René van Es was visiting for us in Münich a number of manufacturers to talk about their past, present and future. Not every manufacturer was visited and interviewed, but at least the result is 3 great reports. Rene describes his conversations with Audia Flight (Italy), Copland (Denmark) and Stein Music (Germany) and hopefully there will be more interviews of this kind from his hand, possibly followed by experiences of users of these products. Rene thanks for your extensive efforts.
Copland by Ole Moller
The High End Show in Münich is now the place to meet people. Whether it is for manufacturers, distributors, press, or music, you just have to go to Munich. On the show I ran this year into a soft-spoken and gentle man, who is for more than 30 years in the audio industry and in his own way puts a mark on the same industry. Ole Møller is not a person who screams out loud to sell his products. He is more a designer and consultant, who for 30 years knows in a smart way to maintain his own place in the market. Despite the crowds, even in the restaurant where we thought to have found a place for a quiet conversation, there was time for a few questions to learn more about Ole, about his current range of Copland products and about the future developments.
With which philosophy was the brand Copland established?
Employed by Ortofon I became impressed with tube amps from that era, like the products from EAR Yoshino and Michaelson & Austin to name a few that come to mind. Amplifiers that I could not pay of my Ortofon salary and so I started designing and building a preamplifier and a two times 10 watts amp. From friends, as it is going mostly, came demand for my products and so Copland began.
Copland is entirely Danish? I seem to remember that manufacturing was outsourced.
When production slowly grew in the 80s and I no longer could do it all by yourself, the production was hosted at Primare in Sweden till the 90s. Subsequently, another Swedish company took over. My job at that time was designing and selling the products. Copland was entirely my responsibility. Now the situation is different: the production is back in Denmark where I own a small factory and there are the Copland products made. Now I have everything in my own hands and Copland is again a 100% Danish product, even if we buy parts which do not all come from Denmark. My main contribution is and remains the development of products.
Many tube amplifiers are hard-wired. Copland is different?
Yes, in a Copland amplifier we use circuit boards with components and tube sockets soldered on it. Given the complexity of in particular the preamp, a circuit board is just more convenient and reliable to use. With the changing of tubes, the owner must be a little more cautious, but a Copland is not an amplifier that really invites you to experiment with tubes.
How does the current range look?
We provide two preamps: a stereo preamplifier with tubes and a six channel preamp, also with tubes in the signal path instead of semiconductors, which everyone uses in multichannel amplifiers. We also have a two times 90 watts poweramp with KT-120 tubes and an integrated amplifier which uses 6550 power tubes. The small tubes we use are the E83CC and 6922, taking the 12HB7 as a driver tube for the 6550. Finally, we provide the CDA825 CD player.
What struck me is that the CDA825 has no digital inputs, it is a real dedicated CD player.
Yes, that’s right. (Laughing) That’s a mistake on our part. But we’re going to make up for that with an integrated amplifier with digital inputs.
Is it still smart to enter the market with a CD player?
Yes, because everybody still has his CDs in the closet and wants to play these. For a small manufacturer like us, it is not so to develop a player. In particular, the drives give us problems. By the time we are done with the design and the player can enter the market, it is often not possible to order the drive anymore. Therefore we use a Philips CD Pro drive, reliable, available and appropriate quality fitting in our philosophy. Our player is special in build. Not in the digital section, where two times two Wolfson converters are used. That is more or less standard because of the choice of the processor. The added value lies primarily in the power supply of the player, which is so constructed that the various circuits have their own current and voltage source, each with a low impedance so that sufficient power is available. We also devote much attention to our own clock in the player, to keep jitter absolutely low. Therefore the clock also has its own power supply. The quality of a CD player and its unique features is partly determined by the analog output. Where many manufacturers use a few OpAmp’s, we work entirely with discrete parts. Our analog portion contains approximately 600 parts.
You mentioned a new integrated amplifier?
That’s under development. It will be a solid-state integrated amplifier.
In the past we brought both tube and transistor equipment on the market. I am not absolutely convinced that tubes are always superior, a transistor can also function very well. I work just as well with a tube as with a transistor, it is ultimately the ability to make music and not the technology, though it is very important.
Who designs the transformers in the tube amps?
I do myself and we make them now in our own factory. By the type of output tube we make the best transformer. For the 6550, for the powerful and modern KT-120 and also for the EL-34, although we currently do not use that tube in our package.
Can you change the tubes on Copland? For example, a 6550 for an EL-34?
No, I’m not in favor of that. A circuit performs optimally with the tube it is designed. Not so much on the side of the output, but even more important is the interaction between the driver tube and the power tube. The output impedance of the control section determines the final result and is different for KT-120, 6550 or EL-34. That’s why we use the 12BH7 tube, sometimes as amplifier tube, often as a buffer.
Is a tube amp design by now not completely done every possible way?
That you might think, because everything is already tried once and circuits are rarely new. However, improvements are still emerging. In the first place, better components become available to build circuits, then we are better able to manufacture audio equipment and final inspection is much more reliable by using modern equipment. Moreover, the designers of the past were not aware of all aspects that make the difference between a typical amplifier and a true musical poweramp. In particular, the finding and applying of the correct, low output impedance of the driver tubes seems to be still an almost “virgin” territory.
Tubes still fall outside the norms of EU regulation for energy-use?
Yes, fortunately, I’ve never heard anything else about it. These are not green products, but the market is relatively small, very different from the now banned sales of light bulbs.
Plans for the future?
As said, the new integrated amplifier. We are conservative and do not continuously bring out new ranges. For example our preamplifier exists already 10 years in its current form. Our amplifiers all have a phono input for MM or high output MC cartridges. The new amplifier will also be able to handle low output MCs and will be adjustable.
Later on I see Ole Møller again standing between his products. The modest man makes an impression which is a bit lost in the immensity of the High End Show 2012. But who speaks with him finds out very fast that he and his products have something special, which the masses might not pick up by simply “passing by”. A Copland should be experienced to recognize the philosophy and the passion of Ole in the product. It is not for nothing that Copland already exists for more than 30 years under his management and is driven by his inventiveness.