By Joshua Mendes

(FORTUNE Magazine) – What do you do when your main customer disintegrates? At least one military supplier to the former Soviet Union has a possible solution. Okean Tribor, a St. Petersburg manufacturer of acoustic equipment for tracking submarines, now turns out hi-fi components good enough to catch the attention of Western audiophiles. One U.S. fan: Keith Johnson, an MIT material sciences professor. He happened across the product last summer while touring Russian factories as a consultant for Batterymarch, a Boston investment firm. Excited by what he heard, Johnson brought home amplifiers, turntables, and speakers so that others could judge -- and kept one set for himself. Says the classical music buff: ''People who come into my house can't believe their ears.'' The professor gave another set to Cambridge Soundworks, a pricey audio catalogue company co-owned by legendary hi-fi innovator Henry Kloss. The outfit liked what it heard and accorded special bravos to the amplifier. Enthuses product manager Walter Schofield: ''It's a brute. Its bass is absolutely tremendous.'' As a result, Cambridge is investigating ways to import these amplifiers and sell them through its catalogue, perhaps by the end of this year. Okean Tribor has offered to provide them for $100 each. That would leave Cambridge plenty of room to undercut equivalent U.S. and foreign brands that go for $600 to $1,000. - J.M.