Joel Kopping

When did my love of music start? 

To be honest I don’t really remember but it was a long time ago.

In junior and Primary school I was already a fairly accomplished drummer and I would on occasion perform drum solos at concerts. 

By 12 or 13, together with my older brother and a friend of his,we had a mobile disco. Not being able to drive, legally anyway, our parents would be forced to take us to our gigs around the suburbs Skipping forward a year or two and being influenced by friends and family, the home audio bug bit and apart from saving like crazy to buy better equipment – more on this in a while-  there was a small group of us who started going to classical concerts at the Jo-burg City Hall. This was so we could learn what “the real thing” sounded like. Going to a classical concert, now at the acoustically far superior Linder Auditorium, is something I still occasionally do. 

Back in those High school days there was the annual HiFi show at the Braamfontein Hotel, and going to these was a blessing and a curse. A blessing as I got to see and hear some of the latest and greatest gear, but a curse in that as a poor student I certainly couldn’t afford most of the really good stuff. Not having deep pockets did mean that I had to learn how to set my system up for optimal performance. I can clearly remember, after months of saving, catching a bus into central Johannesburg to go to Hi-Fi Installations to buy my first real Audiophile type amplifier, a NAD 3020. This was soon joined by a Teac cassette player, Logic turntable with Ortofon MC1 moving coil cartridge and Ortofon step up transformers and some Jamo Professional speakers. Sonic nirvana for the cash strapped. 

In another time warp we move forward to the years post Matric and technikon. 

The system has matured somewhat to include Magneplanar loudspeakers, RS Electronics Annihilator power amplifiers and an Electrocompaniet Preampliwire II preamp and some pretty fancy, for the day, cables. Tech isn’t going too well as I’m bunking quite often to visit my cousin who runs a car audio installation shop. By this stage I’m the local installer for all my friends so I’m getting quite good at cutting holes in cars and fitting amplifiers and speakers. 

After a few years at Technikon I was offered a job selling car audio equipment. It’s a nice offer as I get to fit pretty much whatever I like to my own car and I drive around listening to music. While this is fun, the gear is middle of the road stuff and it doesn’t really excite me. At this time the car audio competition scene is big in South Africa and my cousins compete quite a bit. They want to do better in competitions and I am looking for something new.  After a snap decision my cousin and I buy tickets to the USA and off we go to SpeakerWorks, one of the best car audio installation stores in the States and home to the Ultra High End car Audio Brand USD Audio, for training.   While in the USA, apart from our training, we get to meet multiple world car audio champions and listen to some great sounding cars, and I fly back as the USD Audio Distributor. 

On our return, together with the Bass Brothers who manufactured the Bass Audio range of amplifiers, we set about building the ultimate sound quality competition car. This Nissan Sentra goes on to win all but one competition it is entered into and it wins at the national finals. It is also the only sound quality car to ever be featured in Car magazine. For the following year we step things up and build a new car. This VW fox is packed full of around R 100 000.00 worth of gear, this in 1996 or so, and unless you know where to look, you cant see a single speaker or piece of electronics. The result is that the Bass Audio, USD Audio and Soundwaves team takes the overall prize in every competition we enter, including once again the national finals. In fact over the past two competition seasons, we have won more show titles than every other distributor in the country combined. 

By now the Bass Audio amplifiers have a reputation of sounding pretty good but some people say that they don’t make power. Challenge accepted. We turn our attention to building a SPL (Sound Pressure Level) vehicle. In Short, we become the first people to officially break the 160 dB and then 170 dB levels and along the way we break some world records. Not too bad for locally manufactured amplifiers. 

For some time now I had been writing on car audio for Drive magazine amongst one or two others and I get offered a job as the assistant editor of Audio Video Magazine South Africa. The Ultra High end car audio market is slowing down and its time for a change, so I accept the position and I end up being at the magazine for almost 15 years. 

It’s a tough life where my day job is reviewing the finest audio and video gear in the country. I’m still contributing to a few other publications including Road Rage, Speed and Sound and UnWired Magazine. While at the magazine I routinely get invited to cover training seminars from the audio industry, I get to travel overseas to international launches and I get to know pretty much everyone in the industry. I also develop, or perhaps more accurately enhance, my love of locally manufactured audio gear, and while I have the ability to buy from any distributor in the country at dealer pricing, my own system now comprises of Sonor Audio loudspeakers and Valve Audio Amplifiers. 

The last leap in time now occurs when I can see that publishing is being pushed out by online and its time for a change so I leave Audio Video to start 13 Hof Johannesburg. 13 is an ultra High end boutique importer and while this is loads of fun and I get to play with superb gear, the market is slow and I’m itch to do something a little different. This brings us up to date and the formation of Simply Digital Multimedia Solutions with Andre, who I’ve known since the car audio days.  

Apart from accomplishments already mentioned, was the only reviewer in South Africa to own my own video calibration system, I am still an IASCA (International Auto sound Challenge Association) sound quality and SPL judge, I have helped tune numerous competition winning car audio systems, have been a guest lecturer at the Academy of Sound Engineering and I am the proud father of an exquisite daughter.

While I cant pin an exact date on when my love of music started, what I can say is that pretty much every day since then has been subservient to my ability to build systems that deliver an enjoyable musical experience.

Andre Steyn

My influence and audio inspirations started at an early age. My dad is a huge classical and opera enthusiast. I remember as far back as around 5 hearing music in the house. I remember, the first piece of music I heard, was when my mom bought, as a surprise for my dad on a 7 inch single, Viva Espana, which was played numerous times.

As I got older, I learned that the Audio System that my dad owned was a Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 1400 Tuner and Amplifier, a Beogram 1000 Turntable and a pair of Beovox 2400 Loudspeakers. This was the main audio system throughout my childhood and until I was a young adult.

My older brother was also influenced by this and in 1987, I was 18 then. He invested in a NAD audio system playing on a pair of KEF loudspeakers. I remember going with him to all the sound shops, listening to B&O, Linn, KEF and Rotel systems. Music was and still is my main entertainment, relaxation and ‘me-time’ stimulus that I use to escape into for enjoyment. When, I eventually could by a hi-fi. It wasn’t any of those great brands, but rather a humble Kenwood Midi audio system complete with turntable, graphic equalizer, amplifier and a double tape deck. I also had to have something in my car, how else can it be when music is needed everywhere I go. I spent wisely, I believe, and invested in a Sony Head Unit CD Shuttle, a Rockford Fosgate amplifier and Loudspeaker system.

That’s where it all began for me and this lead to, me installing sound in friends’ cars and eventually developing into a small custom car audio installation shop back in the late 90s. I still listen (even now some Yello is ‘assisting’ me, streaming from Deezer through a Nuprime IDa-6 class A & D Integrated amplifier into a pair of Sonor Audio Palladium 6.2 loudspeakers) to music and enjoying parts of every genre, discovering new sounds in old music and some of the current music.

I realized as I grew in my experience with audio, that a good audio system will bring out every part of each song, symphony or the sound track on a movie the way the sound producers and engineers; together with the artists, intended, their work to be heard and experienced. If you love music or enjoy great movies, I really urge you to invest in a good audio system and, or a good cinema setup to enjoy the best experience for you.

Andre Steyn: 081 764 2037

Joel Kopping: 082 772 6223