Alan Clark is the man behind the Yorkshire based loudspeaker manufacturer Kralk Audio. He speaks with Hifi Pig about his hifi career, his thoughts on the industry and Right Said Fred.
How did you get into/what was your first job in the industry?
First real job in the industry is my own company to be honest. I started Kralk audio in May 2011, I had been making speakers for just about all my life, I made them for family and friends, even did a couple of studios and restaurant stuff and people kept saying you should do this for a living so I did.
Who or what was the biggest influence on your career?
Biggest influence on my career was my dad, he got me into music and HI-FI at a very early age, if anything I was more interested in the hi-fi rather than the music and was always looking for ways to make the music sound better.
Proudest moment/product you’re most proud of?
Proudest moment was doing the 1st hi-fi show down at Whittlebury hall 2013, my father sadly died 2 weeks before the show so he never got to see the success of his influence he had on me but I’m sure he was watching over us that day.
What product do you wish you had never conceived/launched?
Ive never released a product I wasn’t entirely happy with and I never would.
Tell Hifi Pig readers about your next project and what they can expect in the future from you and your company.
The next project or phase of Kralk audio is to set up another demo room here with all models permanently on display, as it is at the moment the current demo room is part of the house so I can be challenging sometimes to accommodate the needs of the customer,
Future projects are the new KA2 which I’ve put everything I’ve ever learned and more into one speaker, it’s an infinite baffle design with an external crossover, a bit like my DTLPS-1 Elite but far more advanced in design,
You and your system
What was your very first system and how has it evolved?
My very 1st system age 12 was a Teleton amplifier and speakers with a Garrard SP25 and Goldring G800 cartridge, the speakers were appalling and I soon modified them with some old EMI drive units I found in an old radiogram on the council land fill site, they were 13” x 9” units with 2 tweeters on the front and I mounted them in 2 of my dad’s shoe boxes, they sounded mint and from that moment I was hooked on speaker building, with the help of my school music teacher who was also a hi-fi nut he showed me how to make basic crossovers and filters to correct impedance and stuff, when I left school and got a job I bought my 1st system, it took me ages to save for it, I got a Goldring GL75 Turntable Sansui 9090 Receiver Celestion Ditton 44s, later additions were a pair of Chartwell LS3/5s because the Dittons used to be a bit much when mum and dad were watching the telly down stairs, I still have the Sansui amp and it still works great too, I replaced the 44s with Ditton 66s a few years later and the goldring was replaced by a Linn LP12, the system I have now for normal domestic and party use is Rega 3 Sansui AU517 Roksan candy cd player Tannoy Ardens,
Demo system is Garrard 301 SME Denon, Yaqin MS845 mono block amps and pre amp and Yaqin cd player, the speakers of course are my own Kralk Audio designs BC-30 /BC-30-3/DTLPS-1 and Elite and soon the new KA 2
What component/product do you miss the most/wish you had never got rid of?
The product I wished I had never gotten rid of was the Linn, it was the time when cd had just come out and everybody was ditching records and going to cds, I know a very stupid thing to do but I got rid of all the records and the player, some of those records would be worth a small fortune today as most of them were 1st pressings and I bet the Linn would be worth more than the £345 quit I paid for it too.
How often do you listen to music?
I listen to music every day without fail, I never watch television it sends me to sleep and I just can’t see the fascination of watching it, whereas music is a great stimulant or it can be used to relax and there are always new ways to make it sound even better.
Best system (or single component) you have ever heard (no brands you represent please…!)
Best single component I’ve ever heard, that’s an easy one, without doubt Pioneer HPM150 speakers, I went to a show at a local hotel in my home town of Ossett West Yorkshire, everything there was a bit ordinary until I got to the room with the pioneers in, they were playing night flight to Venus by Boney M and the sound was out of this world, I was 15 at the time and had never heard anything like it the bass and the drums smacked you in the chest it was just awesome I won’t ever forget it, I never did buy a pair of them though the Ditton 66 was as close as I ever came to the sound but was still a long way away over the horizon somewhere.
The state of the industry
What’s your view on the valve renaissance of the past 20 years or so?
I love the fact that Valves are back, it’s a unique sound and one that we should all try, there are some great designs out there and they don’t all cost a fortune.
Vinyl resurgence… what are your thoughts?
I love Vinyl too always have and like I said the biggest regret was getting rid of the Linn and selling all the records, stupid stupid mistake.
Is CD a dying format?
No I don’t think cd is a dying format
What are you views on the state of the industry/where is it going/what will it look like in 5 years/what will typical systems look like?/What will happen to prices?/What will happen to the high end – will it carry on regardless?
I think the industry will go full circle to be honest, it’s a bit like the car shape it sort of goes around jelly mold shape cars are in then they are out for more angular types then the jelly mold ones come back again then the angular, same with house trends carpets and then its laminate floors and then back to carpets again and I think hi-fi is the same, well speakers seem to be anyway, I want to try and deliver products that are timeless and won’t go out of fashion in the blink of an eye, I suppose it’s a bit of a safe option but it seems to be working so far.
How do we engage young people, the audiophiles of the future?
I’m hoping that youngsters get onto the Hifi ladder at some point instead of listening to stuff on their phones all the time, home cinema systems are keeping the Hifi in the home for the time being how this will change in the next few years or so I don’t know but I still think whatever happens it will come full circle again with a dedicated 2 channel listening system back in the home at some point.
I have lived through a lot of changes in the Hifi industry from valves to transistors, Quadraphonic systems, mini and midi rack systems, vertical turntables, the rise and fall of the mini disc which I still think was a great idea to be honest and now onto digital stuff with downloads and streamers and stuff, whatever makes the sound it has to come out of speakers and for me speakers are hi-fi and I think youngsters still love to see the cones wobbling in and out like I did when I was their age so whatever equipment is going to cater for a young person’s needs is sure to be a winner for them the speakers will look after themselves.
Online shopping I think is a great thing and provided you are prepared to move with the times and demands of your customers it should work well for everybody, it works great for me because after a long day in the workshop I can sit down and re-order any new stock online at any time of the day, there is no point in trying to hold back progress or you will just get left behind.
What are the industry’s biggest con(s)?
What’s the biggest cons, I would have to say speaker cables, yes up to a certain point they do make a difference, I always do the internal wiring with good quality cable as it’s what the customer would expect, but many amplifiers are wired internally with normal 16 gauge cable and I could never get my head around why anyone would think having big fat speaker cables connected to the outputs wired with 16 gauge would improve things but that’s my opinion and you know what they say about opinions.
The way you work
Presuming the measurements are fine, what do you listen for when assessing products?
What I look for when assessing products is a good clear midrange, the midrange is the heart of your system it’s what your ears are best designed to translate information from.
Your sound preference -‘Smooth, listenable musicality’, ‘forward, driving, ‘foot-tapping’, involving sound’ or ‘detailed neutrality and transparency’?
Sound preference would be foot tapping, because once your foot is tapping you are happy with what you are hearing and your body is starting to enjoy the music as well as your ears.
Turntable preferences…direct drive, belts, Idlers or what?
Turntable preference would be idler wheel my opinion again but I’ve always found them to have far better dynamics and timing than any other design.
Your preference – Full-range floorstanders or freestanding mini monitors with a sub?
Speaker preference would be full range floor standers or large stand mounts I’ve never been a fan of the big sub box in the corner of the room, I’ve got very funny ears when it comes to stuff like that, I’m very susceptible to phasing issues and it gives me a real headache if it’s not right, I remember once going in a clothes shop and the speakers they had in there blasting out the music were out of phase and it was making me feel ill, I told the staff and they let me swap the wires on the unit to make it right amazingly even they noticed the difference and said it sounded much better.
It’s all about the music, man…
What is your favourite recording?
Favourite recording is Paul Giamatti’s version of Tod Rundgrens Hello it’s me, I could listen to it a million times and never tire of it, its on the movie soundtrack Duets, Paul also teams up with Arnold McCuller in the film to sing Try a little tenderness and makes it the best version I’ve ever heard of this track, check the music videos out to see, amazing stuff.
Tell us about your 3 most trusted test recordings.
Paul Carrack ‘Tempted’, Michael Ruff ‘Wishing Well’, Snowy White ‘Keep on Working’, I can find out all I need to know about a system from those 3 tracks.
What are your most embarrassing recordings/guilty musical pleasures?
Most embarrassing, I quite like right said Fred if I’m honest, deeply dippy is a great test track with great dynamics.
Having safely ushered your loved ones out of the house as it is burning down to the ground, you ignore all standard safety advice and dash back inside to grab just one recording – what is it?
One record from a burning building would be Captain Fantastic Elton John, there’s not a bad track on it and the cover can keep you amused for hours on end.
What do you as a company have in the pipeline and what new products can we expect to see?
The KA2 is the most ambitious project I have done so far, ive put a lot of work into the project, the cabinet is an infinite baffle design but inside there are special baffles which are very clever, they are based on very old technology that works and basically the baffles kill the standing waves inside the box with the minimum of internal damping, the front baffle is a fully floating design which means that its not connected to the main cabinet, it is instead fully suspended away from the main cabinet using a new system I have developed, the all new drive units have been specially designed for Kralk Audio and feature only in the KA2main bass river has a huge magnet drive with a carbon fibre cone and soft dome dust cap, the tweeter has a copper pole piece with vented magnet and pyramid rear chamber and 25mm silk dome with silver lead wires and a low resonant frequency of 650hz,
The KA2 also features external crossovers like our DTLPS-1 Elite, the difference with the KA2 crossover is they have been designed to look as though they are part of the hi-fi system and can be placed on a shelf or rack with it, they are fully silver wired with No PCB, everything is hard wired component to component direct to silver terminals, other features of the crossovers are the 24db Bessel design, Clarity cap capacitors, HD Inductor system, treble adjustment, grounding system and a vu meter, the crossovers are passive but have switch and vu meter illumination if required, it’s a very tasty looking package at a very competitive price and should be available before the new year, And of course HI-FI Pig will get the exclusive review of them first.
There are also plans for a new Centre channel speakers so that home cinema systems can be made up using speakers from the range to make a custom set up.
Thanks for speaking to Hifi Pig, Alan.