Q&A with Alfred Vassilkov of Estelon

Q&A with Alfred Vassilkov of Estelon

What ignited your interest in the high end?  Did it come from the music side or the electronics side?
It was a combination but it started with my love for physics. I found it very interesting to understand how electricity becomes music. Hence I pulled apart many radios during my childhood to learn more. This further grew my interest, as there were a million other questions that I started to research. The upshot is that I finally ended up in this field.

What gear made up your first high-end system?
I have been developing systems since my childhood. It is very difficult to draw the line and say, this is where it became high end. My ultimate sound system is always in development, improving day by day.

When did audio develop from a hobby to a career?
After I graduated from university and continued as a researcher in this field, I received an invitation from the biggest radio manufacturer in Tallinn, Estonia, to develop new loudspeakers, drivers, and all related technological processes.

What education did you receive?
Because I was interested in hard sciences and especially in processes around acoustics, my choice was clear: Electro-Technical Institute, Faculty of Electro-Physics in St. Petersburg, specializing in electro-acoustics and ultrasound equipment.

How do you define the difference between hi-fi and high-end audio?
With a hi-fi system, one can enjoy the music and still think about something else, like work, other tasks, etc. However, when listening to music from a high-end system, one is completely immersed in the experience and every emotion the music portrays.

Analog or digital? Do you have a preference?
It all depends on the criteria for judgment. Is it for musicality or details, listening to unique recordings, or having access to huge amounts of any kind of music? For me, the quality of the music and the quality of the recording are always paramount. I have listened to superior quality music with analog and with digital equipment equally well, and the latter has certainly leaped forward in recent years.

Visual design plays an important role with Estelon. How would you describe your design philosophy?
To me, functionality is where everything starts. First, a loudspeaker is a technical object designed to solve technical challenges. But at the same time, it is an object for homes (not houses!)—it is an important part of the interior. Estelons have a very high Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF)! Ultimately, my speaker designs are a combination of elegant decisions on both sides. Good engineering must look elegant. 

What is the greatest misunderstanding people have about your loudspeakers?
Sometimes people think that the Estelon speakers’ shape came first. But they are built from the inside out, not the contrary. Everything started from functionality, and design followed.

What interesting fact or aspect about Estelon might surprise audiophiles?
Estelon speakers do not have a “ceramic sound” as people may think, since X Series speakers have ceramic drivers. I have managed to solve this challenge by finding a way to correctly implement the ceramic drivers so you only get their best features, and these drivers are among the best in my experience.

What are the greatest challenges confronting the high end in the next few years?
We think we know what it is, and our next products that are to be launched in Munich are the solution.

Outside of audio, what do you do for fun?
I like to walk in the forest, cross-country ski in wintertime, and do barbeques in my garden when the sun is shining.

What continues to inspire you about your work?
New achievements are always motivating me. When I can reach a new, next level in something. And our industry provides a lot of challenges. From a design perspective, I get inspired by modern architecture and other outstanding and elegant design products, and of course by nature around the world, especially in Estonia.