Interview With Blaž Erzetič
Blaž Erzetič is the man behind Erzetich Audio. The company is located west of Slovenia, in the woods of Trnovo, not very far from the Italian border. Erzetich Audio specialises in personal audio, especially headphone amplifiers and accessories. They started their line of products with three headphone amplifiers: Bacillus, Bacillus Tilia and Perfidus, and a handcrafted headphones glass stand: Tilia Vitro. In early 2014, Deimos, a flagship dual-mono headphone amplifier was introduced.
Erzetich Audio products use clean industrial designs that are easy to use and are placement friendly. That’s why they try to keep the units as compact as possible by incorporating the power supply directly into the chassis.
The linden tree being the symbol of Slovenia, they dedicated two products to it: Bacillus Tilia and Tilia Vitro. Both are made of artificially aged linden wood. Every wooden chassis is randomly modelled and painted, so not two of them have an equal pattern. This rustic chassis design, in combination with plexy glass and aluminium, creates an interesting contrast, giving the product a character you can’t ignore.
GD: What does music mean to you?
BE: Music is the most direct form of art. Despite also being the most abstract, its impact on the mood and psyche is extraordinary. You may see great painting, movie or ballet, but when you’re on your own, it is the music that buzzes in your head and you whistle melodies when you’re relaxed.
Music is also tightly connected to mathematics and that makes it even more interesting to me.
GD: How did you come up with the idea of Erzetich Audio?
BE: I was studying electronics and, at the time, was constructing audio equipment for my personal use. Then, in my early twenties, I switched to computer graphics (2D and 3D), since drawing was my other passion. I developed noticeable skills in illustration, visualization and graphic design. So I went working as a freelance visual artist and later went teaching this subject in two colleges (University for Natural Sciences and Art College) as an external lecturer. In the meantime, I surely didn’t leave the music out: in between I was working as a musician (releasing four albums, three of them with international record labels) recording in my home studio. I was mostly playing in clubs (I really enjoy smaller crowds) and have been a supporting act for Marilyn Manson in Ljubljana. I had some portable equipment (amplifiers, microphones, mixer etc.) so I was working as a sound technician for smaller events (up to 1000 people) and bands.
A few years ago, the demand for design and illustration drastically declined. I thought about my personal knowledge base and gathered design, music, sound and electronics. I was experimenting at that time with headphone amplifiers for my personal use when I thought that I should develop a line of them to be made available to others. These headphone amplifiers would be: nicely designed, had good sound, hand crafted and put great care in their construction. These headphone amplifiers would be like a signed painting from an artist: they would be assembled, tested by ear and numbered, as a series of graphics is.
GD: What more do you plan to achieve with Erzetich Audio?
BE: I don’t want to become a corporation or be a threat to any existing company. I don’t do this exclusively for the money, but because I would like to establish similar situation as, for example, Grado or DaVinci did—a family business where everyone enjoys his part in the process.
There are a lot of ideas what to make next, but I’m still limited with time and funds. I’d like to continue with smaller devices, though—no bulky amps or speakers. At least not yet.
Since it’s all about music, involving musicians is crucial, that’s why I started an annual high resolution Erzetich 24-bit Compilation album that are offered for free to our customers and sold for no profit on our website. I’m in the process of gathering the music for the second edition that will be released in December 2014.
GD: What has been Erzetich Audio’s best-selling product?
BE: Bacillus Tilia headphone amplifier sells more than Bacillus and Perfidus (Deimos is not in the production yet) headphone amplifiers. That might be because of its exotic look and warmer sound.
GD: Who have been Erzetich Audio’s biggest customers?
BE: Most interest comes from Russia (that’s where most of the units were sold) and Asia. In fact, that’s the marketplace that seems, right now, the most interested in my products. And that’s fine for me.
With the feedback from the distributors, I was able to tweak amplifiers a bit more to fit them and make them look better.
My target customers are the ones who are looking for something different, for the ones that not only appreciate good sound, but also appreciate a hand crafted exclusive devices. My target customers are mature music enthusiasts that are also good-sound lovers.
For the purpose of testimonials, I have included some multi-million album selling musicians, who I like and admire. I offered them my products in exchange of usage of their names. They loved my amplifiers and I’m glad and flattered for this collaboration.
GD: How do you listen to music?
BE: I prefer headphones, obviously. My system is consisted of modified YBA Design DAC and Deimos headphone amplifier, connected by Chord Chorus cable. CD player is Pioneer PD S505 modified by inserting a low-jitter clock. I use only mechanical part of this player and connect it by optical cable to the DAC. For headphones, I mostly use Sennheiser HD800 for easy listening, AKG K702 with custom cable for pop and rock, modified Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro for rock/metal music and Sennheiser HD280 Pro for watching movies.
In my office, when having headphones off my ears, I use heavily modified KEF Q300 speakers, self-built solid state 2 x 100 W amplifier (working between class A and AB) and self-built active subwoofer with MB Quart Premium driver.
I am currently building a house where I intend to use one room for a decent Hi-Fi system that is yet to be built. Most probably, I will build amplifiers and speakers by myself and for the rest, at this very moment, I wouldn’t mind a Kuzma turntable and a NorthStar Design Supremo DAC.
While working on the building site I obviously listen to music with Colorfly C3 and AKG K450 with custom cable or Fischer Audio Oldskool 33 1/3.
GD: Do you think cables, accessories and tweaks makes any difference in a music system?
BE: A lot!
You have probably noticed from my answers above that most of my equipment is modified. I am amazed by how much potential companies let go. So many devices have very good electronic designs but with horrible selection of electronic components, just to save money. Or, for example, good speakers or headphones with good drivers, but problems in cabling, crossovers or chassis. With (sometimes minor) tweaks you can upgrade them to another level.
Being an engineer I never believed in dramatic cable difference until I tested a bunch of them one-by-one (interconnect and mains). Now they are a big priority in my system.
GD: What music do you listen to?
BE: I mainly like pop/rock (Imogen Heap, Mylene Farmer, All About Eve, Anneke van Giersbergen, Marillion, NIN, Delta V, Rush, Guesch Patti), metal (Voivod, Megadeth, Paradise Lost, Tiamat, Katatonia, Type-O-Negative) and electronica (Jean-Michelle Jarre, Art of Noise, Iris, Richard D. James). I’m not very fond of classical music and jazz, although I have some albums and I listen to them occasionally.
It would be a long list of artists that I like and listen to. I discover great music daily. I wish I had enough time and money to get to everything I find interesting.
Having worked mostly alone, whether this is music, visual art or electronics, I am very fond of solo artists, especially innovative ones, like Imogen Heap, Trent Raznor, Celldweller, etc.
GD: Where do you get your music from and what formats do you listen to?
BE: Mostly CDs although high resolution formats in downloads or SACD are way better. My LP collection is temporarily waiting for a better turntable along with a new, upcoming, Hi-Fi.
Having had a webzine dedicated to dark and alternative music, in the past, I have plenty of CDs that have been promotionally given to me for reviews.
GD: What do you think about free downloads and piracy?
BE: Hate me for that, but I’m not against it. Having released four albums, I know really well how much an artist can get out of CD sales. Artist gets way more out of his fan base if his fans come to his live shows. If online “piracy” helps promoting an artist, so he can get a bigger audience at his live shows, that sounds good to me.
Just not to sound so illegal: some artists have already put their albums for free download, being aware of my statement above.
GD: Do you have any other hobbies?
BE: Having been a ski instructor for 16 years, I enjoy skiing a lot. Unfortunately, it’s an expensive sport, so I compensate my physical activities with weight lifting, jogging and MTB. An hour a day goes for recreational sports. This helps me, not only staying in shape, but to free my mind and helps me think in a different way.
My other pleasure is motorbike. Whenever I have to go for meetings, material purchasing and other tasks, it is so much quicker and enjoyable moving around with this kind of vehicle. A vacation with a motorbike through the Alps? That beats’em all!
Movies (whatever goes beyond 7 on IMDB is good for me) and books (including graphic novels).
GD: Who has been your greatest inspiration & why?
BE: I’m still not sure why, but I have a great regard for Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby. Maybe because of his dedication to the music, maybe for his chilled-out way of thinking, maybe of his relationship with the money… Doesn’t matter. He’s cool to me.
GD: What is your favourite quote?
BE: It’s my quote: “If you don’t listen to the music with an adequate audio equipment, you miss half of it.”
For more information on Erzetich Audio please click on this—LINK.