Never let it be said that British hi-fi is boring, or British hi-fi manufacturers for that matter. UK audio products are always interesting, but some of the characters behind them never cease to amaze me. Take Timothy Jung of My Audio Design for example, whose company name forms an acronym that gives you an idea of the sort of man you're dealing with...
Okay, he's not actually mad. But he did study art psychotherapy at Goldsmiths' College (where Mary Quant and Damien Hurst also trained), where he realised he "knew too little" so duly went on to spend eight years doing five other psychology training courses at different colleges of University of London - as you do. Timothy managed a couple of health projects in London, became a member of a health advisory panel to the British government, and Director of his own consultancy firm in London.
This isn't normal for a loudspeaker designer. Generally, if you want to follow this vocation, embarking upon an intricate study of the human mind is not the first thing you do. Oh, and there's more. Consider also that he worked at a string of top hotels around the world, culminating in managing The Ritz hotel in London. "It was a place where I met Elton John, Sting and many other great artists, producers, designers and members of Royal family", he tells me. "I regarded this time as taking my first degree in 'extreme attention to detail', bolstered by additional study in top end luxury lifestyles, bespoke design, diplomacy and communications."
In was only after having lived several lives that would keep most people busy until pensionable age, that Timothy decided to start his own high end loudspeaker company. "I had a near-fatal car accident, and found myself in the wrong chair in the therapy room, unable to practice as a therapist. So I decided to pursue something about which I had great passion, realising the fragility of life. My Audio Design mixed art, music and the human mind - it was me down to a tee!"
From fine wine to gourmet food, Tim had always been a lover of the good life, but he caught the 'hi-fi bug' when he met Billy Woodman of prestigious British loudspeaker company ATC. "I have been highly influenced by him for two decades, and believe he is a God of Sound", he says. Now though, in later life, he is convinced that his own speakers have surpassed even Billy's creations.
Timothy's psychotherapeutic background inspired him to make his design process radically different. Loudspeaker companies all tend to engineer their products in a similar way. Normally, prototypes are designed and their sound is finessed by the acoustic engineering team until they and/or the company's top brass, like it. Timothy however elected to 'focus group' his prototypes with what he calls his 'Loudspeaker Orchestra', which more closely resembles an experimental psychology working group...
"I am lucky to have access to many musicians, professional performers proficient in one or more instruments. My wife was a concert pianist, as well as Choir Mistress and council member of the renowned St Martin in-the-Fields church, and this has opened many doors. With my psychological head on, I think it's a very natural thing to uncover the unconscious minds of these musical maestros, and test how the voicing of my speakers affects their perception of the music and the emotion that ensues. Music is all about the unconscious communication in feeling between artists and audience, and I need to fine-tune my speakers so they best enable this".
The feedback he gets from these sessions goes to his speaker design engineers - who he calls the 'MAD Designer Stage' - to hone everything from the cabinets to the drive units and crossovers. These people include everyone from a former Soviet missile engineer to a Royal Warrant holding artisan. "Obviously it takes many sessions to touch everyone's inner soul", he says. Okay, very impressive Tim, but isn't this just a little laborious and time intensive, I suggest? "Cost puts a full stop to it for other companies", he says, "because it isn't really commercially viable". Errm, so that's where the 'mad' thing comes in, I guess.
MAD speakers are distinctive, and don't sound like the most immediately 'impressive' or fashionable option. They're not showy, falling over themselves to wow the listener. Yet they have an unerring ability to dig deep into the emotion within the music, and let it flood out. Rather than assaulting you with massive thumping bass and sizzling treble, they beguile and charm you in their own special way. Indeed, they've become popular with musicians and recording professionals in recent years. Virtuoso cellist Julian Lloyd Weber is one notable fan, saying that, "it is every musician's dream to hear the sound they heard when they were recording, truly reproduced... through these speakers, my dream has finally come true".
These days, the company has wide range of weird and wonderful loudspeakers, many of which are beginning to appear in recording studios and audiophiles' homes around the world. For domestic users, the medium sized MyClaptons are brilliant for rock and reggae music, whilst the small My1920 is a dreamboat for gentle jazz and acoustic material. The Grand Maestro Monitor is winning friends amongst professional users in studios. And as you'd expect, with Timothy's classical connections, all his speakers sing with this type of music too.
It's a quirky range, made all the more exotic by the bespoke, limited-edition speakers that MAD sometimes does to customer order. This is all part of the charm - self evidently, My Audio Design will never be someone else's.