Q&A with Irv Gross of Constellation Audio

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Q&A with Irv Gross of Constellation Audio

How did you get into this business?
My first musical influences were The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary. Music has always been a soundtrack to my life from adolescence onward. In high school, I worked on a radio show, and at a radio station in college. While teaching and finishing my master’s degree in Philosophy at the University of Colorado, I took a part-time job in a stereo store in Boulder 40 years ago. Since the market for salesmen remains stronger than the market for philosophers, here I am today. That’s pretty much how it became a 40-year career—with a hiatus that revolves around an ex-girlfriend, but that’s another story.

Your academic background is different than most in this industry. What are the benefits of having taught and studied philosophy and literature?
To my mind, there is no finer intellectual discipline than the study of philosophy. It develops critical thinking and requires strong writing skills. The study of literature and reading great writers is its own reward, but the benefit is the depth of human understanding it teaches. Teaching helped me refine my oral communication skills.

How do you define high-end audio?
I am really indifferent. It seems to me that it is a distinction rather than a difference. What I really care about is listening to music that moves me, regardless of the source. Between analog and digital, I prefer that the music and reproduction be “good,” and whether the source is analog or digital is secondary. I would much rather listen to an old Sarah Vaughan album than anything by Pink—no matter the format or how well recorded it may be. 

What attracted you to Constellation Audio?
Great sound is a necessity. So are sound engineering and business integrity. More importantly, the corporate vision and the fact that the company is run as a business by a CEO with an MBA means it is neither a toy store nor a hobby. Working for Constellation Audio has allowed me to fulfill both my audiophile needs and career goals.

What direction do you see for high-end audio and the marketplace?
We must attract new, younger buyers while simultaneously continuing to nurture our core business. Constellation Audio is addressing that by expanding our range of audiophile products.

What can the high-end audio industry do better?
As the high-performance audio industry has matured, we have not kept pace with some of the best practices used in other luxury goods businesses. From product design to packaging to how we present and sell our goods, including social media and web design, all of us at every level can do a better job.

Since this is ostensibly a music business, and you are known for doing interesting demos, are there a couple of “undiscovered gems” or artists you can share?
Ray Wylie Hubbard—the only country singer who quotes Rilke and Blake. Proof that the phrase “intelligent country music” is not an oxymoron. Not for audiophiles, but great listening. Anything by either of the Avishai Cohens, the bass player or the trumpeter. Nima ben David, viola da gamba.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Outside of audio, my interests are tennis, photography, reading, and writing.

What has working at Constellation Audio taught you?
When we do our job well as a manufacturer (and we do), we provide a vehicle for people to experience the joy of great music. This is a phenomenon that cuts through all the barriers that separate us and allows us to come together as human beings to appreciate music for what it adds to our lives. While our words speak many different languages, we can all appreciate the beauty of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos or Beethoven’s Ninth. At the end of the day, that’s not such a bad thing to make your life’s work.

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