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This interview originally appeared in Australia's Audio Esoterica magazine and is reproduced here with permission. A worldwide digital edition of Audio Esoterica is available here. All images are the property of Audio Esoterica or Kyron Audio. Audio Esoterica's editor Edgar Kramer is also a regular staff contributor for 6moons which is how this syndication with an annual print magazine issue came about - Ed.

Edgar Kramer from Audio Esoterica talks to Kyron Audio principles Leon Suter and Lee Gray about the extraordinary Gaia flagship loudspeaker, their real estate stint on behalf of a client and the astonishing soon-to-come Kronos loudspeaker.

Audio Esoterica: The Gaia is one of the most extraordinary designs in all of speakerdom. What attracted you to the dipole design and why this particular configuration?
Leon Suter: Initially, the attraction of dipole was the incredible clarity of reproduction when there was no enclosure sound. As soon as we heard music replayed through speakers without a box, it became obvious how much unwanted sound the enclosure was contributing. Then we were bowled over by the speed and accuracy of the bass. Initially, the Gaia design included an incredible sealed subwoofer. It had carbon fibre side panels, multi-layered wall construction and was capable of extraordinary sound pressure levels. We were only using it for about one octave from 20Hz to 40Hz. In the end we were able to configure Gaia to provide all the bottom end we needed with custom designed dipole woofers.

AE: The drivers you’ve chosen are all of superb quality. How extensive was the driver selection process and what were the deciding factors?
LS: Superb quality was of course a prerequisite. The drivers we are using are all completely different models from the ones we started with eight years ago. Many hours of research, testing and listening went into the driver selection, including commissioning of one of the world’s best known authorities on transducer theory to design a custom woofer. The drivers chosen have incredibly low distortion and the woofers have minimal disruption to airflow to the rear. The tweeters were chosen to match the power response of the woofers as closely as possible while providing response upwards of 40kHz.

AE: The Gaia is actually more of a system than a speaker. The control unit features amplification and digital processing for various functions including room measurement and correction via Australian company DEQX. How was the partnership started and what does DEQX offer that other DSPs don’t?
LS: The Gaia system was always going to be a multi-amplified system. This is not the most common arrangement in the world of hifi but the benefits of multi-amping are tremendous provided it is done correctly. The processing provided by DEQX takes the unfair advantages of active speakers and multiplies them again. From a purely technical standpoint, the DEQX processing is a truly remarkable engineering achievement. From an audiophile’s perspective, after it has been set up it just gets out of the way leaving a clear accurate and musical representation of the recording. Kim Ryrie and Alan Langford at DEQX have been great in helping us with the implantation of their products and are a great Australian audio success story.

In light of the system’s potential operational complexity, what measures have you taken to make the speakers as ‘plug and play’ as possible and what form of support does Kyron Audio offer?
LS: The Gaia has been designed to be very plug and play. After the system has been set up in the room, you only need to adjust the volume control. The DEQX processor has room correction which once set up doesn’t need to be touched unless you move rooms. As for support, if you own a Kyron Audio Gaia you have our direct contacts for any help you may need.
Lee Gray: In a world where separate components have been king, it often seems crazy that we would offer a complete system at this price point. Part of the appeal of the audiophile hobby is to mix and match equipment to discover your particular version of audio nirvana. We are looking to the future and believe that the market is now ready for a system in which the designer has painstakingly selected extremely accurate components from input to output then seamlessly integrated them into a complete audio reproduction product. The current generation of music listeners has grown up without separate amplifiers, preamps, DACs and speakers. They are accustomed to a single source with a docking station and it is this emerging demographic who demand a simple solution of the finest quality. You could consider Gaia to be the world’s best iPod speakers. There are also a growing number of converts from older generations who are tired of the game and simply want the best musical experience money can buy. Whether you love vinyl, CD, downloads or other source material, we believe you will be hard pressed to find a series of components that will give you the experience like that of the Gaia system straight out of the box.

AE: What were some of the technical and mechanical challenges that faced such an ambitious design as the Gaia?
LG: The mechanical difficulties are out there for the entire world to see. The design brief was to produce a platform of maximum rigidity that was acoustically inert, had sonic transparency, a modern aesthetic and no enclosure. Convincing local industry during the prototype stage that we weren’t building a spaceship was also problematic. The driving force during this eight-year project was to try and produce a speaker system without compromise. It was this mantra that kept us true throughout the design process. Amplification and driver technology of this power, quality and size was also not available until the last few years so we are fortunate that technology caught up with our vision and enabled us to see our dream come to fruition.

AE: The Gaia features extensive metalwork of outstanding quality. Were you able to source this locally or were you forced to look overseas?
LG: Firstly, thank you. We take great pride in the fit and finish of our products. Clientele in this market demand and deserve the very best and we go to great lengths to ensure that everything is perfect. Most of the metalwork and finishing is done here in Australia. The design and assembly is all done in-house here in Australia too. However, Gaia is made in very limited numbers and we don’t order the volumes that would make it financially viable to have the more complex parts machined here. We are continuing the search for a machinist in Australia that can meet our stringent quality requirements and as we expand our range into a price point that does facilitate larger volumes this will become a more viable option. 

AE: You’ve hit the market with a no-holds-barred design. Have you found the high-end market a hard nut to crack?
LS: People have been very receptive to Gaia. The high-end market has many facets and everyone in it is different. People are motivated by various factors and have longstanding relationships with dealers, brands and certain sonic signatures. We are confident that forward thinking individuals who share our passion for truth, fidelity and music will gravitate in increasing numbers towards Gaia as well as our future designs.
LG: Gaia is at a high price point in the market, but clientele who are in this tax bracket are often amazed at the value that we offer. When they take stock of their own system and add up the total cost of their individual components—amplifiers, preamplifiers, DAC, room correction, cables and let’s not forget speakers—it can easily reach much higher dollar amounts. Gaia is all of these things and more as each link in the chain has been designed to work together seamlessly.

AE: Have you had success in appointing overseas distributors?
LS: We have received interest from all four corners of the globe for distribution rights to Gaia. Lee and I decided from the outset that Gaia would only be sold directly from us to everywhere in the world. The service includes the two of us delivering and installing the loudspeakers in person. In fact we are in touch with our customers and helping with room layout and positioning from the very beginning.
LG: One of our prospective clients has even asked us to help find his new house based on ideal listening room size for Gaia. We model the acoustics of potential listening rooms with our computer software and come up with starting points for the loudspeakers, listening position and any acoustic room treatments. Then when the speakers are delivered, we spend two days fine-tuning the positioning and room optimisation software until we are happy with the sound. This is something that we do not want to hand off to a distributor or dealer and the main reason that Gaia is limited to only 12 pairs a year.

AE: Are you planning a more affordable lower scale product to add to the range and if so, how would that be configured in terms of driver array and accompanying electronics?
LS: We have been working on something that we hope to have ready a little later this year. It is quite something to go from building a flagship design to something more affordable and we certainly don’t want the sound to suffer. In the end we have had to limit the overall volume level of the system and some of the more intricate machining operations to bring costs down. The sound and look is unmistakably Kyron Audio and the system incorporates the brand-new DEQX processor and three stereo amplifiers. The price is a well-guarded secret at the moment but we can reveal it will be called Kronos and we are working towards having it available for audition in select locations throughout Australia.

AE: Lee and Leon, what are your professional backgrounds and how have you found them complimentary in the design of the Gaia?
LS: I am a classical clarinettist by trade. I think the intimate knowledge of the sound of acoustic instruments has been invaluable when evaluating the performance of loudspeakers. My loudspeaker journey started while studying music and advanced mathematics at university back in 1993 when I managed to blow up my father’s loudspeakers during a party. From there I kept tinkering with them trying to improve their sound and performance. It wasn’t long before I was building my first loudspeaker from scratch. My passion for audio has seen me study sound at UNSW and spend over ten years as the head audio engineer at the Air Force Band where I was fortunate to first meet Lee.
LG: I have always been mechanically minded. I even have a photo of me with a power drill aged two and a half to prove it. I have an absolute passion for industrial design and a desire to create. I am also a classical percussionist by trade and I think the two complement each other well in my pursuit of loudspeaker design. As a performer I am constantly surrounded by real instruments in real performance venues which I believe gives me the ultimate reference point when voicing our speakers.

AE: What's next for Kyron Audio?
LS: Spreading the word. We have a few more designs on the way and are also looking at expanding our acoustics and consulting business. We are definitely looking at making the jump overseas and building strong partnerships with audio fanatics and businesses around the world. We would also love to see our speakers on the set of a Batman film or other sci-fi movie so we might have to make a stop off in Hollywood.
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