Grateful Dead Fan Creates a Faithful Mini Replica of the Band’s Famous “Wall of Sound” During Lockdown

A few years ago we told you about the Wall of Sound. Not the one cre­at­ed in the stu­dio by Phil Spec­tor, but the one cre­at­ed by Grate­ful Dead tech engi­neer Owsley “Bear” Stan­ley out of over 600 speak­ers. Before the Dead worked to rev­o­lu­tion­ize how rock con­certs could sound, the speak­ers at live shows were tre­bly, under­pow­ered things, hav­ing not been designed for the sud­den change in musi­cal tex­ture and sound dur­ing the 1960s. In the ear­ly days, speak­ers were most­ly used to make sure the drums didn’t drown out the oth­er band mem­bers. Stanley’s three-sto­ry, 28,800-watt mas­sive wall, with columns of speak­ers ded­i­cat­ed to each musi­cian, promised crisp fideli­ty more so than pure loud­ness. In devel­op­ing the set-up, Stan­ley and his fel­low engi­neers helped intro­duce ideas still being used in live sound today.

For all that, how­ev­er, the Wall only got used for sev­en months of tour­ing in 1974. It took hours and hours to assem­ble and dis­as­sem­ble. For those who heard it, the sys­tem lived up to its hype. And it was immor­tal­ized in the Win­ter­land, San Fran­cis­co shows filmed for The Grate­ful Dead Movie (watch it online).

Now, near­ly 50 years lat­er a ded­i­cat­ed fan has rebuilt the wall as a 1/6th scale mod­el in his base­ment. While some of us took up bak­ing dur­ing 2020’s COVID lock­down, Antho­ny Cos­cia began to work four hours a day, every day, for two months, on this mod­el. He post­ed his progress on Insta­gram and Dead­heads, most of which hadn’t seen the real thing in per­son, lost their minds. (See this video to get a good taste of things.) Cos­cia also had nev­er seen the fabled Wall in real life—he would have been a tod­dler at the time. But he made up for it lat­er in the late ‘80s, see­ing the band 35 times, and the Jer­ry Gar­cia Band 25 times.


An archi­tect by day, Cos­cia insist­ed on the small­est details being repli­cat­ed, urged on by social media. The fin­ished mod­el is 6 foot, 8 inch­es tall and 10 feet wide, and fea­tures 390 work­ing speak­ers. It pumps out a not-exact­ly-Win­ter­land-wor­thy 800 watts.

“It’s a mas­sive glo­ri­fied clock radio but it sounds bet­ter than I thought,” he told the Wall Street Jour­nal.

And although he spent $2,000 in total, he’s already been offered $100,000 for it from an anony­mous donor.

The obses­sion with the band con­tin­ues a half-cen­tu­ry lat­er. A just announced series of shows by Bob Weir’s Dead & Com­pa­ny in Jan­u­ary 2022—in Can­cun, of course, where it’s warm—have sold out.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch the Grate­ful Dead Slip Past Secu­ri­ty & Play a Gig at Colum­bia University’s Anti-Viet­nam Protest (1968)

Take a Long, Strange Trip and Stream a 346-Hour Chrono­log­i­cal Playlist of Live Grate­ful Dead Per­for­mances (1966–1995)

The Grate­ful Dead Movie: Watch It Free Online

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

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Comments (7)
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  • Fred says:

    Is that cor­rect $2000 for 390 speak­ers? That comes to $5.13 per speak­er! Heck of a deal even for krap­py speak­ers.

  • Fred says:

    Wait now I see, it’s 1/6 scale. I did­n’t read it well, but the pic over at WSJ made it clear.

  • Warren Peas says:

    Neil Young used a house and a barn as stereo speak­er cab­i­nets. Point of inter­est.

  • Joe Mama says:

    Bear Stan­leys wikipedia states he is best known for LSD and the Wall of Sound, tough to beat that.

  • John F Hornberger says:

    I saw the wall of sound in 74. Prov­i­dence and Dil­lon sta­di­um out­doors in Hart­ford. Amaz­ing sound. 3 sets. 4 plus hours of dead back then. Phil was doing his sea stones thing dur­ing set breaks. The Phil bombs lit­er­al­ly shook the ground. 73 watkins Glenn had the wall par­tial­ly set up on stage. I was 50 ft from stage with 600,000 friends behind me. 17 years old. Ha. Fri night sound check was a real treat. Those were the days.

  • Randy J Bruso says:

    Nice work. It prob­a­bly sounds pret­ty good too. An inter­est­ing trib­ute.

  • Paul J. Bartholome says:

    Wow! What a set­up! I saw the Dead in ’79 at Amherst University/U‑mass! Four hour (if I’m recall­ing cor­rect­ly) show! It sound­ed great! I think there were about 30,000 on hand. My first, and unfor­tu­nate­ly, my last ‘Dead show! Good times that sum­mer! Zany trip to the east coast, then down to my home­town, Kansas City, hitch­hiked my way back up to my oth­er digs up in Hele­na, Mon­tana! Back in the days you could hitch rides on the Inter­state high­ways!

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