TIDAL Audio/Vimberg Interview

This is without a dobut, the most comprehensive and up to date peek into the mindset of Jörn Janczak and the world of Tidal Audio and Vimberg. Jörn was more than reasurrign, that many moons will pass before he'll take another interview. You're more than invited to find out why...

How it all started and what was the reason for you to enter the high-end audio industry? 

I have always loved music, hi-fi gear and to be interdisciplinary creative, means creating ideas and bringing them to life - from engineering, overbuilding it, up to creating all the artwork such as photographing it. So I founded TIDAL to do all this – and first and above all: to do it the way I envisioned it.

What’s the story behind the name?

I just wanted what most probably every company wants: a name that is easy to remember, easy to spell globally and bold in its sound and perception itself. When one of my favorite albums of all time came out, “Tidal” from Fiona Apple, I knew that second: TIDAL it is. And I added “we build emotions” into the logo as guidance, promise, and philosophy. But as with all logos and brand names – they are like meaningless white screens only until filled over years and decades with a strong and universal perception.

Even more importantly, what ignited you as a speaker designer?

….childish curiosity I think. When I was a kid I was fascinated about audio gear and speakers in particular. It was close to magic to see how diaphragms just moving back and forth could generate so many emotions with music coming out of it.

And what about the inspiration to make your own electronics?

I planned TIDAL right from the beginning as a whole habitat. I always had pretty specific ideas about how it has to look and what it must work like. While being able to design and build a speaker from A-Z at a level on par with my approach, I knew I can’t do the same with electronics. But I also knew exactly what I wanted in terms of design. For example, in 1999 I've bought two average hi-fi amps, a preamp and an integrated, just for my fun to redesign and tune it, including a full-size external power supply.

But relabelling or OEM is not what I wanted to do at all – there would be no point. So I was waiting for the right moment… half a year later by pure coincidence, I delivered a pair of TIDAL Pianos to a client who had this pre and power amp combo which looked a bit self-made. But the moment I listened to it I realized these amps sounded like I would build it if I could do it. Asking what I was hearing, the client told me it was made by a friend who just did this for himself for fun. I asked for the contact and we met. Long story short: I offered him to join our team, promised him a livelihood from the effort, and that we would bring things to life on a professional level. I gave unlimited budget and full freedom for the electronic design for each project while I would take care of the outer design  and scaling of the projects. The rest is history.

Who (what) would you say inspired you most (or still does)?

Life itself. I think there is something to be learned and to be inspired from every day.

Would you say you see yourself as an audiophile? 

No, but maybe this is because of my definition of the word audiophile :-).

How would you comment on the difference between music lovers and the audiophile?

If there would be two drawers labeled this way, then I would say music lovers just tap their feet to their favorite song even when it's played through a kitchen radio, while audiophiles would skip that in favor of a discussion if DSD sounds better than MQA. I know this is simplified but in my experience,  I have met way too many ‘audiophiles’ who would even complain about Barbara Streisand’s “voice timbre” or “resolution” when she would sing live in person 2 meters away right in front of them. Or even worse: wisecrack how she should "sound".  

Often the same people get a kick out of gear which just represents a certain type of technology or brand. For example, when I visited my first high-end show 22 years ago, I was contrary fascinated by this behavior, and still am. It reminds me of ‘The emperor’s new clothes’, when a big group of people listens to some gigantic horn systems while it was basically sounding like grandma’s old TV, just way louder. I liked the music and could abstract it from that, but as for the 'sound' itself, it definitely didn't sound like reality. But as I love also old motorcycles or sports cars, I very much understand the context of emotions being sometimes diametrical from perfection. 

So that a small tube and a full-range driver speaker can transport the context to create goosebumps is not the point. But for me: if an audio system is creating a new version of something original, well, then I could have stopped also with my small hi-fi system when I was 14 years young. It did what it did and was fun to listen to. So why bother to spend more time and money on creating/hearing another version of "different"? This is not what I want with TIDAL and not what our clients want. But the world would be pretty grey if all liked the same and I can respect all different ways to Rome if done at least with full commitment.

Kindly list all the current TIDAL Audio product lines?

We have electronics, speakers, and cables, which can be configured to complete plug & play systems. A digital source will follow in the upcoming months.

In a relatively short time, TIDAL Audio become one of the high-end audio industry's most recognized brands. What is the reason for such success?

I think the reason is we do deliver with utmost consistency what we say within our logo: we build emotions. With the product itself such as for the clients later when they own it. TIDAL is a combination of our three major goals: excellent sound, excellent finish, and classy, timeless design. Sound, or to be more specific 'the lack of a signature sound' is the number one. Always was - always will be. However, when I founded the company, I also knew that sound is meaningless if a client does not like to look at the product, or if the finish is not on par with the price tag.  I wouldn’t expect this – why should clients do? 
I was always a sucker for uncompromised and ultimate quality in many areas in life. Making things excellent is an attitude and a desire I have and therefore this had to be a part right from the start. I believe the finish and execution itself is the perfect (and objective) indicator of what is going on with the product itself, the company and the whole attitude behind. If I do a job, why not making it good? So if one could put cent coins between a cabinet and the driver basket, if the lacquer appears like orange peel, if the chrome part is wavy and the switches are not any better than one from a kitchen machine – what is then going on inside where one doesn’t see things and can’t check objective in the short time of a demo session? The point is we do an ‘ultimate finish’ since we want to do it and since we can do it. Two important points. 
And the look of a TIDAL masterpiece itself on top of all that has to be timeless and elegant as the last step. For example, the fact that a TIDAL in hand-polished veneer looks like a piece of furniture, but is not built like furniture and made out of wood or MDF at all, underlines that our construction follows the function first and above all and that the technical context below the surface is, and shall be, hidden and designed for a purpose at reference level only. 

But all this as an approach and “philosophy” is meaningless if one does not have the knowledge, skills, and money to do it. And this is the tough hurdle to overcome as a young company. One has to start somewhere to become relevant, to grow and to have a strong fan base and happy clients are tough for every start-up, and only time will tell. All these things are extremely difficult and expensive to do to come to a level where we, I think, are now. 

So I would not say at all “within a short time” TIDAL has become a recognized industry brand. The first years were tough. I know how to live from ‘bread and tap water’ while telling my parents we are drowning in orders and living the dream :-). When almost twenty years after founding our first US press review came out and I was reading the conclusion that in the writers opinion, the tested speaker was to him “…the best looking, best built and best-sounding speaker…” he had in his listening room, I was both thrilled and touched he expressed it this way. Our three columns. 
Where we are today was and is no random success for sure, I feel this is hard-earned, defended and lived every day from the whole team behind. To stay steady in a position, maintaining and evolving a brand is another story. I remember importers wanting big digital displays in the electronics and the speakers in round shapes etc... and all that of course cheaper too. But this is not the way we do things, and I refused since what we do must be ‘TIDAL’ or we don't do it. I think one only has a chance as a top player if one does not compromise their ideals while still developing and stick with the brand’s DNA.

What would you say about the traditional and renowned Made In Germany Quality and how does your company reflect this?

Too often this is just a sticker and only implying it was entirely made in Germany. Many parts still end up labeled “made in Germany”. Foreign country suppliers, mostly from Asia, ask us all the time to get orders from us and share all detailed what they build and for whom. Interesting to know who and how many “made in Germany” advertisers manufacture there... So while “made in Germany” apparently mean different things to different people, we work hard to contribute and maintain the global reputation of that label and try to build here from scratch as much as we can for the approach of ultimate quality.

What would you say is the achievement you're most proud of?

I was able to fulfill my very own dream with TIDAL. From starting with a vision up till the point where we are today: having a healthy company generating a 7 digit turnover with annual growth. 

Last year you've introduced the new, more affordable speaker company (VIMBERG). What is the exact reason for this?

The short answer: to offer something price-wise below the TIDAL portfolio. And with doing that putting TIDAL in even better perspective.

The long answer: I remember show-visitors telling me three years ago TIDAL is just crazy expensive and that one “...gets Accuton drivers way cheaper from other brands”. I answered that I am most sure there are cheaper offers, but that everything one sees in this very room - and especially those things one does not see - is only found here and no other product in the world. And that all that cost a fortune to buy and make. The same minute I realized again: if one sees, don't see or don't want to see and how one values all that is not in our hand. And it is also not our intention to navigate anyone’s perception in a certain direction since the product speaks to one or it does not. For example, a Patek Phillipe Nautilus is either just a simple 3 dial watch looking no different than a 200 € watch or a small wonder of mechanics completely hidden in a subtle shape. It all depends on how much do I like to find out more about what I see. Or it depends on what one knows already. There are countless other examples about how people see and value things differently, my point is just, for plenty of reasons, TIDAL is not for everybody.

Of course, we could do anytime something way cheaper and in the same mentioned price range. Which is the point: cheaper. We could just take round-shaped MDF cabinets made in China or East Europe with some thin glossy lacquer plus some off-the-shelve Accuton drivers and making it somehow work without extensive engineering. And many people would not even see or understand the difference to TIDAL. So, while explaining to the client, I realized: actually, we really could offer something at a lower price level than TIDAL. We would still use solid choices of parts and materials, Duelund, Mundorf, Accuton, etc. but not under the umbrella of cost-no-object as is the case with TIDAL and therefore we would have to give it a different name (since with TIDAL we do things first and then we calculate how much it costs). And then just add something which is for free from us: the experience from TIDAL, top engineering and taking care. So the products would still have the our professional execution and superb construction.  Would we still use huge value µF pure silver cast Duelund capacitors for the price of a decent motorcycle like in TIDAL? Certainly not, but we would use their more affordable level parts. Would we use unique drivers, like for TIDAL? Certainly not, but we would use all thru and thru Accuton drivers. And would we use the TIRADUR and TIRALIT material and the same piano finish procedure second to none like for TIDAL? Also: certainly not, but we would use and make always the second-best to it and still would make it in waterproof quality and extremely braced inside.

And then one can put this whole result aside of a TIDAL, and aside from other offers in the market and compare again, in price and result. This was the moment I knew what I had to do, and VIMBERG was born. 

Now we can put a VIMBERG Tonda beside 6 times more expensive TIDAL Akira or beside a much smaller TIDAL Piano which is still more expensive - and offer with it to change perspective. Or pick what one likes the most. All three mentioned speakers explain perfectly what they are, standing side by side.  Since the question then becomes how can the Vimberg with all the quality parts, designed and built by the same company under the same roof be offered for less money than the small TIDAL Piano, and even less than the mentioned competitor XY? And why is the TIDAL Akira so extremely more expensive then? The answer now is simple: exactly.

I am happy to say that the production was immediately sold out months ahead of schedule and it was confirmed what I was hoping for: VIMBERG was accepted as an independent brand for itself. That was not sure and I took the risk… But I also know that maybe no one would have been interested in VIMBERG if it would not have the background story and origin from TIDAL.

How would you describe the technical and sonic differences between TIDAL Audio and VIMBERG?

VIMBERG follows the same engineering concepts and benefits from the things we learned and know from our top of the line speakers Akira and La Assoluta. A VIMBERG is literally plug & play but all the clarity and absence of almost any sonic signature aside, a TIDAL still is another ballgame. 

A  TIDAL reflects the weakest part in the chain almost brutally. I would compare the difference like a medium format sensor camera over a full-frame sensor camera, which includes also the needed habitat around it in terms of lenses etc., and goes hand in hand with the costs to come for it and skills to use/to deal with it. Plus the visual and handcrafted aspects which make TIDAL unique.  So a VIMBERG could be compared and cannot be compared to a TIDAL. Such as it could be to any other brand out there too.

TIDAL Audio La Assoluta.. Can you tell us more about its creation and what drive you to design them?

What drove us to create the La Assoluta was the desire and challenge to build the most 'invisible' speaker, a piece of art, a hard-core reflecting tool and ultimate music machine. 

How much of the premium models technology can be trickled down to the more affordable speakers?

VIMBERG is using a lot from it, such as explained in detail above.

Can you explain more about the proprietary materials and wood as an enclosure material compared to the aluminum or carbon fiber?

Audiophiles, many reviewers and marketing like to explain designs, solutions or results with something easy to understand, like a specific material or a specific feature. Since this is easier 'to grab' or to highlight. But to us, this makes as much sense as explaining the taste of a cake by explaining the quality of the eggs, flour, and milk... 

TIDAL does not use wood cabinets at all, only the last layer of the cabinet can be a real wood veneer, which is unique in combination with an advanced cabinet material. And the way we build VIMBERG cabinets with its high compressed HDF, totally waterproof and reinforced with aluminum parts inside and the extensive bracing I would choose over many aluminum cabinets I know. Having a solid background in the high precision metal industry all I can say is that aluminum cabinets would save us a lot of headaches since aluminum can be forged, milled or cast pretty easy into almost any shape and one just deals then with anodizing or car lacquer later and mount it all together... 

Can you tell us more about your unique internal design? 

Just that it is a long line of little steps, even more thinking and testing and measuring while always following the ideal of converting voltage into sonic the most accurate and most untouched way as somehow possible. This is all we do… so it as easy as to use just four wheels, an engine and a steering wheel to build a 400 Km/h supercar ;-).

Please tell us more about your unique Accuton drivers and why you have chosen them?

We do work with them since 2003 and we are by several facts the market leader using Accuton drivers. One can easily see the number of drivers we have constantly on the stock. Numbers are rarely an indicator of quality, but there is a reason why we can order so much: we do master the challenge of embedding them as one important part of the construction. Not as a part for the sake of the parts. This is important to understand our design philosophy. Already in the mid-2000s reviewers wrote that the first time they can not detect the doubtfully ‘famous’ harsh signature of the diaphragms – and we did not stop our learning curve then.

Under our TIDAL brand we are using unique drivers which we planned and designed in cooperation with Accuton, we even deliver parts for it, for example for the tweeters and most easy to see by the unique deep black coating of the ceramic diaphragms. All this just reflects what is going on behind it with the basket or the motor… So whatever one sees in a TIDAL speaker one will never find somewhere else, for no money in the world. All that cumulated into the only diamond midrange-woofer ever made, the one in the TIDAL Akira and TIDAL La Assoluta. Which was a pretty hefty investment and required a solid agreement itself to cover the development and digest the demand all exclusive. VIMBERG on the other hand and contrast is using the drivers from the official Accuton portfolio. 
But for both brands, we take the drivers itself into a complex context, since as parts itself especially they are only as good as what one does with it and for sure they are not easy to deal with. The advantages of a light and hard diaphragm, as Accuton offers, always can be heard, even in suboptimal - to say it polite - designs. But there are negative aspects to come hand in hand with resonances, fragility and other challenges to deal with. So when people say they do have negative experiences with these drivers since they sound 'harsh' or are easy to break or demand preferably tube amps - all I can say is: with suboptimal implementations of these drivers all this is true. Like it is true that one could crash even the best car into a fence - all just depends on the skills and what one can do with it. So it makes no sense than to blame the car or blame the speaker drivers itself.

Each microphone on this earth could detect within seconds if these (and all) drivers have resonances, frequency and timing issues in the construction itself. And to overcome it one needs engineering, and not some marketing stories or a 'soft and warm' sounding tube amp. This (for us) makes no sense since a speaker shall reflect the chain and not need to be compensated or adjusted by the chain to get an enjoyable result.

Politics and marketing aside: as basic in measurements are either the enjoyment or the disappointment embedded. So we measure to please the ear, not the microphone. The ear will confirm that within seconds like it would hear sooner or later also the flaws. There is no general recipe for it how to do it, but Parts itself are always just parts which need to be made to perform, they don’t perform from itself. If all done as we do it, then Accuton drivers contribute their part within the whole design of a speaker. If not done properly it ends like advertising a grape, promise wine - and delivering sour vinegar. 

Do you manufacture everything in house? 

We are the major shareholder of our cabinet factory and we have our very own piano lacquer facility. We design, develop and build all speakers together 100% in Hürth in both our facilities here, with 700m² square meters all together. Our electronics are being built all in Frankonia, where we produce even the PCB boards all in-house.

Tell us more about your crossovers. What's special about them and what is the importance of proper implementation? 

I explained it a bit already when answering the Accuton question. If a frequency response looks like an EKG curve of a hummingbird, if the impedance goes down to 3 or 2 ohms or lower, if the efficiency is in the low eighties – well, then one can tell lots of baloney around the product, but it is what it is: doubtful engineering and a business case. 
I don’t blame for trying, but why would one do it this way? The answer I think is probably simple: since one can't do it better, otherwise, why would one work this way? Maybe since all could be explained later as ‘philosophy’. If a speaker shall be a new interpreting artist, then this might be the way to go. But for us it is not, we want to hear the artist and not the speaker. The crossover for us is the core and the heart of the design. I could mimic with it all “sounds”, all tastes and trim the speaker into every direction.

You use many advanced 21st century technologies in R & D. Please tell us more about measurements, design, the unique tech being used…

We design all products with extensive use of several 3D CAD software, simulation programs, and computer-based measurement systems. We have all that in redundant ways and run e.g. three independent measurement systems. All this needs a lot of knowledge, skilled employees and hefty financial investment, but we think it is essential for our products.

Would you say the TIDAL Audio DNA is carried across the complete product line and both brands?

At the end of the day, it is always from us, so I would say yes.

Bass reflex?  

Closed, ported or passive radiators… They all have pro’s and con’s – we are not fixed to any of these, we always decide which would work the best for each individual project. For the Contriva a ported design is better, for the Akira passive radiators and currently, we do design something with a closed cabinet… Saying simply 'this is better than that' would be wrong, at least to us.

The side and back panel mounted drivers?

The same for this question, it really depends on each individual project. Conclusions or recipe’s, in general, are almost never right. Some say this or that can’t work, but other people's limits do not mean it is everyone’s limit. Others say this or that is the best way to do it – and then for others, it is not at all. For us at TIDAL, it all depends on each individual case and how the technical solution has been worked out.

Would you say that your speakers are easy to install in non-treated listening rooms?

I think so. And to be honest: if Adele would come to a person’s living room and start singing, no one would say “you have to leave since this room is not properly treated.” The point is a good product does have to deal with the given circumstances. The better product always will offer better performance within the same circumstances. And yes, it could perform maybe better in a treated room, like sitting in the middle front row also sounds better at a live concert, but this then is up to the client how far one likes to go. But even if I would not use the whole potential of a TIDAL or VIMBERG, like not using all the horsepower from a powerful car I drive, I think our clients appreciate that there is always more and could be released even further someday.
What is the importance of properly designed listening room?

It is as important as the individual thinks it is.  For example, for me in private it does not have the highest priority since I designed things at home for living and feeling comfortable rather than for hearing a stereo system under ideal conditions. In our company, however, we do have two very good listening rooms, since there I need to show what our products are capable of doing without any excuses for the room.

Do you see the dynamic speakers as the future of high-end audio?

I do not see here and now a better technology being able to catch up to it when it comes to making sonic out of voltage – at least if one is trying to reproduce music kind of lifelike and demanding not too many compromises in terms of space and handling it in a real-world environment. But the best is still to come from it.

What would be your cost no object dream speaker project or did La Assoluta pin-pointed that dream?

The La Assoluta was when I designed it the best I knew, and I still think this speaker is capable of delivering experiences second to none. But there would be no progress if we would stop there.

Do you officially strictly recommend your electronics as a great partner for your speakers, or you leave that choice to the end-users?

I totally leave it up to whatever makes one happy. If one likes camera lenses from brand X only, one should feel free to skip the cameras. Being a photographer myself I know photography is a complex subject, but there is a reason why in so many fields a manufacturer does offer things out of one hand. 
At the end of the day, there is a reason why we recommend to try it and why the feedback of an all TIDAL system becomes every time positive. 

I know the list of manufacturers producing at the same (!) level electronics, speakers and peripheral gear is small. Sound discussions aside I could admire a handful of companies in the medium and upper price range. But in the super territory, the air is becoming super thin... all I can say is we do cover this niche all comfortable and sitting safe in it. Yes, the human being has a hard time accepting that one can do all things equally good since usually, no one can cover all aspects equally good, who can? But I know exactly what I want and how we get it done and since we are in the position that we have all specialists under one roof I can pull and weave all strings perfectly together.

Do you share the same importance to the TIDAL Audio electronics as with the speakers?

Absolutely. What would be the sense to offer it otherwise? We use unique topologies, execute it as we execute everything and if we would not believe it is the best solution one can come up with then I would immediately stop producing it.

What is your opinion about the competition?

There are around two handfuls of brands where I absolutely admire what they are doing, especially for the tremendous amount of engineering and value for the money and how excellent the products are for real-world prices to be available for a wider group of people.

How would you describe the difference between hi-fi, high-end and ultimate high-end audio? 

Hi-fi is all that makes music out of gear in a plug & play way, high-end for me is the grey zone above that between happiness and frustration, great products and ridiculous ones, and ultimate for me is as the name says in a certain field ultimate in execution and result. But for sure not by an ultimate price tag. 
But actually, it is all hi-fi, audio gear, you name it… Like they are all cars, watches or cameras - just better or worse or different ones.

What's your take on often quoted borderline of transparency and proper sound balance?

For me, there is no such thing and honestly, I never understand what this shall mean. If a guy with a guitar would play in front of you – would that be too much transparency? Or is it properly balanced in sound? If someone speaks about such things, then something is already compromised in the system.

How about achieving the proper balance of the tone, timbre, and color of music?

Again, no such thing for us. We design things to reproduce a circle if a circle is sent inside the system, a square if a square was sent inside. If an ellipsis comes out or a parallelogram then something had changed. One might like it or not, but for sure it is not the original signal anymore. Means Ella is singing in a new interpretation from the system. But not like herself, not as recorded, not as captured as it happens. The only way to eliminate these changes is to take out all changes, or at least as many as we can. 

I just believe in reproducing reality as close as one can lay in technical perfection since we are talking about reproducing embedded signals in either digital or analog format with signal transfer within the laws of physic at the end of the day. But we understand: another lame storytelling about endless hours of listening sessions, a list of suppliers and some marketing salami is way more easy and cheaper than real R&D and executing it properly ending up with valid facts.

How important is the listening part of the speakers and electronics development?

For me, it is just the final process to confirm why we work as we work. The reward to say so for all the hard work upfront.

Would you say one’s love and passion for music reflect in the products?

For us for sure. With our products, one can see the love we put into it, in every detail. Open it, see inside. Touch it, feel it, listen to it... We do not need to ring this evidence anymore, people expect it from us and buy a TIDAL or VIMBERG from us because of that.

How do you refined, voice and fine-tune your products?

With our 4 measurement systems. And just for fun only to confirm it with a final listening check.

What does state of the art high-end audio reproduction actually represent for Jörn Janczak?

Matching up to the approach (and price tag?) for priceless enjoyment.

Exotic electronic and crossover parts? 

Not sure what exotic means... But we are using always the best solutions for parts. Not for the part itself, but for doing the job the most perfect way within the chain – no matter what it costs. Literally. In the mid-2000's we used as first already all pure silver foil Duelund capacitors for the price of a nice car, but are they therefore exotic? Not to us, it was just the best choice for us.

What would you say it differentiate your preamplifier from other offerings on the market?

The whole design itself. Starting with the unique level control, how it feels when using it, and most importantly how it works the way it does. And how short the internal topology is, by following the golden rule of amplification design: using as few amplification stages as possible and only as much as necessary, without corrupting the signal. We never use operational amps, never output transformers – all we do is discretely designed and executed.

Like in speaker design there are no such things as a single reason or part why a component is well designed. For us, it is an almost endless list of little thoughtful steps within a perfectly planned circle and then coming together perfectly.

How about DAC and amplifiers?

Actually, our Camira DMC is a perfect example of what we do and how we design things. There is a reason why we don't call it a DAC... we call it a ‘Digital Music Converter’ to tell the story in three words, and that is trademarked for a reason. We found a way stitching zero's and one's so perfectly back together as it was analog before that we are very proud to offer a TIDAL solution in that field. We don't use any of the typical technologies like up-sampling, over-sampling or re-clocking, etc., we have our own proprietary way to do it and all was developed in-house and is being executed in-house.

Same as the power amps, one can feel free to evaluate just from the care if the inner architecture what level to expect from it. Again and also for these: all devices are the sum of many steps to come together to something greater than single thoughts or parts.

Why solid-state and not tubes?

Solid-state, class-D, tube amps... Honestly: I never thought and think stigmatic about technologies. I heard all these in many and very different setup's all over the world, and I get it why people had chosen either this or that. All have pros and cons, and for me, there is little general conclusion to make from the different technologies. This makes me automatically suspicious when people say there is only this or that way to go and anything else is bad. 
Well, more or less we express what we think is the way to go just by using solid-state technology, but at the end of the day, we don't do it because it is a solid-state. We know what to do with it and how to bring our vision of how a device shall 'sound' like in real life, but we would use tubes, class-D or old shoes in a heartbeat if we would get better results from it for each individual project we are planning.

TIDAL Audio and VIMBERG enclosures construction recall more the construction of the complex high-end watches rather than typical traditional speaker design…

Of course. It is an essential part of each speaker. People always ask about the material, the hot story behind of it, etc... but actually, it is way more complicated: the construction itself is key. Yes, each TIDAL is made out of TIRADUR and TIRALIT, proprietary materials designed to work better (the way we define the word 'better') than other materials. We camouflage that with using the finest veneers around it and our famous lacquer, but it is always a complex compound material behind it. But take VIMBERG, for example, the cabinet is made out of extremely compressed HDF which goes through a process that makes it completely waterproof. With that being already higher in quality than MDF or wooden cabinets, that alone is no sensation. We designed a complex bracing structure to do the only task a cabinet shall do: to be absent and just offer an inner volume and let diaphragms move in and out.

In the end, the result is only what matters and to get all that, the construction and crossover filter design are key. Those are for us by far the two most important parameters. Way over single materials of cabinets and drivers etc... Those we add on top of course. But for us, engineering is the key. Never the material. Never the story. We understand the mechanisms of marketing and in such an abstract business the words ‘silver, diamond, copper, aluminum or carbon fiber’ are words easy to impress clients with, other than the words 'step response' or 'resonance decay'. But all I can say is: regrets always come later from bad implementations and compromised engineering - never from materials itself.

Does form follow the function Tidal Audio?

Always. Always. Always.  

Are we finally coming closer to reality sonic wise?

We are always happy to give an example of that.

Is any state of the art speaker system complete without subwoofers?

A La Assoluta (for us) is. For sure. Nevertheless, we are right now building several pairs of subwoofer towers. It makes superb even better – if properly built and implemented. 

What is experience and feeling about the analog vs digital?

I like both. Ultimately I care more about the music than then how it has been stored. As a private person, I also play the music I love as vinyl through a pair of Technics 1210 with a pro mixer. But as a manufacturer offering the most lifelike reproduction of analog and digital sources for the client, I come from a totally different side and the finest sources are barely good enough then, and both cases, analog, and digital can offer mind-blowing experiences… if done properly.

What would you say sets the TIDAL Audio and VIMBERG apart from the competition?

For TIDAL: the unique combination of the result for the ears embedded in a unique execution for hands and eyes – both as reference level match. 

VIMBERG, on the other hand, offers in our opinion a tremendous amount of technology, performance, and quality for a price which is not exactly inexpensive – but where more people finally can own it. Someone recently said VIMBERG are 'affordable super-speakers' - I like that description.

How do you see the current state of the high-end audio industry?

Too many manufacturers are dancing around a few clients?  But actually, I don't think too much about this industry… We do look over our own plate from time to time of course, but we do focus on our vision and ideas. 

I’m sure it's not an easy task to run such company in the present times. What are the most demanding challenges?

We are not exactly large, other companies are running a completely different ballgame in terms of sheer size. But for a professional boutique manufacturer we have reached quite a size now I think and the biggest problem is time. Simply time. We have so much to do and are working on new projects – so this is the most challenging part. But I do not want to complain since we are in the lucky, well – actually hard-earned, position to be busy. This goes hand in hand with long delivery times, unfortunately, but this is inevitable when quality is the first priority in a company. 

How important is advertising to succeed and keep steady positioning?

We do very little advertising for TIDAL, actually close to none. Some of our partners worldwide do on a smaller scale from time to time. I think we have reached a level where we donˋt need to do classic advertising. And in the audio business, where advertising says for almost every product it has the best sound on earth and where active speakers in the size of a motorcycle helmet claim to have more power than my first motorcycle, what shall we say then? 10.000 watts? Or “best hyper killer über sound ever”? 

We decided very early to lean back and go other ways. Of course, now and today, I can say this easily, we have a reputation built up which could not be better for us, but to get there is such a  tough part. But I think each brand must find its own way.

Similar to the car industry, do the upgrades, the introduction of new models helps to keep the business running and brings new tech on much shorter interval?

If a product needs upgrades then there is something not yet completely thought thru. For computer technology, I understand that and maybe it is a business model for some. When we launch these days our “20 Years Anniversary” Edition of the TIDAL Piano and TIDAL Contriva, the main difference is just that we added more beauty and material-value to it, but in terms of technology and parts, they are identical. 
Simply because we still cannot do it any better, all is absolutely detailed to the max already. With that, we tell the story actually perfectly of what it is you get from us, always.

What is your take on printed magazines and online media?

In general: digital or print, quality shall be the key. As a company grows, not remotely because of media, we observe it and see what fits our approach and would make sense.

Whom would you say are the TIDAL Audio and VIMBERG speakers customers?

TIDAL clients simply want the ‘best’. A simple and overstretched word, I know. So I need to be more specific: the ‘best’ as we defined the word for us. They very often start with “I want to buy my last system”. Not since they are old, just since they are frustrated from turning in circles searching for the best 'audio chemical' reactions to last just for some months to live with. 

VIMBERG clients clearly always admired what TIDAL is and does and can afford now a product out of our house.

Is classical music the reference material to judge any speaker system?

That must be answered for themselves individually. If this is the music one is listening to, then for sure it shall sound close to the real events one is going to. 

One could say while listening to classical music “this sounds like the real thing (to me)”. If it does, then it does.

But only the microphone can judge how far a speaker is away from reproducing the incoming signal the closest to what it was sent like. Since measurements are the only way to identify correct, incorrect and all in between. The human ear just prefers or dislikes things, adapts to situations, can be fooled and is alone (!) just plain simple not objective at all. On top of that come all kinds of emotional facets of proud ownership, being a fanboy of this or that brand or technology on top. And not to mention the influencing stories from the manufacturer trying to sell the creation to have a living from it with more or less motivated effort. 
And I did not even start about what one is judging at the end of the day: the recording quality? The weakest link in the chain (vice versa the recording quality)? The comparison to a created preference? The dislike of hearing things first time more correct over a created preference? All on top of that explains why high-end audio is so controversial. Within the circus itself and from the outside even more. 

That we do things for the ear and not for a microphone is exactly why we do it this way. When we had the first pure silver Duelund caps, as first company ever more than 15 years ago, we heard immediately the benefits but the microphone did not detect a difference at all – so I measured something else: the vibrations of it, with an accelerometer, and then one could see clearly why the sound was more accurate over another cap. 
And this is just an example of the steps we take to ensure accuracy. I could underline bad measurements of every speaker by demonstrating/confirming the flaw later in listening mode. 

My point is: the human ear will always confirm the more accurate signal as ‘sounding more real”. If one can't measure the effect one hears, then one just measures the wrong thing, or measures wrong or does not interpret it properly or does not know yet what to measure. I know this seems to sound
like cold-hearted hard-lining, especially in a business filled with stories of “we did years of listening sessions for it” etc... But again: what do you think is easier: telling a story, marketing and selling a business model – or financial and intellectual investment on the valid ground?

But if someone will present someday a magic leather bag which sings exactly like the singer in comparison standing 1 meter aside – then I am more than willing to throw our measurement equipment away. Till that we deal with technology and signal transfer. 

Do you think that real-life experience is possible with the upper echelon high-end audio system?

Yes. Not all kinds of music/events, since how would one simulate the vibe of being surrounded by ten thousand people gathered together? But still. Yes.

Where does high-end audio and luxury market overlap?

A 'luxury perception' comes first and above all from an excellent engineered and top-notch executed product from the finest materials, a solid heritage and consistent history in that field. It comes for sure not from gold-plating and a, to say so high price tags or from using the word “luxury”. If and how that overlaps to high-end audio is up to the perception of the user. But I am happy to read so many times as introduction things like “…the über-luxury company TIDAL…” or “…ultimate luxury brand TIDAL… Really, priceless praise for all the years of hard work, passion and heart blood we did put into it.

Can you share some of your favorite music? 

I am a sucker for electronic underground music. I know several hundreds of examples, but just to name some I mean stuff from Extrawelt, Nathan Fake, Weaval, Tale of us, Ellen Alien, Agoria... I could go on forever here. Furthermore, I love indie stuff like The National, Future Islands, John Maus, Lower Dens, etc... At the end of the day, my cosmos is pretty wide and I just separate it in “music I like” and “music I don't care too much for”. 
This might also be the reason why high-end audio shows mostly are torture for me. Speaking of, I am constantly surprised how narrow-minded most audio show visitors are. Instead of using audio gear as a tool to discover new music and being open-minded to the idea that there is a reason why we play this tune, most high-end audio show visitors are after some seconds “Can you play something I know?”.

What to expect in the future from TIDAL Audio and VIMBERG?

Expect from TIDAL the best masterpieces we have ever built, there will be 5 new products this year. Actually, we planned a few more events for our 20th anniversary, but since things have become really crazy in terms of orders in 2019 (also because of VIMBERG). And we have a new project we have been working on for several years now and will launch in spring. Actually, this launch is the most exciting thing we ever had in our pipeline... I can’t wait to share it ☺!

We plan to slowly develop the VIMBERG portfolio further, but right now we see only the need to catch up to the demand we are currently facing. Funny anecdote aside: the other day someone told me that a dealer is spreading the rumor we started with VIMBERG because we have to, to survive. I laughed out loud and told him in between I wish we would have never started it since we simply can’t catch up. We are running out of space and planning a whole new building where we can have production, assembly, and presentation with all twice the size under one single roof. 

Are relatively high prices a must?

I just think in case it has a high price it shall go hand in hand with the value/experience behind it. Or saying it differently: it shall have the same impact for one, such as a price does.

All our products are expensive. For a simple reason: since they are expensive. In parts and production. But you get what you pay for in every single aspect and detail. 
Does 'expensive' automatically mean 'better' then? Not automatically and there are tons of examples for it. But for our clients, apparently, there is a correlation to it. That said, we certainly have the quality products to support this claim, and that has made us successful. 

We could build all things cheaper in a minute, to gain profit or to offer lower prices: with ‘soft’ interpreted engineering, regular parts, less lacquer here, no veneer there, less complicated bracing, small or no diamond tweeters, no radical tolerance analyses… the list would be endless and starting with a couple of hundred dollars for a cabinet made in China, even decent enough quality and a ‘piano lacquer’ that would cover the expectation for 9 of 10 people in this business. And to sell it we could mask the result with ‘punchy bass, warmer midrange, and sweet treble’ and would describe the cheap MDF cabinet as ‘special fiber laminate material’ and advertise it with 10-150.000 Hz plus-minus 1dB. I think one can see what I try to tell here… 
No, we would never do this, our whole purpose is the exact opposite of that, our DNA from day one. No shortcuts, we don’t do ‘cheap’, and with ‘cheap’ I am not talking about well affordable stuff, professionally produced from companies specialized in high numbers and making excellent money value products. That I do admire a lot. 
So, yes and no - it simply depends on the approach. A high price is not a must per se for having fun with music. I could enjoy music in a hammock and some mobile headphones while listening to Spotify. But I also want to enjoy it the best way I can think of. And first and above all our clients want to enjoy it in the best possible way. And the effort behind to give this kind of experience does not come for cheap for sure. 

Any last thought for our readers? 

Try to avoid plastic, play with the children, do exercise & eat more vegetables… 
But I guess you mean it more in terms of hi-fi ☺: well, listen to music as you like the most for yourself, other than reading or debating what is the best way to do it. ❖