A small collection of battered old radios and stereos lies in a cabinet at the head office of luxur y speaker manufacturer Estelon in Tallinn, Estonia. “This is the root of Estelon’s history,” says Alissa Vassilkova. “These belonged to our grandparents – they’re how my father Alfred learnt where sound comes from. He opened them up and made them better as his love of music evolved into a curiosity for physics.” They signify the start of a lifetime devoted to the dream of delivering perfect sound – a dream that led Alfred Vassilkov to found Estelon in April 2010.
Alfred Vassilkov, now 60, was born in St Petersburg and grew up surrounded by music. His father played the accordion at dances, his aunt taught piano and Alfred himself would tune into Radio Luxembourg to hear tinny renditions of his favourite Western pop songs. Soon his love of music and his inquisitive nature combined to take things in a new direction. “I wanted to understand how you could create sound from electr icity,” he says. “I began to take radios apart and adjust them to make them better.”
BUILDING FROM SCRATCH
After studying acoustics in St Petersburg, Alfred began to build speakers from scratch for himself and his friends, even making the speakers for his own wedding, although Soviet-era restrictions meant that materials were limited. In the early 1980s, he moved from St Petersburg to Estonia, where his mother had been born, and began designing speakers for a company that made radios. Alfred started to develop and deploy innovative techniques, not only to secure the best sound but also to make skilful use of scarce resources.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Estelon faced competition from western technology giants. Alfred continued to experiment, but also visited international shows to see the latest in speaker technology and discover what consumers wanted and needed. He travelled with his daughters, Alissa and Kristiina, schooling them between shows on the science of sound. Both daughters, as well as their partners, are involved with Estelon. “We can support his ideas and bring them to the world,” says Alissa. “We are helping his dream come true every day.”
Alfred continued to develop his own speakers, working on a prototype for five years until he was ready to reveal it to the family. Over breakfast, they agreed to star t a company and within six months the first Estelon speaker system was showcased in Denver in the US. It immediately drew acclaim thanks not only to its incredible sound quality but also to its striking appearance. “The speakers look amazing but their sculptural quality is crucial to their engineering,” he says. “They are built from the inside out and the appearance creates the best conditions for all the components inside.”
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
Awards soon followed, with Estelon continuing to push the boundaries with each new model. “The Extreme, our largest speaker system to date, contains a lifetime of experience and knowledge and can be adusted in rooms of different sizes,” says Alfred. “Our latest model is the Lynx, which is wireless and features modular hardware that can be upgraded to account for the latest technological developments.”
With a presence in more than 25 countries and a reputation for cutting-edge engineering, Estelon is growing in size and prominence. Through it all, Alfred has remained the pioneering spirit at its hear t, drawing on decades of exper ience and his fascination with the physics of sound in his deter mination to trailblaze new frontiers.