Your History
How did you get into/what was your first job in the industry?

My first (and only) job in the industry has been with The Chord Company. In truth, I fell into it and became completely fascinated. My history is a mixture of music obsessive since as young as I can remember, and musician when I discovered the utter delight of making music with other people.

Who or what was the biggest influence on your career?

When I first worked for The Chord Company, we dealt with some truly amazing dealers and I learnt so much from them about music and, perhaps more importantly, music replay. That and hearing an LP12 connected to a Naim system for the first time!

Proudest moment/product you’re most proud of?

Our proprietary Tuned ARAY cable technology: our unique cable-tuning system. What’s been so wonderful is the sheer delight and enthusiasm we’ve seen from customers. It doesn’t get any better than when satisfied customers want to tell you how great their music is, rather than how great their system is.
You and your system
What was your very first system?

My first proper system was a Roksan Xerxes turntable with a Rega tone arm and an original Cambridge C100 and P100, with a pair of home-made speakers.

Tell us about your system history

My Father worked for Mullards and when they were taken over by Philips, he came home with a big box of components and over the weekend, put together a turntable and a valve amplifier and built a speaker into the bottom of a bookshelf. After that it was a Garrard, a Solovox amplifier and a pair of Solovox speakers. That was replaced by the Roksan and the Cambridge, and a Micromega Solo CD player was added.
Since then, there have been almost too many to mention. My job involves testing our cables with as many different set-ups as possible, so we can meet the needs of a range of customers and their systems. Currently, there’s a DAC 64 driving a Bonnec pre and power amplifier, plus a set of Eclipse loudspeakers; it’s a wonderful system that never fails to delight.

What component/product do you miss the most/wish you had never got rid of?

I wish I’d never sold the Micromega Solo. It was such a funky CD player and at the time, one of the few CD players that could sound really musical.

Best system (or single component) you have ever heard (no brands you represent please…!)

The Zanden phonostage. Horrendously expensive and so good I almost cried!

Tell us about your current system(s)

Current system is a Cambridge Audio 840C as transport (works very well and no, not all transports are equal), a very loved Chord Electronics DAC 64, a Bonnec Timpano and a Bonnec Alto pre and power; everything is connected with our Sarum Tuned ARAY cable. Finally, Eclipse 712 speakers. I have a small room and this system works fabulously well at low volumes, so I can listen late at night.

The state of the industry
What’s your view on the valve renaissance of the past 20 years or so?

Rather like transistor amplifiers, there are some good and some bad. What the renaissance of valve amplifiers has meant, is that companies are building efficient loudspeakers again, which is a good thing.

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’m more optimistic than I’ve been for a long time. The resurgence in vinyl is cause for pleasure, particularly as it’s being driven in part by younger people. It may be part reaction and part fashion, but whatever, it is introducing a new generation to the delights of great- sounding music.
I’d like to think the death of CD has been greatly exaggerated. There’s no doubt that over the past five years or so, CD players have become extremely good. We recently got hold of a copy of Let’s Dance by David Bowie, it’s a 1999 24-bit re-master. I remember buying one of these in 1999 (Ziggy Stardust) and being hugely disappointed at its semi-unbearable brightness. Played on a contemporary CD player, these now sound pretty good (though not as good as the Japanese pressing!).
Streaming and proper high-resolution downloads will continue to improve and if streaming introduces people to new music, then great.
As a cable company, should we feel threatened? I think there will always be enthusiasts and passionate music lovers who want the very best. I think the high end will carry on.
What will happen to prices? One of the extraordinary things over the past couple of years has been the rush to make extraordinarily expensive equipment. At the other end, the driving down of prices in the television market has been equally surprising. What I think is beginning to happen, though, is the reintroduction of the, frankly very good, mid-price hi-fi. It’s very easy to think of several extremely good £500 to £600 CD players, DACs, amplifiers and speakers. Affordable hi-fi systems that play coherent and involving music will introduce more people to the utter pleasure of music.

What are the industry’s biggest con(s)?

It’s absurdly low profile. More people need to know that there are really good retailers not far from them and more people need to know that good hi-fi doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

The way you work
Presuming the measurements are fine, what do you listen for when assessing products?

For us, it’s the balance of detail, dynamics, micro-dynamics and most importantly of all, coherence and timing. Because we’re a cable company, our ethos is that our products should have as little influence on the signal that our cables carry as possible. Our design period for new products is relatively slow and the path we follow has tended towards designing better cables, so we’ve always had a reference point to work from. This has been particularly useful because several techniques that we’ve discovered, we have been able to apply to other cables within our range.
Your sound preference -‘Smooth, listenable musicality’, ‘forward, driving, ‘foot-tapping’, involving sound’ or ‘detailed neutrality and transparency’?

Timing and coherence are not negotiable. Neutrality, transparency, believability, involvement. Ideally, a good system should simply disappear and leave you with the music.

Your preference – Full-range floorstanders or freestanding mini monitors with a sub?

It depends on the situation. The fact is that many British houses are simply not that large and full-range floorstanders can cause real issues, either because of siting (how far out in the room can you really get away with?) so in a lot of cases, smaller speakers (with or without a subwoofer) will often produce the most musically satisfying sound. As well as this, it’s hard to get round the fact that bigger speakers tend to need bigger amplifiers.
Of course, the other problem with subwoofers is siting. I used a subwoofer with a pair of standmount loudspeakers some years ago. Luckily, I lived in a detached house because although I had the subwoofer nicely set, even at reasonable volume, I could hear it from the bottom of the garden! What systems really need to do, regardless of whether they are being used with floorstanding or standmount loudspeakers, is to be able to play convincing sounding music at reasonable volume.

It’s all about the music, man…
What is your favourite recording?

It changes from day to day. I really can’t come up with a favourite. Right now I really love the new David Crosby album, Croz. Beautifully recorded, his voice sounds fabulous. The level of musicianship is very high and the songs are some of the most positive and life affirming I’ve heard in a long while.

Tell us about your 3 most trusted test recordings

With any product, at some point, I’m going to listen to The Banks of the Nile by Fairport Convention, The Ninth Wave from Hounds of Love by Kate Bush and Hard Candy by Counting Crows.

What are your most embarrassing recordings/guilty musical pleasures?
The first record I can remember asking for, for my birthday was House of the Rising Sun by The Animals. Pretty cool and somewhat offset by purchasing Where do you go to my lovely? by Peter Sarsted. I don’t really have anything I feel particularly guilty about but I’ve been known to play Wichita Lineman by Glenn Campbell repeatedly until everyone in the room agrees that it’s the greatest love song in the world. Or at least it was until Richmond Fontaine released Post to Wire.

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?

Music is a very strange thing. It triggers memories and times and places and people. Hard Candy by Counting Crows probably isn’t my favourite album but the memories and the emotions it triggers are just so special. It’s not always what you hear music on, sometimes it’s who you hear it with.

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