For most, Switzerland means reliable banks, luxury watches, famous cheese and popular Alpine resorts, but for people interested in Hi-End class acoustic systems, the name PIEGA will certainly come to mind when this country is mentioned.
The company’s headquarters are located in the city of Horgen in a quiet corner located on the picturesque shores of Lake Zurich, and the company’s factory is located very close to there in the town of Wädenswil. Despite the popularity of PIEGA products in Europe and the world, the entire company staff consists of only 20 people. Of course, most high-tech loudspeaker components are ordered externally by the company, but all stages of development, assembly and testing of the famous ribbon drivers, as well as the speaker systems themselves, are carried out by the company’s employees in-house. All PIEGA loudspeaker systems, regardless of series, are still assembled by hand without the use of a conveyor. And since the work is done by real professionals, the quality of the speakers is exceptional.
Founders of Piega – Kurt Schaich and Leo Greiner – 1988
The history of PIEGA began in the 80s of the last century, when a young engineer Kurt Scheuch decided to experiment with a Decca ribbon driver and unexpectedly discovered that he could significantly improve its design. Shaikh made the first samples of his own “ribbon tweeters” at home: Kurt’s friends and acquaintances liked the sound of the new tweeters, some even wanted to get the same ones for themselves. Among those interested was Kurt’s future partner in the company, Leo Greiner, an engineer by training, he quickly realized the promise of the Shaikh emitter and invited him to coordinate efforts. This is how Shaikh and Greiner founded a company under the name PIEGA in 1986.
Kurt Schaich and Leo Greiner – 30 years later
Like any other successful company in the history of PIEGA, there were milestones that determined further development paths. By the time the company was founded, Shaikh and Greiner already had a unique ribbon tweeter, which the creators called LDR (Linear Drive Ribbon), and then in 1986 the first speaker appeared, released under the PIEGA brand. However, breaking into the high-end speaker market was not so easy; competition there was and remains very high. The only advantage in the form of a very detailed and linear tweeter in the working area was not enough, besides, PIEGA had serious competitors: the same Apogee and Magnepan, which began to develop ribbon driver technologies long before the creation of LDR.
Shaikh and Greiner had to imagine and come up with something new: so in 1991 they developed their first speaker, in which tape heads sounded two frequency bands at once. In 1993, an important step was taken towards the future popularity of the company – original speakers were created in narrow cases made of MDF and metal with a triangular back panel. PIEGA designers hit the top ten, being among the first to realize consumers’ dreams of not only good-sounding, but also stylish-looking speaker systems that would look appropriate in any modern interior. Today these fashionable speakers, designed in the Life-Style style, are in the lineup of almost every more or less well-known manufacturer. And in the early 90s, few foresaw the onset of a revolution in speaker design, so the Swiss, being in the forefront, gained a second important advantage over their competitors. Then, in 1997, PIEGA further improved the technology for manufacturing metal cabinets: now they were made of aluminum by pressing under pressure and high temperature, and at the last stage they were anodized, resulting in beautiful “free” shaped cabinets that are extremely strong and durable, these will last The owner is more than a dozen years old. By the way, today in the company’s arsenal, in addition to “extrusion,” there are other methods for producing cases: for example, sand casting. In 2006, PIEGA tested another cabinet manufacturing technology: the “aluminum sandwich”. There is also commendable diversity in the outline of the Swiss cabinets: there are speakers with a trapezoidal cross-section, semi-elliptical or with a C-shaped bend of the rear panel. Wood is now almost never used in cabinets; only in “older” models the inside of the front panel of the loudspeaker is made of plywood.
The metal housings of PIEGA speakers have always been manufactured according to the patterns of the company’s specialists from one large European manufacturer of aluminum panels involved in the automotive and aircraft manufacturing industries. It was from the “motorists” that the Swiss discovered a way to combat the “cabinet” coloration of the sound of their speakers. To dampen the internal volume of housings, bitumen-like material Idikell is used, varieties of which have long proven themselves to be the best in soundproofing cars of various German manufacturers, including Audi and Mercedes.
The third, but most significant achievement of PIEGA is the development of the world’s first coaxial module, composed of two ribbon heads for a tweeter and a midrange driver. The diaphragms of both emitters are made on the same flat membrane made of Kapton film, which serves as a frame for a conductive layer of aluminum foil with a thickness of only 0.007 mm. Located in the center, the tweeter diaphragm is separated from the rest of the membrane by etched vertical cutouts and strips of sound-absorbing material. In turn, the midrange head diaphragm is divided into several strips by vertical cutouts. The midrange diaphragm is “controlled” in two cycles using front and rear magnets; the tweeter has only a rear set of magnets, since interference in front of the diaphragm can damage the sound. The high sensitivity of the MF/HF emitter, approaching 100 dB, is achieved not only through the use of the thinnest and almost weightless membrane, but also through the use of very powerful neodymium magnets, which are produced specifically for PIEGA by a Swiss company.
PIEGA also orders membrane blanks for coaxial ribbon emitters externally (previously from Philips). But they do not go into use right away, undergoing proprietary processing, as a result of which a peculiar “waffle” pattern appears on their surface. Surprisingly, due to this, the resonant frequencies of the membrane shift to the region of distant ultrasound. The coinciding centers of the tweeter diaphragms and the midrange driver automatically provide smooth phase characteristics of the speakers’ sound in the crossover band section at a frequency of 3.5 kHz. In total, the PIEGA mid/high frequency module covers the range from 400 Hz to 50 kHz; such a wide operating band makes it much easier to match the “ribbon” with conventional electromagnetic mid-woofer heads. Today there are two variations of PIEGA coaxial ribbon emitters: the flagship C1 in 2002 was supplemented by the now more common, smaller “copy” C2. Other Swiss speakers still use “classic” ribbon tweeters, but not the original ones, but their improved versions of the 2nd generation LDR II.
But let’s return from the glorious past of the PIEGA company to the current state of affairs: today the company is thriving, its model range consists of 7 speaker lines, including a series of several active subwoofers. The wide range of Swiss products includes various accessories for speakers, for example, aluminum stands and brackets for bookshelf and hanging models. In addition, the company produces Opus speaker cables. It is the “Opus” that are used for internal wiring in top-end PIEGA loudspeakers; these cables are specially designed for best compatibility with the electrodynamic parameters of ribbon drivers.