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Q&A with Hans-Joachim Voss of Accustic Arts

Q&A with Hans-Joachim Voss of Accustic Arts

What ignited your interest in the high end? The music side or the electronics side?
My interest in music has accompanied me since my early youth. I’ve always enjoyed listening to music and attending concerts regularly. During my school years I worked part-time in a music store. This allowed me to buy records inexpensively. It was here that I bought my first hi-fi system, which I improved over the years. Today I still like to go to rock concerts, and every year I invite our partners for a weekend in the summer to the “Black Sheep” rock music festival near our manufacturing facility. It’s amazing to see and hear world-famous rock groups from the 70s and 80s on three open-air stages in the old castle complex in Bonfeld [Germany].

What was your first high-end system?
The first “music system” that I owned was a simple turntable with built-in amplifier. Very soon I was not satisfied with its quality and sold the device. Over the course of years, I’ve bought different components and continued to rebuild my system. Later, I had the opportunity to listen to an Accustic Arts system with a friend. I was so excited that I quickly sold my existing system to buy the AMP II stereo power amp, a DAC, and a preamp from Accustic Arts. Eventually I added a CD player to the system.

When did audio develop from a hobby to a career?
For many years it was my dream to own my own company. Then, by chance I met the former owner of Accustic Arts when he was preparing to retire. As his two sons had no interest in the company, he was looking for an external successor. After a period of negotiation, we came to an agreement and for the last three years I have been the proud owner of Accustic Arts.

What education did you receive?
After high school I did a bank apprenticeship and then studied business administration and completed my MBA. Then my first job was as a board assistant at a medium-sized company in Berlin. There I discovered my passion for sales and marketing. During the following years, I held various management positions in sales and marketing for companies in the consumer goods industry.

How do you define the difference between hi-fi and high-end audio?
This is difficult to say, and certainly everyone defines hi-fi or high-end audio differently. Hi-fi is the abbreviation for “high fidelity” and means that a transmission system can reproduce the recorded sound image so that there is little difference between the original and the playback. It is a standardized minimum requirement and quality standard of music. Here the technical data stand front and foremost. From a group of hi-fi fans, a scene developed in which the musical experience and emotions were the center focal point—the high-end audio enthusiasts.

Analog or digital? Do you have a preference and why?
Analog or digital—a basically constructed contrast. In a high-end system it is all about rendering music as true to the original as possible. And that’s possible on a very high analog and digital level. The sound potential of the LP is enormous. Digital music playback is still done today via CD players, but streaming is increasing.

How would you describe the company philosophy?
Precision is the number-one priority in the manufacture of Accustic Arts equipment. This is achieved by hand entirely in Germany. All components undergo complex input and output tests that last up to two weeks, prior to the delivery of each Accustic Arts device. The goal of “maximum fidelity in reproduction” can be found in both our name and our products. Accustic Arts is the short form for Accurate Acoustic Arts, which means “proper sound art.” To meet this requirement, only the most precise and highest-quality components are used. The high end of Accustic Arts should sound lifelike in detail, must not color anything, but still allow emotions. Warmth in the sound is a desirable goal, but not tolerated when it becomes artificial showmanship.

What interesting fact about Accustic Arts might surprise audiophiles?
In 2009, Accustic Arts founded an audiophile music label called Accustic Arts Audiophile Recordings (AAAR) that produces CDs and vinyl. Milan Sajé (sound engineer) and Rasmus Muttscheller (A&R) are actively involved; both have worked in the international music business for decades and are responsible for the selection of published titles. We are currently producing a recording with the trombonist and Grammy winner, Joe Gallardo.

What are the greatest challenges confronting the high end in the next few years?
In the next few years, we will have to take more care of younger customers and bring them closer to high-end music.

What inspires you about your work?
I am always pleased when customers are enthusiastic about our devices and write or call us.

By Neil Gader

My love of music largely predates my enthusiasm for audio. I grew up Los Angeles in a house where music was constantly playing on the stereo (Altecs, if you’re interested). It ranged from my mom listening to hit Broadway musicals to my sister’s early Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Beatles, and Stones LPs, and dad’s constant companions, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. With the British Invasion, I immediately picked up a guitar and took piano lessons and have been playing ever since. Following graduation from UCLA I became a writing member of the Lehman Engel’s BMI Musical Theater Workshops in New York–working in advertising to pay the bills. I’ve co-written bunches of songs, some published, some recorded. In 1995 I co-produced an award-winning short fiction movie that did well on the international film-festival circuit. I was introduced to Harry Pearson in the early 70s by a mutual friend. At that time Harry was still working full-time for Long Island’s Newsday even as he was writing Issue 1 of TAS during his off hours. We struck up a decades-long friendship that ultimately turned into a writing gig that has proved both stimulating and rewarding. In terms of music reproduction, I find myself listening more than ever for the “little” things. Low-level resolving power, dynamic gradients, shadings, timbral color and contrasts. Listening to a lot of vocals and solo piano has always helped me recalibrate and nail down what I’m hearing. Tonal neutrality and presence are important to me but small deviations are not disqualifying. But I am quite sensitive to treble over-reach, and find dry, hyper-detailed systems intriguing but inauthentic compared with the concert-going experience. For me, true musicality conveys the cozy warmth of a room with a fireplace not the icy cold of an igloo. Currently I split my time between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Studio City, California with my wife Judi Dickerson, an acting, voice, and dialect coach, along with border collies Ivy and Alfie.

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