May 12, 2010

10 Qs For Peter Qvortrup, Of Audio Note UK.

The man with his favourite drink, Starbucks Frappecino.

I was part of the group of bloggers invited by Wong Tatt Yew of Audio Note Malaysia for a chat with Peter Qvortrup of Audio Note UK. Over the years, Peter seems to be no stranger to controversial and he is not about to let his reputation slip that day! The man just couldn't help him self I guess.

The chat session lasted for over two hours with topics ranging from hifi, music, Ferrari, politics, economics and social studies too! There's nothing this man has no answer to, it's like as if he's got it all figured out in his mind.

The following 10 questions are not necessary entirely mine, as we had two other equally talented bloggers engaging Peter at the same time. I just cherry pick what ever is left of the unsaid parts, plus those have left a strong impression on my own twisted little mind.

Here we go!

BG: Is this your first time to Malaysia?

PQ: Actually, I was here about 9 years ago, but didn't get to do much. I arrived KL, and felt ill the very next day! I was hospitalised with a busted appendicitis and had surgery. I returned to UK for recovery as soon as I was well enough. So that was a wasted trip!

BG: What makes Audio Note products so special to justify their extravagant prices?

PQ: Our products are designed using the best custom parts, like all our sources, pre amps and power amps uses our in house manufactured R-core transformer. The more expensive models uses silver core winding. The transformer core for example is precision manufactured in Japan, sent to Germany for coating then come back to our factory in UK for the winding. Then take our latest mains cable(that's power cord for you and me) called Sogon for example, I can confidently say that our mains cable is probably one of few in the market that has been certified by DIN(which stands for Deutsches Institut for Normung, that's German Industrial Standards for us) for safety. I will tell you that many high end brands of mains cables from the US aren't tested for safety. Can you imaging what if your house caught fire due to use of un certified cables? I'll tell you that insurance companies won't compensate for you unfortunate incident! That is on top of the great sound one is certain from an Audio Note product! In short an Audio Note product not only sounds good, it also looks good, safe to operate and must be built to last.

BG: But seriously, why is it so expensive?

PQ: That's due to the inherently small volume of the high end market. If you look at a cable and wondered, how does it cost so... much? I can tell you that other than the absolute best raw materials that we used, we also test them for safety(many times apparently before it got certified by DIN), add to the R&D cost that is very expensive in Euro, divide the cost in to the cable volumes projected and the selling prices would invariably be expensive, plus, I've gotta make a profit out of selling the product too!

BG: It is known that you have a huge collection of LPs and CDs. Do you download music?

PQ: I do not download, absolutely zero music files! I just don't think it sounds good enough for audiophile grade high fidelity purposes. The problem lies in the way the files are stored in the hard disk. For the maximum storage efficiency, a hard disk stores bits of music all over the place, then recalls all the bits and pieces when the song needs to be re played. Music is a continuous sine wave. You can't break it up all over the place, store it, then re-assemble it quickly for replay! It just doesn't work that way! Transistors have the same problem because they break the continuous sine waves in to two halves, just imaging the hard disk doing the same thing but only many times over and faster! The music and sound quality suffers as result.

BG: CDs are digital, yet they are good enough?

PQ: It's not a question of digital or analog, because in CD's the music is still stored as a continuous, if some what squared, sine wave, in the form of ones and zeros. The CD does not break up the signal at all. If the hard disk store music in a continuous sine wave like CDs do, then the storage volume would be greatly reduced, imaging like instead of 5000 songs, you'd probably only have 300 songs! It's either quality or convenience, you'll have to choose because you can't have both! Just like a Ferrari or a Range Rover! The Ferrari is great on track or roads, but the Range Rover is best for off roads.

BG: Do you think CDs will be around for much longer?

PQ: I think CDs would probably disappear in about 5-10 years time. The music market will continue in two forms, where the collectibles and high end audio would still be dominated by vinyl. I was saying this 20 years ago, but people laughed at me!, who's having the last laugh now? He! He! The other end of the market where convenience and function is primary, then music down loads would be the format of choice. I can imaging that music down loads on a server would be a perfect fit for lobby or elevator music, don't you think so? (I nod in agreement) I think the music industry should look in to re-packaging music CDs, so that it is desirable. When you make something desirable and people want them, than it would sell a whole more. It's as simple as that! At the moment, the CDs packed in those nasty clear plastic cases just looks so throw away, who'd wanna buy something that looks like soon to be tomorow's rubbish? I don't like music down loads either because they're like the fast food of music, very consumable but never memorable!

BG: How do you think we can get more newbies in to high end audio? Is it just too expensive?

PQ: High end audio, like all other pursuits of excellence will by nature be expensive and hence elitist! I make no apology for it. High end audio, I hate that term, it's so....... American!, is just like the Ferrari for cars. It's meant for a privileged few, who could afford to push the boundaries of excellence, then allow the know how to trickle down to the more mundane every day products. The elitist buy the Ferrari to make a statement(because they could!), while the rest of us just want a regular, comfy A-B transport. High end audio, the boutique watch market, or even fashion designer labels works on very much the same market principles.

ML trying to get friendly with Peter? Peter gave the budding business owner a very good advice. Make your products so.... desire able, people will wanna buy em'. ML is that where Desirable Audio Boutique came from? He!He!

BG: Which competitor you most admire?

PQ: I like Naim. I don't like their sound, but I do like like the way they operate as a company, they way their product build up to a full system with upgrade routes pre-planned, they way they communicate and treat their customers. Naim is in an enviable position as their customers are very loyal, just like Audio Note UK customers!

BG: Has the current world economic malaise affected your business? And like so many of the great British brands, would you consider selling out to the newly minted rich Chinese if offered?

PQ: Yes, it has affected our sales some what, but it's manage able as we are not over geared like some other companies. It's funny that you should mention that sell out to the Chinese aspect. We actually had offers not too long ago, but I can tell you I would not sell out! Not just to the Chinese, but not to anybody! This is something I wake up for every day. I can't think of any other thing that I'd love doing more, until I roll over and drop dead!

BG: Just in case that happens, which will happen sooner or latter, how would you like to be remembered? What would your legacy be?

PQ: I've never really thought about that, but now that you guys have brought it up, I would like to be considered to be the one who brought back the popularity of SET to amplifier designs. And most importantly, the first one to bring about stratospheric prices to high end audio many, many years ago! Ha!Ha!(that's when we all laughed wildly!)

As Peter had a flight to catch on his way back to UK. We wished him "Bon Voyage" and that concluded our happy chat. Many thanks to Wong Tatt Yew and Ong of Absolute AV Galleries for organising this fruity chat.

1 comment:

GusF_Finkbeiner1209 said...
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