What ignited your interest in the high end? Did it come from the music side or the electronics side?
The music side primarily. My parents introduced me to music at a very early age and it has been a passion of mine ever since. With that being said, I’ve always been interested in everything science-related, including the physics behind sound and acoustic reproductions.
What gear made up your first high-end system?
It was a Snell Phantom IC-B7 system powered by Krell multichannel amps.
When and why did audio develop from a hobby to a career?
It was in 2010, when we officially established Starke Sound. My partners and I have always shared a fond appreciation for the audio and visual arts. We felt that the technology at the time was lacking, so we combined our skill sets to create an audio company to enhance these artistic experiences, not just for ourselves but for other audiophiles as well.
You were educated as an architect. How has this informed your work with Starke Sound?
It absolutely has. There’s more overlap between building design and industrial design than one would think. For instance, we use building methods borrowed from architectural design to improve the internal structure of our cabinets. These methods help increase rigidity and stabilization, both of which result in better-sounding speakers. Scale, proportion, and overall design aesthetics are also very important elements. For me beauty is in the details.
How do you define the difference between hi-fi and high-end audio?
The difference has occurred over the last 30 years as hi-fi has morphed into the high end, and as the term hi-fi was adopted by mainstream audio. Hi-fi to me is defined by good performance within a specific given price range. High-end audio, on the other hand, is all about the best performance that can be achieved in whatever size speaker you desire, but also not necessarily limited by a particular price point. For example, our Halo series is what we consider to be a high-end product. These speakers were designed with superior performance as the defining metric. It was only after this was achieved that we determined the cost and MSRP, rather than the other way around.
Analog or digital—what is your preference and why?
High-resolution digital, because it offers source portability, ease of music-library management, and consistently high-quality sound. It’s hard to take my records jogging!
Starke Sound operates in both the home cinema and audiophile markets. Do you approach them differently? Should you?
We approach them the same way; in either case the products should present a great sonic experience. Realistic audio reproduction is about dispersion, frequency response, dynamics, and low distortion. The speaker doesn’t “know” you’re watching a movie or listening to a soundtrack. Build a speaker that has high dynamic range, wide and even frequency response, controlled dispersion, and low distortion, and it will excel for both audio and cinema applications.
What interesting fact or aspect about Starke Sound might surprise audiophiles?
Starke Sound is a vertically integrated company. Unlike other manufacturers we build almost everything in-house. Our drivers, electronics, cabinets and their finishes, etc., are all built under one roof. This allows us to maintain a high degree of efficiency regarding quality control and production schedules. For me what’s most exciting about being vertically integrated is our ability to innovate and develop new products and technologies.
Looking towards the future, how do you envision high-end systems changing in the next few years?
Integration with the whole home will be key: connectivity to peripheral devices, ease of operation, and extensive use of DSP to shape and steer sound. Power—watts and MIPS—is seriously cheap today, and only going to get cheaper. It will be interesting to see how streaming and wireless platforms take hold in the high-end market. These technologies are evolving quickly and are on the verge of breaking through the high-end threshold in signal quality and performance. But I’m not ready to put aside my vinyl just yet.