Q&A with Dr. Roland Gauder of Gauder Akustik

Q&A with Dr. Roland Gauder of Gauder Akustik

What ignited your interest in the high end? Did it come from the music side or the electronics side?
Actually from both sides: I come from a musician family but was not talented enough to play a musical instrument, but my sense of hearing was aware of even the smallest deviations of tones. I have always been totally addicted to music, and as my second passion is science, I studied physics and combined it with my passion for music.

What was your first high-end system?
Oh, in 1964 I got a big radiogram from my father. A Kuba Imperial with radio and turntable inside! And it was in stereo with the speakers facing to each side. Together with a tape recorder driven by tubes from Grundig this was my home system for some years, and that’s how my hi-fi interest started.

What kind of education did you receive?
I studied physics and earned a Master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in the subject. It was always physics and music, my whole life long.

How would you explain the difference between hi-fi and high-end audio?
Hi-fi is music reproduction, but is still limited to the two cabinets. You hear L/R signals but you have no illusion of an orchestra sitting on the stage. The high end is the illusion of the entire musical event. You hear no more speakers; rather, you hear a musical event in front of you. You can localize the instruments, talk about their size, and feel the air vibrating among them.

What interesting fact or aspect about Gauder Akustik might surprise audiophiles?
The most surprising thing to all hi-fi aficionados is that we use filters of very high slope in our frequency crossovers. Our latest creations have a slope of around 70dB/octave. And we also use symmetrical crossovers. Remember, we only build passive speakers and not active or digital ones. Many magazines already have verified that these extreme slopes are real.

Some audiophiles also question if ceramic is well-suited for loudspeaker diaphragms. They claim that it sounds hard. I tell them this is superstition. Hard materials do not sound hard by themselves but they present resonances that must be cut off completely, and with flat filters this cannot work out. But with our steep filters these resonances do not show; you cannot even hear them. Also, our extremely steep filters prevent the drivers from significant overlap in the crossover region, and so the soundstage imaging of our speakers is really great. But for the listener the truth always lies in the music: Forget about the theory behind it. Just listen.

Are you surprised at the strength of analog two-channel playback?
Actually yes and no. Analog playback is still something I prefer even though it is not as comfortable as playing with a CD player or a streamer. I may be a dinosaur, I know, but I am always amazed at how many turntables are sold nowadays—and how many people start with vinyl. So music is the real winner. And music is analog.

Personal listening and headphones are increasingly popular. What does this mean for the high-end? 
You know, there are so many wonderful headphones available nowadays. And a headphone can really reproduce the music in a very impressive way as there are no influences from room acoustics, and you need much less power. So I am a fan of good headphones, too. But what is a little bit disturbing is that the sound source comes from inside your head, and you have no body feeling of bass at all. Therefore a good hi-fi system in a good room goes far beyond the illusion of a headphone. But it’s a good start into high-end audio.

Going forward, what are the greatest challenges facing the high-end industry?

The biggest challenge for high-end audio is the sound, and nothing but the sound of a system. This high goal has never changed. We want to reproduce music as naturally as can be. We still want to build up this illusion that cannot be told from the original. You close your eyes and you see the musicians right in front of you as if they were in your room. And to get closer and closer to the perfect illusion is why we still do research s. Music is and has always been a two-channel medium, and so we still try to get to this illusion with two speakers.