By Lam Seng Fatt
“If you’re right, then everyone else is wrong,” I told Tufan Hashemi, the co-owner of Roksan, over dinner at a food court in Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya, last night.
He looked at me with a serious look and said simply, “Yes, they’re wrong.”
We were talking about Roksan’s Intelligent Counterweight System which is available with the Artemiz tonearm.
The point is if Tufan is right, 99% of tonearm designers got it wrong simply because Roksan is the only one offering a counterweight which dynamically optimises the tracking force.
“The centre of gravity of the cartridge changes as the tonearm moves inwards. The Intelligent Counterweight maintains the centre of gravity,” he explained.
Tufan continued: “If you don’t believe me, hear it for yourself. Listen to the Artemiz with a fixed counterweight and then switch to the Intelligent Counterweight. Listen to the tracks from about one-third of the distance from the edge of the record to the last track and you can hear the difference. If you can’t hear the difference, tell me I am wrong.
“It”s the same with the spindle. I have one made of hardened tool steel and another made of tungsten carbide. Try both and tell me if the tungsten carbide spindle sounds better. If you can”t hear the difference, tell me I am wrong.”
I mentioned that the spindles of his turntables are rather thin and he said it was because there would be less friction due to less surface area.
In between bites of satay, popiah, Penang rojak, grilled ikan pari (stingray), tandoori chicken and dim sum, Tufan talked about a wide range of topics from media streamers to retirement as Sujesh (of audiofi.net) and I listened attentively.
Tufan is one of the few people in Britain who still owns (and runs) the hi-fi companies they founded.
“Actually I retired before about 12 years ago. I did some travelling for six months and then I got bored. I had some ideas and wanted to get them to fruition. I came back and designed the Caspian.”
“Would you sell out? To a Chinese investor?” I asked.
“Yes, if he has a big enough cheque book,” he said.
That was perhaps said in jest as given his passion for music and hi-fi, it is unlikely that he will let go.
He revealed he is actually thinking of getting a managing director to run Roksan and he will take a back seat.
“You know what I would like to do? I want to open a hi-fi shop by the sea in the South of France, Monaco, Cannes or Marbella and set up the best hi-fi systems for demo. Then I’ll have coffee or wine and play around with the systems.”
After telling us about his new Oxygene range, he started talking about what he wanted to do next.
“I want to design a carbon fibre tonearm, but I cannot get anyone who can make it for me.”
Sujesh and I suggested a few names, but he said they could not do it for him.
Then he revealed that he is designing a Super Shiraz and already has a top-quality generator made by EMT and he is thinking of housing it in a body of a shape that is so radical that he has not yet found anyone who can do it for him.
From vinyl, we talked about CDs, media streamers and the future of the industry.
He said CD players will not die off so quickly.
“Years ago, we said the turntable would die off and it’s still around. There are billions of CDs in the world, so CD players will still be around,” he said.
And the CD itself will still be around. Just like vinyl, people started playing LPs again after they realised that their CDs sounded worse.
Soon, people will realise downloads and hi-res files sound worse than CDs and will start playing CDs again, he said.
“But you know what might kill off CDs? The bad quality of CDs made today. Just compare CDs bought from Amazon and the same CDs that you have from years ago. There is a difference,” he said, and named a few titles for us to test.
Music streaming? That would depend on the internet speed. In countries where the Internet speed is slow, sales of CD players are still strong.
Tufan did not mince his words when he talked about hi-res files.
There”s no such thing as 24bit 192 kHz. No DAC can do that. It is the limitation of the chip and the circuitry. He named a hi-fi personality in Britain who has a room full of equipment who has done lots of measurements and concluded that no DAC chip can process 24/192.
Then he talked about the high amount of errors in hi-res files and that lossless files can lose information.
After all that digital stuff, the “train of talk” returned to vinyl.
“Spring suspensions are wrong. We have said it for 30 years. Turntables have to be stable so that the cartridge can track the grooves. Look, is it easier to read a book in a moving car or when seated on a chair with the book on a table? The turntable has to be stable and then you worry about isolating it,” he said.
After getting a waiter to take photos of the three of us (which he would post in his blog), I thanked him for an interesting chat and Sujesh drove him back to his hotel in Kuala Lumpur. He flew to Bangkok this morning.