Despite the amplifier market having a significant presence overseas, there are local companies in Australia making an imprint on its small hi-fi community. Simeon Barut reports.
The amplifier market has a substantial presence in Europe with a large amount of innovation and design taking place in Scandinavian countries and the UK and then branching out to other parts of the world, including Australia.
Although a lot of manufacturing for Australian companies occurs overseas, specialist AV component manufacturers like SGR Audio, HALCRO and Holton Precision Audio are making a name for themselves with their high-end audio equipment.
Further, these companies are developing innovative technologies that are influencing the work of large suppliers, like DEQX’s powerful DSP calibration capabilities, which have a strong following around the world.
But, while each company has found a place within the market, manufacturing in Australia is not always as glamorous as it seems as a lot of issues occur on a frequent basis.
Affordability and accessibility are big factors in being able to make such high quality audio equipment consistently available for purchase. Stuart Graeme Ralston, the SGR in SGR Audio, says materials sold in Australia are expensive and not readily available when needed.
“Amplifiers have to look good and one of the biggest hurdles we have here in Australia is that materials are so expensive and they’re just not available to us in this country,” he says.
“I could go to Walmart in the US and buy a slab of aluminium in the right grade whereas in Australia, there is a struggle to get the right stuff and half the time when it is supplied, it’s usually wrong.
“This makes it incredibly difficult to manufacture and compete on the same level as German or Japanese made products – they are getting extremely good at making these pieces of high-end equipment in large quantities. Products have to be like a cake; if it looks good then people will be tempted to eat it.”
Due to these supply issues, the ability to stay innovative and ahead of the curve becomes strained.
HALCRO head of sales and marketing Michael Kirkham says the industry and its audience is constantly changing. With a younger generation coming through and showing more interest in high-end audio, it’s important to be as innovative as possible.
“Boutique audio in general is constantly changing with people starting to move back to an interest in quality audio,” Michael says.
“There is a generation that is interested in high-end audio with a lot of the market wanting high-end products. It’s not just about the retirees anymore; there’s a massive interest among the younger demographic.
“After all, it’s a tech-based industry so it’s all about being innovative and keeping ahead of the curve. If you’re creating something new and innovative, then it’ll create a lot of interest,” he says.
The market also tends to follow global trends with the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2007 changing the direction the industry was heading. There was a big reduction in consumer spending and this caused amplifier production to be affected as a result.
Since the collapse of markets globally in 2007, which lasted many years, it has remained incredibly difficult for companies and manufacturers alike to continue production in Australia. Strangely, this has meant that a lot of these companies have gathered a dedicated following because their products cater to specific consumer needs.
Holton Precision Audio founder Anthony Holton says his company built a reputation among the small hi-fi community within Australia through forums and review websites. He says this translated into consumer confidence which helped get the market back to a decent state.
“The market tends to very much follow what is going on in the world with retail sales and the wind in which people’s trends follow,” he says.
“Obviously, it definitely hasn’t been as busy as it was five years ago before the GFC hit. Building up a reputation online is very important as this increases consumer confidence; confidence in what you’re selling and what they’re buying.
“I believe this the way forward for the Australian market to stand a chance.”
SGR Audio is a high-end audio equipment manufacturer that puts an extensive level of R&D into the refinement of its amplifier’s performance and quality.
A nickel alloy input transformer is used instead of active line receivers that truly isolates sound but still gives a completely balanced output.
The power supply featured in each amplifier has a slow charge circuit that leaves out any high inrush currents as well as a dual-bridge set up that gives lower impedance.
It took Burson Audio six months and the development of a symmetrical bipolar transistor input stage to realise its Field Effect Transistor (FET) input stage was the shining light of its products.
Later, a symmetrical transistor was recreated to support its new FET input stage. Today, the Burson brand FET has few components in the signal path which gives a coherent and more life-like sound.
Burson Audio’s main focus within the design of its products is discrete circuits as it is believed “the less our components interfere with the audio signal, the more complete your musical experience”.
Through elaborate technology, DEQX products calibrate speakers so that the system in use achieves its full potential. Speakers often delay frequency levels when producing sound which results in impulse response errors.
DEQX began with a theory about producing an algorithm that was able to correct the time domain and frequency of a loudspeaker. This allows the speaker to omit sound that has all levels of frequencies the same which gives better stereo imaging and refined musical texture.
DEQX technology corrects amplitude and timing errors by delaying the earlier frequencies to preserve the live time incoherence while frequency response errors are also corrected.
Halcro pride its work on delivering incredibly low levels of distortion through the implementation of its trademark circuitry configuration.
Its circuit work makes sure any extra non-linear effects are nonexistent with the power supply in a separate space so that any variable noise doesn’t affect the redistribution of sound.
Finally, the input stage is protected from non-linear magnetic fields that are produced by output devices through several substantial eddy current screens.
Feedback is practically nonexistent in old and current ME power amplifiers which is seen as an important feature among the majority of audiophiles.
Feedback ends at the voltage amplification stage with an elaborate circuit design and microprocessor control that means performance, reliability and longevity are the focal point of ME designs.
Redgum amplifiers are designed to produce transient power rather than WRMS. Proprietary processing based on PCM signals gives a minimalist and fully analogue level of processing which results in low distortion and pin-point accuracy of the sound’s image.
Redgum’s products have a very high damping factor that gives extremely tight bass control. The design focuses on maintaining an accurate feel, character and musicality of less than 20Hz.
HOLTON PRECISION AUDIO
Holton Precision Audio was founded on the back of circuit boards and amplifier schematics which turned into the company it is today.
Amplifiers come with XLR balanced inputs and include the option of having RCA inputs with the option to have an XLR to RCA adapter. To complement, each model comes with inrush current limiting and loudspeaker protection.