Dawid does Aalborg; part 2

This factory tour first published in February 2023 on By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of HifiKnights or the manufacturer. Certain images have the mouse-over loupe function enabled. You can also right-click on those to open in a new window at full size. – Ed.


In late 2019 I visited Denmark's Aalborg to learn about Audio Group Denmark and its brands Aavik, Ansuz and Børresen. Fast forward to early 2023 when I was invited once more. Over the years this group have flourished into a real behemoth to warrant a follow up. Although the pandemic had a major impact on us all, my conclusion is that most audio manufacturers asked on the subject had no reasons to complain. Quite the contrary. During that time enthusiasts locked into their homes spent money on goods to enjoy there. This highly profitable period in the audio biz allowed many companies to prosper. So my AGD contact Morten invited me to revisit their HQ and see for myself how much they have grown. Time didn't stand still, that's for sure.

Morten in one of the demo rooms.

Back then Audio Group Denmark operated under the name UpperLevel ApS, with its founders Lars Kristensen and Michael Børresen CEO and CTO respectively. In 2021 Gryphon founder Flemming Rasmussen joined their ranks to contribute industrial design ideas. One year later Kent Sørensen of Vækst-Invest stepped in as new CFO. By 2022 Lars and Michael had sold 45% of their shares to this private capital fund and Kent became the new CEO. Michael retains the position of CTO, Lars oversees marketing and interfaces with visitors like myself as new CMO/CSO. Since he enjoys taking care of company guests immensely and conducting demos for them, that put him exactly where he wanted to be. He's as passionate about his work as ever. During my first visit, Audio Group Denmark had 16 staff members and its 1'000m² facility took a while to explore. Back then it already struck me as a full-blown industrial outfit primed to take the industry by storm. Today they have 40+ employees across roughly thrice the floor space. It's easy to get lost in their maze of corridors, halls and rooms. Three years ago one day sufficed to know how to get from A to B on my own. This time I had a VIP pass to wander wherever I pleased with no escort just as before yet still had to ask directions. Although the Aalborg plant is massive already, there are still plans to make it even grander and hire extra staff to bring still more manufacturing processes in house. During my stay it was quite apparent that executing even the smallest details in-house is the overriding theme.

Offices, assembly area, well-stocked shipping area

My tour started from the main room that houses desks occupied by the logistics team, one individual responsible for R&D and the CEO himself. Just as Lars before him, Kent works not above but amongst his staff. From there we went to a large assembly hall where several employees were busy putting cables and power distributors together. The room at the very end of that area featured an interesting machine Lars was thrilled to explain. This unapologetically costly device straightens out a wire, cuts it to within crazy tolerances then removes the outer insulation layers whilst leaving the conductor itself pristine. My tour guide pointed at a nearby spool of very costly solid-core gold-plated wire that eventually becomes their latest Gold Signature range. If its conductive area develops even the tiniest mechanical flaw, performance takes a hit. Hence the investment into an automated wire stripper.

New wire cutting machine | lathe | cryo vats | compact CNC

On our way to driver assembly, Lars detoured to a large warehouse with their latest baskets on display. If you find baskets boring, these alien objects didn't resemble any counterpart I ever saw. At the Aalborg plant significant sums are spent on R&D and exploring exotic materials with desirable mechanical/electrical properties. Aluminium and steel get a hard pass, silver, gold, titanium and zirconium are cherished. Each basket is 3D-printed from solid zirconium in an AI-optimized geometry for best rigidity whilst using up as little of a material which costs 11 x more (!) than already dear titanium. Half a dozen of these zirconium baskets will buy you a mid-class car from a new dealer lot. That's bonkers. Then again, Børresen's 4" 2-way M1 fitted with these and many other exotic parts demands a cool €100K/pr.

The room next to the warehouse contained two large cryo vats where components gently transition from a deep-freeze state to room temperature to tighten their molecular makeup without developing cracks. 72-hour immersion will lower the inductance of certain parts by 8-10% to further reduce noise which this group is quite fanatical about. All their tech serves that purpose one way or another. In the past they outsourced cryogenics but these days qualified staff executes it on the premises. Blue stickers on the motor magnets show which driver were treated.

Copper-version driver bottom left, Silver Supreme version at right.

The next room was the company's vault/foundry. Børresen's iron-less motors feature either copper or silver pole pieces. Each ring casts from raw material in house then processes with a large lathe to fit inside a basket. Kilograms of small pellets to produce these donuts hid from prying eyes inside a massive safe. And no, I won't show you where that is.

Next Lars introduced me to the area where separate components become finished drivers. Flemming Rasmussen is often seen here. Titanium voice coils, raw baskets, motors and spiders were a familiar sight but not three new membrane types. This in fact was the same cone across three evolutionary stages. In its basic form as found in the new X-range speakers, it incorporates two thin spread-tow carbon skins sealing off a lightweight core of aramid honeycomb. Then silvery titanium layers atop them undergo hours-long treatment inside a high-power impulse magnetron sputtering machine to develop nanocoats of zirconium, tungsten and aluminium chrome nitride. The resultant darkish membrane is extremely light and uniformly stiff in all directions while its resonances are pushed two octaves beyond the cone's passband. I didn't dare ask how much coin a single such cone swallows. Then again, these become Børresen M1 speakers assembled from the very best ingredients its makers currently have at their disposal.