Mads Klifoth - Audiovector
Audiovector is one of the companies whose career has clearly accelerated over the past few years. I first encountered Audiovector loudspeakers when I reviewed... the first generation of the Arcam Solo system back in 2005. In the box, I found tiny monitors named Alto, built by the Danes for Arcam. If someone told me then that Audiovector's loudspeakers would be part of my reference system, I would probably have told them to knock on their head. And not with a finger, but with something much harder and heavier. And yet, here we are! For some time, everything that has to do with this company seems to be operating at an accelerated pace Some say that it is thanks to the passion and commitment of Mads Klifoth.
He is an extremely nice and friendly guy. To tell the truth, I had wanted to interview him a long time ago, but I knew that soon we would be able to talk about new projects, interesting technical solutions, new products and plans for the near future. Anyway, I asked him about it many times during various presentations and exhibitions. Of course, this way you can postpone it endlessly, but five years ago we were interviewed by Mads' father, the founder of Audiovector, Ole Klifoth and it seemed to me that I simply didn't have enough important questions yet to make such an interview meaningful. Now the situation was quite different, although now we didn't have a chance to meet in person and talk about new stuff in a normal manner. Luckily that didn't stop us and Mads agreed to answer all our questions during the online interview. If you are interested, I kindly invite you to see what Ole Klifoth told us five years ago, and now let's move on to a conversation with his son, the current CEO, and owner of Audiovector.
Many audio engineers can be asked the standard question "how did you start the hi-fi adventure", but you probably don't have to explain it a lot. As the son of Audiovector's founder, you must have been surrounded by speakers and amplifiers since early childhood. Did you play with capacitors and magnets instead of toy cars?
My interest in music came from listening and experiencing many different musical genres in my childhood home. When my friends wished for computers and game consoles I had already saved up for a sound system (Musical Fidelity with Audiovector M3 Signature which very fast became an Avantgarde). Developing came much later as my main goal is to grow the business with respect for the family DNA.
Now you also have a son, Konrad. Do you think that someday he will also follow you in Audiovector? If he doesn't want to become an architect or a veterinarian and choose your path, will you be happy?
The only thing I hope for Konrad is that he chooses something that he is happy about and will give him a good life. If he chooses a career with Audiovector he is most welcome. I do have one important condition - it must be his own choice and not mine or the wish to please the family! I am proud of him already and he does not need my approval to have a good life. With diplomatic guidance, respect, and much love he will find his own way. My father never pressured or pushed me which is the key to our success today - nothing beats honest motivation and hard work.
Let's imagine that your son, after mastering the basics and studying the whole theory, starts building his own loudspeakers, aiming to surpass the achievements of his father and grandfather. Will he succeed, or maybe after months of work he will say "damn, I can think of nothing better"?
If he starts for himself, I hope he surpasses Ole and me. He can get all the tools and guidance he needs from me if he wishes.
Scandinavian speakers are known all over the world. Amphion, Gradient, Qln, Audio Pro... In Denmark alone, we have Bang & Olufsen, Dynaudio, Vifa, DALI, Scan-Speak, Podspeakres, Cornered Audio, System Audio, Jamo, Buchardt Audio, Gryphon, Raidho, Gato Audio, of course, Audiovector and probably a dozen other brands I forgot or don't know about. And all this in a six million country? What is going on? Do you have it in your DNA?
In the 1970s, Denmark was the "jazz capital" of Europe. Copenhagen was a city where colored musicians could live without being exposed to racism. In fact, they were heroes in Copenhagen, admired by the jazz lovers and attracting a lot of interest from blonde Danish girls. Dexter Gordon lived in Copenhagen for many years. So did Ben Webster and many other black musicians. Some musicians were attracted to the new flourishing jazz scene, too. Stan Getz being the most famous of them. Music had a big influence on Denmark and Danish culture. I believe that this is one of the more important reasons why the manufacturing of hi-fi gear has become such an important part of our culture and our DNA.
What is the current division between you and your father? We know that the QR series was your creation, but who was responsible for the new R series? Do you share specific series and products, or just work together?
I operate the company and Ole oversees R&D. With that said, I have been deeply involved in development since we started working on the SR Series. We corrected the sound signature a little bit back then and the company has grown every year since then. The new R Series is a product of evolution from the previous series but reworked, redesigned, and rethought. Visual impressions, veneers, concepts. We work together always - no competition in the family. Only common goals for engineering amazing products.
The QR series has been very warmly received by audiophiles and no wonder. Minimalist design, original speakers, AMT tweeters, nice finishes, and all at acceptable prices. Did you know it would happen, or were you afraid that customers would not like these speakers?
We had many discussions in the company about the QR Range in the beginning. I never gave in or backed down to the board members and had my way. Today everybody is very pleased with this decision. I knew the market and our customers needed a product like QR and I gave it to them.
The top model in this series - QR5 - is quite extraordinary. It appeared on the market much later than other QRs. It was also one of the few three-way models. And it turned out to be a spectacular success. Why?
The QR 5 is special in the way that the construction is made like a very audiophile high-end speaker which normally costs a lot more than the QR 5 price point. The sound signature is detailed with distinct bass and delicate midrange. It seems like many people did not think this was available in this segment.
When I learned that work on the QR5 is underway, I thought that adding another woofer and enlarging the cabinet wouldn't be a big problem. In fact, "fives" have a lot of modifications. The midrange driver is not exactly the same as the woofer (although it looks like it from the outside). AMT Tweeter is twice as large as in QR3 and QR1. You can see that you didn't go the easy way. Was it worth it?
We never go the easy way, not even when we upgrade a current model. From the SR3 - R3 we made 164 changes and it took 24 months before we were satisfied with the transition. The QR 5 also took a very long time to develop and even longer to get to the final version ready but I am happy with the result and of course, it is worth it, so many people are happy with the product which is my main goal. I believe we gave our listeners something special.
Looking at your website, one can get the impression that in your work you rely primarily on interesting, sometimes unique technical solutions. It's hard to find even one element of the speakers that don't have something interesting about it. Titanium coils, special damping materials, unusual speaker mounts, cryogenically treated crossover components... How are these ideas born? Because it looks like you spend most of your time in some secret laboratory, and then do the auditions just to check if everything works as it should.
What you describe is my father's 40 years of curiosity, development, and evolution. Some of the ideas we still use today are born 30-40 years ago. Freedom Grounding came to us because we wanted a lower noise floor. My father has initially tried to go to market with a similar idea 30 years ago but it was much too early for consumers to take in. He waited and slowly started up the development again in 2017. Today it is something special. Learning by doing, form follows function and experimenting has led Ole to a lifetime of good sound.
One of the basic areas related to technology is certainly the original drivers. We won't find them in any other speakers. Do you make them yourself, or collaborate with one of the well-known Scandinavian specialists?
Scan-Speak builts our driver by hand in Denmark based on Audiovector patented design. No one else can use our technology and design. It is an important part of our business to be unique.
Unusual bass-reflexes have become one of the characteristic features of your speakers. In the R1 model, we see two damped, rear-facing tunnels of different diameters, in QR5 it is a wide gap blowing towards the plinth, while in R3 the port blows through the angled cut and a metal mesh. It looks like you spend a lot of time on something that most manufacturers solve quite quickly, with an ordinary, plastic tube. Why?
Because it is not easy to reproduce real-life bass performance and a high level of dynamics. Therefore, we use different designs for different boxes. Please remember that we are 100% family-owned. The design, materials, sound, and deadlines for the new product we decided solely on ourselves. If my father and I decide a product is not completely ready yet, we wait to tell anyone about it.
Recently you introduced Freedom terminals in some of your more advanced models. On the rear panel, there is then a third terminal, which, using a special cable, should be connected to a power conditioner or socket in the wall so that the speakers are grounded. I have to admit it looks pretty strange. Can you explain it to me? What exactly are we grounding?
Audiovector Freedom is a new and revolutionary grounding technology, which addresses the movement induced distortion of and between the drive units in a loudspeaker. The currencies running between the chassis are being processed and dealt with through a new separate crossover, which routes the signal to the ground terminal of your wall socket or your grounded mains distributor. Contrary to conventional knowledge, these currencies cause coloration and distortion between the drive units. By balancing and filtering these through a dedicated separate filter and by offering the possibility of connecting them to earth/ground, we achieve a clean, very accurate, much more realistic sound with a low noise floor.
One of the most interesting solutions offered to your clients is IUC (Individual Upgrade Concept) - the option of upgrading selected products in the factory. Few speaker manufacturers do this. Even if you want to, you must have the right equipment and your own factory, preferably not in China. Is this the operation of replacing the speakers, or is it usually more work with it?
We take apart the speakers completely and start all over. For example, when an upgrade from SR 3 Signature to R 3 Arreté is carried out, we only use the client’s cabinet. All other parts including dampening material are changed: New crossovers, wiring, drivers, dampening, baffles and plinths – the works! The customer gets 5 years prolonged guarantee, new grilles, and packaging material as well.
What do you remember the most interesting cases of work done under IUC? Were there any extremely old and damaged speakers that were given a second life?
A few months ago, we took delivery of an S6 Signature in Maple Wood Veneer. This is a speaker we sold in 2001. The customer wanted to upgrade to the SR6 Avantgarde Arreté and to have the speakers painted in Italian Grey Piano finish instead of the original wood. They had dents, scratches, and was in a very used condition. We took the speakers apart, sanded the cabinets, repaired the dents, and send them to the paint shop. When making an upgrade the only parts we reuse are the cabinets. You should have seen the customer's eyes when he saw 'his old' speakers. They were perfect!
I heard you are working on a new model in the R series. Can you tell us more about it? Something like a better, more expensive equivalent to the QR5?
I will send you some information on this matter shortly. It has nothing to do with the QR5 though.