Many of you might know that Audioprophile burns for the spirited designers and dedicated music lovers in this industry.
It is always a true pleasure to meet with these devoted souls, to hear their tale, their design ideas and musical goals. The expansion of Internet has enabled us to exchange ideas and experiences with the music lovers and DIY solder slingers. It is trough these interest groups that we where introduced to Loth-X.
Their products could be viewed and auditioned in several rooms at CES. We met with Lothar in their main room, looked at the gear and listen to the magic they created.
High efficiency loudspeakers and low power triodes – is a road less traveled in the commercial audio business. It was therefore interesting to hear more about this company. Lothar kindly took the time to give us the background and the principles behind the company.
Lothar, your company, Loth-X started officially 1998, but judging from the flora of products this must have began way earlier? Tell us about it.
You are right, Loth-X didn't start in 1998, and in fact 1998 was only the year of incorporating. The fullrange drivers are developed over 15 years by Stefan, the turntables over at least 5 years by Jagdeep and the amps are done by a person who doesn't want to be mentioned in public (Mr. X).
I was only a hi-fi and music freak, always searching for people with the same kind of vision of a vibrant seamless sound. My own DIY was horrible (by the way, I am a lawyer) but I was able to find a good blend of people with strong views in their designs to found a company.
In your mission statement you are saying that music principles and values guide the company. Could you elaborate on that?
Music is a basic, it is one of the oldest ways of communication, and in fact it was there before language.
Music therefor effects all of us. It makes us laugh, cry, gives us hope, makes us sad etc. Regarding the values in music: it is basically a deep respect in the music, the composer and the people that like it. Music gives us values, which should be common, tolerance and respect; it opens the hearts of everyone in this world to communicate without saying a word, without speaking the same language.
We try to get this experience as close as possible into a home hi-fi system, the same atmosphere as during the recording. We all want to be able to close the eyes and the feeling of the music is overwhelming us, give us a tingling feeling everywhere in our bodies.
You have chosen to work with full range drivers and horns in your loudspeaker constructions. Why have you taken this route?
Horn and full range driver have the possibility to give you a seamless sound, vibrant, direct, close to a live experience. We still think that's the only way to get close to the original
Most listeners appreciate the horns and agree that they are very dynamic with low distortion, but the criticism in the past has been coloration and size.
How have you addressed these issues?
I totally agree on that. We changed the horn constructions; we changed the cone materials so therefor the coloration's are nearly gone, in fact not worse than other speaker applications.
One word: I am always surprised if dealers or customers are telling me: "The voice is colored" --- most of the time stunning, as they haven't been at the recording. To be fair they might say it sounds different, as they have heard it before, but not an absolute.
One has to decide for him self if he likes a certain sound or not. That's the fascinating part still in all Hi-fi, regardless, which brand.
One should trust the owners and evoked feelings and emotions by comparing systems, regardless of the opinion of reviewers.
You have introduced a wide range of speakers in different price ranges, catering to every body from budget conscious consumer to the "cost no object" listener.
What are the main differences between the models?
ION 1 and 2 are two way entry level speakers, ION 3 and 4 the first full range driver speakers, the rest is using the Stamm full range. We try to achieve the best possible in all price categories to get the same sound experience.
We cater different needs in terms of room space and budget. But for sure compare an ION 1 in its price class to others, the sound is very different as we emphasize even there on an open, seamless sound.
Apart from the loudspeaker range, you have also 3 different record players.
Could you tell us more about the players, and the philosophy behind the design?
Jagdeep as a mechanical engineer was combining different materials to get the platter construction as free as possible from influences as vibrations.
The same for the arm boards, therefore, the all in all sound is much quieter, more stable, especially as there are no springs involved, and no suspension at all.
Considering the fact that you have focused on turntables, is it so that you dislike the digital media?
Honestly, only now I have some CD's with an acceptable sound quality. In our own showroom we let customers compare our Carmen turntable against a SGD 30000.00 digital combination.
None so far preferred the CD in fact; they are stunned how big the gap is.
We are considering building a DAC at least, but it will take time to get as close as possible to an analog sound. Last but not least our ears are analog and in psycho-acoustics it is a matter of fact that you can't cheat your ears.
Somehow the ears recognize the difference between digital and analog very strongly. But regardless of that fact once again, there are now extremely good recorded CD's (one example Verve, "remember Shakti" by John McLaughlin, Zakir Hussain etc.) and I can listen for hours and enjoy it.
Apart from speakers and turntables you also have one pre-amplifier in the portfolio. The unit is battery operated and based on tubes?
What was the idea and design philosophy behind the pre-amp?
The pre-amp is using 12 AY 7 even as it is known as a noisier tube than 12 AX7. It has a nicer flow. Therefor from the beginning we knew the power supply has to be as clean as possible.
Mr. X is an expert in analog and building power supplies, so he knew how to build real battery amplification without recharging for 50 hours. The result is as clean as clean can get.
In Las Vegas you presented a prototype amplifier based on 300B tube, that unit was also battery operated. Give us some more details.
It is running 7.5 hours without recharging, using N.O.S. WE 310A driver tubes and WE 300B.
The power is 7 Watt per channel. Both pre and power amp are handmade on order and use silver wire inside, the transformers in the power amp is using extremely thin gauge silver wire for the sake of the sound quality.
There are definitive advantages in producing the whole audio chain with the same company. This enables the manufacturer to voice the components and create synergy.
However, the main draw back is that most of the time the company is specialized in one field, where they excel, while in the other areas they do not reach the same level of excellence. How have you avoided this problem?
Do you have different designers working in their respective field?
As I mentioned before we have three different designers with their own strong personalities and views.
The good part is that we always find a common sound quality. In that sense we are blessed, it is very unusual.
The amplifier that you presented in Vegas appear to be cost no object product. Are there any plans in introducing amplifiers for the more budget conscious consumers?
There is already a prototype done to introduce a highly affordable single ended integrated amplifier. We target introduction at CES 2001.
Would you tell us what your forthcoming projects are?
Better not too much, but for sure we'll launch the matching cables and interconnects until July this year.
Finally Lothar, what are your thoughts regarding the future of audio? Where are we heading do you think, and what would you like to see in the future of audio?
I strongly believe Audio will never die as music will never die. The mankind needs music as air to breathe to still a hunger inside. There is a change going on again away from visual based home theatre and special effects to music systems, turntables come back, tube amplifiers, there is a renaissance of old good values.
And-----we don't care if we get rich or not (at least we want to fill our rice bowl) the main philosophy in Loth-X is musicality first, profit comes later.
We are not willing to cut costs for the sake of our profit. If every company would do it, if every Hi-fi salesman would do it, then the customers will come back and buy confidently. I still believe Audio won't die whatever there comes.
After finishing the previous sentence, Lothar paused and said: "I hope I wasn't too blunt in my answers but it is our way of thinking and we invite the people to decide, to enjoy."
Courtesy by Lothar Sander for TNT.
Interview thanks to Patrik Klangerstedt
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