Hifi Pig goes Behind The Brands with Russell Kauffman, the owner and designer at Russell K, makers of the well received Red 50 and Red 100 loudspeakers.

Your History 

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

When I was 13 my mother told me to get a Saturday job, she was thinking Burtons. I could not bear the thought of measuring gentlemen’s private areas so I took my girlfriend to Tottenham Court Road and got a job in Lasky’s selling Headphones and Cartridges

Who or what was the biggest influence on your career?

Robin Marshall (Epos) he believed in doing the right thing regardless. An honourable person and a very talented designer

Proudest moment/product you’re most proud of?

Red 100 the first Russell K product. To do it my way and have so many people enjoy the result

What product do you wish you had never conceived/launched?Red 150 Belgium

StudioPower DMS series. StudioPower was a name attached to speakers imported from Denmark. The first series called MC was a success similar to Cerwin Vega ie power speakers sporting a lens over the tweeter and strong graphics. The DMS was a more traditional type of speaker that just failed

Tell Hifi Pig readers about your next project and what they can expect in the future from you and your company.

Red 150 the first Floorstanding loudspeaker going into production as I write. It is based on the Red 100 taking the sound to the next level. After that I am prepared to listen to Dealers, Distributors, Reviewers and your readers. I want people to connect with the Brand and be part of the journey, certainly it would have blown me away to think when I was younger I could influence my favourite companiesDSC_4364_2

You and your system

What was your very first system?

Garrard AP-76/ Shure M44E/ Metrosound ST-20 MK 2/ Celestion Ditton 120

Tell us about your system history and the way it has developed to the system you have today.

First change was the amp to a Sansui AU-101 which did sound better .Then the cheapest deck that would take an SME 3009 S2 , that turned out to be an ERA MK 6 from France it was belt driven (In those days a Linn was judged by its rumble /wow and flutter). My Saturday job was at KJ Leisuresound in London where there was so much to like. Next up was the amp an Amcron  IC 150 pre and D60 power which did sound good before my next change, either Spendor BC 3 or IMF Professional Monitor MK3 Improved, both very big for a 3 bed  semi and much to my parents shock I had both at home at the same time to decide. I went for the Spendor as they had more mid focus which I preferred to the IMF’s deeper bass. Final change the ERA/SME went for a Denon DP-3000 with Mayware Formula 4 low mass arm to go with a Sonus Blue high compliance cartridge. At that time KJ had not discovered Linn or Naim. Travel and marriage meant the equipment had to go and I started married life with Linn LP 12 Valhalla /Ittok/K9, Nytech CA202 and SKS Intaglio speakers from my first company. The speakers were a 2 way sealed box design using Sen Lab drivers that later became known as Dynaudio. I have to say it was a wonderfully simple system and great fun to listen to. Upgrades included an Ekos tonearm and Audio Technica OC-9 cartridge.  A Lecson Quattra amp which was very unusual in that it is a Bi Amp in one box the size of a Naim Nait 5 with a fantastic high-end sound…if it could drive the speakers. It was only 4 x 19 watts

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

None I would love to listen to the old stuff to see how it compares to the systems I listen to today

How often do you listen to music?

Almost every day

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

At the Absolute Sound Magazine demonstrated by the late Harry Pearson. Linn LP 12 with a Rabco Parallel tracking arm, Koetsu Onyx Cartridge, Audio Research SP 6C pre, Threshold Stasis 2 power amp (the Krell of its day) driving the magnificent Infinity IRS loudspeakers – 4 columns, nearly 2 metres high line source design. The best system I have heard to date

The state of the industry

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

Fantastic! I love equipment that is fun to use and fun to listen to

Vinyl resurgence… what are your thoughts?

Wonderful ! It’s connecting people to hifi and music.

Is CD a dying format?

I hope so, it’s not about chopping music into pieces and reassembling it which is digital and here to stay. The CD never did what was claimed (“perfect music forever”). The discs were and still are too fragile, as are the cases. I am fed up with CDs that don’t play and are wrecked because of wear.

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?

It will carry on as too much money has been invested by large companies for it not to. I think there will be consumer mass market type products and an audiophile business, which will in my view become more stand alone as it was in the early days. How big that business is will depend on quality music (performers as well as recording quality)and if the Industry will accept that more than one person or company can have a good idea. The Industry needs to be seen as “cool” from the outside

Digital downloads, what do you think their impact has been on the way people listen to music?

I think it helps more people to listen to music so that can only be good

How do we engage young people, the audiophiles of the future?

Cut out the bull s..t , build products that are fun to use, cool to look at and (what a surprise) sound good

Online shopping’s effect on the retail industry?

To me it’s not good. As an example, the only way I can find out if Dunlop is better on my car than Pirelli is to buy them. That is what will happen if we lose retail shops and that will harm the Industry

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

Products with high prices and poor sound justified by some bulls..t story

The way you work

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

I want the sound to be real. If a live performer is in the room it is impossible to read a magazine. Try the same test with a hifi system it’s amazing how many fail

Your sound preference -‘Smooth, listenable musicality’, ‘forward, driving, ‘foot-tapping’, involving sound’ or ‘detailed neutrality and transparency’?

Same answer as above. I think many buzz words are used to excuse poor sound ie “foot tapping” is part of music, but if the sound is hard and bright it’s not real and not satisfying

Turntable preferences…direct drive, belts, Idlers or what?

Doesn’t matter if it’s good it’s good

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

I have heard both great small speakers and large speakers. The same is true for terrible speakers – they can be all shapes and sizes. The worst types chase one parameter at the expense of all else…it’s very detailed but the sound will cut your head off. The other type I don’t like is the corporate speaker based on technical features that sound flat and boring.DSC_4344

It’s all about the music, man…

What is your favourite recording?

Don’t have one

Tell us about your 3 most trusted test recordings.

For design I don’t have trusted recordings. I have learnt that the recording may be true, but how it sounds to me changes as the brain is a processor. Any recording I hear too many times makes me feel uncomfortable, so my judgement is impaired

What are your most embarrassing recordings/guilty musical pleasures.

Abba but only at the weekend when nobody is around

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?

For me it’s about the moment. Right now I am enjoying the collection of Doobie Brothers Albums I bought recently. A month ago it would have been Beethoven conducted by Von Karajan




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