Serge Schmidlin of Audio Consulting Switzerland
This particular “designer” introduction took an inordinate amount of time and thought to write. And yet, I have known Serge for almost 30 years. The easy method of putting together a summary would have been to collect the commentary made by others and to summarize this. The problem was that Serge's uniquely humble personality, and probably also the “confidentiality” of his creations, precluded me from being able to find swathes of reviews and interviews involving his work and his background.
Serge Schmidlin is truly one of a handful of leading edge contributors to the “art and science” of high end audio system design and manufacture. His components represent some of the finest in the World today. I know it is a bold statement to be making, but those of us who have had the privilege to know him and to have heard his components and systems, can only come to one conclusion … he is without question one of the foremost audio designers of the last 20 years.
What sets him apart form the majority of his contemporaries, is that he is first and foremost a very talented “scientist”. His scientific training and education earned him a doctorate in biochemistry. Along the way he gained extensive knowledge of biophysics and physics. It should therefore come as no surprise that applying this knowledge to the behavior of electron flow through audio circuits, including all active and passive components thereof, was not a major intellectual challenge. The icing on this scientific cake, so to speak, is an unusual (for scientists) humility that brings with it an incredibly open and inquisitive mind. If there ever was a master of “out of the box” audio design, Serge is the one.
His superior understanding of audio engineering has more recently led him to consult other venerable Audio manufacturers on the design of their products. This is particularly poignant, considering it was what he had originally intended to focus on when he first founded Audio “Consulting” about 20 years ago. This latest development is a testament to his work, and to the recognition thereof by his peers.
He is now often fond of recounting the many years as a “mentee” of his venerable “mentor”, and by now friend, Jean Hiraga, in whose footsteps he followed.
The primary focus, which underpins and drives his design principles, is an extensive and cost-no-object R&D approach to the development and implementation of the materials selected for the components he uses in his circuits, such as capacitors, resistors, wire and notably transformers. As a consequence, literally all of these circuit components are custom manufactured to his specification. As for circuit design, it should came as no surprise that Serge is a purist.
His other main focus is on “any and all” extraneous and undesirable nuisances that pollute the signal. A short list of these includes AC power, EMI/RFI, and issues relating to ferromagnetic, antiferromagnetic, and paramagnetic behavior of materials. What this leads to at Audio Consulting is relentless and scientific investigation and experimentation, accompanied by numerous hours of attentive and critical “listening”.
And finally, the one aspect of Serge's creativity that often perplexes and baffles his colleagues – his approach to vertical system integration. Not satisfied to apply his work to amplification, he has successfully developed world-class turntables, phonostages and loudspeaker systems, and dedicated cable products to ensure optimal signal transfer from source to speaker.
As one reviewer aptly summarized his experience with an AC system : “For lack of any other way to put it, this is a system that has to be heard to be believed".
Another comment : "In its totality, it is not like anything else I have heard before".
Yet another : "My entire point of reference just went out the window".
Finally : "This is a review about the pure listening experience, because an Audio Consulting system can only be heard, not criticized"
Our 5 cents worth at Atelier 13 :
If one had only one choice of system and could afford an investment in this price bracket, I would venture to say that for a very large number of truly discerning (and fortunate) folks an Audio Consulting system is the last system they would have (or need) to own. Once you have heard it, It is truly addictive.
The caveat to this last bold statement is that if "looks" are what you want as well, then an AC system may not be your cup of tea. No massive shiny metal chassis or gold "bits" in sight anywhere here. it will not necessarily impress any of your friends, unless of course they favor elegant and simple zen design.
Oh, and one other very important and remarkable observation: Each of the Audio Consulting components on its own is "blissfully" compatible with a very large number of high end audio products. Once inserted into a well composed chain, they invariably "transform" a system. Furthermore, their phenomenal absolute performance contribution to a system, make them a relative bargain given the prices that many competitive ultra high end products are going for nowadays.
If you reside in North America and want to experience an Audio Consulting system, and can find time for an audition, just contact us in Nashville. We would be happy to invite you and to host you. Please call for other financial details.
Audio Consulting Switzerland
Holger Fromme of Avantgarde Acoustic