30 years ago my wife Sue and I started Russ Andrews Accessories. That's long enough for the kids to grow up, run off to join a circus, travel the world, join a commune etc, etc! But 1986 wasn't the beginning of course, it was really the end of the beginning. It all began 17 years before that in 1969 when I discovered what I REALLY wanted to do. My career; my life's work. You can read more about my first forays into Hi-Fi, first as a Hi-Fi dealer and then as an R&D consultant, in the Russ Andrews Timeline.
As a Hi-Fi dealer selling equipment in a Hi-Fi shop, I discovered that having other loudspeakers in the room degraded the rhythm and timing and musicality of the system playing. The realisation that something outside of the system could make profound differences to the most important attribute of a system was my first Hi-Fi OMG! moment. It took me about three years to be able to articulate what I could hear, but I never again allowed more than one pair of speakers at a time in my retail demonstration rooms.
The discovery of this degrading effect opened my mind to the possibility that other, hitherto undiscovered, outside influences might affect the sound quality of a Hi-Fi system. I discovered the degrading effects of poor mains supply, mains borne interference and transient spikes, cable directionality and system supports. The first glimmerings of my concept of there being an infrastructure that the hardware operated in came into my mind. I realised that the sound and the musical quality of a system was affected by everything around it; not just by the hardware itself. All this went against conventional wisdom. Remember that this was an era when it was believed that all amplifiers sounded the same, any turntable would do the job and the most important component in a Hi-Fi system was the loudspeaker. It was a real 'Flat Earth' world.
Thus the groundwork was laid well before we launched RAA Ltd. I was a well-established maverick!
The years since 1986 have seen both the continued development of the earlier products and the launch of new products based on new discoveries: the early Torlyte platforms and turntable stands became a full range of system supports; a large range of mains-cleaning products continues to develop; my own early cable designs were dropped in favour of the remarkable KIMBER range, which now benefit from our advanced RFI-reducing technology in the SD versions.
The mid 1990s witnessed our biggest innovation and complete break with the 'correct' way of doing things in the Hi-Fi industry. We abandoned the 'Manufacturer – Dealer - End User' business model, cut out the middle man and went straight to the customer. Our new Mail Order business was an immediate success and the company started to grow very rapidly. Over the years we have evolved into a modern multichannel internet-based supplier with a unique approach. Our Connected Magazine, 60 Day Money-Back Guarantee, Lifetime Warranty, and Cable Upgrade Scheme - and the ability to speak to an expert if you email or call us - has brought us into very close contact with our customers and their needs. Meeting those needs is at the very heart of our success and always will be.
Hardware upgrading work led to the design and manufacture of our own range of amplifiers, preamps and loudspeakers. The apogee of this work can be heard in the system I created for my friend Chris Bonar and, of course, in my own more modest system. His is a fully active 3-way system whilst mine is an active/passive hybrid. Click on the link to read about Chris's system.
New developments and products just keep coming. One that springs to mind is Super Burn-in: it was many years in development by Ben Duncan, and then with further optimisation by us to find the best recipe for each application. A huge effort and expense... but the results are truly astonishing. More recently our work on earthing and grounding has delivered huge benefits to the sound of every level of system for very modest costs. A benefit of our grounding products is that a lot of the work for the customer is of the DIY kind: a little bit of work for you, but it means that the cost effectiveness is very attractive.
At the other end of the cost (but not effectiveness) scale is the DDE-1 disc enhancer. Codeveloped with Paul Houlden, it must be the last word in CD enhancement. I certainly never want to listen to another CD that has not been treated!
But launching whizzo new products is only one way in which we meet our customer's needs (your needs!). You don't just need cables or accessories, you need to be supported in your love of music and how to get the best music from your replay system. The creation and development of a business that can do all of that, supported by a dedicated team that can deliver it, is what we have really achieved over the last 30 years. That, and the backing of a fantastic network of customers who appreciate our efforts and push us in wonderfully positive ways to do better. Over the years you have given me so many good ideas and interesting problems to solve. Long may it continue!