What ignited your interest in the high end? Did it come from the music side or the electronics side?
I developed a love of music at about age 7. I had a small radio next to my bed and I spent hours listening to the local rock station while my parents thought I was asleep. My father was also a lover of music and for as long as I can remember there was always something playing on the console stereo. My interest in “better” sound came about while in college when I purchased a pair of KLH speakers, a Kenwood integrated amp, and a Technics turntable from a friend. This modest first system sounded far better than any other I had owned. I was hooked!
The KLH, Kenwood, and Technics system stayed with me through my college years and beyond. In 1985, I purchased a pair of VMPS Tower 2R speakers along with a Nikko preamplifier and power amplifier; I retained the Technics turntable. This was indeed an upgrade and I was happy. A year later, a coworker was selling her Conrad-Johnson PV 2a preamp for $100, and I bought it. I installed the new preamp in my system and was absolutely amazed at the improvements. This preamp upgrade made me realize the difference between merely good hi-fi gear and components designed by those with a genuine passion for music reproduction.
How do you define the difference between hi-fi and high-end audio?
High-end audio is where the designer endeavors to produce excellent audio performance that is a reflection of his personal view of what music sounds like in reality. Mass hi-fi manufacturers, on the other hand, tend to focus on meeting certain measurement criteria and providing “features” that differentiate their products from the competition with little regard to how those products sound in real-world conditions.
What kind of education did you receive?
Undergrad degree in Mathematics, and an MBA.
How did your interest in cables begin?
I started doing some basic research into cable design and transmission line theory in 1999. I decided at that time that cables needed to conform to the basic electrical parameters of low capacitance and low inductance and negligible impedance. Unfortunately, cable manufacturers rarely publish these figures. I started making my own speaker cables and interconnects in 2000.
What is the greatest misunderstanding that people have about the cable segment?
Far too many audiophiles attempt to use cables as tone controls or as a cure for a poorly assembled audio system. Properly designed cables should be as neutral and transparent as possible and not impart a flavor to the sound of the system.
Analog or digital—what is your preference and why?
For many years, I had a strong preference for analog (vinyl) over digital. In the last couple of years, however, digital technology has come a long way toward closing the gap. While I still prefer analog ultimately, I’m finding myself listening to digital 80 percent of the time.
Personal listening, headphones, etc., is increasingly popular. What do think accounts for this shift?
Personal listening is relatively affordable, is easily portable, and does not require the commitment and effort for assembling a good-sounding speaker-based system. I think this trend is very positive for the entire high-end audio industry as new potential audiophiles are being minted daily by the personal listening sector.
Going forward, what are the greatest challenges confronting the high end?
The big challenges are as follows: the aging of the typical audiophile, and the divergent interests of younger people. Another is the trend toward smaller living spaces within walkable communities, away from suburbs and large houses—particularly for millennials. There also seems to be a decreasing appetite for compensating artists for their work; this comes from the music industry in general, along with consumers wanting free stuff. This desire to avoid paying for creativity and artistry is encroaching upon all aspects of life, including high-end audio. The vast majority of high-end audio companies, along with retailers, have done an abysmal job of promoting the benefits of high-quality audio gear. Contrast this with the automobile, wristwatch, and jewelry industries that have created powerful mystiques around their brands. High-end audio is a lifestyle that potentially can be attractive to large groups of people who enjoy music. I see that several companies in the personal listening space are reaching out to a much broader audience, and the rest of the high-end audio industry needs to do the same.
Outside of audio, what do you do for fun?
Cooking, baking artisan bread, hiking, listening to live music in small venues such as The Baked Potato in Los Angeles.
What (still) inspires you about your work?
I take great pleasure in communicating with customers and in knowing that I have contributed toward their enjoyment of music in a meaningful way.