EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL MICHAEL PLESSMANN SOUNDSPACE SYSTEMS


How it all started and when did Soundspace Systems enter the high-end audio industry? 

At the age of 15, I've build my first pair of speakers in order to plunge into the music I've loved. It was the music of Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, King Crimson and so on. My parents hated it - I loved it. More than 40 years later after an endless journey I experienced the LaVoix and Prometheus speakers from Dietrich Brakemeier. Only then I knew that his concepts were the link to what I was looking for. Fortunately, it happened at a time where I had capacity and with a doctorate in physics also the capability to go for it. The idea was born and the endeavor began. SoundSpace System was founded in 2017. Two years later we are proud to present two loudspeakers that reveal the emotion and the power captured in music.

Who were or still are your inspirations?

Music is a central element in my life. I get my energy from music and I can’t think of a day where I don’t listen to music. Curiosity and enthusiasm for the new are the main drivers of my motivation. Finding unusual solutions and lateral thinking are pivotal for my work and this includes creative destruction and no fear of friction. There is nothing new without pushing the limits. 

What was the initial reason of pursing the path of high-end audio speaker manufacturer?

Speakers are the most difficult element in a musical reproduction system - they are transducing energy, they interact with their environment and they have a low efficiency. At the same time, they are the most important element to recreate the emotions embedded in music. Until now, most speakers in the market don’t deliver that element of music for me. There is also a trend of applying more and more control into a speaker like 24dB/octave crossovers, acceleration sensors and other parts that almost never help to improve musicality or emotionality. For me it was time to create speakers that unleash the music conserved in recordings and also to offer this capability to other music lovers and audiophiles. 

Why the name Soundspace Systems?

We have chosen SoundSpace Systems because it captures the core elements that matter to me:
  • Sound has to be right and three attributes are critical - texture, timing, timbre. All have to shine for the sound I like.
  • Space is so important for naturalness and is about the envelopment of music - venue, position, separation. It has to be perceptible.
  • Systems are required for integration. All technical elements should work together as if they were one.

Kindly list all of the current Soundspace systems product line?

Currently, we are offering two speakers: Aidoni and Pirol - both of them come in some variations with respect to finishes, materials and internal wiring.


How would you describe the sound difference between your entry level speakers and the flagship ones?

Both speakers share a lot of commonalities. The family attributes are obvious starting with the sound texture ending in the Gestalt. Aidoni is bigger in every dimension and comes across mature and balanced. Pirol is the younger family member who is faster and more agile. If the music is getting loud and intense, Aidoni will allow you to experience the importance of sheer endless headroom.

Do you see yourself as a boutique manufacturer?  

Absolutely. And that is what we want to be. We can drive our ideas and work at a speed and quality much better than in larger settings. We can also break perceived rules much easier.

Do you consider yourself as an audiophile?

Definitely, I get huge satisfaction from high performing music reproduction. 

What would you say is the difference between a music lover and an audiophile?

It is my personal belief to be an avid music lover first and an audiophile second. These are two different and independent attributes of a listener. Music lovers are interested in the nature of the underlying asset (e.g., composition, performance, memories and so on). The audiophile is interested in the quality of reproducing conserved music. None of these dimensions come in black or white and that makes it impossible to describe the one big difference. The composite of these two dimensions has many shades.

What is your most proud achievement?

For me it is that people truly enjoy listening to our speakers. No matter what their background is … from young to old, from expert to amateur, musicians to non-musicians and so on. I am proud when they show me their goosebumps or have tears in their eyes while listening to our loudspeakers.

High sensitivity speakers!? Why?

Paul W. Klipsch put it very nicely, something like: the opposite of efficiency in speakers is called distortion. Maybe a simplification of things but the unused energy will go somewhere and it will have unwanted effects. High sensitivity also means lower moving mass in drivers which helps enormously on the speed of a speaker.

What are the benefits from your perspective?

All amplifiers enjoy the load and will sound better. The absence of power compression is very enjoyable at slightly higher listening levels and the low mass membranes delineate a level of detail that is exceptional.

Soundspace Systems Aidoni. Can you tell us more about their creation and what drive you to design them?

Aidoni was created to be a benchmark, cost was no object. Creating a super performing speaker by leveraging D. Brakemeiers LaVoix was a blast. The starting point was already very good - highly dynamic, grain free, high resolution, full range. The technical set-up of the LaVoix was the initial blueprint but we took nothing for granted. The result was that we improved and renewed everything and only the tweeter remained the same. Our aim was to improve the sound quality further and further, so we changed and modified drivers, crossover, internal wiring, bass management and the cabinet structure. By designing the shape we followed ancient Greek harmonies and Feng-Shui principles. Aidoni’s appearance had to be as harmonic as the performance. The feedback gives us proof. And last but not least I wanted the top version of Aidoni to be made of materials with soul and character - solid timber, bronze and brass. It is what it is - a high performing icon that stands out.


Many still question the exotic electronic parts. What is your take on the proprietary materials and their benefits?

I think the first question to ask is what is the minimum amount of parts you need. The next question is what is the best performing element for the task on hand and that may be a standard item or a less frequently used part. It is trial and error and should be applied to every single element in a speaker. Let me give you some examples: we modify almost every driver inhouse, we make our own internal wiring and each driver gets its own wiring design. We use some of Mundorf’s most expensive capacitors and coils, Wonder Solder for all connections, a glue that is 10 times more expensive than PU glue and we have a 50 kg solid bonze or brass foundation at the bottom of every Aidoni. I do not know if this is what you consider exotic but I can tell it is damn good.


Why the wood speaker's enclosures?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, it has a soul. Solid timber feels still alive and not dead like MDF or plywood. Personally, I like to surround myself with things that have a story to tell. And secondly, solid timber resonates very different from other materials. Humans find the resonances and the resonance dissipation of timber very pleasant. This is one of the main reasons why many musical instruments are made from timber. Different timbers have different sound profiles. It makes a real difference but is very rare in the industry. Solid timber is not as perfect on the finish as an artificial material, it is difficult to find good artisans to work with it and it is very expensive.

Why do you prefer wooden chassis over other materials?

All has been said at the previous question.


What is your take on tubes vs solid-state?

It is a matter of preference but both technologies offer great designs. Musicality is what I am looking for.

Do you recommend the tube amplifiers for your speakers?

All our speakers work fine with almost any amp. The speakers will tell you a lot about the signature of the amps and also about the source components.

What’s the importance of proper crossover implementation and what is special about Soundspace Systems designs? 

Crossovers matter big time. They are the central part of the integration of a speaker and require a lot of attention. Their job of railing the drivers into the required performance band comes with an unfortunate issue - they alter musicality. We believe that less is more in crossover design and work hard on eliminating as many elements from the signal path as possible. For the bass we found that DSPs can do an amazing job if integrated properly and even here we found that minimizing the intervention of the DSP makes it much more musical. So far we are able to have all of our electrical crossovers points in all of our designs at 6 dB/octave or lower (1st order). This is also true for the bass.

Can you tell us more about the drivers you are using for your speakers?

We source all of our drivers in Europe - Netherlands, France and Germany. Our choices are driven by our preferences: I like paper cones in the mid range. They should come close to the speed of the tweeters. I like tweeters to go down below 1500 Hz and to be fast at the same time and able to handle power. I try to avoid resistors in the crossover. I like woofers that can move air and are made from paper. Finally, I like efficiencies above 95 dBs. I do not like drivers that require higher order crossovers to tame them. Currently, for Pirol we are using the largest Mundorf AMT paired with a Supravox midrange and woofers from the pro world. In Aidoni we use the same midrange and pro market drivers in all other areas.


Do you manufacture everything in house? 

As a boutique manufacturer we cannot produce everything inhouse. We modify the drivers inhouse, we produce cables for internal wiring and we do the assembly on our premises. All other tasks are carried out in a carefully selected supplier network according to our specifications.


Does form follow the function with Soundspace Systems?

I love this discussion, as this is the way that most manufacturers explain their product design. Mostly, they are engineering driven, or just practical. I believe that form and material are of equal relevance. You can compare it with a Michelin star restaurant, the quality of the food is as important as the presentation. It is all about creating a very special experience. Speakers from SoundSpace Systems create harmony in terms of technical performance and appearance. This is one of the reasons why we apply the Greek’s golden ratio and Feng Shui principles into our design.


How important are the measurements and how important is the listening part?

Our speakers are about creating the perfect sound and that is why measurements come second. We use measurements as a starting point and for sanity checks and for voicing of speakers. However, the best measurement is the human ear. Did you know that our ear can easily distinguish a Stradivari from an ordinary violin? Measuring the difference is a tough call.

Would you say the Soundspace Systems DNA is carried across the complete product line?

Every product we have in the market and further to come will be created to strive for the same idea about perfect sound. The appearance of our speakers makes them obviously part of one family.

Sealed speaker design vs bass reflect etc?  

Sealed woofers is the only acceptable answer to me. It comes at the price of additional amping. Unfortunate, but it is a lot better than muddy transients and a storm in the room originated from turbulences in the reflex opening.  

What is your take on fully or partial active speakers?

I have decided to go for an active woofer. The difference in power requirement and the necessity to boost the lower frequencies in a sealed design makes this the most practical solution. Getting this solution seamlessly integrated into the speaker was the biggest effort. The way it is done has such an impact on spatial resolution, pace and high frequency perception that I have to admit it was not trivial.

Is there a cost no object Soundspace Systems dream speaker project still waiting to be revealed?

No, Aidoni is it.


What components do you officially recommend as great companions with your speakers, or you leave that choice to the end users?

Everything our customers get excited about. The speaker will tell the difference. 

What is your opinion about the competition?

Customers understand exactly what each player brings to the party and they decide what they want. Some of the bigger companies have created the market as it exists today. They do something right. We are new and different. Time will tell. 

How would you describe the difference between hi-fi, high-end and ultimate high-end audio? 

Maybe we are talking about different price levels.

Where is the borderline of transparency and proper sound balance?

For me transparency is the equivalent of resolution. It is a must in the system and doesn’t affect the sound balance. Transparency also needs perfect timing in the system, nothing wrong with that. And, it is not about creating an illusion of transparency by elevating the upper frequency spectrum. That is inappropriate and irritating to me. It creates stress in my brain and that is the opposite of what I want from music.

How do you refine and fine tune your products?

We have a panel of people who listen to our speakers regularly. Their feedback is crucial. I try to listen carefully and translate what it means for our speakers. Once we see the patterns we make adjustments if possible. 

Would you say one’s love and passion for music reflect into his products?

For myself this is absolutely true. But I am sure that there are many pathways to great speakers. For me, there is something about music that is hard to describe. It touches us and that is what I am going after. This is what the sound of SoundSpace is after. And you can feel it.

How important is the room acoustic in achieving the state of the art sound?

We all know that it matters big time. You can almost tune the speakers in the room for the perfect timbre, but this changes record to record. We are talking a lot about modes below 200 Hz and they should be observed and taken care of. However, the comb filtering at the higher frequencies also require attention. I believe that we have to work with rooms as much as we can. The downside is that a room treated to perfection creates spaces for great listening but often not a great atmosphere. In my world, emotional music sessions are created in spaces where people live and radiate energy.

What does state of the art high-end audio reproduction represent for the Soundspace Systems?

The possibilities are mind blowing. It is still surprising how much attention to detail is required for a perfect reproduction. Everyone who wants his sound created to perfection has to work hard. Components matter, the crystal structure in the wire matters, the rack matters, resonances matter, the power supply matters, just everything. And when everything is right it is extraordinary. We can recreate forgone moments and find ourselves in tears. 

Are we finally coming closer to reality with the high-end audio reproduction?

I think we are very close. Some of the components today perform just stellar and even some of the older gear is still leading edge. However, for the customer it is difficult to find the right elements for outstanding performance because there is so much out there and there is not the one solution.

What sets the Soundspace Systems apart from the competition?

Our sound is different. We are very focused on the enjoyment of music. It is all about “Feel the music”. We are proud to have minimized control and allow all components as much freedom as possible. Unleashing the music sets us apart.

How do you see the current state of the high-end audio industry?

The older generation is rethinking their needs and the younger generation of customers is just waking up.

What are the most demanding challenges with running the high-end audio company?

Striving for excellence is a lot of work - much more than we thought. When you think about all the components that go into a loudspeaker, it takes a lot of time in optimizing every component and finding the right supplier. The same is true for setting up a dealer network. We are looking for a trustful partnership with our dealers.

Who would you say are the Soundspace Systems speakers customers?

Our speakers are for everyone who enjoys listening to music. Our speakers are created to fit into living rooms and listening rooms. Their appealing design makes them fun to look at and have them around in daily life. They fulfill the dream to get the emotions of music into their personal spaces. 

Is classical music the ultimate reference material to judge any speaker system?


Complex orchestrations are the most demanding material for speakers. A friend said the other day “If I only had five minutes to test your speakers, I’d ask for Wagner’s Rheingold Overture.”. It is a good choice as it touches many difficult aspects for the speakers in the system. On the other extreme I find Leonard Cohen’s Avalanche very revealing if the sheer emotion is conveyed. I also like Santana’s Abraxas for airiness and Massive Attack’s Angel for bass performance. But if you had only one piece of music to evaluate a speaker, Wagner, Strauss and Shostakovich would be my candidates. And there is scientific work from the nineties that supports this.

What to expect in future from Soundspace Systems?

We will expand our market presence to many more countries, develop a more compact speaker for smaller homes, offer accessories that help the performance of our speaker, and probably some cables that extent the internal wiring all the way to the amp.

Any last thought for our readers? 

I think all has been said.