I love geography, and Basel, Switzerland has plenty to offer a budding world traveler like me. The city is located where France, Germany and Switzerland meet, something I didn’t know until I was well on my way to Europe to visit Michael Kraske of Credo. The airport in Basel, in fact, is located in France, but as soon as you leave the airport parking lot you’re in Switzerland, designated by a mere sign on the side of the road. No checkpoint, no fanfare. Those few minutes, waiting for Michael to pick me up and embark upon the Credo factory tour nearby, was the first time I set foot in France. It was an unexpected bonus for my 2023 travel diary.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
41. That was Michael Kraske’s estimate of how many high-end audio manufacturers are located in Switzerland. We’re talking Nagra and Stenheim and Piega and darTZeel and Goldmund and Boenicki and Weiss and Soulution and CH Precision and Merason and so many more. Many of these Swiss companies and designers have been around for a long time, forging their legend through many generations of audiophiles, but Credo of Switzerland is a company that has impressed me the most over the last few years, and Michael Kraske has deservedly earned his place among the my favorite speaker designers–even though he is still considered relatively young for a community where many are more concerned with their legacy than continuing innovation.
Michael’s audio story is a classic one. His father, Rudolf, was famous for being one of the most respected high-end audio dealers in Switzerland. The family store soon became known for repairs and modifications to existing speakers, specializing in JBL, and when Michael was five years old his father sat him down and let him listen to the differences between wiring harnesses for those speakers. By the time Michael was seven, he was designing his first pair of speakers.
“I started off making coffee and throwing away boxes,” Michael told me during the Credo factory tour. He then looked at his surroundings, the test benches and the woodworking tools and the CNC machine and the warehouse, as if to say “now we are here.”
The Credo factory is located in an industrial park, in the same building with a Gibson showroom (in the Swiss branch of Clair Global) full of beautiful guitars. While Credo of Switzerland is a small company–Rudolf still has a big role in it–the Credo factory is spread out through the building and on more than one floor. It includes several rooms where Michael does the R&D and building of his line of speakers, and two different sound rooms where he listens to the results.
The highlight is the CNC room–Michael told me he loves to do all his CNC machining work at once because he is fascinated with watching this huge machine do its thing. I saw his point. It didn’t take long for me to be completely mesmerized by the big machine creating Credo stands out of solid block of aluminum.
The CNC machines, in action, were certainly worth the trip to Basel. (If you think CNC machines are hideously expensive, watch one do its thing for an hour and you’ll change your mind about their value.) But nothing was quite as fascinating as listening to Michael Kraske talk about his designs with confidence, knowing that he’s definitely on the right track. Fortunately, Michael has his speakers set up all over the Credo factory, plugged into high-quality sound systems so they can back up his claims.
(By the way, the plethora of gear in the Credo factory is merely the result of still being a dealer, distributor and importer under the Firma Kraske electronics AG moniker.)
Part-Time Audiophile has been busy putting Credo speakers to the test over the last couple of years. First, Dave McNair tested the Credo Reference One towers and was highly impressed with them. Shortly after that I reviewed the entry-level Credo EV 350 Ref Reference two-way monitors, and while they were small and understated in appearance they delivered a low frequency response and a natural balance that is unmatched, in my opinion, by any other speaker at its reasonable $6,995/pair price point.
Since then, I’ve visited the Credo room at various high-end audio shows whenever I can. Usually Michael brings a pair of his huge flagship array speakers, the $200,000/pr Credo Cinema LTMs. While the LTMs never sound less than epic, I was recently fooled at AXPONA 2023 when Michael and John McGurk of AudioShield, Credo’s US distributor, set up a pair of the much smaller Credo EV 1202 tower speakers ($16,995/pr) right next to the LTMs.
I should have walked up to the two pairs of speakers and checked which pair was delivering that awesome sound, but I’d heard the LTMs so many times that I felt I knew what they sounded like, and I knew I had to be listening to them in Schaumburg. As I left the room, of course, Michael and John informed me that the EV 1202s were indeed playing.
At first glance, the EV 1202s look like a 2.5-way tower version of the small but mighty EV 350s I reviewed–something that was confirmed when I noticed a pair of each standing next to each other in the Credo factory. Michael explained that despite the similar appearance, the two speakers featured a different design approach. If I was merely looking for a larger EV 350, then the $12K/pair EV 900s were closer to a floor-standing version of the monitors.
We did sit down and take a serious listen to the two systems at the Credo factory. In fact, Michael made this point about the term “factory”:
“One thing I’d like to point out – I know “these things” are called factory tours and the title is definitely correct. But, we at Credo Audio, do not consider ourselves a factory but rather a boutique supplier for music enthusiasts. We are a high-end audio company with manufacturing capabilities.”
The larger system, with the Cinema LTMs, included a VPI turntable with two arms–both featuring Van den Hul cartridges. Electronics were largely from EMM Labs (the PRE and the DA2 V2 DAC) and Meitner and, surprisingly, Credo amplification. The smaller system, acting as sentry over the Kraske family’s huge LP collection, featured the EV 900 speakers, Sonnet and PrimaLuna electronics and a rare red-and-white SME 10 turntable. Red and white, of course, are the colors of the flag of Switzerland, and only a few of these limited-edition turntables were made.
“We build the speakers we want to hear,” Michael says on the Credo website. The finest pizza I ever tasted was mine, perfected just after college, and not because I’m a pizza-making genius. I just experimented with my recipe until I hit the jackpot. I suspect that’s the best way to approach a speaker design–as long as you know how to listen, appealing to your own preferences is, in its way, the best recipe.
After a childhood spent at his parents’ shop, Michael prepared for this role further by being a musician, playing the cello through school, and then by spending a few years mixing and mastering recordings. (“I still do recordings and mastering for Naïve Records and the Boubo-Music Foundation in Switzerland,” he explains.) Surprisingly, it was his experience designing his speakers and working in his parents’ shop that assisted him through his work in the recording studio, not the other way around. During the Credo factory tour, Michael managed to play a couple of selections that he had mixed and/or mastered. He knows his stuff.
My time in Basel, however, was all too brief. After Michael’s comment about all of the other Swiss high-end audio manufacturers, I had the brilliant idea to tour every single one of them in the future in one big Helvetica Audio Tour. Just like the first time I went to the Munich show, when I flew in, traveled back and forth between the show venue and my hotel and flew out, I had to ask myself, “Was I really just in Switzerland?” (And yes, France too.)
To be honest, the most memorable part of the Credo factory tour was listening to the Credo EV 1202 speakers. You ever listen to high-end audio gear and a voice inside yourself says “this is for you”? That’s how I felt with the EV 1202s. They just seemed to do everything I wanted them to do, and it’s hard to shake that memory of sitting down with Michael Kraske for a couple of hours to sit and listen to them, and to enjoy being in Switzerland for the first time.