Interview with Daniel Weiss from Weiss Labs

Daniel Weiss from Weiss Labs is on the top names when it come to high end end or professional audio. When you say state of the art digital audio converters two names pop up almost at once; Meitner and Weiss. Matej Isak conduct friendly talk about digital audio and what future is brining along the line.

MI: Why all digital?

DW: This is historical, as we started out with digital audio. Of course A/D and D/A converters, which we also sell, are for a great part analog devices and thus I think we could do analog equipment as well. Maybe later on.


MI: There are folks that wouldn't touch digital mastering equipment. Do you find yourself in the middle of the analog-digital? You probably choose digital for some reason?

DW: Well, I don’t think there are many people who would not touch digital mastering equipment anymore. Digital audio is certainly much better implemented than it was 10 to 20 years ago. We have customers telling us that our EQs sound the best, even when compared to analog ones. In the end it is a matter of taste and what the engineer wants to achieve in terms of sonics. We went digital because that was a new market when we started (1985) and because we had some know-how in that area.

MI: When did you start to think about audiophile high end market and what lead to that decision?

DW: That was about in the year 2000. We found that our pro D/A Converter would nicely fit into the high-end hifi market, provided it has a nice enclosure. In addition the audiophiles are “hard to please” customers, like the mastering engineers are.

MI: Is digital recording at it's peak or is it just setting the grounds. Some say that analog vinyl had 100 years to improve and digital is here for some good 20 years. How do you see this?

DW: With the currently standardized high sampling rates (88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz etc.) and a wordlength of 24 bits, we have hit the boundary of what makes sense (sampling rate) and what is physically achievable (wordlength). I can imagine that there will be improvements when doing A/D and D/A conversion, but the formats (sampling rates, wordlength) are here to stay, I hope at least.

MI: What sampling frequency is enough? Some say that even 44 khz 16 bit is good if mastered well, other say that 24bit and 96khz is more than enough, and again third camp say that only 192 khz (DSD) or even more would bring the quality of analogue or natural timber to life.

DW: For the human hearing 44.1/16 is enough. For technical reasons it is advantageous to go with higher sampling rates. 88.2 or 96 would be fine. Anything higher does not make much sense in my opinion. The advantages of higher sampling rates (higher than 44.1) are that the filters in the A/D and D/A Converters can be made less demanding and thus less colouring. For the processing of digital audio, which is necessary during e.g. the mastering process, it is advantageous to have high sampling rates as well.

MI: Do you have perspective on ever going tube vs transistor debate?

DW: Take what you like best. A tube is colouring the signal differently than a transistor does, so it is a matter of taste what you prefer. One can follow the purist approach, where any colouring is avoided as much as possible. In that case I would go with transistors.

MI: Some say analog and vinyl are still better sounding. How do you feel about this?

DW: Again, matter of taste. I never argue about such things, because I do not want to tell people what they “ought to like”. If they like vinyl better, so be it. I don’t have a problem with that. Vinyl is technically inferior to a CD, but it seems some like it, maybe exactly because of those shortcomings.

MI: You are bringing firewire computer audio DAC very soon. Can you tell us more about this?

DW: This will be a black box type unit with Firewire, AES/EBU and S/PDIF input /output and an analog output of course. We have chosen Firewire over USB as it is a more professional format in every respect. And it is a standard format with today’s computers.

MI: Can the high quality professional audio and audiophile converters/amplifiers be more affordable? What is the barrier in this regard; small market or... ?

DW: There are several reasons for the high prices of High-End equipment:

- small quantities

- distribution network via distributor and dealer is common, i.e. three margins involved

- exclusive design / materials

MI: What kind of speakers and amplifier do you use for listening?

DW:[ I do not like to answer this questions, as they certainly will lead to preconceptions ]

MI: When not testing, what music put ease to your hearth?

DW: I listen to a lot of different styles. Classical, electronic music, avantgarde, Jazz, and more.

MI: Why did you choose to go Class D with you amplifier? This gain modules are becoming very more and more represented. Is this a trend or new standard on market?

DW: I always try to be with cutting edge technology. Class A sounds good, but in my opinion it is old fashioned in the sense that it wastes power to a big extent. With the arising environmental consciousness amongst people it is hard to justify such a concept anymore.

Class D has gone a long way already. Today’s state of the art is very good indeed.

MI: If price and cost would be no objective what would be your dream product, setup?

DW: Well, all Weiss of course - and for speakers I am not sure yet. Probably some with ceramic membranes.

MI: Any dreams that you couldn't fulfill jet in audio?

DW: I think even the highest end audio is still a long shot away from the ideal. I would like to work more towards the goal of having the life experience at home. Of course it will not be perfectly possible, as at home there isn’t the life ambience with the people, acoustics, views etc. but in a few decades from now I am sure we will have e.g. wavefront synthesis technology at homes, we will have actively variable acoustics at homes and we will have 3D projection screens. I guess by then it will be almost perfectly possible to have a life experience at home.

MI: Who were your raw model in audio industry, if any?

DW: Most about digital audio I learned from my boss when I was at the Studer company, Dr. Roger Lagadec. I highly regard the work of people like Richard Cabot (formerly with Audio Precision) or Bob Adams of Analog Devices.

MI: Where do you see yourself in future?

DW: I hope my company can contribute a lot more to the High-End Hi-Fi enthusiasts. As mentioned above there are many issues to be solved in home reproduction. The most important ones being room acoustics, recreation of acoustical spaces. The least important ones being mains cables and similar tweaks… :)

MI: Any last thoughts for our readers?

DW: Trust your ears. Trust your taste. Don’t believe everything you are told about tweaks. If you do A/B testing of some gear always try to do it blindfolded with the help of another person. Often one hears some enhancement because one is “supposed” to hear it. Similar to the placebo effect in medicine.

MI: Thank you!

You can check more about Weiss Labs on their site: www.weiss.ch