This is an Interview we’ve had with the Graz-based amplifier-specialist Wolfgang Paltauf. Enjoy.
Paltauf is a still not that well known in the community tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get here and what is your personal background?
Wolfgang Paltauf has been building amplifiers by hand for 30 years. What motivates me is the love of good music, the unrestrained creativity and the striving to come as close as possible to the original sound! (Quote Wolfgang Paltauf) Our motto: To have arrived at music. Music nothing else.
We guys know you are from Graz the town from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Looking at your amps and Arny – was he an inspiration?
Graz has a world reputation when it comes to music, especially our music university is known beyond the country’s borders and the Graz University of Technology regarding sound engineers. Paltauf Audio has collaborated with the TU Graz several times in the past, especially in loudspeaker design.
Your amps are very powerful – We guess your philosophy is that power is the most important, right?
Above all, the joy of playing and the feeling of having arrived at the music are very important to us in the development of our devices. A certain amount of power is a prerequisite, but our customers also attest to our ability to build very subtle devices that leave no aspect of the music out.
The KHV-ESD the flagship amplifier drives conventional headphones as well as Stax headphones – is it a big challenge to get two technologies under one hood?
Our KHV ESD is above all very versatile and the perfect playing partner for headphone lovers who own various headphones and want to listen in an uncomplicated way. Since the KHV ESD is a tube amplifier, it can be fine-tuned with the appropriate tube according to the customer’s taste.
When we heard the ESD for the first time it was stunning how good it sounded. Is that the best you can make or is this technological speaking the limit or are you aiming for something even higher?
Yes, we are always looking for what is still possible! We still test a lot after 30 years and our benchmark is the hearing of pre-selected components according to their measured values. We also attach great importance to feedback from our customers and incorporate it into our devices.
Another amplifier we very much like is the HSP 100 as it can also drives speakers. Does it mean you needed to make any sacrifice or is it best for both?
Hybrid technology makes it possible. With our HPA-100 SP, we followed our customers’ wishes to build a small device (suitable for desktop use) that is also capable of driving very power-hungry headphones. The result is 70 watts at 8 ohms, which is also perfect for floorstanding speakers.
Are there any other project you like to share with the community?
We will soon also present our DAC series which is based on hybrid technology and thus a perfect complement to our headphone amplifiers
When did your interest for music begin?
Early musical education from elementary school age, lessons at the Landesmusikschule, recorder and then flute, supplemented by theory lessons were an excellent school for the ear and put the understanding and interest in music on a broad basis.
How did you come to build tube amplifiers and what did you do before?
Making music alone and with friends and numerous concert visits were companions of school and student days. My interest in amplifier electronics was aroused by chance when I found an old tube catalogue – the audio circuits it contained fascinated me by their simplicity and feasibility to such an extent that what was at first a beautiful hobby developed out of it and then, encouraged by good-sounding reproductions of tried and tested circuits, the profession I have now been practicing for over 30 years. The training as a communications engineer and extensive self-study were at the beginning of the professional career. The first own developments followed very fast the reproductions of classical amplifiers, 25 years I dedicated to the construction of high-quality, modern and outstanding sounding tube amplifiers.
From the electric tube to hybrid amplifiers. What has changed?
After this long time with the electron tube, it was time for the next development step: to develop a universally applicable, future-proof amplifier that would offer the captivating sound characteristics of the tube, combined with the superior performance and lower power consumption of solid-state amplifiers. After a year of intensive development work, the result was a series of hybrid amplifiers that immediately played their way into the hearts of music lovers with their compelling sound characteristics.
You have been working in this industry for several years now. What motivates you to stay at work every day?
What still motivates me after the many years in this industry is the love of good music, the unbridled creativity and the striving to get as close as possible to the original sound! And because the love for tubes is a lifelong one, there is an exquisite tube amplifier for electrostatic headphones in the Paltauf Audio program.