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Interview with Norbert Lehmann of Lehmannaudio

First off, we would like to thank Managing Director of Lehmannaudio, Mr. Norbert Lehmann, for allowing us to interview him. The staff at Bay Bloor Radio are big fans of his desktop amplifiers, portable amps and phono stages.


Let’s get into the questions!

1) What portable audio equipment would you want if you were stuck on a desert island?

That would indeed be my Traveller portable headphone amplifier plus a Pono or an AK240 and a pair of IE800 from Sennheiser.

2) Why amps and phono stages? What pushed Lehmannaudio in this direction?

Frankly spoken: The market. These products can be offered without having to build a full range of electronics like player, fm tuner, preamp and power amp. Those high quality add-ons like a phono stage and a headphone amp can be combined with any kind of decent home stereo setups and provide a serious sonic upgrade.

3) What are your thoughts on DSD (Direct Stream Digital) file types?

Just fashion – but an important one nevertheless. The real quality of the recording is not affected by this very much to my opinion.  Music happens in front of the microphones and it takes specially skilled people to record it properly. The position of the microphones can change the sound of the recording more than the microphone types themselves. I am feeling highly privileged to have gone through that education here in Germany which really gave me essential insight to what is really counting. Format wars are distracting from the music. And no matter which music will be recorded, it is very important that there are enough quality recordings that make people want to listen to it adequately. Without proper recordings hi-fi would be just garbage.

4) Do you think Bluetooth output will become the standard for all amplifiers and sources in the near future?

Hopefully not. But we will see. All kinds of wireless fogs are already interfering with audio signals. I try to keep that as low as possible.

5) When testing headphone amplifiers, do you look to the pure sounding Sennheiser HD800 or something more musical like the Audeze LCD-3?

I neither test nor develop headphone amplifiers using only special headphones or having even specific models in mind. That would simply reduce the possibilities of my own products. However I really love good products. I am in the lucky position to have a wide range of headphones available at my place. I even bought some mass market average portable headphones just to test the Traveller during the developing process but in the end I just do my very best to deliver the best possible product and not a special match for whatever headphone might be the flavour of the month. I get quite sceptical when a term like musical is used. In many cases this is just only the description for being pleasant to the ear and might even be misleading in terms of musical truth. I had some headphone amplifiers for an audition that had been raved about in a forum many years ago. In the end it turned out that this product was clearly producing a very pleasant distortion – and no, this was not a tubed unit. This is like putting the same sort of spice on each and every dish you make. Curry powder may be nice where appropriate but maybe not on vanilla pudding.

So I really do my best to avoid a special flavour. My very own audio credo is that sonic signatures are made for the production side of the music business and can even be essential to reach a certain sonic experience. The reproducing equipment, however, should just feature a sense of neutrality instead and be as true to the original signal as possible. Of course every single customer should decide to buy what he/she likes best but short term WOW experiences can be disappointing in the long run. So when thinking about a buying decision I would suggest to take enough time for in-depth listening. Luckily with headphones you can even have a variety of options for different moods and music styles.

6) Who are your favourite artists to listen to? 

I just love good music, preferably well recorded. Favourite musicians change over time. In my list are many guitar players. But I really enjoy orchestras and instrumental solo music as well as a capella choirs. I have rock from all genres, classical from ancient vocal music to Baroque to contemporary as well as jazz from solo piano to big band. I think I have practically all Joni Mitchell LPs and most of Loreena McKennitt if I just think about Canadian artists. I just recently discovered an Australian guitar player which I hadn’t heard of before – Tommy Emmanuel. He shows what can be done with the instrument and is one of my current favourite musicians. He is simply leaving me breathless.

7) If you had an infinite amount of money to spend, how would you create the ultimate listening space?

Why should I? With a decent source, a good headphone amp and a nice pair of headphones you can come very very close to that dream – and even take your self-designed listening space with you. What more could you ask for? This is real world paradise indeed!



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