When did your company begin trading?
That was in 2006.
What inspired you to start Kudos?
I came away from Neat and thought what am I going to do, I might as well do what I’m good at. I’d already accumulated the Kudos brand name, Neat took it over in 2002. Kudos started out making a stand in 1989/90 and we always used it with the Neat Petite. It had a polymer concrete base made in an ABS plastic jelly mould, it was a fantastic stand. It fell by the wayside when the guy that made it died but someone that used to work for him resurrected the brand a few years later and signed a deal with B&W, and then cheapened it to make the numbers work. But he eventually retired, we had been using the products and recommending them and he rang us up and asked if we wanted do buy what was left. So Neat took it over and when I left I took it with me.
For a long time I mulled over turning it into a speaker brand rather than a stand one, but it didn’t do us any disservice.
What is your motivation throughout your work?
I have a very different approach to loudspeaker design compared to the majority. The first thing I do is ignore the traditional rule book, my belief is that everything we hear cannot be measured and I’ve proved this many a time. I can make two loudspeakers that measure completely different but sound almost the same and vice versa. Not that measurements aren’t valid at all, but it’s not the yardstick to everything that we hear. I realized this a long time ago, my original background was in professional PA systems, me and my brother used to run a PA system and as that business grew and grew I discovered I like travelling less and less.
The last big thing we did was INXS’s first UK tour and after that I thought I don’t need this anymore, I’m a homeboy. My brother’s still in the pro world. All those years we were doing that he would usually do the sound engineering and I’d go round the hall see how it was sounding in different parts of the hall, when it’s empty, when it’s full and relay that information back to him. The one thing that always struck me was that you can set a PA system up that measures perfectly using parametric EQ to flatten it all out but it never sounded right. We used to always get better results, and had a reputation for it, for keeping the crowds happy by ignoring those traditional sets of rules. Oddly enough measurement wise it wasn’t something you could look at and say that’s going to sound terrible, but there are certain things in the high frequency response where the measurements just don’t stack up with what actually works.
Was there a perfect curve?
I wouldn’t say so because we were working in different halls and open air, there’s never one guiding rule for it. Once you’re in the domestic situation it does generally start to flatten out unless you’re in a really terrible room. Room acoustics are always 80% of what you’re hearing. You can put the best system you can think of in a bathroom, it’ll sound like it’s in a bathroom. So that’s my background, why I design the way I do which is predominantly using music as a tool and listening test, listening test, listening test. I’ll then revert to measurements if I think there’s a problem, you can short cut problem solving but I would never release a product if I don’t think it sounds right even if it measures perfectly.
None of the products are designed in one room, in one situation. We go through many systems, many rooms. I quite often get the dealers involved in this as well. Pop into half a dozen different dealers dem rooms and visit my vast amount of friends that have systems and like to get involved [laughs].
Which of your designs are you most proud of?
That would be the Titan. It’s my finest achievement to date if you take all my Neat history into account [Derek co–founded Neat with Bob Surgeoner]. That and funnily enough the X2, for one reason and one reason only, it puts a smile on everybody’s face who listens to it. I can pull it to bits if I wanted to but it’s more about what it does right than what it doesn’t do.
What are you trying to achieve with your work?
My goal is to bring the live experience into the home, the emotion that you get at a live gig, that emotion has to come through. I like to get that across to as many people as possible. Speakers are always one man’s meat is another man’s poison type thing and I could make speakers that only appeal to me and tick all of my boxes. You’ve got to appeal to as wider audience as possible, in the same way as you do in the live setting, you’ve got to keep the entire hall jumping and happy, not just the man in the front row.
What do you find most satisfying about your work?
I love it. It’s something I’ve always been interested in, sound, sound engineering, music. I get a thrill even now when I set a good system up say with a pair of Titans, I often get a lump in my throat. That moment when you think, that’s it I’ve got it right. I just get a buzz out of it.
What do you enjoy doing?
I’m a motorcycle enthusiast in my part time. I do a lot of off road, I like to push myself although I must admit I’m getting far too fat and old for it. I think I’m turning into a fair weather biker at the moment [at the end of the wettest January on record].
What bike have you got?
I’ve got a BMW GS1200, the slightly adventure oriented one, like the one Ewan McGregor went round the world on. I like tall bikes, I’ve got a Triumph Speed Triple, a ‘99 model with only 2,000 miles on it. Then I’ve got me enduro bike a Kawasaki KLX 300 which is immense, a single cylinder 300cc. Other than being a family man, a motorbike enthusiast and listening to music, that about covers it. Mr Boring as my daughter calls me!
What is your most iconic product?
Probably the C10 which was one of the first products and got a bit of a cult status. It seemed to strike a chord when we first brought it out in 2006, there was a C1 and a C10, the C10 had better drive units and components and it really struck a chord with people. In the same way the [Linn] Kan did but in a different way, for a being a bit more civilized! When people think of Kudos products that’s the one that gets mentioned quite a lot, it’s now in its Super 10 version. After the Titan I took a lot of the things that we’d learnt and developed for the Titan and put it in the C10 and C20 to make the Super 10 and Super 20. Of late the thing that’s getting talked about is the Titan. It’s got quite a reputation, we’ve never reviewed it, never publicized it apart from the website, it’s developed its own little cult.
Who’s your favourite artist or band?
My musical tastes are as wide as Frank Sinatra to Metallica. I do like my Metallica, I do like Rage Against the Machine. I’m an old hippie so I’m an early Pink Floyd fan, when Roger Waters was in the band, and early Bowie. Anything that’s done well, I don’t mean just recorded well, but something that has some substance to it, nothing from the X Factor! I’m also a big fan of early Elvis, before he went to Vegas. He had an amazing voice and those old recordings are amazing. I’m a real fan of live studio recordings, we used to do a lot of that at the gigs and apart from the fact that the vocals are always too loud, you get a real sense of why they’re playing and whether they’re enjoying it. Those are the things I like to get from music, is the guitarist enjoying himself or is he going through the motions. All that information is generally locked up in the harmonic structure and the timing.
What system do you have at home?
It tends to fluctuate but at the moment it’s a NAC 252/Supercap, NAP 300, NDS/555 PSU, I do like me Naim kit. I’ve also got a NAC 202/NAP 200 at home if I want to evaluate something lower down the scale, a Uniti as well. I’ve also got a Rose valve preamp, I love that thing, it was amazing value when it came out, I bought mine in ’94 I think. It’s not the last word but its one of those products where its more about what it does right than what it misses.
Which turntable do you use?
At the moment I’m using a DPS with ARO and Dynavector XV–1. It has such a stability about it, there are turntables that have more air and this that, and the other but you can put any recording on and it will get the best out of it rather than showing it up. It still seems to really get to the heart of the information as well, it’s a clever trick. I’ve got a Roksan 10 with a Dynavector arm on it as well and I’ve got a couple of Garrards waiting to be revitalised, I’m a terrible hoarder.