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Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson
September 2003


Last month, Jeff Fritz and I made a trip to Denver to visit six audio companies in four days. The Denver area is a hotbed of high-end-audio activity, and after our trip, we realized there were a couple of additional companies we could have dropped in on. You'll read about this trip in installments -- factory-tour articles on all of the companies that will begin appearing next month.

Modern life can be draining enough itself without monthly deadlines making it seem like you're on a never-ending treadmill. I'm not complaining -- I (mostly) love what I do -- but there are times throughout the year when it's harder, sometimes much harder, to sit down in front of the computer and get things done. I think Jeff and I were at such a low-motivation point when we headed to Denver, but we both remarked a couple days in that we felt rejuvenated, as though the skip had come back to our steps.

This didn't occur because the work we were doing in Denver was easy. On two different days during our visit, we toured a pair of audio companies, one before noon and one after. At night, we caught up on our e-mail, and while we were in Denver, the mid-month deadline for all of our publications hit -- as did the big power outage in eastern North America.

But through all of this, the companies we visited reminded us of what amazing work people are capable of. In Boulder, for instance, we visited Boulder Amplifiers, makers of exquisite electronics, and Ayre Acoustics, which makes amps and preamps along with a DVD and CD player. Although the atmosphere at these two companies was very different, there was no denying that their products were inspired. We were able to see not only how the two companies go about building their products but also how they conceived of and designed them in the first place. When you witness something like a Boulder 2060 amp or Ayre D-1x DVD player being built, it's impossible not to admire the time, effort, and brain power that went into their creation. Artists work in stone, clay, canvas, and paint; audio designers work in capacitors, wire, circuit boards, and aluminum billet.

As Jeff and I came to understand, if you love music and its fine reproduction, it's impossible to be around people like those we met on our Denver trip -- Charles Hansen of Ayre, Jeff Nelson of Boulder, Jeff Rowland of Jeff Rowland Design Group, Lucien Pichette of Avalon, Jerry Ramsey of Audio Magic -- and not have their enthusiasm for their work rub off. But even more than this is the awe we non-technical folk develop for such amazingly refined products as those we saw during our four days in Denver. Large multi-national companies would surely call such products cost ineffective to make, but for the companies we visited, they are the lifeblood of their operations.

The world would be a much worse place without a certain number of the people who try to produce something that aims at being the best, period, and this more than anything is what Jeff and I took from our trip to Denver. We're lucky, we're all lucky, that high-end audio exists.

...Marc Mickelson

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