pl | en

INTERVIEW | “The Editors” series № 30


Position: EDITOR
Publisher: Dirk Sommer

Type of publication: ONLINE MAGAZINE
Frequency of publication: IRREGULAR
Year of establishment: 2009

Contact details:



Images: Wolfgang Kemper | press materials

No 201

February 1, 2021

“THE EDITORS” is a series of interviews with editors of audio magazines from all over the world – both printed ones, as well as online magazines and portals. It started on January 1st 2012 and 29 interview records have been published so far – the one below will be No. 31. Our aim is to make our readers more familiar with the people who usually hide behind the products that we review. It is the “WHO IS WHO?” of specialized audio press.

OOPERATION BETWEEN AUDIO MAGAZINES is not a frequent occurrence. Before large oligopolies were created, where one can find a few formerly independent titles, we had been talking about mutual liking at the level of editors and not magazines. At the moment, when printed press is in a defensive position, it is much easier to start such cooperation. Let me add that we also took part in such practices for a few years, exchanging articles with the and magazines.

⸜ WOLFGANG KREMER in his twenties

As for deeper cooperation, or even friendship between “High Fidelity” and another audio magazine, it has only existed for the last few years, since we found ourselves on the same orbit as the American POSITIVE FEEDBACK and the German magazines. What we also have in common with the latter is an award that we give twice a year – STATEMENT in High Fidelity (you can read about its latest edition HERE |PL|).

Its editor-in-chief, DIRK SOMMER, was already interviewed as part of “The Editors” series in the year 2013, soon after it was started (HF № 12 | August 2013, more HERE). Back then, at a dinner that I was invited to by Dirk, I also met WOLFGANG KEMPER, one of editors. As time went by, I got to know him better, which has only made me more respectful towards this extremely experienced, humorous and very likable editor.



WOJCIECH PACUŁA Tell us about the beginnings of your audio passion and how it has changed your life.
WOLFGANG KEMPER My interest in audio developed slowly and started when I, just a teenager, wanted to record the hit parades of Radio Luxemburg and the Saarland Radio.

I owned a small portable radio, a GRUNDIG Prima Boy, which I had financed with my wages from delivering newspapers, and a TELEFUNKEN tape recorder, which I had bought with the proceeds from the sale of my Hohner accordion. All my attempts to train playing this beautiful instrument had only led to miserable results, because disciplined practice was not my strong point.

I remember my recording technique at that time, placing a cardioid microphone in front of the loudspeaker of the Prima Boy and recording the almost exclusively English-language songs. My canary Peter interfered in quite a few of these recordings. It was not until many years later that I had the financial means to buy a high-quality, complete hi-fi system, which I had selected on the basis of test reports in the then relevant trade journal “Hifi-Stereophonie”.

⸜ The cover of the “Hifi-Stereophonie” magazine (March 1980)

Since I had been working in a recording studio in Münster for some time, I had good contacts and was able to get the equipment of my choice at somewhat cheaper prices. This first dream system consisted of WHARFDALE Dovedale III speakers, a REVOX amplifier and a LENCO L-75 turntable with the PHILIPS GP-412 MM cartridge system.

I didn't reject the then hyped DUAL 1219 with SHURE V-15 for quality reasons, but because I wanted to own something different from the mainstream that was favored in the trade magazines at the time, and also because the GP-412 sounded very good to me. As a tape machine, I acquired an UHER-ROYAL 2-track.

I was able to obtain this system through inheritance at the age of 18 from my early deceased father. It sounded really good, but, unfortunately, I realized even then that this good sound was light years away from live music. In other words: I was infected by the hi-fi virus and in the following two decades no device was to last long.

Even before I graduated from high school, I successfully passed my specialist consultant exam before the DHFI (German High Fidelity Institute), which was respected in the industry at the time. I did this in order to get lucrative jobs in the hi-fi trade during the summer holidays and after graduating from high school. This also worked out and so the financial means for the upgrades of my system were available.

I couldn't make my actual career aspiration, which was to become a sound engineer, come true. It was because I couldn't play the piano, an indispensable prerequisite for studying at that time. So, I studied a little law and archaeology in a fun way, and then one day I took a job in the hi-fi retail industry in Hannover. I was 25 or 26 years old at the time.

At some point, I was offered the job of a sales manager for the amplifier specialist AUDIOLABOR where HELMUT BRINKMANN was co-owner and developer.

It was during my time that the KLAR preamplifier was launched and I introduced it to the market nationwide. It was Helmut Brinkmann's first device with a transparent cover, as is standard today with his BRINKMANN amplifiers. My time also saw the introduction of the KONSTANT record player, if you will, the forerunner of Helmut Brinkmann's now world-renowned turntables.

At that time, I also met my friend DIRK SOMMER, whose magazine I have been working for with great pleasure for several years. At that time, Dirk was working at a dealership in Bochum during his semester holidays, where I organized Audiolabor days one weekend and presented the Konstant. Dirk bought a Konstant and I had the task and pleasure of setting it up, and putting it into operation at his home with his partner (and now wife) BIRGIT.

⸜ WOLFGANG KEMPER (to the left) and DIRK SOMMER during the High End exhibition in Munich

The fine tuning was also done with the help of alcohol and so the pleasure of a long listening evening was very, very great, but the task was rather poorly fulfilled, as it turned out the next day when we checked the overhang. But the important thing was: this was the foundation stone for our decades-long friendship and our collaboration for HIFISTATEMENT.

My professional development led me back to retail in my hometown of Münster. I was basically quite happy there, but realized in my mid-thirties that this could not be my place in the long run.

When I learned that NAD was building up a new sales force – at that time NAD was being marketed by the sales force of the prestige brand Braun on the side – I successfully applied to become a sales representative. A few days later, however, I learned that NAD wanted to set up its own subsidiary in Germany. That was at the beginning of 1986, so I contacted NAD in London.

I was lucky that the person in charge of personnel spoke German quite well. My English was abysmal, as I had majored in Latin and Greek at a grammar school – a fatal mistake at the age of ten, when I still wanted to become the Pope in Rome. I met with Mister NAD and got the job. Now I was an independent sales representative, a leap into self-employment that I could only take financially because I was single and had no one to support.

Everything was going pleasingly well. My contacts from the Audiolabor years were a cornerstone and success came quickly, so I was also entrusted with other tasks at NAD Germany. At the same time, I was also given regional sales for DYNAUDIO, but this, together with NAD, became too much for me after a few years, so I decided to work for NAD alone.

It was fun and worked very well. In 1993, my former boss in Münster, who I was also close friends with, told me that the CANTON loudspeaker company had a vacancy for a sales representative in my region. I applied and got the job. From then on, it was a lot of work, a lot of turnover and earnings, and very little audiophile ambition in the day-to-day work.

This should not be misunderstood at all. For decades, Canton had been building excellent loudspeakers that were hard to beat in terms of price-value ratio. However, the brand was so popular and in such demand in the trade that I did not have to demonstrate a single Canton loudspeaker in all these thirteen years. At the end of 2006 the regions were restructured and my time in sales came to an end.

I continued to work in product promotion for Canton for a few years, until at some point I said to myself: “Enough, now I'm enjoying my life with my wife!” But it's not that easy to turn such a thought into reality. Just imagine: You want to sit in front of your stereo in the morning and listen to music. Your wife is vacuuming. Do you think she will smile when she sees you? My tip: Become a writer for a hi-fi magazine. Now I can tell her: Please, my darling, vacuum somewhere else, I have to work. And all is well.

⸜ One of Wolfgang’s latest tests – the Antipodes K50 music server

WP What are you listening to music on now?
WK My system has improved steadily over the last 13 years since 2007, when I started to build a final, great system after the Canton era.

I liked the TRIANGLE speakers from France a lot. Since I knew the then importer Günter Härtel well from my years in retail in Münster and as an NAD colleague, I bought the big Triangle GRAND CONCERT loudspeakers which I liked very much, but, unfortunately, they are a bit too big for my L-shaped living room, as I cannot allow them the adequate base width.

But I've managed quite well, replacing components several times over the years. One crucial step was to optimize the power supply. I had an electrician lay a direct line, fused with an AHP automat and a FURUTECHbox in the wall.

I experienced a clear gain in sound when, after many experiments with worse results, I connected all the devices via a conditioner – the AUDIOQUEST NIAGARA 5000 with AUDIOQUEST HURRICANE mains cables. More happened than when I had replaced any electronic component before. It was my most expensive investment, apart from the Triangle speakers, and it provided a solid foundation for everything else.

A few months ago, I also optimized my analogue and digital signal cables with the WIREWORLD Eclipse 8 Silver and Platinum, as well as two PURIST AUDIO DESIGN interconnects in the analogue section and a HABST USB III and AES/EBU DIII in the digital section.

My analog and digital SIGNAL SOURCES now consist of:

LINEAR power supply

PLINIUS KORU phono stage

CD/DVD PRIMARE DVD 30 player (I only use it as a drive)

APPLE MacMini computer from 2010 with the EL CAPITAN operating system and the current version of AUDIRVANA software

MUTEC MC-3+USB clock/upsampler


The CD PLAYER and APPLE COMPUTER are connected to the MUTEC MC-3+USB upsampler and clock; from there, signal goes via AES/EBU into the PS AUDIO DIRECT STREAM DAC.

The AUDIO-GD M1 VACUUM tube preamplifier sends the signal for the mid-high range to a SPECTRAL DMA-100 power amplifier, which serves the Grand Concerts mid-high unit via the passive crossover from 300 Hz.

In the bass section, the signal from the preamplifier goes first to an LA AUDIO graphic equalizer, which I use to correct room modes up to 300 Hz and to compensate for level differences. From there, it goes to two PRIMARE A-32 stereo power amplifiers, which work practically like mono power amplifiers, since each channel feeds a bass cabinet of the Grand Concert. The equalizer is surprisingly an improvement in terms of its phase behavior.

⸜ Wolfgang with the Triangle Grand Concert loudspeakers

The speaker cables are configured very idiosyncratically. For the connection from the Spectral to the mid-high cabinet, I use the QED SILVER SPIRAL cable in parallel with the SUPRA ANNORUM XL. The two complement each other excellently in terms of volume and openness, certainly a happy coincidence after many experiments, which, fortunately, is not extremely expensive. The bass units are served by the QED Silver-Spiral below and the Supra XL Annorum by the Primare A-32s above. This setup is coherent, though the double wiring solution used for the mid-tweeter sounds less right in the bass section.

All components are placed on FINITE ELEMENTE and AUDIO SELECTION CREAKTIV racks, partly with additional bases from AUDIO EXCLUSIVE.

I use a second system in the attic, in my son's former room. I can't test any integrated amplifiers or loudspeakers in the large setup. For this purpose, I use this second system, which consists of discarded components. Power supply is provided via the MudraAkustik MAX isolating transformer, power strip and wiring.

In the other system, the signal sources are my old ANTELOPE ZODIAC converter/preamplifier and a SONIC FRONTIERS SFA1 tube DAC which harmonizes very nicely with the WADIA WT-3200 transport via the Wadia-specific light line, even if there is some lack of detail here.

In addition to the Antelope, an Audio-gd MASTER 9 is available as a preamplifier, driving either an NAD 2200 PE power amplifier from my NAD years or two fantastic-sounding, second-hand AIR TIGHT ATM-3 monoblocks operating in a triode mode, 55 W each.

⸜ The back of the Triangle Grand Concert loudspeakers with an untypical combination – the bass section uses the QED Silver-Spiral (the module at the bottom) and Supra XL Annorum (the module on top) cables.

WP Have you come across any new interesting audio technology recently?
WK As is probably the case for everyone among us who does not feel solely connected to analogue music reproduction, the development in the digital audio world is highly exciting and full of phenomena that are difficult to explain.

There are always new ideas here, which my colleague Dr. Roland Dietl in particular, with his expertise, often reports on in great detail in the Hifistatement team. For example, there is the clocking of the digital components. Many hi-fi devices do not have a clock connection. But wouldn't it make sense, as in the professional sector, to harmonize digital components via precise clocking, as offered by a Mutec REF10 SE120?

The topic of file player software will remain “hot” for a long time to come, because here the updates represent not only technical but also musical developments. Today, AUDIRVANA is on a very high level in terms of sound and can easily compete with some network streaming alternatives. The topic of interface communication between server and player has also not been discussed out of hand, as Roland Dietl's report on the subject of the DIRETTA protocol proves.

⸜ The other Wolfgang’s system with NAD and Air Tight amplifiers

WP What do you think about audio files – are they the future of high-end audio? If yes – what do they need?
WK I am a friend of digital music because it also offers advantages over analogue playback from records. Analogue and digital are equal for me, because I basically consider the quality of the recording itself to be more important, as music is much more influenced by the performance of the sound engineers than by the differences between analogue and digital.

Since I own a high-quality system, I listen to much more classical music. Here, what I like about digital media is that I can enjoy a multi-movement work without the interruption of changing records. Also, the quick access and animation through the interface with player software like Audirvana or Roon is just right for me. I am not one of those people who click on another track after a short listen. I almost always choose an album carefully and then enjoy it in its entirety. Well, it happens from time to time that an album is too long for me, but that's no different with vinyl.

Compared to CDs, I generally prefer music files, whereas with my CDs I usually look for an album that I had previously thought about playing and, thanks to the presentation of the covers or also when sorting by artist, I always become aware of something that I didn't have in mind. This arouses my interest in it and I choose that album. For me, audio files are the medium of the future. After all, they are not only available on one's own hard drive, but also in internet streaming.

I prefer and Qobuz. I like Qobuz because of its extensive range of classical music. Especially in this genre, internet streaming is enormously exciting because I can compare many interpretations with each other. If I particularly like a recording, I buy it, because from my own server it sounds even better.

An example: many people know Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov; the recording with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1960 is particularly renowned. However, there are many interpretations of this work. Many of them can be found on Qobuz and you can take your time to discover the merits of one or other of the recordings. In my opinion, the recording with Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestre De La Suisse Romande is the greatest.

⸜ The LA-Audiographic equalizer and the Audioquest conditioner underneath

The Decca recording has been digitized at 96 kHz/24-bit, but is only offered in CD quality. Nevertheless, it is musically superior to other Highres recordings for me. I think the future belongs to music streaming in one's own network or from an audiophile provider. Alternatively, vinyl has an eternal right to exist for me, because its sound character has shaped me over decades. Vinyl carries that certain sonic something that even young people who were born with a mobile phone in their hands recognize and appreciate.

WP What seems to be the most important element of an audio system to you?
WK Many years ago, Ivor Tiefenbrun promoted his Linn LP 12 with the argument: “Start at the beginning”. I am now convinced how right he was, in principle, with this statement. During the years of the musical construction of my system, an enormous gain in quality was the acquisition of a high-quality power supply, as I mentioned above.

Money invested here is worthwhile, because if the power is unclean, then, logically, every audio component supplied with it suffers. At the time, I was surprised at the extent to which the Audiquest Niagara and the Huricane cables improved the sound in many respects. In my estimation, it makes sense not to mix power cables (from different manufacturers – editor’s note). This requires lengthy experiments and does not always lead to the optimum. It seems much more sensible to me to use equivalent cabling from one source.

Another important aspect when setting up a hi-fi system is the choice of loudspeakers. The size and, above all, the bass intensity of the loudspeakers should match their place in the listening room. Less is often more or, to put it more accurately, “smaller is often greater”. Often, a smaller model can even save a lot of money and produce a better sound result in the listening room. Large speakers may look imposing and impress non-experts, but that shouldn't really matter. My Triangle Grand Concert speakers, which were too big, gave me a lot of problems until they sounded as I had dreamt and when I heard them under better room conditions.

WP How about digital DSP for correcting acoustics?
WK This is a subject in which I gained a lot of experience already back in the 90s. At that time, Canton had two loudspeaker models that included a digital processor to compensate for room acoustics.

It was ideally connected via the tape-monitor loop of the amplifier or between the preamp and power amp. I installed about 70 of these systems at dealers’ and end customers’ locations, and obtained very different results. They ranged from great gains to very dubious effects. The latter could be corrected at that time by influencing the calibration software.

Often the automatic procedure overemphasized the presence and the high frequency range, and the sound was sterile or even harsh. Even today, I am rather skeptical about automatic measuring machines where I cannot adjust the result according to my wishes. This is because DSPs should be primarily concerned with leveling and eliminating room modes, and strong irregularities in the room below 1 kHz.

⸜ A full view of Wolfgang’s audio system – as you can see, there are some acoustic correction elements in his room

I have become accustomed to high frequencies in my own living space, to the individual character of my living and listening environment. It is similar with concert halls – each sounds different. If this influence on the frequency range to be corrected is possible, I am a fan of room correction.

However, this is still a problem that is difficult to solve and where hi-fi manufacturers – with the only exception of Trinnov that I know of – do not yet offer anything adequate. A DSP always needs an analogue-to-digital converter and, after correction, a digital-to-analogue converter. Some of us spend a lot of money on an excellent D/A converter. That also makes a lot of sense.

If, in addition, a DSP converts signal back and forth afterwards, the sound quality falls by the wayside and that alone is clearly audible. I don't know of any DSP that would meet my requirements. That's why I use the analogue LA-Audio equalizer to minimize the worst errors caused by room modes. Unfortunately, parametric equalizers usually offer too few control points in the relevant fundamental range. Fortunately, there are high-quality analogue room correctors, albeit very few. One example is the COSINUS by mbAkustik (more HERE; access: 04.01.2021).

Ultimately, I advocate electronic room correction if it is appropriate for the level of the system. A very good way is to set up a satellite system with two DSP-optimized woofers and uncorrected full-range compact speakers. This is how I would build a system today.

WP Do you still read audio magazines?
WK Yes, I still enjoy reading interesting articles in German-language or English-language online magazines. In the print media, I regularly read “STEREO”.

WP Could you give us the titles of 10 music albums that you would recommend to “HIGH FIDELITY” readers?
WK I'm sorry, but I have to pass here… Because I can't really answer this question. For me, the selection of my music is an absolutely emotional matter, which is why it is not constant. There is no album that I would like to take with me to the legendary “desert island”. I'd rather have access to Qobuz streaming, preferably in high quality, if the Internet allows it. Because then I could choose according to my feelings and mood.

My musical taste has also changed over the decades. I still like to listen to music from the 1960s, an era that shaped me not only musically. At some point, my musical taste no longer evolved with popular music, a phenomenon that affects many people and is called Taste-Freeze. Memories are often associated with this "yesterday" music. For this reason alone, its significance is subjective and not transferable.

A selection according to recording criteria may fall on fertile ground, but for me it is secondary. With classical music, however, where I have the choice between several interpretations, it is different. Here, the recording quality plays an important role in the emotional experience.

In order not to avoid answering the question completely, I would like to mention two albums that I enjoy listening to again and again, one of them for over 40 years. It is the PULCINELLA SUITE by IGOR STRAVINSKY.

It was recorded by Decca with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner and released in 1968. As far as I know, this recording is not available digitally and is hard to get on vinyl. The suite was one of the regularly used test records in the 1970s, along with Oscar Peterson's album We Get Requests and its track You Look Good to Me or Lincoln Mayorga's direct cut The Missing Linkand several other testing-permanent burners.

The Pulcinella Suite has remained with me to this day and I like to listen to it again and again, not just for my test reports. I have yet to discover an interpretation that would appeal to me more. The recording quality is successful, the interplay of the delicate instrumentation beautifully and poignantly captured. This music is not spectacular, but this recording offers access to a wide range of timbres.

Then there is a double CD that I like to listen to whenever I want to relax. It happens that I read a book while doing so. It is the Stockfisch production SFR 357.4051.2, a direct-cut hybrid SACD. However, I can only use the CD layer.

The Hungarian pianist GERGELY BOGÁNYI plays The Complete Nocturnes by Fréderic Chopin on a large Fazioli F 308 grand piano. Its voluminous sound and the expressive, sensitive performance of the Chopin specialist make this recording not only musically moving, but also additionally interesting due to the background noise of the four (!) pedals. (a review of the album in “High Fidelity” HERE – red.).

While we're on the subject of piano, I can think of something else I found on Qobuz: partly in hi-res quality, there are the three albums by CARLA BLAY on piano, with Andy Sheppard on tenor or soprano saxophone and Steve Swallow on bass: Trios from 2013, Andando El Tiempo from 2016 and Live Goes On from 2020. The trilogy is musically not particularly varied but wonderfully relaxing.

I also found the 96 kHz / 24-bit recordings of JEAN SIBELIUS’S First and Second Symphonies with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of the young conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali on Qobuz, characterized by an impressively spirited manner and successful recording quality.

On vinyl, I have recently acquired the double LP Foursight-Stockholm, a jazz album by the bassist RON CARTER, limited to 1999 copies and numbered, accompanied by Renee Rosnes on piano, Jimmy Green on tenor saxophone and Payton Crossley on drums. The recording is also available as a hi-res file, but it can't hold a candle to the vinyl in terms of sound.

So, that was quick. Now I've come up with a few recommendable things. I have a tip for friends of country-folk music: The CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS band delivered a varied, exciting album with their production by Joe Henry in 2009, entitled Genuine Nigro Jig, which is not only pleasing because of Rhiannon Giddens' singing.

And finally, for friends of original saxophone jazz: On the album Four Visions, discovered again in hi-res on Qobuz, Dave Liebman, Dave Binney, Donny McCaslin and Samuel Blais really get down to business together, often very melodically.

WP Thank you very much for the interview and see you in Munich in a pub!
WK See you, I also cannot wait to meet!