Further Thoughts: Living with the behold series of electronics
|Life with the Consummate Component|
Three years ago I accepted the difficult and unenviable task of being the very first audio reviewer to write about a new line of German-made high-end electronics aptly named “behold” (with a lower case “b”). Right from the get-go, I felt that these remarkably versatile and refined components didn’t want to merely “fit in,” to co-exist, or earn some honorable mention alongside other highly praised German-made gear like MBL, Burmester, or the new and exciting, ASR Emitter integrated.
So to distinguish themselves from other great (and pricey) German-engineered designs, behold set out to first prove their sonic excellence. Hopefully, my initial review (here), published eight months after their arrival in the summer 2005, proved that not only was behold worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as other high-end German gear, but that it could well be considered the product of choice among discriminating music aficionados.
Being the first to write on any product can be a daunting - if not overwhelming - task. There’s so much more to the behold story than just their unique build and architecture. The concept, design and construction of behold products is something that could take up an entire textbook.
As noted at the conclusion of my first review, I visited behold GmbH in the suburb of Erlangen, on the outskirts of Marloffstein. This quiet, little rural community, which houses a rather large college campus, abounds in green pastures and rolling hills. You'd expect to find farmers in dungarees tending sheep, rather than a scientist who’s made a concerted effort to build the best amplifier in the world.
Located about 200 km north of Munich, Erlangen has a very comforting old-world feel (especially when you’re from New York City). As usual when in strange territory, my imagination went into hyper-mode. Before retiring for the night around midnight, I found myself staring out of the hotel window admiring the moonlit sky cast a picturesque glow when, all of a sudden, I got an eerie feeling of déjà vu. I’ve certainly never been this far north in Bavaria. My mind was flooded with images of fiery windmills, women screaming, and a crowd of torch-wielding townsfolk pursuing some man-made monster who just escaped Castle Frankenstein.
It was also during this, my first visit to Ralf Ballmann's home, where I got the chance to see how Ballmann GmbH, the company, not the man ran its day to day operations. Needless to say, I was very impressed by all the measurement equipment that surrounded me.
Needless to say, I came back from this trip with an even greater respect for audio designers, especially Ralf Ballmann. His skill and understanding of digital circuitry, board design and implementation for audio playback is quite remarkable.
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