Slawa Roschkow/SW1X: Valves/Tubes within the 21st century.
Have been it not for my restlessness on one of my many excursions to London, England the place I discovered with myself with free time, idle palms being harmful, coupled with black diamond degree curiosity and that would imply just one factor: GOOGLE. So, there I used to be looking the Higher London space for up and coming Hello-Fi corporations and came across SW1X, a tube/valve Hello-Fi gear designer and producer
Now, being downright lazy, slothful even, I took it at face worth that given the identify it will be situated in London’s SW1 submit code. I used to be quickly to study that I’d be taking a practice out to Essex, extra particularly, Kelvedon. Was the journey longer than anticipated? Sure. Was the journey worthwhile? Sure. Somethings simply are well worth the wait.
So, seems that the person behind SW1X’s line of valve/tube gear from the bottom up is Slawa Roschkow, a Russian who made his approach to Nice Britain by way of Germany. I’ll let him clarify this himself and the way he discovered himself on the earth of HiFi as he comes from a Finance background.
To get right down to this and different issues I, David Blumenstein (DB) will probably be interviewing Slawa (SR), to seek out the solutions to the questions and extra.
DB: Who’s Slawa Roschkow? How did you get right here and why Hello-Fi after Finance?
SR: My background is a bit unorthodox. I used to be born within the Soviet Union. Across the age of 11, my mother and father determined to maneuver to East Germany, nearly a yr earlier than the Iron Curtain and the Wall collapsed. In a method I used to be uncovered to a social/economical/political/cultural shock that many individuals skilled who got here from the opposite aspect of the Curtain. These have been fairly fascinating occasions and undoubtedly one thing distinctive to recollect. I used to be just about uncovered to all type of music, together with so much of western music from a really younger age as my father is an enormous Beatles and Stevie Marvel fan. Additionally, once I was about 6 years previous my father introduced me often to mastering studious (those that copied and created cassettes from R2R tape recorders) and performed recorded music in his automobiles from an imported all-Pioneer automotive hi-fi system. It’s the first reminiscence that has the strongest impression on our psyche and my first reminiscence that jogs my memory of the emotional involvement i.e. calming or thrilling impact music can present. So for me emotional facet is the integral half of music. Are you able to picture music that doesn’t stimulate one’s emotional state?
My private journey into hi-fi began with nothing particular however a turntable that I acquired as a gift on the age of eight and my first “ghetto blaster” double cassette deck on the age of 11, the time I first skilled the CD. In my household, enjoying musical devices was fairly regular. My mom graduated from a music faculty and often performed piano. The journey itself has been a relative straight line with out a lot of operating in circles- I assume I’ve been fortunate in contrast to many individuals who’ve been on a journey for many years, spent absolute fortunes on gear and nonetheless wrestle to know why their system doesn’t play the music proper.
After years working within the monetary sector, I noticed that monetary providers aren’t almost as thrilling as designing, experimenting and constructing audio methods. Don’t get me mistaken, I’m nonetheless actively concerned in lots of funding tasks, which contribute to achievement of primary wants nevertheless it doesn’t present the extent of happiness or satisfaction to non-public improvement, a minimum of in my case.
DB: What led you into the world of valves/tubes? How did you study to design and construct gear? Did you’re employed for any audio corporations? Apprentice?
SR: My second system that I bought was once I moved to London to review Economics. It was a Rotel amplifier paired with a set of Wharfedale audio system. I purchased it based mostly on a suggestion from a Hello-Fi journal. In a short time I found that there was an enormous discrepancy between my expectations and the way the system elements have been marketed. On the lookout for a greater sound as a scholar who’s all the time brief of money, I made a decision to attempt a valve pre-amplifier from China to drive my HD650 headphones. I used to be instantly bought to the know-how of tube amplification the primary time I attempted it. My first tube energy amplifier adopted comparatively shortly and was a push-pull pentode energy amplifier alongside with extra delicate audio system. From the start on when the CD was firstly launched, I struggled to know as why the CD format by no means sounded nearly as good/near tapes or vinyl.
Earlier than I began my very own audio enterprise, I labored for a recording studio however I by no means labored within the hi-fi business earlier than. I additionally didn’t research digital engineering at a college. Maybe that provides me a sure benefit of “blank page” begin strategy to audio gear design. The buildup of my information and the engineering expertise resulted from a mixture of my instructional background, my common curiosity and the pleasure that I derive from experimentation of reproducing music whereas modifying/constructing audio gear. Anyhow, I used to be all the time good in pure science akin to Physics/Chemistry and Biology once I was in class. Credit score is because of all of the academics who impressed me to take pleasure in these topics.
The audio engineering journey began with pure curiosity and the will to make issues sound higher. It turned out that I’m a quick learner. The training course of progressed with DIY and ended up with knowledgeable exercise and my very own model that embodies all the things that I gained in information through the years of my DIY and professional journey into designing & constructing higher sounding audio gear. The whole lot else, the know-how, engineering expertise, working with a spread of software program and so forth. was only a by-product. One tends to study these issues in a short time if one has a aim and love of music.
Again within the days, my first experiments have been modifications of tube amplifiers. Previous to that I’ve not had a lot of soldering expertise or deep understanding how tube amplifications works. Tube know-how turned out to be a a lot better means getting into into amplification as a result of of its circuit simplicity relative to the world of transistors. When there’s a want to do one thing akin to to enhance the sound, one has a pure increase and tends to study every thing comparatively shortly. Any R&D is a pricey, funding intensive and time consuming course of. It has taken a while to completely repay however the failures & first success taught me that one can enhance something so long as there’s sufficient time and funding. It additionally taught me that there’s nearly no finish to how good the development could be if one places his soul into it. All the things that I found, I aimed to implement within the merchandise that we provide in the present day and planning to launch sooner or later. One other facet is that one has to “live and to breathe” audio with a purpose to efficiently create musical sounding merchandise, as one of an important elements to enhance sound is time.
One fascinating angle that I found pretty shortly is that a musical & emotionally involving sound shouldn’t solely be attributed to some hardcore engineering from a die-hard electronics engineer (extra about it later) however is slightly a cumulative sum of contributing elements ensuing from a deep philosophical strategy, outdoors the field considering and experimentation with supplies that’s truly uncared for by the mainstream.
The curiosity of creating my very own cost-no-object DIY system began someplace across the time once I began my PhD. At that second I already found that the digital playback is significantly flawed by complexity and over-engineering and that the music turns into a lot much less restrained and extra emotionally involving through the use of comparatively easy, single ended tube amplification on the output of a CD participant.
DB: Have been there? Are there any manufacturers with which you’ve an affinity? Have you ever ever thought to your self ‘I’d wish to construct gear like that sometime?
SR: Completely, I feel that the world of actual excessive finish audio isn’t such an enormous place. I additionally firmly consider that nothing was ever created or invented by one individual. Any innovation is a course of, which is a cumulative end result from many minds that impressed one another in a method or one other.
Each time I appeared inside audio gear, it all the time appeared to me that the beauty seems didn’t correspond to the supplies used inside regardless of the worth, make or origin. I all the time questioned all the flamboyant and costly cabling outdoors the gear when the within is made of such low value conductors. The gear inside all the time appeared as if no one actually cared or as if one tried one thing to cover from the general public. It was type of hypocritical to me to anticipate enhancements in sound when there’s all the time one thing that may be a compromise in between, comparable to all these low grade pc elements like ribbon wiring, motherboard caps, SMD elements, and so forth. I discovered that the bottleneck to the sound just isn’t solely the wiring outdoors however the wiring inside and all of the supplies used within the gear itself.
As a matter of reality, I used to be stunned in a constructive approach once I noticed how a lot consideration was paid to particulars in larger efficiency degree merchandise of Audio Notice and Kondo. For the primary time I assumed that’s the method I want to construct my gear. So, sure, these are the businesses whose strategy to manufacturing & methodology in design I discovered inspirational.
There are of course people that even have had an identical strategy however that’s principally within the DIY sector.
A while in the past I additionally found uniqueness of sound coming from classic audio gear, their supplies and elements. It turned out that older supplies appear to do one thing to the sound that trendy supplies and know-how don’t. It began with these classic audio system from the 30s and the 50s that have been initially made in Germany. It then slowly progressed into making an attempt classic paper in oil capacitors, carbon movie resistors and different out of manufacturing supplies & elements.
DB: What does SW1X stand for? What differentiates SW1X Audio Design from the competitors? What’s particular about it?
SR: SW1X stands for my identify. In truth, it embodies the primary and final letters of my full identify (SW) with the final bit encoded with out oversampling (1X) should you like. SW1X stands for musical sounding, revolutionary high-end audio merchandise and every part that must be addressed in actual high-end audio. In a way, SW1X is a “state of the art” model not as a result of we use the most recent options or newest know-how however as a result of we wish to implement all the perfect concepts and supplies, and so on. which might be obtainable in the present day. Because of this theoretically we might use an concept from a century in the past and use some fascinating concepts obtainable at present and mix them each if we have now to. That’s what all of it about and that’s what I name innovation.
There are a number of issues we do in another way than our competitors. It begins with the truth that we neither race anyplace nor chase the most recent know-how. It’s concerning the know-how that makes music sound extra pure & pleasurable and never what’s at present in trend. Regardless which know-how is used, it needs to be carried out in an elegantly-simple fashion- not solely do elegant circuits designs sound at their greatest but in addition are simpler to be optimized and tweaked for a greater sound. And whether it is about sound then I can’t think about neglecting the facet of supplies & elements, that are instantly answerable for the sound, employed inside our merchandise. Out of that cause we provide our merchandise in a number of variations and at present on three totally different price-performance ranges. We don’t fake that we design for the standard of sound like the bulk does however saves each cent or penny on the elements and supplies inside their gear. We don’t comply with any dogma like element X is best than element Y solely as a result of X measures higher than Y. Measurements are essential however they’re on no account an indicator of high quality of sound. What number of occasions did we expertise the paradox of nice measuring of an audio system and in the identical time the headache frightening sound produced by it? Each science-oriented thoughts is aware of that measurements are essential enter in empirical instruments that characterize a tiny fraction of a pre-defined attribute. On the similar time, they’re ineffective with out understanding what truly drives them. They don’t present an entire image and will not be the last word finish however only one perspective. So, it might be silly to rely solely on some measurements and use them as the primary standards for high quality of sound. What issues in the long run is the top result- that’s how the gear sounds and that one enjoys listening to music over extended durations of time- that’s what actually issues. In any case one buys high-end audio gear so as to take pleasure in listening to music and never simply to reveal its seems to be to associates and kin.