July 18, 2012

10Qs For Martin Harding, International Sales Manager, Parasound.

Martin Harding showing off Parasound's CD-1 CD player, due to arrive sometime in September 2012.

Martin Harding, International Sales Manager for Parasound, was in KL for a one day visit. Nelson of Centre Circle Audio arranged a meeting, so we can talk to Martin, about the Parasound brand and products. As usual, I shoot my 10 Qs to Martin.

Big E: Care to update us a bit about the latest in Parasound?

MH: As you may already know, last year was hugely successful for Parasound, where our products won 5 Golden Ear Awards with the TAS publication, amongst many other awards elsewhere. Last financial year was also our most successful. Richard Schram, owner of Parasound, is no doubt a very happy man. For this year, Parasound will be getting out of the home theater market, except our multi chanel power amps which will continue for some foresee able future. Problem with the HT processor market is that the specs are just moving too fast, for a small specialty audio company like Parasound. The Japanese corporations typically launch a new range of HT processors, with new features and firmware, every 12 months or so, which makes it too hard for us to play catch up all the time.

For 2012, we'd be launching our brand new CD-1, CD player. We'd also be launching a 24/192 capable DAC, which is the hottest product in the hifi market today. The Z-Series will be re-launched too, with a rounder silver finish face plate, sans the rack mount, for that more elegant domestic home look. The satin black finished with rack mount models will continue too.

Big E: How does John Curl, and the products he designed fit in to the organisation of Parasound?

MH: Yes, John Curl is our product designer, however, he has no equities with Parasound. JC usually works on products that we ask him to, he sends us a circuit design, we evaluate and improvements made, then back and forth, until the product is ready for the manufacturing line.

Big E: All Parasound product made in Taiwan, under OEM arrangements?

MH: Yes, the factory in Taiwan makes Parasound products based upon OEM arrangements. We make about 500 or 1000pcs of a certain product each batch, which makes it too costly to be made in the US. We then distribute the products in the US and around the world.

Big E: Back to your new CD-1, CD player, isn't it a bit late coming in to the market now?

MH: We certainly do not think so. We know that CD is still the most accessible music carrier format today, and there are millions and millions of CD in people's music collection. There is still demand for a high quality CD player.

Big E: How about the soon to be launched 24/192 capable DAC, I think that it may be more forward thinking to do a 32/384 capable DAC, with the recent emergence of such hi-rez music files?

MH: Practically, most of the music you'd want is hard to come by, even as 24/192 music files today. No doubt more will be available as time goes by. However, I've been reliably informed that our 24/192 capable DAC, has allowed for firm ware up grades as a form of future proof.
Martin posing with more Parasound amps.

Big E:Would Parasound ever consider getting in to class A type amps?

MH: With the current standard of sound quality available from our class A/B designs, it is unlikely we'd be looking in to class A bias operating amps. However, you'd never know what John Curl dreams up next!

Big E: Is the US still the biggest market for Parasound? How do you compare Parasound against the likes of Krell or Mark Levinson?

MH: Absolutely, the US accounts for 50% of our business, with the rest of the world taking the remaining 50%. Parasound is about getting serious sound quality within what is still considered an affordable price for many music lovers and audiophiles. The two big brands that you've just mentioned is just way too pricey for most people. I'd like to use the automobile analogy, if you liken Parasound as the Mercedes, which offers great engineering performance and prestige at a reasonably affordable price, where else Krell and Mark Levinson are more a kind to the Bentley or Rolls Royce of the hifi world. Seriously, how many music lovers who turn on their system every night, can afford Krell or Mark Levinson? Only the very rich audiophiles can afford to buy them.
The mini Z-Series components will soon be available with a silver finish option.

Big E: Are you happy about the iPod phenomenon amongst the younger music consumers?

MH: I personally think iPod is certain a good thing for the future of the audio industry. Just like the Walkman generation, which many eventually up grading to full fledged hifi system as they grow up. Now if only 25% of today's iPod users become tomorrow's hifi consumers, then the industry would pick up again. I know because my kids consume their music on an iPod now, but eventually they'll want something that offers better sound quality. The emerging after market headphones and head amps are proof of it.

Big E: Do you use an iPod?

MH: Yes! I use an iPod for music when I am working out or when I am travelling. When I am home, I'd listen to music on a proper hifi set up.

Big E: An all Parasound system?

MH: Yes, except for the speakers, which we do not make!

Martin also mentioned a little known fact that Parasound amplifiers which are THX certified, have been used extensively in Hollywood for the motion picture sound tracks, including the all last three Star Wars prequel. Many of the Hollywood film producers insist on using only Parasound amps, which are THX certified, to meet the most stringent THD standards, set by George Lucas himself.

And no, Martin Harding has left the building, so he won't be attending the KLIAV 2012.

No comments: