The K&K Story
K&K Sound Systems was founded in Germany in 1984 by Dieter Kaudel and his wife Karla.
Dieter was born on September 15, 1956 in Würzburg, Germany; the son of Artur and Eva Kaudel. His special "talent" as a kid was to open his toys and goodies and check out what's inside. He earned the nickname "der Kaputmacher" (the destroyer) because he screwed up quite a few things that he was unable to get back together the way they were meant to be. But these early experiences sure formed the foundation of his engineering skills of today.
At the age of 12 he picked up the guitar. "My father taught me the first chords and I remember that I was able to play the four chords of my first song 'Mein Schimmel der Wartet im Himmel auf Mich' ('My Horse Waits for me in Heaven') that very same evening," Dieter says. It came very easily to him. Instant success.
His father's (and Dieter's first) guitar was a Hofner Archtop and Dieter still owns this instrument. "My guitar playing advanced quickly and at the age of fifteen I had my first band, the trio 'Neffe Bruno' (guitar, bass, and drums). I remember that we played highly unusual 5/4, 7/8 and 11/8 beats and at that time the audience didn't know what to think of us."
Dieter always displayed a strong interest in electronics and especially music electronics. After he finished high school, he had to decide which route to take, music or electronics. He chose the guitar.
The following two years were filled with eight hours of practicing per day. "I used a cassette recorder to record different chord progressions and practiced solos over them. Over and over again. In the evenings I was so energized that I needed a couple of beers at the local jazz club to wind down."
In 1976, three other musicians and Dieter formed Munju (munjumusic.com), a fusion rock band that would be his main occupation for the next 10 years. Munju recorded four albums and Dieter developed a special interest in the art of recording and in studio technology.
"All our records were self-produced. This gave me an excellent chance to learn the intricacies of technical production work in the studio environment." Additionally, Dieter always took care of the technical side of Munju's PA system.
The studio where Munju recorded their first album "High Speed Kindergarten" owned an old Deagan vibraphone. "It was right there when I fell in love with the vibe," Dieter says. It was bound to become his second instrument, and later the foundation of K&K. "I even played this instrument on the title song of the album but unfortunately I was not able to afford one for another 8 years."
A few days before their daughter was born in January 1983, Karla (probably affected by her pregnancy) agreed to spend $1500 of their family savings to purchase a vibraphone. "Now that I owned a vibe, I needed to amplify it. Munju was a pretty loud band."
Since there was no such amplification system available on the market and microphones were out of the question, Dieter started to design his own vibraphone amplification system. (Karla instantly regretted her financial decision because for the next weeks the bedroom doubled as electronic shop.)
"I used the same technology that magnetic guitar pickups are based upon and built my first vibraphone amplification system from scratch." It consisted of 37 individual magnetic pickups, one for each tone bar, and a three-channel preamplifier. It did not look highly professional but it worked great. From then on, Dieter played the vibraphone with Munju on stage and in the studio.
It did not take long until he received requests for his vibraphone amplification system from other musicians. It was late 1983 and the band was not making enough money to feed Dieter's new family and all the other members. He started to manufacture and sell the vibraphone amplification systems on the side, and it did not take long for him to realize that he made more money with these sales than with the band.
Karla and Dieter officially founded K&K in 1984. Dieter was in charge of electronics and product innovation, and Karla ran the business. K&K applied for a patent for their vibraphone amplification system and it was approved. For the next two years, Dieter managed to work with both K&K and Munju, but in 1986 he left the band to focus solely on K&K.
Shortly after this, Dieter and Karla won a very lucky 10,000 DM (about $6000) in the lottery. The money was used to move into K&K's first "real" manufacturing facility.
Within the next year, K&K built an international reputation among vibraphone and marimba players. "The great thing for us was that no other company on the globe supplies amplification systems for this specialized mallet instrument market," Dieter says.
With a solid base in the vibraphone market, K&K expanded into manufacturing drum triggers and later drum microphones. But Dieter, being first and foremost a guitarist, always experimented with acoustic guitars as well.
By 1990, K&K introduced the first bridge plate pickup system, the Twin Spot Internal (a forerunner of the Pure Pickup). A German guitar magazine picked the Twin Spot Internal as the best-sounding pickup in a comparison test among different undersaddle and soundhole pickups.
"Germany is not exactly the acoustic guitar capital of the world," says Dieter, "and most of our sales at the time were from the drum triggers and vibraphone systems." In an effort to capture more of the pickup market, 1995 K&K relocated their headquarters and manufacturing plant to Coos Bay, Oregon, USA in 1995.
From then on, K&K began to focus on transducer systems for string instruments. Within a couple of years, K&K's product line shifted from drum triggers and mics towards acoustic guitar, upright bass, and other acoustic string instrument's pickups. "Those are my real roots," Dieter says, and this is the product line K&K is best known for today.
K&K built its reputation on its authentic, high-quality products and personal caring customer service. "We are growing at a steady rate, faster than ever before. And we are very happy that we made the move to the US," Dieter and Karla say. And they truly enjoy living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
More about Dieter.