201008_hansen_330wJeff Fritz: Ayre Acoustics stands for . . .

Charles Hansen: Designs so advanced that they are still state-of-the-art ten years after their introduction.

JF: Why is Boulder, Colorado, cool?

CH: It has a special vibe with the combination of a world-class university and an unbelievable number of Olympic-caliber athletes from dozens of sports. The result is a very rich, deep pool of talent in almost any field you can name.

JF: What is the best audio product to never be a commercial success?

CH: Hmm . . . there are lots of good candidates. Maybe the Versa Dynamics turntables (both the 1.0 and the 2.0), or the KLH 9 electrostatic speakers, or the Wingate power amp, which was the first solid-state amp with zero feedback.

JF: The problem with audiophiles is . . .

CH: There aren't enough of us -- go forth and multiply! Or at least turn a few of your friends on to what we do.

JF: The audio press would be better if . . . 

CH: They had the ability to do investigative stories -- histories of audio companies, background stories on company principals, interviews with designers, roundtable discussions with potentially contentious participants.

JF: What would you engineer outside of an audio product if you had the chance?

CH: I'd love to design an electric vehicle.

JF: Favorite movie is . . .

CH: I'm a sucker for French films. The last one I saw was Amélie. (I don't get out much.)

JF: Why is your office a mess?

CH: How did you know? Did someone snitch?

JF: Tell me something about an Ayre product that no one else outside the company knows?

CH: I personally never fell in love with our first product, the V-3 power amp. A lot of customers did and it sold quite well and is still popular on the used market ten years after it was discontinued. But it didn't push all of my buttons. Everything else we made I really liked, even products that weren't as successful, like the K-3 preamp.

JF: Do you consider yourself successful? Why?

CH: Yes. I have two young boys 10 and 14. After playing violin for several years they decided to try some electric instruments. I told them that they had to start with the foundation of popular music -- The Beatles. After two months they know four Beatles songs note-for-note. One plays bass, the other guitar, and they can sing both the vocal and the harmony vocal while they play. I must be doing something right!

JF: What do you do if you get stuck in a design quandary?

CH: One of my best tricks is to just sleep on it. Often the answer will come to me by the next day. Failing that I have a very select stash of textbooks that sometimes will provide a clue. And the other thing I do is call up other designers. I'm on good terms with a half-dozen or so of the best designers in the world. We're pretty good about helping each other out.

JF: One word that describes the people that work at Ayre.

CH: Committed.

JF: If we could solve this problem, we'd be that much closer to perfect sound reproduction.

CH: The biggest problem is getting good audio-grade parts. Thirty years ago, audio was a huge portion of the field of consumer electronics. Now it's mostly cell phones, iPods, and computers and there isn't much attention paid to making things that actually sound good.