Denmark's John G. Petersen has been designing and building audio equipment since the seventies, but is certainly best known for 25 years of producing the fine Tube-Tech line of equipment, seen in studios all over the world.
So Tube-Tech has been around for 25 years?
It's 25 years, this year. We started in June of 1985.
You named the company Tube-Tech. Tubes and transformers have been a big part of your design philosophy.
The company's name isn't Tube-Tech, it's Lydkraft [Danish for "sound power"].
Right. But the gear is known as Tube-Tech.
I've tried many times to change the name to Tube-Tech! But I keep it open, in case I want to do something else.
In 1985 people were getting rid of tube-based equipment. To introduce a line of equipment using tubes and looking more to the past for design inspiration seems a bit of an aberration.
It was kind of a coincidence and it was just for fun. I talked to a Danish dealer — one of my friends was in the States had and bought some Pultec [equalizers] for $200. They were getting rid of them.
Well, they're no good! Right?
Right! He was making a studio. I checked and they were quite good, and the specifications were quite good too. No noise, no distortion. We saw the price increasing. This dealer in Denmark told me, "If you can make a similar product, I'd buy 20." So I said, "What the heck?" What I did was take it apart. I found out how they were made, what the specifications were and how they worked.
Did you need to specifically have someone make parts for you, like transformers?
Yeah. As far as transformers, I found a company that could make them. I had to specify the core size, the windings and so forth. After three or four tries, it was exactly the same. So, we bought 20. I was working for the Danish Broadcast Corporation at the same time.
Were you a technician in that field too?
Yeah, and maintenance — audio equipment, desks. I had a four-year education in this. So we shipped some of these Tube-Techs to the States and then it took off.
Was anyone else building tube-based professional equipment at that point?
There was actually, on a limited basis. Esoteric Audio Research started the same year.
It definitely precedes what is happening now. Do you feel people are more aware of the values of transformers, tubes and such, and has that helped the education of what your kind of product is?
Well, actually we've seen the opposite. Five or six years later we saw competitors popping up, especially Americans. It was quite a few.
Do you have stronger foothold in Europe and the UK?
We certainly do. You see more Tube-Tech in Europe than Manley Labs. In America, it began to get a little tough and we did have problems with distribution.
You were with TC Electronic for a while.
Yeah. We started out with a company called Audio Techniques and they did a pretty good job in the beginning. In the mid-nineties they were bought by Manny's Music and then they didn't get back to us. Then we had TC. But it's difficult to have a distributor who manufactures its own products.
Yeah, even though the products didn't overlap. They're working on promoting their own products.
Of course. Yeah, it's tough. Then we changed to another company, then we went broke and so forth. The last four years have been a little up and down. But then we started with TransAudio Group and Brad Lunde. He's an honest guy and he knows what he's doing. We're pretty happy about being with him indefinitely. We also had some problems with service before Brad took over. Now we have Thermal Relief Design, Inc., a company out of Las Vegas, and they're doing a pretty good job.
The United States is a large market. Is the majority of your equipment being sold in the States at this point?
No, I see the American and European markets as equal in size. We have about 40% of our sales in Europe and about 40% of our sales in America. And then there's everywhere else.
You've branched into VCA compression, optical compression and parametric equalization. Did you take apart an LA-2A at some point and look at it?
I looked at an LA-2A to see how it...