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Werner Ogiers


Born in 1968, and with degrees in micro-electronics and computer science, my daily business is digital chip design and aerospace project work, first for IMEC, then for a company we founded with a bunch of colleagues, FillFactory. But this isn't about work ...
Back in 1993 or so I wrote a letter to a local music magazine, highly criticising their approach to audio component reviewing. As a result I got hired by them. I quit when they 'forgot' to pay me. When sometime after that, finally, a new Belgian audio/video magazine saw the light, I spontaneously applied. Again, I got hired. I stayed with Audio Vision for two years or so, until I forcedly quit. I was probably too critical and too technical for what essentially was a very commercial magazine. At least they paid properly.
But by then I was already writing for TNT ...

Magazine reviews

In an ideal world a review would give the answer to the question "How would component Q sound, in my system, my room, with my music, and as perceived by myself?" Obviously, this is totally impossible.

A more institutionalised approach to real-world reviewing would employ a number of reviewers, all with totally different systems, and trained to describe what they hear in the same language.

While not impossible, this is totally impractical. Hifi magazines are not funded like research institutes.

Reviews, as they happen to be, and including those on TNT, are dangerous. Especially so when not considered in the right context. A review can never be more than a snapshot of a component in a certain system - a sympathetic one or a hostile one - with specific software, listened to by someone with individual tastes, and then written down in a specific, individual style. In short, a review never tells the whole truth. At its best it can hint at what the truth might be like, and at its worst, it is just a big lie, disguised as Truth.

So please read reviews for what they are.

I try to approach a component under test with as little bias as is possible. No. That's a lie. Most of the time my initial bias is positive, as I only select gear that triggers my interest, that I expect to be good. And when something then lives up to that expectation, then reviewing is a grateful job, yes. But when a component unexpectedly fails to deliver, then it becomes a long and painful job, even for TNT.

You see, TNT is a special magazine to write for. TNT can do things no other mag can afford to do. For instance, we don't have to write glowing reviews on each and every piece of gear. We don't have to come with a this-month's-best. We don't have to please advertisers. In fact, the only ones we have to please are you, the readers. And ourselves, as we all do this for fun.

But as a result of TNT being different, it has to be read differently. I think I can speak for all of my colleagues when stating that we try to represent the part of the truth, as seen through our own enviroment, as honest as possible, without gilding every word. But that also brings the responsibility of informing you about our environments. Something that's missing in many a more commercial magazine. Therefore this revised bio page.

So far the reader, now the manufacturer. Some understand TNT, and we have an excellent relation with them. But there are others who after an honest review, one that doesn't fulminate in "a thousand golden stars, Ueber-top-spitzenklasse" can't deal with the verdict, don't understand its limited scope, and share that with all in the most aggressive way. Apparently they fail to comprehend TNT's philosophy. Maybe they would fail to serve their true customers too, in the end. The fact remains that TNT isn't by default a cheap marketing tool for a manufacturer: a product must perform, and even then the reviews tend to be down-to-earth. This only reflects the simple fact of economics that not every product in existence can be a giant-killer.

The habits and the music

I like my music dynamic, loud, silent, open, warm, neutral, detailed, wide, and deep, as much as anyone else. But systems have limits, be it financial limits, or limits and signatures simply being there because a system grows over many years, and acquires a certain individuality, diverges from the dynamic-to-deep list, reflecting constraints and priorities.

So mine sounds relaxed, fairly detailed, and natural, and this at the cost of also being a bit shut-in and challenged in the dynamics (or call it contrast) and loudness departments. Stereo can be wonderful, but often also is not: we have a small appartment, and the system is in a cluttered living room. Maybe the future will be brighter, maybe not.

I like good rock played loudly, but due to above limits this doesn't happen that often. I like bassooning organs, but again ... So my diet majors now on smaller-scale music: folk-rock, small ensembles, ... perhaps with a future development in the direction of jazz: there still is a lot of golden music from the 50s, 60s, and 70s waiting to be discovered by me.

I can't stand brightness, harshness, or a forward, fatigueing sound. Not even when this buys realistic dynamics. I also dislike a flat, almost-mono image. There must be dimensionality, layering, perspective.

So, knowing my priorities this finally leads us to ...

The system

Quad ESLs, 'home theatre' click to enlarge

After a Dual CS-5000 (nice and polite), and a Linn Axis (nervous), I got a second-hand Michell GyroDec, which was like a dream come true. My final turntable? Er, not quite. Added a QC quartz power supply, then the mighty Orbe's platter and damping parts, then MkIV spring assemblies. So what started as a EU1000 bargain ended up being a EU3000 colossus. But now I've finished, I promise :-)


The Gyro carried first a standard Rega RB-300, then another Rega that I had modified with thin silver cable running monolithically from cartridge clips to Hirose plugs. I always found the Rega competent, if perhaps a bit grey, but I hated its lack of adjustments. But anyway, after visiting Geoff I knew I wanted an SME, and so I got an SME Series IV with damper.


Resident cartridges are an Ortofon MC-25FL, a 0.5mV moving coil with a warm and musical character, and the leaner and brighter Audio Technica OC-9 (old version with elliptical stylus). Another veteran is the Denon DL-301, ten years old now, but still a real sweetie!


I use a breadboard DIY phonostage of my own design, a current-feedback affair with active RIAA. I'll build a production version soon, and after that work will start on a single-ended JFET phonopre, a bit like a silicon Mr.Hyde to Thorsten's huge Toccata valve preamp.


A Rega Planet, outstanding for the money, sounded smooth and musical, but with not-so-well-defined bass, greyish treble, and a harmless lack of fine detail, until I augmented the setup with a modified Hawk MP-DAC. The latter sounds utterly consistent, warm yet detailed, and makes even CDs musical enough to listen to for hours.


Michell Argo, modified with the same Panasonic potmeter as in the Orca. Originally it was a bit muddled and electronic, with looks and feel like a toy, but the potmeter brought a serious increase in sweetness and overall usability. With the new regulated power supply it performs between an Argo HR and an Orca.
I also have a homemade unity-gain linestage comprising the gorgeous Panasonic-For-Audio 100k potentiometer followed by a direct-coupled JFET single-ended follower with active load, the whole fed from shunt regulators and a king's ransom of 1000uF Elna Cerafine capacitors.

Power supply

The phonostage, Argo, and JFET linestage get their juice from a big 20V power supply, with a lot of filtering and LM317/337 regulation.

Power amplifier

When shopping in 1997 the only affordable power amp that truly did well on my speakers was the Quad 306. I got hold of one of the very last ever made. A bit long in the teeth now, it actually is pretty good when used with light speaker loads or electrostatics. I also have a Dynaco ST-35, literally saved from the thrashcan, that I am in process of restoring and modifying. Sounds promising with new tubes, and I can't wait to try it with a real power supply built in.


Quad ESL-57s on 30cm high Target stands. Fell in love with them. If I have to replace them, then it would probably be with ESL-63s. What more can I say?


I'm not into cables. Commercial ones are more of a scam, and even decent DIY things would cost me too much: I'd need two 12m runs to get to the speakers. Right now there is 2.5mm^2 stranded copper wire there. Interconnects are Prefer MGK-226 copper microphone cable, with a more expensive Deskadel I-1 between DAC and preamp. The Deskadel is an excellent Belgian product, solid silver sheeted in teflon, sold at a fair price.


When I have time I clean my records with an old Knowin Disco-Antistat manual cleaner (through-with-stiff-brushes), using a fluid puspose-designed by a biochemist. For quickies there is an Allsop Orbitrac II manual cleaner, used with its standard alcohol-based fluid. I also have a Shure stylus force gauge. For cartridge protractor I use a DIY clone of a commercial device, you can download it as a postscript file from here.


Our living room. Long and narrow, the speakers too close to the wall, too close to each other, and partly obscured by furniture. Ambience is slightly live, but the ESL's bundling directivity compensates for this. The speaker positioning gives a peak at 100Hz, which sometimes clouds the musical performance, and a dip at 200Hz, which robs the sound of warmth and body. Still, using electronics with more bass control often mitigates this problem.


As you know, finishing the phono and line stages. Then perhaps dipole subwoofers for the Quads (IPL make a nice kit!), driven by a powerhouse such as the Rotel RB-991, and the Dynaco or a small class-A transistor amp for the electrostatic panels.


Once in a while I also perform testing out-house, at two distributors I know well, and whose main rooms and systems I know well too. This happens, obviously, for large loudspeakers that can't be auditioned in our living room, and also when compatibility reasons warrant a change of ancillaries. What I not ever do is judge a system based on a quick listen in an alien room. Such practice would be entirely pointless.

GyroDec/SME IV/MC-25 click to enlarge homebuilt phono prototype, Quad stack, Nak Rega Planet, Michell Argo, Quad 306, PSU, Hawk MP-DAC

Oh, and in my wife, Christa, I have a decent pair of second-opinion ears, often, all too often, devastating my ego when passing judgement on my own, and others', designs.

What more is there to tell? Of all the contributors to TNT, I have met two so far. First Rodney Gold, in South-Africa, who is not a real TNT'er but who on my invitation reviewed the Z-Systems digital preamp/equalizer. We also spent two days with Geoff and his family, in France. Apart from cycling, eating, and talking, there was a lot of listening. Back then Geoff played with the Orbe/SME/Dynavector DV-1 into the Audions or the Gaincard, with IPL and Cabasse Sloop speakers. Although this system is optimised for sheer excitement and dynamics (you should hear what those SETs can do on the 87dB IPLs!), width and depth were huge too, on good (~1960!) recordings. With the IPLs tonality was sweet and friendly, with the Cabasses a bit too forward for my tastes.

Business ties

I'm not without them, so you should know. Many years ago, after I got my second-hand GyroDec, I made an unofficial Michell Engineering website. Shortly after that I met John Michell and Graham Fowler (Trichord), and as a result I made the official website, which went online in June 1999.
I also know the Belgian distributor very well, which gives me the opportunity to use Michell gear for reviewing whenever my own things fall short. Very useful, and ultimately to your advantage.
Of course I can't review Michell components and their direct competitors myself, although I sinned against this rule with the Orca: I wanted to have the world-scoop for TNT, and so I simply did it.

If you're interested in more, I have an insanely-large homepage devoted to quality audio, named Visions in Audio.

© Copyright 2000 Werner Ogiers

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