AudioSolutions Interview

An exclusive interview with Gediminas Gaidelis, CEO and owner of AudioSolutions, an ambitious, established and forward looking Northern European high-end audio speaker manufacturer from Vilnius, Lithuania.

How did everything start?

As you know from previous interviews I had a local business and a brand name GSP (Gediminas SPeakers) which served only for internal Lithuania market. I established it back when I was 16 years old. Since then I worked alone in my garage building speakers for Lithuania audiophiles. I had more or less 14 different models, so it was already quite established manufacturing and I was pretty well-known in the local market as well. Even today after so many years I find GSP speakers second-hand going at almost full price and usually, they are gone in a few days. So yeah, it was a good brand 🙂 At some point I started to notice by feedback, my measurements and listening tests that I could manufacture speakers at BETTER quality (cabinet AND sound quality) compared to competitor well-known brands. I started to wonder why shouldn’t I share this with the world, I saw the Lithuanian audiophiles struggle to have decent speakers for decent money, so logically that was what was happening all over the world since mass brands are the same everywhere. So I started AudioSolutions with the motivation to make better and better speakers sound-wise and cabinet quality-wise compared to other brands in the same price brackets.

Would you describe yourself as an audiophile?

Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. I always find myself in between audiophile, melomane, and tech-freak. The short answer is that I am an audiophile, but on the other hand, I am not 100% audiophile, but sometimes I am… Hmmm, I guess this depends on the state of my mind at that particular moment. I sometimes can listen to trashy quality track (if better quality is not available obviously) which I love deeply and still enjoy.

Who inspired you (and still does)?

At the very beginning, before AudioSolutions was born or even my local brand was born, my biggest inspiration was my grandfather and my father. One inspired by the woodwork, the latter with electronics. They inspired me to create, make, and learn about wood properties, material properties, various techniques and precision of electronics, and mathematics. This was the early curiosity stage, followed by many experiments and learning stages after which I started to implement what I had learned. During all those years there were few inspirations design-wise. I always admired Zaha Hadid for her futuristic mathematical architecture, and most of my concept models include at least some of that. But I would say that most inspiration comes from industrial design for example performance cars in general where function follows form.

Why the name AudioSolutions?

Well, all the good ones were already taken LOL 😀 No, I am joking of course. I thought about my name or surname in the brand’s name, but I know how difficult is to pronounce Lithuanian names especially those that are truly Lithuanian names back from pagan times, before Christianity (actually name Gediminas are made of two words Gedi meaning who is greaving and Mini meaning who is commemorating). And AudioSolutions described best what we do, and what we are still doing – we are solving sound recreation problems for people, human beings, not the mathematical equations, but for perfectly imperfect human beings. And that can be seen in our Motto which enriches the brand name – “the Art and Science of Speaker Engineering”. I always said and I stand by that, that a speaker can not be made only by equations, you have to adapt it to humans. And that is what engineers in various fields are doing without users didn’t even notice.

Please list the current product portfolio.

Right now we have four distinct speaker series – Overture, Figaro, Virtuoso, and our flagship – Vantage. Each line consists of several models which differ in size, power, and purpose. As a rule of thumb, we do have a centre channel and bookshelf speakers for home cinemas and different sizes of floor standers as multi-purpose speakers.

Do you produce everything in-house?

That is correct, we produce everything in our factory located in Vilnius, Lithuania. Recently we expanded our factory to fit all the models we offer, and we offer quite a lot 🙂 Our design is so complex that even our entry-level Overture speakers were declined by huge cabinet manufacturers as being too complex and labour-intensive to manufacture. So we simply have no other choice (and we don’t want to) than to manufacture in-house.

What is your approach and what is special about your speaker design?

From the very beginning, I questioned every design and every “technology” used by others or ones that could potentially used by me. I have quite a deep knowledge of physics especially material properties, wave propagation etc. So I always started with a willingness to create a better cabinet with as best properties possible. From the very beginning, the first Rhapsody speaker series was manufactured with bent plywood walls consisting of different thicknesses and hardness plywood to fight resonances. So usual approach is to identify what is wrong with the current design, can I improve or maybe I can change the existing part with a superior part using a different technology? I gather as much as I can weak points and decisions on how I will correct them and only then I make a prototype cabinet for measurements. After we launch production we start gathering information on variables, and feedback, we continue testing existing models in order to find what else we could improve or how we could improve even more existing parts. That includes cabinets, crossovers, drivers and of course the design. Design is as important as the technological part. The purchaser does not see the technology we put inside, and most of the time it is not the tech used that makes the final decision for him, but he always EXPECTS the speaker to play correctly and look good in his living room.

So for us – the technicians, the technical part is super important to make a proper product and to meet the expectations of the customer, at the same time we try to make our speakers distinctive in the crown and look decorative in the living room. In my opinion, Hi-Fi High-End is long past that phase where it should only perform well, with the current market audio becomes more and more of a luxury or style product and it just must look good. For the later part, we always check what is trending and try to adapt our products accordingly. That doesn’t mean that a whole design is being dictated by that, ofcourse not, but just a small touch here and there. It can be as simple as the trending colour tone of the year or a combination of colours, surface textures and accent details as we have now in Figaro MK2 speakers.

What about crossover?

I always like to quote my idea which was formed back when I was 20 years old 🙂 “A driver is like a piece of clay, it can be good quality or a worse quality – it doesn’t matter if master’s hands will not shape it properly”. The technical idea behind this is that you can have the best drivers in the world, and you can have them as ideal mathematical models, but you will not get great speakers if you do not know how to shape them with crossover. Crossover is one of the most important parts of the speaker. Cabinet and driver are also important and they cannot function without each other properly, but let’s not go to extremes.

So properly designed crossover can make poor drivers sing (as much as that is physically possible) and poor crossover on the other hand can make the best driver scream like the cheapest no-name driver for a few cents. The problem in the speaker business is that no matter what – the speaker is working as long as you have a driver, some sort of box and some sort of crossover. It works immediately. It’s not an amplifier where small mistakes tend to show in smoke. That’s why we have so many manufacturers of speakers and that’s why only several brands are well known.

The most important thing in crossover is to understand that we are not working with mathematically ideal models of the drivers. We are working with real drivers which have nowhere near flat response, they have distortions, inductance and they have lots of other parasitic parameters which make them nonlinear and far from the ideal model. So standard equation of second-order Butterworth crossover is hardly working at all. I always found it funny when reading forums back in the days when people argued about what was better – Linkwitz Riley or Butterworth 🙂

Yes, you can have and must have a mathematical model as an ideal target that is correct, but only that. In a real situation, you have to take into account a lot of parameters not only the SPL graph on the axis, as most hobbyists think. We use sophisticated software which can super accurately simulate driver, cabinet and crossover interaction in a given volume. We can do this in an anechoic chamber we can do this in half space etc and the results are mathematically very accurate. We usually test about 30 different crossover types. And all that is only in the crossover points we defined. Sometimes we have to change crossover points if some unwanted resonance shows up then we take 30 more 🙂 After that, we narrow down to usually 3 obviously advantageous crossovers and we start a listening test. During extensive hours of listening tests, we first try to find anything that is audibly incorrect tiring or simply unnatural and re-measuring that specific frequency or modulation of frequencies until we identify and fix that. At the same time, tonal balance starts to be embedded in our memory. Just like sound engineers in the recording studio, we take a few day’s break to reset our hearing. And before final confirmation usually it is a one-month break. That helps a lot to understand tonality and artefacts. Adjustments are being made every time in conjunction with re-measuring most of the responsible parameters. After all sounds good we approve it as our final concept.

Does form follow function at AudioSolutions?

Yes, ofcourse. As I mentioned before – we mainly focus on benefiting from the cabinet’s ability to encapsulate, dissipate or dampen the unwanted energy. The design comes later, but physics and mathematics give us beautiful designs. I am sure you saw on youtube the resonance patterns on sheet metal and sand, now isn’t this beautiful? Physics and mathematics only explain our world, and how it works, and the world on its own has very nice tendencies and proportions.

What importance do you place on parts? Is there a need for exotic components, and how do you use them?

I am a purist for good quality components, not exotics. We use and we need parts that can last long without parameter degradation, have stability in different temperatures and humidity, and have low parasitic values. Exotics is something that OEM never uses. However make no mistake – proper parts are expensive and sometimes can be labelled as exotics, but usually they are just good grade components with proper manufacturing control.

What kind of speaker design do you consider state-of-the-art?

I don’t think I understand what you are asking, I wanted to say at first that the ones who perform and look flawlessly, but frankly, there are so many different criteria and none of them has all of them, so perhaps the answer is there is none? State of the art I probably consider if someone somehow manufactured an ideal mathematical model of the perfect speaker which has all parameters flat and had no inertia with infinite rigidity, but that means infinitely durable material with no mass. I am sure that either I am overthinking or I didn’t understand the question sorry 🙂

Which proprietary technologies are you particularly proud of?

Oh, our Box-in-a-Box system by all means. We have a lot of different technologies but this one is by far one of the most complex to design, to manufacture and to explain in a few words. The principle is actually pretty simple. Box-in-a-Box tech is based on sound energy dissipation into heat and slow decay of small residue energy. This is done by fast energy transfer from the inside layer of the Box to the outer part of the Box through a damping barrier. Both boxes share completely different properties. The inner box is light and rigid and cannot store energy, only radiate away. The outer box dampens and stores residue energy releasing it relatively slowly. The analogy would be a railroad metal track dampened with heavy and viscous bitumen and separated by sand. So principle is pretty simple, calculating and measuring resonances you want to eliminate makes it difficult.

What is the speaker that you’re most proud of?

Obviously, the Vantage 5th anniversary, followed by the newly released Figaro MK2.

Would you say that AudioSolutions DNA can be found in all products? If so, in what ways and to what extent?

Yes. It is not my words, but many people have said that to me, so I cannot take credit for that. But yes this is what we strive for and this is what people hear. I am very glad that our work is audible and people hear that and talk about that. Most of our DNA is “programmed” into cabinets since all of them use very similar technologies, and in our drivers, especially the Extended-Band-Midrange driver and our Mini-Horn tech. As you know we always try to escape the “bandwidth of the death” which is 1000-2000Hz.

Evolution made us very sensitive to this band because sounds of dangerous animals approaching us are within this band (hence the death bandwidth). This can also be seen in vision, where peripheral vision is much more sensitive than straight vision. You cannot see much with peripheral but you are kinda alert of what is going on there. The same is true with hearing. Our Extended Band drivers avoid this bandwidth by leaving it unchopped by crossovers, hence no crossover distortions, no delays, no phase shifts in that area and most importantly – only one driver works in that area (in the crossover area you have two or more drivers trying to work in unison despite made of completely different materials or principle). This gives us our distinctive crystal clear midrange sound which is true for all our speakers. The same can be said for the Mini-Horn Tweeter. It’s a soft dome’s linear movement control device working in the designated bandwidth by loading it with its own sound (AKA acoustical loading/compression loading).

We hear a lot about measurements and listening. How do you approach this with speaker design?

Yes as I said before – first comes design on paper, then in software, we make listening tests and measurements in parallel. This is a very lengthy process requiring tons of know-how and knowledge in acoustic science. Books are being written about that, I am sorry I cannot answer that in a few sentences without making it into dissertation 🙂 I can say that both are super important. If one has proper technical listening experience obviously, this is not a place for “I like this over that”, we are not talking here about free time listening, you have actually to know what to listen for and how to listen for that specific artefact or tonality or any other phenomenon.

How do you tune your products or what is your specific goal in creating the AudioSolutions sound signature?

Some people always strive for the flattest curve. The flatter the better, even if some other parameters degraded a bit. Well, that is not the right approach. Yes, you must strive for most parameters to be as neutral or as ideal as possible but you have to remember that you are on a tip scale. Taking from one parameter and adding to the other. So you have to pick what in your engineer’s opinion are the most important parameters in recreating music accurately and try to make those parameters as good as possible. I always look for a 360-degree response curve, how the speaker will interact with the room, how close to the wall the speaker can be without degrading performance etc. In short – I always look for those parameters that are responsible for real-life situations implementation and try to make those as good as possible without degrading base parameters. Base parameters are absolute must parameters – somehow flat power response, somehow flat impedance curve, no drastic phase shifts, good off-axis response, and as minimum lobbing as possible. That is why we always say that our response is measured “in the room” and that’s why we claim that our speakers can be placed very close to the wall despite phase inverters being always on the back side of the speaker.

How important is the room acoustic to exploit the full potential of AudioSolutions products?

Physics works the same for AudioSolutions as for the next brand. The room has a huge influence on how sound from the speakers reaches us. Will we hear direct sound from speakers, or will we hear some reflections? Maybe we will hear mostly reflections or room resonances? So from this point of view – room acoustics is super important to have full potential. In real situations, since we do an adaptation of our product for real rooms and not anechoic chambers, most find our product very compatible with any room without going to extremes ofcourse.

Tell us about your reference system/listening room.

I have established a fully calculated room designed to reflect all the sounds around my listening sweet spot. So mostly I hear only the speakers with some trace amounts of side reflections, and some bottom and upper reflections. My reference room serves as my work room where I can listen to speakers (and not reflections) and pick all the artefacts I can find. Also, it works well as relax studio or cinema room.

The noise floor is remarkably low there, natural noise is only 25dB so you can hear a lot in such silence. Reverberation time is quite low for the listening room and is closer to the recording studio control room standard -0.2s but it is very uniform across all bands and this is most important. The system I use is either Virtuoso M or Vantage M. I simply cannot fit the L’s. For amplification I use numerous amplifiers for different purposes, the only one I can mention is our own made Class D amp which is surgically flat on all parameters and at the same time surgically dead.

He is perfect for detecting sound and test speakers, can’t listen to more than two tracks of music thou…It plays remarkably well but with such precision, it’s like scalpels in your ears, or super super HD vision, where it starts to feel unnatural (by the way, that’s why cinema still uses “cinema grain” that is one of the human things we have to adapt to even if it lowers the overall quality, but raises the perception).

There is the hi-fi, high-end, and the ultra-high-end. What is the difference?

Dacia, Porsche and Koenigsegg. We are Porsche

Where is the fine line between resolution, transparency, and musicality?

I would say the same analogy as with HD tv, there is an edge where it starts to feel unnatural despite better quality. Simply do not overstep that, but try to approach as close as possible. Warning, the last few microns cost A LOT.

Who would you say are the typical AudioSolutions customers?

I would say that people who admire the modern design, who enjoy small details in the product, who appreciate hand-made labour and value the technology we use to create them, also those who like that speaker are visible as a room accent, perhaps a bit more active, extravagant people, people with deeper imagination, happy people, perhaps a little bit like me, who admire technical design, especially sports car design, who would rather have stereo instead of TV. I would say these are typical AudioSolutions customers. Dont be surprised that I haven’t said anything about the actual listening of music, to put it simply – when buying AudioSolutions sound quality is pre-programmed you simply don’t worry about that.

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

I see it expanding in a luxury field. Finally, High-End is admired not only for its main role – recreating music, but also has some other purposes like status, living style, room accents etc. I mean this is not bad and if you look around all other industries have gone this way a long time ago. Take clothing, cutlery, accessories, phones, cars etc… All of them carry at least a style role. If You have SMEG refrigerator for example 🙂 So finally High-End audio stepped out of the sole-purpose market.

What would you say sets AudioSolutions apart from other manufacturers?

Quality in price brackets. I would say this one is on top of the tree. There are a lot of components making us sit on top of that.

What does the high-end mean for AudioSolutions?

Precision. Precision in cabinet making, precision in calculations, precision in components and especially in repeatability. Also product support, customisation abilities, and overall customer experience.

Are high prices a must?

Well, let me put it that way – price is a byproduct of good quality. You have to spend time designing a product, testing it, manufacturing it, inspecting it, packing it… All those steps and sub-steps costs time and material. While materials are more or less constant, the time is a huge variable. The same product can be made with less time spent in designing it properly, tests can be skipped, manufacturing can be faster and less precise, an inspection can be not so thorough, and so on. Such a product will be more affordable but with lesser quality and a lot of problems in the design itself, naturally, if a brand has self-respect it won’t cut corners.

What can we expect from AudioSolutions in the future?

Full customisation. And not simple customisation, people will get an online configurator which will enable them to choose and configure their dream speakers from numerous materials, colours and styles. They will be able to make unique speakers for themselves. As I noted before – speakers are no longer sole-purpose goods, so why force people to buy what we consider a “nice colour”? We will let people in real-time configure and see what their speaker will look like. We are now in preparation for the online configurator, and I can say we already have just shy of 1000 different variants. For the launch, there will be only a Figaro speaker line in the configurator, but we plan to add all the speakers there. If customers do not see the option they would love to have, they could contact our Exclusive Personalisation programme personally and make speakers truly bespoke. I will tell you more in near future 🙂

Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Music is the highest form of communication. Music enriches you, your soul and your worldview. Always listen to music.