‘Thai high-end me­dia server gets no­ticed by au­dio­philes around the world’

The Nation - - AUTOMOBILES / AUDIO - KINGS­LEY WIJAYASINHA

KEETAKAWEE PUNPENG sits calmly at Star­bucks For­tune Town await­ing my ar­rival.

I or­der a cof­fee, sit down and we greet each other. He’s the cre­ator of the Fidelizer Nim­i­tra com­puter mu­sic server that has won nu­mer­ous awards around the world this year, in­clud­ing be­ing in­cluded in Stereophile mag­a­zine’s rec­om­mended Class-B mu­sic server cat­e­gory.

Keetakawee spoke slowly but could con­tinue with­out stop­ping. He was full of ideas and had that nerdish pro­gram­mer-elec­tri­cian aura. Wear­ing a white T-shirt with the Nim­i­tra logo in the cen­tre, he ad­mit­ted not hav­ing slept the pre­vi­ous night, hav­ing stayed up to help out a cus­tomer based in the US to solve some main­te­nance prob­lems.

“My work is about us­ing soft­ware to op­ti­mise mu­sic play­ers and ap­ply them to au­dio com­po­nents,” Keetakawee, who is a pro­gram­ming grad­u­ate from Kaset­sart Univer­sity, said. “Most au­dio­phile ex­perts are from the old gen­er­a­tion and they are not good at this. I’m one of the first few peo­ple who started de­vel­op­ing th­ese soft­ware.”

Like any other au­dio en­thu­si­ast, Keetakawee owned many au­dio sys­tems from all price ranges, in­clud­ing ex­pen­sive turnta­bles, am­pli­fiers and speak­ers.

“My goal was to de­velop a player that sounds as good as a good CD trans­port, and I failed many times be­fore fi­nally com­ing up with Fidelizer Au­dio Op­ti­miza­tion soft­ware,” he ad­mit­ted.

“Most au­dio en­thu­si­asts would say that you’d never get good sound from some­thing like Win­dows but I wanted to prove them wrong,” Keetakawee said. “In the past, peo­ple on ev­ery web­site would say that dig­i­tal mu­sic play­ers and pro­grams weren’t good enough for au­dio­phile lev­els so I col­lected all the com­plaints and worked on them, tai­lor­ing the sound that au­dio­philes wanted,” he said.

While his pre­vi­ous work was of­fered on line for free, he de­cided that this time it should go commercial.

“So I started sell­ing the op­ti­mi­sa­tion pro­gram and started work­ing on a com­po­nent player.

How­ever, he needed to build a player that non-com­puter nerds could op­er­ate. The re­sult, af­ter years of trial and er­ror, was the Fidelizer Nim­i­tra, which is sold in the US for $1,395 (Bt46,198). It can be up­graded with an ex­ter­nal power sup­ply called the Nikola, priced at $495.

The Thai com­puter mu­sic server has re­ceived rave re­views and awards – apart from Stereophile, the Nim­i­tra also re­ceived the thumbs up from 6 Moons , Mono and Stereo and Au­dio Stream this year.

Sales haven’t been much – Keetakawee has made ap­prox­i­mately 70 units, ship­ping them to cus­tomers around the world.

But the point is, Fidelizer Au­dio is a one-man-show com­pany. Keetakawee han­dles ev­ery­thing, from engi­neer­ing to pro­duc­tion, mar­ket­ing, sales and af­ter sales.

Now those 70 units start to sound like 70,000 units, I thought.

Parts and com­po­nents (hard­ware) are or­dered mainly from China, and the pro­grams are in­stalled lo­cally.

“Most of the cus­tomers are in the US, Europe and Ja­pan. I don’t sell much in Thai­land,” he said.

Thai au­dio­philes are highly de­pen­dent on brand names, and are al­ways in doubt of new tech­nol­ogy, said Keetakawee.

“For­eign­ers, on the other hand, are ready to try new things and are smart buy­ers. If they think that a no-name player cost­ing $1,400 is bet­ter than one from the mar­ket leader that costs $5,000, they will go for the cheaper one at once. That’s not the case with Thai buy­ers, who usu­ally end up pay­ing for the brand name rather than the qual­ity or per­for­mance of the prod­uct,” he said. “But it’s their money and they have all the right to do so, I’m just say­ing that for­eign­ers are dif­fer­ent.

“Many of my cus­tomers say that they didn’t ex­pect the sound to be this good. One guy even sold off his $20,000 server af­ter lis­ten­ing to the Nim­i­tra,” he said.

Keetakawee said he doesn’t plan to ex­pand his busi­ness.

“I don’t want to be re­spon­si­ble for oth­ers. I am al­ready quite well off and don’t need the money ei­ther. I do it to­tally for sat­is­fac­tion,” he said, adding that he is con­tent with the cur­rent suc­cess of the Nim­i­tra. But he does have per­sonal friends in the busi­ness who sup­port each other, for ex­am­ple JPLAY, an­other high-end au­dio player for Win­dows.

A new prod­uct that is su­pe­rior to the Nim­i­tra is un­der de­vel­op­ment and could be launched by Fidelizer by yearend, Keetakawee said.

“It will sound very ana­logue and you can lis­ten to it for a very long time with­out be­ing ex­hausted, like with nor­mal dig­i­tal mu­sic.”

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