We Ask 10 Questions For High-End
During Enjoy the Music.com's very special 25th Anniversary we're asking various high-end audio manufacturers to answer the same ten questions. Their answers may surprise you! This month we're featuring Walter Liederman of Underwood HiFi Inc. Underwood HiFi is the home of Underwoodwally, a name very familiar to AudiogoN shoppers as the e-mail alias and user name of Walter Liederman. Walter is a 48-year industry veteran who spent 23 years as one of the partners in the 10-store Atlanta-based chain HiFi Buys. He worked as its Corporate Buyer for the home audio and mobile division while being intimately involved in corporate strategy sessions.
His 40-year tenure in the audio industry led to home-based side business Underwood HiFi through which Walter marketed new products, closeouts, B-stock, discontinued products and other specialty audio items that manufacturers didn't want to promote through their established distribution chains.
Q. What is your first memory of falling in love with music?
A. Realizing I have no ability to play an instrument when I tried to learn the clarinet but couldn't stop listening to rock music on the radio.
Q. How did you first get introduced to high-fidelity audio gear?
A. Hearing a friend's system with a pair of KLH 5's and a Kenwood receiver and being blown away. I saved my money and bought a little Panasonic all in one system and I was disappointed so I worked all summer and saved and bought a pair of EPI 201's and a Kenwood receiver that made me a lot happier.
Q. What is your favorite piece of vintage hi-fi, and why?
A. Magneplanar 1u speakers a friend had. They sounded much more like live music than anything I had heard at the time run off a Phase Linear 700 amplifier. I went out and bought a pair of 1C's and we put together an awesome system with the two sets of Maggie's (12 panels) up front with an Infinity Servo Static 18" subwoofer in the middle. Everyone who heard it was amazed.
Q. When did you decide to start a high-end audio company?
A. Once we sold our 10-store chain in Georgia in 1997 I did some consulting and then Mark Schifter and I started Perpetual Technologies in 1999. I always felt that we could do it as well or better than many of the manufacturers who came to show me their products. And now we are working on an entire line of products from Core Power line conditioning and Core Power cables to LSA electronics and LSA speakers to deliver an entire state of the art system sold Internet Direct at affordable cost. We introduced our first LSA headphones last month and are currently sold out. We have a new lowered priced model coming in about two weeks. And our new LSA turntable will be available in about 2 weeks. Our new Core Power cable line came out last September and has done exceptionally well.
Q. What, and when, was your company's first product?
A. We started out as a retailer in 1999 and originally bought Emerald Physics around 2007, after becoming a dealer, when we were blown away at their sound. I felt that the original CS-2 was a breakthrough as it outperformed speakers at three to five times its cost. And it removed most of the rooms acoustics, so the customer could listen to his speakers and not the room.
Q. What challenges did you face during those early years?
A. Getting the word out and cash flow are typically the two most small business issues and we were no different. But we have always run the business with internally generated cash flow from operations. I am glad to say that we never had to go to a bank to finance the business and are still debt free. We were able to do this by running a low overhead Internet Direct business and spending the money on product and not expensive real estate.
Q. How have your products evolved over the years?
A. We purchased both Core Power Technologies A/V in early 2019 and LSA about five years ago. Core Power already offered some very high value products and we have upgraded those models and expanded the line. We will be introducing more high value products to the line shortly. Our new USBe Perfect state of the art powered USB cord comes out in two to three weeks and the Ground Zero 6-8 weeks later. Our plan with LSA was to sell thru the current LSA speakers and then introduce a new line that would compete with far more expensive products. The new LSA-10 and 20 series models do just that. Initial sell thru and customer feedback has been exceptional.
Q. What is your company's most popular product(s)?
A. Currently our LSA speakers, Core Power A/C conditioners and our cable line are selling extremely well.
Q. What is your next planned product offering and its' features?
A. We have a new LSA GAN FET 350 Watts per channel power amplifier shipping in about a month. It uses new Gallium Nitrate FET's and although a Class D design it sounds more like a Class A amp with silky smooth tube top end. We believe that GAN FET technology is the holy grail of switching amp design. At a retail of only $2999 its competition is typically over $15,000.
Q. What advancements do you speculate high-end audio will offer ten years from now?
A. The only thing I would crystal ball right now is that change will be constant in the industry and my guess is the latest "new thing" will be a technology that we have never even thought about today. Currently we are big believers in digital room correction and that new products will be more integrated with less boxes. Internet direct will be the way most products will be sold, even in the high-end.