ReMusic interviews Giuseppe Maietta from Novaudio

11.09.2020..

Giuseppe – AKA Joe – Maietta, Novaudio's CEO, is an incurable romantic. Having on test his Classic Eight Mk3 loudspeakers, soon on these pages, in trying to understand the strong motivations came out thoughts, memories and, in general, such a large exchange of topics that we wanted to concretize everything in the form of the interview "ask yourself a question and give yourself an answer." Read on and find out how beautiful and useful it is to have a perspective on what has happened in Hi-Fi, which can above all be used to make better thought-out choices today.

 

Question: Joe, is it work or passion for you?

Giuseppe Maietta: I can’t imagine a job without passion. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I rush to my workshop to get to my toys.

 

Question: Toys?

Maietta: Yes, I believe that masculine creativity is that of play. Growing up we just change the toys. Consider that when we want to listen to music, we press Play.

 

Giuseppe Joe Maietta

 

A very young Giuseppe Maietta.

 

Question: So how long have you “played” with sound?

Maietta: From when I started to get to know music, or rather sound. As a child, I lived in Naples and woke up to the smell of coffee accompanied by some romantic sounds. In our house we had a His Master's Voice - HMV record player. We used to exchange packages with our relatives who had emigrated to The USA and England. We would send them coffee and other things and they’d send records and the vapid mint chocolate. In the mid ’70s, there was the Hi-Fi boom, and everyone had a record player in their house. In many houses, there was the legendary Stereorama 2000 even if they didn’t have a washing machine. In the meantime, our old HMV had been replaced by a Telefunken with a record player and radio.

My father used to offer me “carrots” in order to get me to go to university. For one really difficult engineering exam, he raised the bar by offering me a Hi-Fi system. That was how I got an Acoustic Research XB1 record player a Sansui AU7700 amplifier and a pair of RCF BR35 speakers.

 

Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane

 

In the block of flats where we lived there was an Alitalia air steward who flew internationally. When he flew to America, I always asked him to bring some records back for me. I’ll never forget seeing the light after he came back from Los Angeles and he brought me Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane. Everything else is just a result of that imprinting.

 

Question: Are you saying your life was conditioned by your studies?

Maietta: The opposite, my studies were conditioned by my passion. From primary school, I knew what I wanted to do. Jumping between the faculties of Physics and Engineering, I was able to get the knowledge I needed. In the second half of the 70s, there was a widespread sense of freedom, emancipation and above all, independence indirectly conditioning other life choices. So, at the same time, I was studying, I started to work in an appliance shop as the manager of the record and Hi-Fi section. I had dozens of loudspeakers available to study in-depth and what’s, more they paid me! We were in the middle of the Hi-Fi boom – four of five units were sold a day, six days a week. During the Christmas period, when the sales in the other sections were suspended, we concentrated on Hi-Fi.

 

Question: So how did Hi-Fi arrive in Novaudio?

Maietta: At the end of the 80s, I definitively left Naples and the world of Hi-Fi in order to enter the better-paid world of construction. Working in a large public works company, I thought I would finally be able to relax but as you know your passions sooner or later always come back. After a few years of construction sites, bridges, dams and motorways I’d had enough and couldn’t take it anymore. I had continued to cultivate my passion by designing some audio systems for some architect studios to the point of having created a complete line of Novaudio sound systems; they reminded me of the Grundig or Telefunken systems of my adolescence.

 

Dynaco A-25

 

One evening, during a sitting of the Sect of Anonymous Designers – NdR | The famous SAD club is popular in the entire DIY world – while we were listening to a pair of Dynaco-A25. We were discussing the fashions that had influenced the market for loudspeakers, creating a real hole in historical memory, creating a gap in its historical memory. The historical work carried out by such prestigious companies like AR, Dynaco, Epicure, Genesis, Heybrook, Infinity, RCF and Snell was almost lost...

Analysing the success of their products we were able to individualize two common determining factors. The sound, immediately recognizable, characterized by tonal equilibrium, naturalness and the lack of listening fatigue. There was also the economic accessibility for the masses. We started to analyse the common characteristics and technology of models such as AR 18/28/38, RCF BR 33, EPI A110, Snell K, Heybrook, Dynaco A25, Rogers Ls3/5A.

After long discussions we decided on three common points:

  1. air/acoustic suspension
  2. two way
  3. sound/price ratio

At that point, Massimo Troisi, a fellow countryman movie director, with his famous gag from Starting from Three movie helped me. Starting from the above three points, I designed the Classic Eight, the first Hi-Fi loudspeaker of the Novaudio brand. I took voluntary redundancy from the building company and with my redundancy payment I started with Novaudio Classic.

 

Question: How were you able to achieve the economic accessibility of which you spoke?

Maietta: Realizing a good loudspeaker, allowing that this is possible, isn’t enough. The market has completely changed In the last forty years and not just because of the Internet. Looking at the differences between the market at the end of the 70s and the current one:

  • Notwithstanding the good sound, brand loudspeakers were built extremely cheaply but at the time they were proportionally more expensive than they are now. Chipboard furnishings, adhesive vinyl finish fake wood, very cheap crossover components, as electrolytic capacitors, poor inductances and speaker baskets in a pressed iron sheet. Nevertheless, a pair of AR38 in 1979 cost a month’s salary which wasn’t very low cost.
  • The second-hand market in the stores didn’t exist. You kept your system until you gave it to your child, grandchild, friend or newcomer as a way into the world of music. Nowadays, second-hand systems taken in exchange can stay in the shops for years. As a result, price lists must provide a good discount to soften the costs of any products taken in exchange.
  • In Italy there was only one yearly Hi-Fi exhibition, Top Audio, as well as there being very few around the world. Even so, companies which didn’t attend them still sold well. While shopping you had to be a type of “talent scout”. I remember the difficult, long phone calls I had to make to get a set of IMF Compact Monitors into the shops as most retailers competed for bad Asian speakers. Furthermore, customers usually chose speakers according to what they heard and their own musical tastes and experience rather than following fashions or external influences, usually comparing them in the shops.
  • Advertising was much rarer and a lot cheaper.
  • Distribution costs, being a smaller percentage, were much lower. The number of discounts was also much lower. I remember that in the 80s it was already difficult to offer a 10% discount whereas today it is customary for some to offer up to 30%. This means that the price list must be created with these discounts in mind.

Apart from the current quality of the sound, people nowadays want a refined aesthetic through real wood accessories, capillary distribution, tests in international magazines are obviously all positive factors. Enthusiastic influencers talking about the three-dimensionality of the sound of the triangle and the cannon shot in Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture;

after-sales assistance that turns a blind eye to a tweeter being destroyed by a child or a dog by replacing it whist under guarantee. And last but not least a 30% discount from the list price. Glossy advertisements on the front pages of the most important magazines have made some brands famous but who, in the end, pays for them? These additional costs nowadays far outweigh those of the product itself. This means a remodelling of the price list as the actual cost of the product has a minimal impact. Moreover, if the most common idea is “it is worth what it costs”, a consequence of this is “the more it costs, the more it is worth”.

 

Question: How did Novaudio manage to square the circle?

Maietta: Creating “social” design is very complicated but not impossible. How many times have we heard “the costs of Hi-End have driven thousands away from the market?” There is all the more reason these days and it can be said that the post-pandemic economic crisis is another opportunity to revolutionize what was working badly. Eliminating some additional costs from the price list allows priority to be given to production quality, Research and Development and a considerable price reduction to the public. This has allowed me to use the best technology in the speakers, impeccable cabinet making and packaging as well as assembling the point to point crossovers while maintaining a low cost with high product quality. I decided to work without thinking about numbers, without following fashion. A few pieces produced well, slowly, so they last a long time in the homes of “adult” audiophiles. I am finishing the creation of a leaner organization with as few production stages as possible. After all, once you listen to the speakers today, one click is all that is needed to complete the process of satisfaction to purchase. A network of demonstration points allows hearing the speaker in the best conditions possible. Scientific information and technical documentation will be provided online whilst being careful about any negative issues that are taking place on social media. One price for everyone without the need for doubts and tiring negotiations.

 

Question: Therefore, shops and distributors will longer be needed?

Maietta: No, rather, everything is in a constant state of flux. Major consumer brands are relying more and more on the buying power of electronic chains. Many shops are becoming agents and many distributors have their outlets. One can see an interesting product and by contacting the manufacturer directly you can become the sole distributor in a territory that allows you to offer a better price to the consumer as well as better profits. Obviously, planning, economic and organizational investments are also needed.

 

Question: Many of the large global brands have lost their guarantee function and many audiophiles are seeking out artisan products which are created with care, not affected by the needs of standardized serial products. How can you convince a potential client that your artisan product is better than others?

Maietta: Some historical brands were purchased exclusively to give an image to their customers, however, very little remained of their original designs, just sale numbers. Other brands made the opposite choice, craftsmanship, limited production and high quality. Taking this to the extreme, not wishing to compare myself to much greater successes, it should be noted that, in contrast to the automobile sector where millions of Euros are needed for investment amount of unsold cars whilst the waiting list for a Ferrari is always longer, in the audio sector the sums required are much more contained and even a small manufacturer with a few employees can produce high-level quality products. Here I’m thinking of pioneers like the world-known Willi Studer or Bartolomeo Aloia in Italy, for instance, who created objects that are still at the top of sound reproduction even after forty years.

Many white-haired veteran audiophiles are no longer willing to continually replace products designed with short life obsolescence. My Classic Novaudio line was designed with a clear aim, to reinvent the classic. Exploiting the legacy by redesigning it to take advantage of the most cutting-edge technology.

 

Novaudio Classic Eight mk3

 

Analysing the current production methods of woofers, for example, it is increasingly difficult to finds ones suitable for closed box. In order to find one suitable for my product, I started from an historical masterpiece: an 8” woofer of a renowned diffuser in pressed steel sheeting, paper membrane and foam suspension. I redesigned it using an alloy basket, a very light paper membrane with a process that stiffens and waterproofs it and the latest generation of polyurethane foam suspension.

 

This has allowed the woofer to reduce its frequency, notably cutting the cabinet volume and reaching a 5 kHz which has allowed me to use a ¾” tweeter that has better dispersion characteristics than a 1”. Also, on this component I started working from an excellent Northern European baseline origin. Working on the dome coating and damping, a remarkable linearity of +/- 2.5 dB from 2.5 kHz to 17.5 kHz has been reached.

 

The crossover, the true heart of the system, has been paid a great deal of attention. An uncompromising construction method was chosen with hand-welded point to point components electrometrically attached to birch plywood support and this has the effect of reducing residual microphones. The air wrapped inductances with low resistance, the audiophile quality capacitors plus the only anti inductive resistance ensure to minimize the impact on the speaker's sensitivity. Going beyond 89 dBs on 8 ohms, the Classic Eight Mk3 can express themselves best even with tube amplifiers of a few watts. During the rigorous testing phase, Single Ended amplifiers with 300B valves per channel were used creating a unique sound experience.

 

Question: And is it working? What are your first impressions of this revolution?

Maietta: My buyers’ profile encourages me to continue along this road. These include some orchestra conductors, for instance. One of their suggestions gave birth to the Classic Eight Mk3. The professional in question had a copy of a CD he knew very well, having directed the concert. He recognized precisely not only the timbre but also strings and wind instruments in the totality of the piece. Kudos to the recording but this didn’t occur with this precision on his “noble” house very high price speakers. Two renowned recording studios have replaced the classic two-way monitors and eight-inch woofers. A famous Italian record label that produces using only magnetic tape has adopted the Classic Eight as a nearfield. It is clear that professionals who know the genuine sound recognize it for what it is. I may be old but Hi-Fi for e still means “highly faithful to the reality”. I don’t understand why people ask for more bass or treble than what was on the original recording: the flute should sound like the flute and the viola sounds as the viola! The distortion of the guitar must be distorted and especially the bass frequencies need to be able to decipher the articulation of the notes, not hear a generic boom-boom.

 

Question: Will there be future models? An increase in the Classic line?

Maietta: There will be new models. In addition to the Classic Eight, now in its third generation, there will be a three-way floorstanding model with an “ingenious” aesthetic designed by Infinity more than forty years ago. As well as a slightly different high efficiency floor model with tuned in bass reflex. Also, the Control line will be enhanced with new passive and active models.

 

Question: As we know, loudspeakers are only the last piece of a Hi-Fi system. Have you got any advice to give about the necessary pairings?

Maietta: Loudspeakers are often determined to be the most important component in the listening chain. The fact is that the system must be made up of elements that have similar characteristics, the ideal sound of your Hi-Fi system is nothing but the synergetic result of all its parts. I’m into a system that has a few well-balanced elements. My reference point setup is a Studer A810 tape recoreder, master tapes, a power amp and a pair of speakers.

 

Studer A810

 

It is not the amount spent that determines the sound quality of a system and it is abundantly clear that buying the most expensive and “noble” equipment will not automatically ensure an exceptional sound. In addition to the elements in the system itself, environment, experience and patience must be added. If you are listening to the elements of your Hi-Fi system, something is wrong. If you have goose bumps and moist eyes, then the system is doing its job. Therefore, it is the ends and not the means.

 

Question: Let’s consider a second hand or used gear: what’s your point of view about it?

Maietta: In my opinion, the vintage fashion trend is used to satisfy the need to display rather than listen, often chasing a good deal. However, you need experience, a lot of it, in order to avoid scams.

A well-maintained turntable with the correct disassembly, cleaning, maintenance, reassembly and calibration, this is where experience and expertise are needed, can be a bargain.

However, with a CD player, for instance, everything changes. On average, the laser control group has a duration of five thousand hours. The Philips Pro 2 can reach up to almost fifteen thousand hours. Therefore, if we do not know the availability and costs of spare parts, it can be a bad deal.

With amplifiers and power amplifiers, as most electronics, components such as capacitors have an expiration duration. On average they have a duration of ¾ thousand hours and four power capacitors from 47,000 μF to 100 volts of a power amplifier, do not, for example, do not cost more than two euros.

Regarding the speakers, despite the obvious charm and sound characteristics that are still superior to many contemporary speakers, some reflections are needed. There is a difference between working and sounding new. Decades ago, the crossovers had bad electrolytic capacitors as did the amplifiers. The ferrofluid of the tweeter, with the passing of time and heat, tends to solidify and become sticky which drastically limits the excursion of the mobile crew. The magnets are affected by a constant loss of charge which over time becomes the cause of the modification of the Thiele/Small parameters. An evaluation of the costs of spare parts, availability of technicians with the necessary experience and the convenience of restoration needs to be taken into account also. Many companies now have brought the cost of news ones very close to that of a good used one.

To those who have just started their Hi-Fi journey and who have the resources and enjoy replacing system components continuously, I wish you fun as this is part of the enjoyment. If, on the other hand, you are an “experienced adult audiophile” more interested in the music than the system, spend the majority of your time listening. Occasionally and calmly buying one component at a time without it being unnecessarily fashionable or emblazoned.

 

 

For further info:

to Novaudio website

write to Novaudio

by Giuseppe Castelli
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