Tim de Paravicini Page 2

Luxman's idea was that by using your own tubes, you get a monopoly on the servicing of the product. Unfortunately that tube proved to be a disaster. It wore out very fast. And it wasn't quite as rugged as it was expected to be. Japanese tube-manufacturing technology still could not match that of Europe. That is why in all Lux preamps they were using Telefunken 12AX7s for the critical stages, rather than any of the Japanese tubes.

Stereophile: So they recognized, themselves, the superiority of the German tubes.

De Paravicini: Right. And Lux has made some conventional power amplifiers using KT-88s, that famous amp called the NB88. That was a mono amplifier made in the late 1960s. Of crude performance, but it had a good reputation. The japanese audio maniacs loved KT-88s. They loved all things obscure. And unlike the Westerners, the Japanese like tubes for their appearance as well as their sound.

Stereophile: It was a matter of which tubes looked best rather than which circuitry was better?

De Paravicini: That's precisely it. And that is still true to this day.

Among other products I developed there were things like the C1OOO preamp unit. My design object was to build a preamp that measured better than any other on the market—anywhere in the world. And it started the so-called "spec wars."

Stereophile: You mean we can all blame you for the spec wars.

De Paravicini: I confess. Once I'd done all that, I started to wonder why there were still differences between all the different products and tried to evaluate the significance of slewing distortion and the mechanisms of feedback in amplifiers.

Stereophile: Did the C1OOO have tone controls?

De Paravicini: It had switchable tone controls that could be brought into play when needed, because at that time the market was not yet ready to accept the "purist" approach on preamplifiers. Especially coming from japan, it had to have all the usual bells and whistles. Even in America, most equipment had tone controls, and lots of people still love to play their systems with the bass full up and treble full down.

Stereophile: How satisfied were you with your own designs at that time?

De Paravicini: I'm never satisfied with any of my designs. That's the whole point. You have to go forward. If you're satisfied, you're finished and you might as well close up shop and go home.

Stereophile: It must be frustrating, though, working within the confines of a big corporation such as Luxman and having to be told what direction you'll actually take.

De Paravicini: I wasn't so strapped. They listened and discussed whatever concepts were thought of. And they were receptive to good ideas. So I had quite a significant amount of influence, even though it was never shown to me that I had.

Stereophile: I understand you became dissatisfied then with Luxman. What caused this?

De Paravicini: There was a point where either I stayed with the company in a fixed position until my dying days or I went on to greener pastures. Because I was a foreigner I couldn't move up through the hierarchy of a Japanese company. I had taken a Japanese wife, and we decided then to seek greener pastures. So I thought, "Where else can I go?" I couldn't make credible products from any of the small countries. South Africa, Australia, etc. are not recognized exporters of high-quality equipment. So it was America, England, Germany, or Holland.

I ended up going back to England, and when I got there I became associated with Tangent to try and develop a new range of products. Then Tangent got into financial difficulties. I said, "Well, what am I going to do now? I'm going to go it alone."

I suppose I should mention the Michaelson & Austin business. I met Antony Michaelson and Kevin Austin through the people at Tangent. They had designed a tube amplifier, and I had seen that their product was really hopeless, both sonically and technically. I felt they had gone down the usual blind alley because they had just lifted their circuitry from early 1950s textbooks.