FROM PASSION AND BELIEF

Imagine a life where you you could go out and do exactly what you wanted to do, in the exact way you wanted, unperturbed by anyone or anything else. A life where everything you created was a perfect mirror like expression of you, your ideals and aspirations, driven by nothing other than pure passion and the intinsic yearning to simply do something to a very high standard.

Before the days of Lotus, I enjoyed a long and successful career in visual effects, designing and supervising computer graphics for Hollywood blockbusters and landmark BBC television programmes. It was a fantastic career but I grew out of it as I got older and I said to myself that whatever replaced it as a job, it had to be at least as enjoyable and rewarding.

As a stopgap in those interim years I invested in property so when I set up Lotus in 2010, it didn’t need to bring in much revenue and it was never a money making scheme or for the trophy of being a businessman, but rather, for fun, for enjoyment, for doing something in exactly the way I wanted, with passion, with sincerity and real belief. This is the way I have always run Lotus. I have always maintained that if you are passionate about something in life, if you really believe in something and have an audience, then they will be interested and inspired too, and will come to have that same passion as you.

So what does this all mean ? Well, firstly it means that I own the entire company and call every single shot. I sell what I love and have huge belief in and this strong belief is underpinned by understanding my products on a profound level. Because I am utterly certain of what I like and what I consider to be a good sound, I do not ever chase the latest fashion or money spinner and I don’t take on products with uncertainty, only to drop them half a ­year later when they haven’t sold very well.

In addition, I do not stock a brand simply because one of my distributors tells me its good or pushes it onto me; in fact the opposite has been true where whole brands have come to the UK and distribution networks have been constructed as a result of me initially prodding them and being passionate about bringing their equipment here. Brands like Tidal, Allnic, Tara Labs, Dohmann came to these shores because I preferred them to popular rival offerings that were already available in the UK and I went out and got them off my own back. It’s a bigger commitment, more risky and a lot more expensive to go it alone like this than to simply sign up to existing lines already distributed and supported in the UK.

Key to this is that I also conduct my own forensic research into the industry. I consider myself very much in touch with all the latest ruminations, developments and salient changes within the world of audio, and a lot of it is very fast moving too. So everything that has a place here has been very carefully scrutinised, understood and cherry picked. It is also no accident either that nearly all of the manufacturers I work with very much mirror this Lotus persona as well; free operating individuals who are driven by passion, a love of music and a desire to do things very well, rather than for profit, shareholders or market dominance.

Another thing I don’t believe in is a big range of products. I don’t scattergun, hoping that with so many items, at least one thing might stick with each customer. I’m simply not interested in making as many sales as possible but rather, to work with nice like minded people, the products I love, and develop and create beautiful systems for enjoyment and pride. Too much choice is not always a good thing and I position myself to cater for the individual who is not so interested in the kit but who just wants a world class system with exceptional reliability that will deliver every day of the year on all types of music. By having a smaller range I am telling my customers that I believe wholeheartedly in each and every product and also have had the time to properly understand and fully experience each item as well.

It is also important to point out that with the smaller range of products I sell I can still fulfill most briefs and create most sounds that customers want, biasing the end results a little this way and that way with ancillary products and setup to give the final desired outcome. Anyone can put a ton of brands and product in a shop window but the key element to realise with High-end hifi is that the chef is actually more important than the ingredients. One wrong component or a poorly treated room, a less than optimised speaker positioning or one box improperly supported and it can ruin an entire system.

So it follows then that if you want to peruse the sweetie counter and salivate at dozens and dozens of bits of jewellery, engaging more with the materialism of this hobby, then I might not be the right dealer for you. No, here at Lotus you are buying into a smaller highly focused range of high-end audio systems that have been very carefully put together, pre-selected and understood exhaustively. They have already been proven over and over again in people’s homes over a period of almost a decade.

Assembling a high-end system is a dark art, no question. Many people spend years on the bargain hunting secondhand merry go round, never really achieving a good system, never knowing what goes with what, never really knowing what a good sound even actually is, focusing more on the materialistic lure of the ingredients rather than the overall recipe, with no one to truly guide them other than that most hazardous of information sources, the internet forum or arguably worse still, the magazine review. So my first piece of advice in this guide, is find yourself a really good dealer, someone who knows his equipment and system setup backwards and who really does care, someone who can advise and properly help you, get to know you and your tastes and music, generously loan you equipment on an extended basis and really work with you closely to build and develop a properly satisfying and high performing system. Someone who is truly earning his profit margin rather than just shifting boxes. If you like the sound of me and what I bring to the table then perhaps that dealer should be me. I will welcome you warmly and do my utmost to assist you in the very best way possible.

HIGHEND THE LOTUS WAY

The goal of a system is to replay music in the home environment in an enjoyable and emotionally immersive fashion. The better the system, the more enjoyable the system and the more you use it and explore music. A system might initially sound ‘more amazing’ but unless it is actually delivering more enjoyment long term then better that you had saved the extra money spent and used it elsewhere in your life.

We believe that the primary way to increase enjoyment and engagement is to chase realism, dynamics and naturalness. The more open a system, the more fine detail, the better the imaging and soundstaging, the greater insight into the performers and the musical structure, the melody, rhythms and emotional intent and expression, the more immersive and enjoyable that system is. Music in simplest terms is energy and so in addition, the greater the dynamics, the feeling of energy, of power, scale, depth, the contrast between light and shade, the better it will be to listen to as well.

In my experience this increased enjoyment is true across all people of all ages, races, genders, backgrounds. Personal taste does not even come into these primary goals of a high-end system. They are universal truths. It’s the same as taking someone to see real live music, they will probably respond in a way that that just won’t if listening to the same piece of music through a Roberts radio. That being said, personal taste does come into play but this is in the fairly minor considerations and flavourings once you already have a really good sound as above.

These then are the sliding scales of bright to dark, smooth to articulated, warm to cold, forward to laid back, and these things are very simple to adjust using cables, supports, grounding, speaker positioning and other basic ancillaries. They ARE very important because get it wrong and they might render the system completely unenjoyable for the customer but they are not “sound quality” per se but the small predilections easily adjusted at the end.

Many people new to high-end think that these presentational differences are the very things that you are choosing between or looking to find when building a hifi system but this is often because cheaper middle ground equipment really only has these flavourings as a selling point; they lack that respectable base foundation of good fidelity and transparency. The same is very much true of speakers. Really good speakers that we sell here aren’t like choosing from different flavours of ice cream; they are all neutral, invisible with very little ‘sound’ of their own.

So to summarise then, start with a setup that is as neutral and invisible as possible at the given budget and then season accordingly if necessary. If we need to season – which is not really that often I might add – we try to adjust at only one or two junctures. What should not be done is push and pull the sound this way and that all the way through the system, counterbalancing various negatives and a whole jumble of  colourations to eventially give some kind of accidental overall positive.

I encounter many haphazard systems like this and they can be difficult to unpick and begin to make neutral and good sounding. The equipment I sell here fundamentally does not need to be smoothed, warmed up, sharpened or seasoned in any manner at all; it just needs to be revealed as fully as possible.

Realism and dynamics are not especially difficult design goals to achieve (loudspeakers notwithstanding) and most of it is done by lowering noise and distortion and ensuring the piece of equipment does not impart much of its own sound into the mix. As you lower the noise floor, you increase the ability of the system to resolve all types of information – fine detail, image position, note decay, note origin, harmonic structure, timbre, soundstaging, rhythm, melodic structure etc. It will sound more real, more believable, calmer and simpler yet more dynamic. Noise sadly exists everywhere though, from your mains ring to your wall sockets through to all audio cables and mains cords, the actual hifi boxes themselves, the loudspeakers and even the the router and ethernet cables of your home network. A really good dealer knows how to attack it at all junctures and has the products and techniques to do so.

But what about our third property which we chase, naturalness ? This is the goal that is a whole lot harder and more difficult to come by. Many brands claim to make the most resolving equipment possible but it often comes at the expense of naturalness. That is to say the replayed music still sounds like a hifi system, that it is in some way perceived as ‘electronic’ and being reproduced by ‘equipment’, conscious of its own sense of detail. It may well fatigue after a while, it might make you notice certain sounds a little too much, it might be trying just a little to hard to impress you, it might be showing and displaying the music to you rather than simply allowing it to exist in an unforced manner. The trick of naturalness is to give you all that realism but without really drawing your attention to any of it, and it should be noted that this is a whole lot harder to achieve than simply adding a generous dose of extra warmth and smoothness to the sound – that universal panacea for many a mediocre hifi system – because then you are back to square one with poor fidelity and poor realism.

The equipment we sell and the brands we use to create systems nail this third attribute of naturalness. It is the “Ark of the Covenant” of hifi and the principal gospel behind the whole Lotus methodology and what I have built my sound on. It is what most people are looking for even if they don’t fully know it yet. It ensures that the systems I build are owned for many many years afterwards and don’t need to be fiddled with or upgraded and they never fatigue the ears or vex the brain. A system should offer its owner the highest levels of fidelity available in the industry, but it must above all sound natural.

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