Tim de Paravicini

Stereophile: You are president of Esoteric Audio Research, a British manufacturer of tube amplifiers, and a world-renowned designer of tube equipment and output transformers. I thought we'd begin with a little background. Where were you born? What kind of education did you get to prepare you for a career in audio?

De Paravicini: I was born in 1945 in Nigeria, of all places, of British parents. My father was in Nigeria at the time as a geologist. I was taken back to England at the age of 7 for education, and there I went on to what we call Technical College and did Electrical Engineering. During my youth audio and radio had been a passion of mine as a hobby. I was building AM radios for picking up DX stations, and then moved on to modifying the music system that my family possessed.

Stereophile: How did you learn about the design of amplifiers and tuners?

De Paravicini: Initially, at about the age of 13, I started constructing them from articles in the hobbyist magazines. Since I couldn't afford to buy all the parts I needed, they had to be stripped from old radios and televisions from scrap yards. My frustration at the performce of those construction projects forced me to look at their design. I ended up having to try and be innovative, starting from square one to come up with my own improved design.

Stereophile: How did you then become involved with the audio industry?

De Paravicini: I started out working for computer companies as a customer engineer, and at the age of 21 I decided to go to South Africa because I was fed up with the politics of England and thought I would prefer a warmer climate. And pay scales were supposed to be much better in South Africa than in England. I carried on for a short spell there in the computer industry, but I made lots of personal contacts with people in the audio industry by acting as a consultant to many hi-fi dealers and the record industry. I also set up a small business building transformers for other companies. At that time I did a lot of consulting work for the Lux distributor in South Africa, and on one of the visits of Lux's president and sales manager we got into a discussion, and they threw me an invitation to go to Japan. The idea appealed to me.

Stereophile: What was your involvement with the Lux 3045 tube amplifier, which has become rather a legend?

De Paravicini: Lux had a separate department called Luxkit which manufactured kits like the Dynaco kits in the US for the hobbyists of Japan who wanted to have the satisfaction of building their own. Luxkit was responsible for development of tube products. I looked at all the tube amplifiers that Lux hac made, and I said to the guys, "None of them are good. I can do better."

Stereophile: What kinds of problems did you see?

De Paravicini: In those days, 99% ofjapanese products were old wines in new bottles. They kept the same innards and just did a repackaging exercise. I felt that this was epitomized by the Luxkits. Nothing much was innovative. Nonetheless, Lux had already a good reputation in Japan for their superior output transformers.

So I put together a couple of prototypes and said, "This is how a tube amplifier should perform." Lux reviewed them and okayed production on one of them—a mono amplifier because with that kind of power, a stereo version would have been too heavy for practicality.

Stereophile: The 3045 was primarily your own design?

De Paravicini: Yes. But some of my design was compromised for cost. Everything in Japan is compromised on cost.

Stereophile: Well that's true of any product. You put in what you can afford to and still keep a reasonable retail price. Were there any companies that you felt were going all out?

De Paravicini: Well, in Japan there were no other companies that could match Lux on highend products. But Technics would occasionally put out a super-expensive amplifier or loudspeaker to say, "Here is our flagship." They would sell maybe one, and people would not take it seriously, but it was there as a credibility identifier.

Stereophile: What kind of acceptance did the 3045 have from the company and from the public at large in Japan?

De Paravicini: It took off quite well. Lux wanted to develop their own output tubes. They wanted to perpetuate the triode because all the guys in the company still maintained that the triode was the best. They were looking to make a high-powered triode, and in conjunction with NEC they developed this using basically the parts from a beam-powered tetrode, reconfigured and wired as a triode. It was packaged and dressed to look like a 6550 or a KT-88 with a nice metal band at the bottom to make it look pretty.