became a campus rep for several audio wholesalers, during the boom days of bitchin’ dorm room stereo systems. A college double-major in mechanical engineering and journalism indicated the schizoid paths his career(s) would follow.

Over time, Bill worked in almost all aspects of the audio biz: sales manager, director of marketing at Audiogon, press-wrangler and marketing consultant for dozens of manufacturers, ghost-writer, head cheese at the 2012 New York Audio Show. He was best-known for a lengthy stint as director of communications at PS Audio, where he edited Copper Magazine. He also worked on crowdfunding campaigns for audio products, and wrote about high-end audio for Gizmodo, Stereophile, Dwell, and Strata-gee.com.

Outside audio, Bill spent several years as a tech rep in the automotive performance aftermarket, working with a number of racing teams.  Other side-trips: IRS tax-examiner, manager of a medical imaging clinic, PR guy for a major organic produce company. Bill does not bother to have a resume—no one would believe it.