In late September, I received an unexpected e-mail from Eunice Kron of KR Audio in the Czech Republic. She had followed my earlier work and the subsequent emergence of 6moons. She knew of my interest in exchanging conversations with noted audio designers. Was I interested to interview her husband, Dr. Riccardo Kron?

Little did I know that this charismatic man would pass away just weeks later. When these unfortunate news spread via the cyberwaves, I naturally assumed that our planned interview had been cancelled. The elusive schedule of existence calling all of us to the next place in due -- or seemingly undue -- time overrides all other plans. Good to remember that. Live with passion so you can be called tomorrow without regrets. Depart instead with gratitude for the time you were allotted.

Imagine my surprise when another e-mail by Eunice arrived in mid November. Despite likely impressions to the contrary, Dr. Kron had in fact taken the time to answer each of my questions with in-depth candor and detail. Eunice called me in remote Taos a few days later. Riccardo had truly enjoyed thinking about these questions. Knowing about borrowed time, he was inspired to deliberately review his life. He felt moved to make a conclusive statement about his work for KR Audio, with the clear perspective that its final period, question- or exclamation mark would, in fact, be the very last one he'd ever affix to such statements in a public forum.

I don't know why the honor of facilitating this special delivery fell on 6moons. Regardless, I'm very grateful for this opportunity and feel as though entrusted with a weighty task. I hereby extend an introduction to Riccardo Kron's "testament" for your study and enjoyment.

In a break from convention, I shall publish Riccardo's answer to my first question before receiving the typed -- and apparently very lengthy -- papers of the subsequent answers from Eunice who lovingly translated Dr. Kron's Italian replies into flawless English. You see, Mrs. Kron is presently faced with many ugly rumors and conjectures about the fate of KR Audio in the wake of its ebullient founder's passing. Admirers of KR's vacuum tubes and audio products will be pleased to hear the following brief statement from Eunice Kron as soon as possible:

"Riccardo was diagnosed with cancer in late 1999. He was a proud and practical man. To avoid pity and take time to get his affairs in order, this was deliberately kept secret. He underwent two operations in early 2000. As any good engineer with an ingrained habit to careful planning would, he made his final preparations despite an official diagnosis to be in remission. He changed the former partnership of KR Enterprise to a single proprietorship as KR Audio. This would assure that the company continued without strife and interference in his absence. He used the remaining time given to him to improve his products and make them more cost-effective to manufacture.

Kronzilla with 1610 output triodes
All products approved by him during this final period were innovative versions of exisiting models or brilliant new designs. He then waited patiently for the arrival of his successor, Mr. Marek Gencev who had earlier finished his enginering degree and served as Dr. Kron's understudy for 6 years. Mr. Gencev had to conclude his 18-month alternative military service before officially joining KR Audio on October 1, 2002."

KR Audio will attend CES 2003 under the personal guidance of Eunice Kron, in suite #2514 in the Alexis Park.

Riccardo, tell us a bit about your personal background and how you came to be involved with the manufacture of vacuum tubes.
When I think about my later audio career, I guess I became involved in electronics because the sight of blood made me sick. Let me explain.

It all started when my grandfather Bela Kron left Budapest. He opened a Hungarian restaurant in Milan in the 1920's. Like all extended families of that time, the household consisted of many people. In the case of the Krons, there were my grandfather, his wife, his mother-in-law, my father, his nanny who became the governess, a number of live-in maids and two first cousins to the Krons (two brothers) Andreus and Adalbert who arrived in Italy to study at the university.

While my father perfected his violin technique at the Conservatory, Andreus was making strides as a brilliant diagnostician in general medicine. His brother Adalbert was studying engineering. Both received honors when they graduated and both went on to achieve fame and success in their respective fields.

No one in particular pushed or influenced me. After the war finished in the spring of 1945, it was a thrill to go looking through surplus stores and build radios, experiment with ham radio transmitters made from military pcs and even build the first television in black and green. What adventures, finding tubes of all kinds at depots, wholesalers and flea markets.

My younger brother, our friends and I were a circle of what today you might call tube nerds. Instead of baseball cards, we memorized the characteristics of the available tubes on the market, what to build from them and what exciting projects could be created with the military surplus. We built and sold 'electronics' and created our own small enterprise.

At a certain point in my schooling, I choose the scientific track even though I was quite good in Latin. Despite my second cousin Andreus' contacts in the hospitals -- which would have propelled me into a fabulous career as a doctor -- I knew that I had no patience with patients. The distinctive smell of the hospital disinfectant made me gag. I would never have gotten through the first student autopsy.

Therefore, more things pointed in the direction of following in the footsteps of my second cousin Adalbert who was a chief engineer at Siemens. The post-war reconstruction was going on full steam and electronics were making progress in big leaps and bounds. We students were exposed to the best of not only American technology but also German engineering. Everything was new and innovative. My professor took me to the Via Durini, to Arturo Toscanini's house to install a Leak mono amplifier in 1952. I was a strapping young guy and held all the cables.

Even though the maestro proclaimed the sound good, I knew -- from listening to my father practice on his violin, and from the Scala where I'd go to listen to that new Greek singing sensation, Maria Callas -- that the live sound from a voice or instrument was not the same as the recorded or reproduced sound as heard on the radio, on records and or any kind of commercially available amplifier.

The question arose naturally. Why, with the best electronics at our disposal (this meant above all tubes), why couldn't we reproduce sound as it was actually made by the singers and instruments? Why, with such big investments and the industrial might of the various companies around at that time, had no one thought of this imperfection in reproducing sound? The sound was clearly not the same.

I began to think about this and made some designs and projects. But life and my jobs during that phase in my career took me far away from this research problem. I pursued my academic steps and put the project (the Italian call it 'dreams in a drawer') away. My most important and responsible position was with a big Italian tube, radio and television manufacturing company. It was the love of my life. Working there made me forget about my project.

Almost towards the years when a man should think about retirement, I happened upon a flea market where a young Czech was selling old tubes. The Berlin wall had only recently fallen. The tubes this guy brought with him were something I hadn't seen since I was a boy. What a treasure trove!

I began to speak to him. He was an engineer who sold tubes to make money. But he also ran a small 4-man factory in Prague that had produced famous tubes in the past [Phillips from 1928, then Tesla from 1948 to 1990 - in fact, this very building had been Tesla's prototype lab]. I told him about my project. With the proper financing, he thought it might be done. I had money and decided to risk it.

To produce the first triode exclusively for audio use only took us two years. After investing quite a large sum, I had two tubes to attend the Milan audio fair in 1994.

The sound of a costly 300B amplifier used at the time changed dramatically with our tubes. It became live, real music. I had done it, I thought. But now what? The tube was expensive, the name of the company unknown, the country of manufacture virtually new.
Factory worker inspecting production tubes

The OEM guys were used to paying very little for their accessoriess. How could I convince the industry that what I had was valid and significant? The sound reproduced from our improved vacuum tube came very close to the sound made naturally by vocalists and other musicians.

The reluctance of the industry, the incredulous reaction to the price on one hand, the very positive feedback to the sound on the other - this was a very disheartening scenario. No one bought the new tube. Who would trust this new innovation? After 54 years, what did we mean when we claimed to have significantly improved the old vacuum tube triode?

I was forced to develop an amplifier to demonstrate how the tubes could be applied, how their novel features could be exploited fully. Most builders take a diagram and apply the tube to a circuit.

At KR, the tube is really the heart of the amplifying device. The circuit must be build around it. So through the years, KR has developed - from a unknown entity to one that makes precision, designer and direct replacement tubes as well as solid state and hybrid amplifiers.

Over the years, I've had the satisfaction of receiving many awards for our products. The most recent one occured this past May at the Frankfurt Hi-fi show. We were nominated "Best Sound of Show" for the twin KRONZILLA monoblocks using our massive 1610 tubes.

It is a great reward to see your life's work come full circle. The results can be heard not only through our products at dealers around the world, but through the public demonstrations at international trade shows. Every Friday afternoon, from 1:30 Pm to 3:30 Pm October 25 - Dec. 27th 2002, we have an "Open House" in our Prague factory.

There is no obligation to attend any of our listening sessions, of course. But everyone is heartily welcome to enjoy listening to good music over our inventions right here where they're made.