Howard Popeck speaks at length to people with interesting things to say: Kea Audio a high-end New Zealand speaker manufacturer: Designer Jo Lang in conversation. Part #1

hifi loudspeaker Oceania

Howard Popeck: Hello Jo. At short notice, thank you for taking the time …

Jo Lang: I have a bit of time right now so I thought I would respond to your kind invitation.

You are as I understand it, that rare individual who is an audiophile maker blogger; am I correct?

Yes, I have written quite a lot about HiFi on the internet being involved in several blogs. However, I think my views on HiFi are often a bit too radical and controversial and I am running into huge arguments with HiFi enthusiasts. Especially the ones who trust in all the publications and measurements but not their ears!

So bottom line is ….

I know what I hear and I see what I measure but this doesn’t always match! So I trust my ears and not the equipment. I have been dealing with speakers and audio gear for decades and I know how easy it is to make wrong measurements ….. or to interpret them wrongly. However I never made a bad judgment on what I heard.

How do you know this?

I have been conducting speaker tests for the famous German Magazine 'Stiftung Warentest' which is independent but not really high end to be honest. They test consumer products that most people buy. So when we conducted the tests we tested each speaker 'blind' i.e. the speakers were behind a curtain.

Not quite the optimum method though is it?

Ok ….. it’s not ideal but the speakers were not that great anyway.

What was the process?

Each speaker was tested 3 times but the order that the speaker models were tested was randomized. So one had to evaluate each speaker 3 times and then we evaluated the 'listeners' by calculating the statistical variance of their markings. So one tester had such a high variance that their markings were not used simply because they were too random. Funnily enough I came out top; meaning that my evaluations had very little variation. So that was very assuring for me.

In what way?

Knowing that I can trust my own perception. That’s it, in a nutshell!

But really, both of us know that’s not the whole story; am I right?

Pretty much. I know that musical perception can be very misleading ….. especially when someone sees the speakers. They automatically judge by the size of the speaker and other features

Such as?

Price if known.

And … ?

And by preconceptions that were collected from magazines, internet and other media.

Have you been involved in speaker cable testing?

Yes. we also tested cables at "Stiftung Warentest' and the funny thing was that nobody (including myself) knew that we were listening to the same speakers but different cabling! Each one of the listeners were positive that there were at least 2 different speakers if not 3 different ones. When in fact it was only 3 different cables!

Is there a rational objective explanation?

With my background in electrical engineering I am still not able to explain these distinct audible differences with technical facts. Don't get me started on the skin effect. So again my ears told me a different story from the one I know from my technical background.

Which meant that …?

I had to admit that cables do actually make a quite distinct difference.

Were you a sceptic?

I was, yes. I did not believe that before this experience. On the other hand, I was never able to hear a difference if I changed the orientation of the power supply plug and I can't really see why it would, but maybe one day someone will prove me wrong in that aspect.

I guess we’re coming to the end of this first interview.

Yup, busy time for me but let’s continue with the next part in early 2016.

Thanks. I've enjoyed this.

Me too