pl | en



Owner, constructor

Contact: Wiktor Krzak
ul. Ślusarska 9 (Zabłocie)
Kraków | POLSKA



Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Interviewer: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Ewa Hornicka

No 195

August 1, 2020

HAIKU-AUDIO is a Polish company with a seat in Zabłocie district (Krakow), specializing in the production of audio amplifiers. It was set up in 2012, on the initiative of WIKTOR KRZAK, a musician and audio aficionado, and given a name after a type of a Talcomp output amplifier circuit. We are talking to its founder.

have already talked and written about it, but let me repeat it again: everyone knows one another in Cracow, or at least knows someone who knows everyone else. Ultimately, we all have something in common with each other. It is a small city with a network of ties, a few good schools and universities, and, above all, with the University (the one that is one of the City’s landmarks). In Poland, there are a lot of stereotypes concerning Cracow that I have always found to be irrational. I have not been able to understand jokes about myself and it has been hard for me to fit the vision of people from the “outside”. As I have never wanted to be rude, I would only smile.

However, there is something true about one of these stereotypes – it is the city of artists: either present or past ones, but mostly – future ones. Most of the promises that Cracow gives them remain unfulfilled, but a lot of them come into life in one way or another. One of such artists is WIKTOR KRZAK, the founder, owner and driving force of the Haiku-Audio company. His audio amplifiers embody everything that he is: an educated musician, educated electronic engineer, and an enthusiast of tubes and Japanese aesthetics.

WIKTOR KRZAK is being interviewed by WOJCIECH PACUŁA about the origins of the company, its first projects, the techniques that he uses, as well as the latest devices.

WOJCIECH PACUŁA: Let us start this meeting in a standard way: when was the Haiku-Audio company established?
WIKTOR KRZAK: In 2012. I had been designing devices for another company before. The firm moved to Warsaw, but I did not want to relocate, so we parted with each other. This episode left me with a lot of ideas and unfinished projects, as well as already completed devices.

One of those initiated projects was the amplifier that was supposed to be called HAIKU and that is still being offered under the name BRIGHT by Haiku-Audio. And now you already know where the company name came from :) There has always been the Mk2 Bright model version, without any Mk1, as it was the original Haiku. Its prototype was made in the years 2005-2006, so the amp is quite old already. I have also been fascinated with Japanese aesthetics, which binds everything into a complete whole.

WP: Did you know straight away, in 2012, that it would be a “real” company, not a DIY thing?
WK: Instantly, as that was my plan. As I had already gained some experience in the audio industry and with a manufacturing company, I knew what my business should look like, what could and could not be done, and what real production is all about.

WP: Since you knew it all, did it not discourage you that it is a hard job and a difficult industry to work in?
WK: There are things that I like and deal with, despite various difficulties and things that I dislike and will never handle, not matter what. So, I knew that sooner or later the balance would shift towards the music or electronics. As you can see, I am in the “electronics” phase right now, although I still play music, as it is my another passion. Anyway, both need to coexist somehow, as each day only has 24 hours.

WP: A hybrid was first, so where did the concept of a tube amplifier come from?
WK: I created the hybrid due to the fact that at the time when I was designing the Haiku, it was very difficult to obtain high-quality speaker transformers in Poland. I was also looking for OTL amps – my article on OTL amplifiers and the reason why they need an output transformer is still circulating – and I came to the conclusion that one needs a transistor in order to get round the transformer problem. It was also important to me to make the devices available for a large group of people.

I make gear for the music lovers whose spending on music mostly includes buying concert tickets and albums, not audio equipment. That is why it has been so important to me to make my products as good as possible, but still affordable. Naturally, there are strategies that rely on offering top-quality devices at the beginning. I had a different idea. Anyway, a lot of those music lovers were my friends. The first impulse was that I was getting more and more orders and I did not want to do it unofficially, I intended to order everything. So, I visited an office and registered the Haiku-Audio company.

My first serious client was Michał Łanuszka, a journalist, vocalist and poet. To make things even more interesting, his father used to teach me electronics at the Technical High School of Communications. Michał came to me and said that he had heard about some amplifier that I once made and that he would like one for himself. So, I prepared the amp for him at my father’s sculpting studio. I found some space for myself there, made one amp and then another – and that is how it all started.

WP: Was it the Haiku?
WK: No, those were tube amps – individual units, so there was no problem with the availability of output transformers – but the hybrid was still waiting for its day to come. The Bright Mk2 was my attempt to enter the business. At the beginning, I offered it as an “assemble-it-yourself” kit. Later, sensible transformers for tube amplifiers started to be available and, in the end, I started making them myself.

WP: Where does your interest in tubes come from?
WK: My fascination with tubes started with a tube radio that I listened to. That is why I have constantly been trying to implement them somewhere. Old tube-related books were the main source of my passion for tubes. My uncle was an electronic engineer and, at the same time, a bridge master and the author of handbooks and guides – he was the one who gave me the books. I had the impression that tubes were ancient history until I saw an Audio Note amplifier in 1999. The encounter at the Zena Studio store on Szeroka Street in Cracow changed my world.

I met Andrzej Piwowarczyk then, one of the first “modern”, if I may put it that way, tube amplifier manufacturers in Poland. I started making my first (toroidal) speaker transformers in Talcomp. When Haiku-Audio was established, I returned to the idea. The problem was that machines for making toroidal transformers are expensive, as they are sophisticated. They allow you to obtain very good parameters – e.g. a range of up to 200 kHz. However, I have managed to obtain good sound largely thanks to the “pineapple” technique that I invented – a transformer that is tall and narrow.

I am now using classic EI transformers, but their metal parts and components are good enough for me to achieve everything I have already achieved – and more. The transformers are wound, according to my design, by Leszek Ogonowski. After I made the prototype, a year passed before I achieved the final result that I expected. It was important for the windings to be bifilar, which is especially hard to do. Thanks to this, magnetic coupling between the windings is close to 1, while leakage inductance decreases significantly.

WP: Who do you make the amplifiers for?
WK: What do you mean? For music lovers :) For those who mainly pay attention to music. There are also groups that have emerged with the course of time, e.g. people who like to have Polish gear and look for the best devices. It is important for them to own equipment that is not very “popular”, as they search for something special. Another important group are the people who constitute an amalgam of music lovers and audiophiles.

In reality, however, I simply make amplifiers for people to do anything they want with them – such is my version of the “Lutosławski method”. These are devices that are not supposed to return to the company for servicing or change through the years. They are to represent my aesthetic taste, both when it comes to sound and technical culture. I am talking about the visual aspect of the inside, the way an amplifier is made. An amp that is functional is usually also aesthetic. Functional things are beautiful in themselves.

WP: Do you have your own hierarchy of tube importance?
WK: It is hard to specify, although there is something in it, indeed. I still respect the EL34 pentode, as it is a great tube. I started with it. The 300B and 211 triodes appeared much later, due to financial reasons. They had not been available earlier and they also have to be used with top-quality elements, as they do not produce sound on their own. There is sense in using better tubes only if we know how to use them. And that means an amplifier becomes really expensive – both to manufacture and use. The recipient must be ready for it.

WP: Do you think your target group is ready for such amplifiers?
WK: Yes, a group of potential buyers who want something “more” is forming slowly. The basic area of my interests has not changed – our prices have virtually remained stable for years, to make our amplifiers available for many people.

However, quite suddenly, there were people who knew my earlier projects and who have come to the conclusion that they would like to spend more money on my product. That is how an enormous transistor amplifier in the form of monoblocks was born. And then I had the idea for the 300B and 211. However, it is a completely different story than the EL34 and 6550, as this is where developmental and testing costs start, etc. However, it is thanks to those fairly inexpensive products that we have been able to finance the high-end ones.

WP: The 211 seems to be such a “crown jewel” for many manufacturers, doesn’t it?
WK: Yes, it is a unique tube. That is why, when it comes to serious manufacturers, it constitutes a rarity – as it is hard to use. Its supply voltage is really high, which is still trivial, but has a lot of implications, mainly in output transformers, in the PSU, but also in many other elements. Supply voltage exceeding 800 V (it is usually 1000-1200 V) makes it necessary for all the elements to be different, which generates further problems.

You can get round many of these problems while making an amp for yourself. However, when you sell it to others, you cannot risk. One of my main principles is that my gear has to be 100% safe. I never put a full load on my tubes and the components have a huge reserve of power, so that I can be sure that if someone does not turn the amp off for a few days, nothing will happen to it. Do not try it at home – I will always do it for you :)

WP: Do you think that the 211 is better than the 300B?
WK: I think so, as the 211 and 845 are the top of the tops, at least on paper. In some cases, the 300B sounds better and sometimes the 211 and 845 prove more suitable. Everything depends on the speakers. I make an error of perspective, as I look at an amp as a constructor, i.e. as if it was an autonomous “creation”. In reality, however, it will always work with given loudspeakers in a specific room. And this is the key to choose between the 300B and 211..

The 211 is an exceptionally linear tube. The 300B is also an excellent super-linear tube, but the 211 is even better. Its linearity stretches more in terms of voltage, it “stretches” further everywhere. However, it is very challenging to drive it properly. 211 tubes and especially the 845, require something else than the 300B. One can make a wonderful power stage driven by distorted signal, but it does not make sense. The 845 is adapted for working without grid current, hence high supply voltage and very high control voltage. The 211 requires grid current – it is driven using current, as it is a transmitter tube.

Let me tell you an interesting story: for a long time, the transmitter of the Polish Radio in Psary worked with 211 tubes on the output. So, it was possible to listen to analog radio broadcast using this tube and played at home from an amp containing this tube. Also in the Cracow Radio Alfa, where I worked for a while, there were tubes operating in the transmitter. Unfortunately, this is already the past…

WP: OK, so you have made an amp based on the 211 tube, a top-of-the range one, let us assume – what is the next step?
WK: That is a good question. This is a moment of fear, as I do not know. I may hypothesize in the following way: I still have a lot of interesting ideas that are cheaper and really excite me. I am not attached to “expensive” products. I like to make a good amplifier that is based on inexpensive elements and not as sophisticated as the one based on 211 tubes, but available to many people who can listen to it.

That is why I will soon make an amplifier in the Origami series, based on the 6V6 tube. I enjoy this project a lot. We also have transistor monoblocks that are really delicious. Apart from that, I have also developed a push-pull amp using 300B tubes and I am waiting for someone to become interested in it – and then I will create it. I think it will be a very good amp.

The 211 has always been a very distant tube for me. I have been focusing on other projects. However, I perfectly remember the meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society when I listened to the Kondo OnGaku amp (more HERE | review (in Polish) HERE). It was a point of no return. The idea was growing and waiting. I bought the tubes and at a certain moment the demand for the product emerged – two people wanted it.

Kondo is all about making an impression, no matter what means are used. It is important that I sit in front of a system and the world disappears. As far as Verdier is concerned, it represents incredible technical culture – I open the amp and it is as if I have opened a book. Everything is beautifully made, even though it is really complicated sometimes. I try to combine these in my own designs. I have my own favorite “topics” – e.g. I like to heat tubes using alternating, not direct current. It is especially important in the case of directly heated tubes, owing both to their sound and life.

WP: At the end, tell us a few words about the transistor amplifier.
WK: It is an A-class two-stage amplifier in the form of monoblocks, based on bipolar transistors. It has an open design – one can see the capacitors, transistors and transformers. It features enormous radiators, as it is a single-ended version, with parallel-connected transistors. It has the power of ca. 40 W, it is ready and called IREAN. I do not have the piece of paper with me, but it has a logo with the signature of my daughter Irena, who was not able to write her name down when she was three and would write “Irean” instead. It is my dedication for her…

WP: What are your dreams?
WK: They change from week to week and there are a few of them at the same time. On the one hand, I dream of a push-pull amp based on 300B tubes, perhaps on the 211, but it does not excite me that much – I am not a fan of high power and I try not to exceed 50 W. More is not necessary. I also dream about a transistor amplifier with the power of a few Watts – one that would be very carefully made from “jewel” components, using very few elements. These are my dreams for today. And tomorrow – who knows? :)

Wiktor Krzak | BIO

Wiktor Krzak, born in 1983, says that he has been living in Cracow for at least 120 years. He graduated from the Cracow Technical Secondary School of Communications, Władysław Żeleński State Secondary School of Music and the Academy of Music in Cracow. He also studied electronic engineering at the AGN University of Science and Technology. An active participant in concert life, both as part of the audience and a bassoonist involved in symphonic music, modern chamber music, improvised music and broadly understood musical experiment. A lover of Japanese aesthetics, modern art and the history of electronics, and, ultimately, the founder of Haiku-Audio, a combination of all these fields.

During his relaxation from mental work, he travels around the city on a vintage bike that he has renovated himself or takes his turtle to a nearby park.