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.
Stein Music Ltd., the brainchild of Holger Stein
The third and last manufacturer that I met at the table during the Münich High End Show 2012 was Holger Stein of Stein Music. Stein Music is a combined company in German city Mülheim an der Ruhr, where Holger in an old malt factory sells products as a dealer from third-party suppliers and at the same time manufactures both hardware and accessories under its own brand Stein Music. Recently, Rob Wilms of DÉ Hifiwinkel in Beek-Ubbergen started working with the accessories and became enthusiastic about the functioning of these. Hence, the talkative Holger was a welcome guest at my table. I am already somewhat familiar with Stein Music after two visits to the malt mill, but I was still surprised by the extensive range of audio products that Holger has accumulated over the years and had taken to the High End Show.
How long is the name Holger Stein already connected to the audio industry?
That will be as a company now more than 30 years. The very beginning was when I was around sixteen, when I became more and more interested in everything to do with sound. As a student I hired from some friends a part of their home. In one room I gave demos of my own stuff and the audio I purchased, the other part was storage space and workshop. There I made my amps and I modified turntables. Because every time I used to run out of space, I moved often, until I encountered the unique location of this old malt mill, of which we use the tower to work, to demonstrate and to live. My goal is and was always to achieve a natural reproduction of music. I made frequently use of materials that affect the appearance and which I sometimes discovered by coincidence.
My wife once left behind a necklace with rose quartz stones in the listening room. I noticed that something had changed the sound from the speakers, only I did not know what made it change. Until my wife searched for her necklace, took it and the change was nullified. Together we then started listening to find out if the chain really was the reason for a better reproduction. Once, that not only us, but also friends could observe the same, I started experimenting with several (semi precious) kinds of stone to develop one of the accessories that we deliver today. Sometimes discoveries are made by accident, sometimes they are based on science. I can say so, because over the years I have created a wide group of interested people around me, including university employees and researchers. They help me to develop my products or to improve them, with much more technical resources than I could ever have as an entrepreneur. What started with a small number of accessories has grown into a comprehensive package that is delivered in Germany, the USA, Spain and now also in the Netherlands.
But I guess not everything will be successful. I remember from my visit to the malt mill, a lot of strange objects.
That’s right, sometimes something works, other times you need to conclude at the end that you went the wrong way. But that’s okay, because every time we learn something, that is good to know later on. It is true that I am responsible for every product we deliver. Ideas are bundled, and developed and made as a prototype made under my supervision and responsability. The team in the tower is involved and committed, just like freelancers and my relationships.
What is the idea behind the accessories?
Most has to do with resonances. Each material resonates if it is surrounded by sound. I try not to remove resonances, like most manufacturers, I use resonances to enhance the positive properties of the material by tuning the resonances. This is possible by the use of several substances into a layered structure or by adjusting the form. The removal of resonances makes music often dead, the positive use of resonances retains life in music, though that “reuse” of resonances is a lot harder than simply suppress resonances.
Also speakers have become available. I assume that in these (irreverently said) you also “play” with resonances?
Exactly, the speaker units are tuned by mechanical filtering and not with electrical elements such as coils, resistors and capacitors. Again to maintain the vibrancy and keep the efficiency. We have been working for a total of six years on the speakers, of course not every day, but it does indicate that we prefer to wait to put something on the market until we are satisfied, instead of introducing something half ready to our customers.
Where is the tuning even more evident?
Two things I can particularly mention: a phono cartridge which comes under the name Stein Music and some cables. The element is a Benz Micro, but made the way I want it and comes in a body made of wood and carbon. I have been working for a long time with turntables, arms and cartridges and by keeping on experimenting and listening, we came to this specific material combination. The cables I mentioned have an insulation of cotton and are then dipped in a lacquer. A substance I mix myself. The conductors in the cable are partially copper foil and partly copper wire, and the series include interconnects, speaker cables and power cords.
The number of available Stein Music products is still growing.
We have now under our own brandname amplifiers, phono preamplifiers, CD players, speakers, the cartridge, cables, conditioners and accessories. Not everything is already available in the Netherlands; if that will change in the future, we will notice automatically. We have an amplifier under development with USB input and built-in digital / analog converter (it becomes trendy, such amplifiers). With the current team we cannot do everything ourselves, so we also buy things. Like with the speakers: the cabinets are made to our specification, then we install the units and create a final product. Suppliers are important to us and we are working closely together with them.
If I want to improve my sound with Stein Music, where do I start?
You start with our Harmonizer H2a and H2b, preferably placed on our special stands so that they stand free and at the correct height. The operation of the Harmonizers is enhanced with Black and Blue Stones and Black and Blue Diamonds. The difference between the Stones and the Diamonds lies in both the form and in the build-up of the material. The base is epoxy resin with carbon, next to several other active materials that I cannot mention. The number of stones, and the location of these in the listening room is crucial for among others the soundstage of stereo playback. In addition, it is possible to tune the size of the image to the proper proportions, in all three dimensions. In order to make it easier for the customer, we have created bundles under the names Platinum, Gold and Silver. But we have more: the lacquer we use in the speaker wires can also be used on a speaker cone or on other surfaces. There are feet for under equipment, there is a contact cleaner, the Speaker Match hanging in parallel to the speaker terminals, there are E-pads, small stickers that work on the basis of quantum mechanics.
At the fair, there were many products to be seen and to be touched. From Holger I received six E-pads pads to try at home. I hope to report later on that. What I learned from Holger Stein is how much impact materials can have on the reproduction of music in a room. Playing with resonances through small elements affects the sound reproduction in a way which is not logically explainable for me. The same goes for other brands of feet, stones, shells, pads and fluids. The nice thing is that someone like Holger talks in a quite realistic way about his stuff. The story of the necklace with rose quartz is one example. By chance you stumble upon something that initially has nothing to do with audio and still it leads to improvements. In my opinion, Rob Wilms is, like no one else in the Netherlands, capable to demonstrate the products of Stein Music and to tune a room. I wonder, if in due time, there will be customers who want to share their experiences with Stein Music Harmonizers with us on this blog.