August 22, 2010

10 Qs For Roy Gandy, Founder, Owner, Rega Research Limited.

Roy Gandy is an enigma, that's for sure!

Roy Gandy was one of my audio heroes in my early days of hifi. I read many of his interviews in audio rags and over the years, subsequently, I bought a Rega P25 turn table to celebrate Rega's 25th Anniversary. Roy is also a personality of strong opinions, which you'll see further down this read!

I had never imagined that I'll be talking to one of my audio heroes today, courtesy of Eddie Tan, Manager of Asia Sound Equipment. Roy has been doing a tour of Asian distributors and Kuala Lumpur is one of his stops. I asked more 10 Qs, but I will cherry pick the most notable ones not found else where.

Big E: Welcome Roy, did you know you're one of audio heroes, and I had bought Rega turn table as a result of that?

RG: Hi! What a pleasant surprise to know that I have a fan in Malaysia. How did you know so much about me to call me your audio hero?

Big E: From the British hifi rags of course. I think they have helped your products sell, don't you think so?

RG: Ah....! The hifi mags, they don't help Rega only, they help everyone who sells hifi! In fact, we do best in markets that have no hifi mags, for example in Denmark, where there's no hifi mags, we are doing very well there. And France, which is one of our biggest export market, they only have music mags that features hifi, not the other way round. You know Diapason? I think buyers can make up their own mind better, without influence of the hifi mags. I personally know companies who have press reps, just to liaise with hifi mags, as part of their marketing strategy. At Rega, we do not practice that kind of marketing. We don't need to, because our products are good in the sense that they are well engineered, and offer excellent musical performance value.

Big E: So you find the audio press a necessary evil then?

RG: No, I don't find that at all. What I am saying is that you, the hifi magazine has a job to do, which is to inform your readers, and we the manufacturer's job is to make and sell the products. We give you something to write about, and you, have something to fill your pages and inform your readers. It's not about who's helping who, is it?

Big E: Your trip is to do distributor visits, what qualities do you look for in a distributor?

RG: I'll tell you a little story. I normally ask our distributor the same question every time in an interview, "What do you think the distributor's job is?" I very often hear those very logical answers, like "1) to keep stocks and distribute them to retailers, 2) to provide after sales services, 3) to...... 4) to..... and 5) to........" you get the picture? The best reply I've ever heard from a distributor is this, "We cover your weaknesses as a manufacturer!" Ha!Ha!Ha!

Big E: How is the current recession in Europe affecting Rega?

RG: It's actually being great for us! Our sales have been increasing and we are still trying to keep up at the production floor. On the R&D and engineering front is where the recession has brought us benefits. As you know, 90% of the F-1 racing teams are British based. So that allows us access to some of the best engineering and design facilities. We also tap in to the aerospace industries for advance materials sourcing. Since the recession, our R&D suppliers and engineering firms are trying harder to work with us because they are now free. However, they are still very expensive!

Big E: Which customer would you prefer to sell your products to? The music lover or the audiophile?

RG: The music lover anytime!

Big E: Take your turn tables for example, you have the P1, P2, P3, P5, P7 and P9. At which point in that particular example, would you consider a music lover turned audiophile?

RG: All our products are designed for the music lover in mind. That's why they are simple to use, and leave very little to tweak. I would define someone who buys hifi just to listen to music as a music lover, and someone who likes to tweak or change his hifi equipment frequently as an audiophile.

Big E: How do feel about hifi tweaks or after market add ons?

RG: I can safely say that out of all those tweaks and after market parts that we've tested, 90% makes the product worst by either compromising reliability, or makes then worst sounding. Actually, the most common parts we have to repair are re-wired tone arms! Most of the times, audiophile customers rewire our tone arms with wires that are too stiff! Or in the process of the after market re-wiring, they break the bearings! Some literally saw the tone arms in to half for the re-wiring job. You don't want that, do you?

Big E: How long do you think the CD format will still be around? And how do you feel about music down loads?

RG: I don't want to speculate anything beyond my control. But I guess this a good indicator, that 2 years ago an European market survey found that turn table sales had already over took sales of CD players(not including DVD or multi players). Armed with that information, I think vinyl will still be around, when CDs are no more. I personally think CDs are acceptable in sound quality, Hi-rez down loads are about as good as the CDs and those iPods and MP3s are just down right horrible. Still analog is best if you ask me!
From left: Eddie Tan and Roy Gandy, having a relaxing chat with Big E!(not shown)

Big E: What kind of music do you listen to, and who are your favorite artist?

RG: I listen to all kinds of music, but if I were to cover an artist as a musician, I'd do Alison Krauss. I also like Ry Cooder a lot, as he works with some of the best musicians in the world, yet he almost always never exerts himself musically. He plays a supporting role to the different flavours of the musicians that he works with.

Big E: You know the Chinese have bought most of the British hifi brands, would you consider cashing out if they made you an offer?

RG: That's the way of world today. Nothing we could do about it. There people from China, India, Singapore and even a Malaysian company offered to buy Rega. I would consider selling if I know they could do a better job with Rega then myself. However, I would not sell Rega, if all they intend to do is to put our brand on to other un worthy products. I don't want the Rega brand to be diluted, just like so many other British hifi brands.

Roy also took the opportunity to announce 2 new Rega products coming our way soon. First is a stand alone DAC, and the other one is the Rega P1 turn table successor called RP1. Roy says that the RP1's sound quality is so good, it has made the P2 turn table model redundant. The new RP1 looks very similar to the out going P1 except, the HDF platter is now replaced with a phenolic resin moulded type. The 4 joint arm in the previous P1 turn table gives way to a new single joint arm with a more accurately engineered counter weight stub. Other minor details like bearing tolerances are also improved. By the way, the RP1 will be retail priced with a premium over the existing P1 turn table, which Eddie says will be sold out soon to make way for the new model.

Eddie tells us that the RP1 would be available at Asia Sound Equipment soon enough, however no pictures of the new turn table is available just yet, it's not even on the Rega web page yet!

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