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Siegfried Amft, Founder and President, T+A Electroakustic

Siegfried Amft, Founder and President, T+A Electroakustic

What ignited your interest in the high end? Did it come from the music side or the electronics side?
Both. When I was young I used to play violin and sing in a very good chorus. Also, as I was very much interested in natural sciences and technology, I built my first amps, radios, and speakers before I was fifteen.

What was your first high-end system? What year was this?
I bought my first high-end system in the early Seventies. I had to save and work a long time before I could afford it, because I was a student at that time. It was a Sansui system—AU 9900, TU 9900, and tape deck, plus an AS 5002 tape recorder. I still have it.

When did audio develop from a hobby to a career?
During my years of studying physics, I heard lectures in electro-acoustics given by Professor Fritz Sennheiser, the founder of Sennheiser. It was so interesting that I decided to go into the audio business.

What education did you receive?
I studied Physics at the Technical Leibnitz University in Hannover, Germany, and finished as Diploma Physicist in 1977. I had specialized in plasma physics and electro-acoustics.

How do you define the difference between hi-fi and high-end audio?
Today hi-fi is everywhere and available at many price and performance levels. For me, hi-fi should mean a good quality and good value product, while the term “high-end audio” should be reserved for products that are outstanding in design and manufacturing techniques, and consequently offer superior performance quality and long-term investment value.

Analog or digital—what is your preference and why? Do you still enjoy LPs?
Of course I listen to LPs very often and I still buy them. Wherever it is possible, we prefer analog solutions, and designs that are as discrete as possible. For example, in our digital players, the digital converter sections are completely galvanically de-coupled from the analog output stages.

Are you surprised at the resiliency of high-end two-channel? Weren’t we all supposed to have multichannel systems by now?
Not really. Two-channel has always been strong in Europe and multichannel could not replace it. Honestly, I like that.

Looking towards the future, how will high-end systems change in the next ten years or so?
We will still focus on the best possible sound quality, but the possibilities offered by high-resolution streaming technologies are very positive for high-end audio and will require us to develop new concepts.

Going forward, what are the greatest challenges confronting the high end?
Will hi-res/high-quality music be available in the future? Specifically, will enough big software companies be willing to invest in high-end audio? And will the younger generation still be interested in high-end audio?

Outside audio, what do you do for fun?
I am a commercial pilot and like to fly as often as possible; my favorite sports are skiing and playing tennis. I still love soccer but I am too old to play it now.

What still inspires you about your work?
After 37 years in this business, I am extremely proud of the engineering team we have put together at T+A. The past five years have brought some of the most exciting new concepts and product developments in our company’s history. We use the most advanced scientific theory and apply it to the enjoyment of music in the home. (Theory + Application is the full name and design intention of our firm.) Every morning I am still very happy to go to the factory, to work with this wonderful staff, and to see the company growing. 

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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