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Old 7th August 2009, 10:49 PM   #1
Zero D is offline Zero D  United Kingdom
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Lightbulb Les - Sage Audio - New Revelations

Re - Les Sage - Sage Audio - SuperMos Amplifiers

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Part 1


I happened to be Googling for info on Les, and discovered this site. I was extremely shocked to find out he has died, and even more so as it " seems " through very tragic circumstances indeed.

I initially became aware of Les and Sage Audio through the regular adverts he placed in in ETI Electronics Today International for his high spec amplifier modules etc in the 1980's. Intriuged to discover more i requested further details, and duly received his brouchers which made great reading, and the desire to own a pair of Supermos's.

I also followed the articles he wrote in ETI on designing transistor stages etc. I realised he seemed like an extremely clever guy, and with a world beating product. Having had a keen interest in Audio/Acoustics/Electronics from an early age, and designed and built many circuits/projects of my own, i plucked up the courage one day and phoned him for a chat. I had recently designed and built a high quality pre-amp and matching Power Supply, and felt that together we could possibly do something.

As i only lived about 15 miles from Bingley, where he was based when i knew him, to my surprise and joy, he agreed to see me. He invited me over to his home in Bingley one evening a couple of weeks later, which is where he also ran his business from. The address on his letterheads etc directed his mail to a convenient managed mail box office. This was located a few miles away in Bingley town, and housed numerous other enterprises as well. He would call in there several times a week to pick up mail etc.

After some understandable initial natural cautious reservation, on both parts i might add, we realised we had very similar interests and goals, so it didn't take long for us to hit it off. I found him slightly shy, which isn't a bad trait at all, but he was no fool and definately knew his stuff. I had taken over my pre-amp for his evaluation and testing, which i agreed to leave with him for thorough testing, and i would return the next week for the good, or bad news lol. It was after midnight when i returned home, feeling very elated to say the least. Next week i was back, and fortunately it was good news. He was very impressed with my pre-amp design, and circuit layout etc, but strikingly even more impressed with the novel internal power supply i had designed for it. From his tesing he confirmed it achieved one of the best specs he had ever seen, almost as good as his Super Supplies which he also sold. So you can imagine how i felt.

Now he knew i wasn't all talk, we discussed how we could possibly work together in the future. The weeks and months flew by, and my visits became more frequent. I ended up actually helping him out by building dozens of partly assembled Supermos's over a period of months, initially at my home, and later once or twice a week at his. The idea was so he could have more time to devote to actually running his business, which would then give us more time to plan our future partnership together. He wouldn't let me fully complete any of the modules, which i perfectly understood was for secrecy reasons, i would have done the same.

He had, applied for a patent on his circuit, but he told me he withdrew it, as he felt that if it became public knowledge, those with more $ etc than him would probably take advantage in some way/s. As he was a sole trader with limited funds, the thought of contesting/fighting any potential case/s must have been frightening, and no doubt would be devasting. There is an excellent patent department in Leeds, which i've frequented for many years. I took the oppourtunity of looking up his patent application one day. It was logged, but as i said withdrawn, so others should be able to find this entry too. However, he did publically state he had a patent/s, but i felt this was to ward off those that might attempt do him harm. Self protection i presume he would call it.

We became involved with several other entrepreneurs in the audio world, who contributed to the Audio Conversions magazine started up by Neil J Mackie. As he didn't drive, i drove us both down to attend at least one joint meeting at Neil's home to discuss publishing/agenda etc. As i remember it was at a farmhouse, with a big enclosed outdoor swimming pool, very nice. He introduced me as a partner of Sage Audio, even though we hadn't officially put anything in writing, or formally got round to the legalities etc etc. He didn't have lots of $, and at the time neither did i. Not that i'm loaded now lol. So i couldn't invest in his company, and he couldn't afford to pay me. As time went on, and with the status quo remaining practically the same, i began to feel things wern't progressing as i originally had hoped for. I started to make less and less visits over there, and even though we never fell out, i decided that it appeared it would never happen after all. So one day, now about 18 months to 2 years later after my first visit, i phoned him up and said i needed to come over for a chat, which he agreed. I think he knew why i was coming before i arrived.

We both agreed it was a great idea to work together in principle, but the situation at that time wasn't workable for reasons i've already outlined. Anyway, once again it was after midnight, when i left with a fully built 19" 2U rack mount case with 2 Supermos amps inside with 2 toroidal transformers 4 x 22,000 f capacitors etc and Sage DC protectors. This was a jointly financed project that we had taken around to several Hi-Fi shops in Yorkshire and Lancashire, some months previously, to demonstrate to them. We had planned to hopefully sell complete ready built solutions to compliment the various different amps, and other modules on sale from Sage Audio. Even though we received a warm welcome from the owners, it never lead to any sales or firm orders. One of my ideas was for us to get into the Sound System market, which i was alredy involved in. I suggested he design a very high quality 1000W plus amplifier to begin with, and i stipulated various features it should have. This he did, and i then built a fully working prototype. Even though it wasn't an actual Supermos design, some of it's design goals where included within it. On testing it proved to be better than any other commercial High Power Amp on the market. I then offered several ways to improve it further, which he thought wouldn't make a lot of difference. But he was astonished to find out that they did, and it now gave a remarkable performance. I still have the cicuit diagram for it, and some original spare components for it. As funds to launch this properly were not sufficiently available, we had to put it on the back burner for later. This never materialised, much to my dissapointment, as i knew it, and the even bigger versions planned, would have been sure fire winners.

So even though i owned half the 19" 2U amp anyway, the other half was his gift to me for all my assistance etc i had given him since we first met. You might think it wasn't much for all the time and mileage etc i had devoted over the period, but the $ wasn't my modus operandi at all. Actually i was very saddened it ended the way it did, and even though we both hoped in the future we could still do things together, no firm commitment was given, or sought by either of us. So i said goodbye, not just to him, but to all his cats as well. I lost count as to how many, and it felt like there were more every time i went round lol. It's funny, but even though i sincerely wished for a bright future in some capacity with him, i felt that i wouldn't see him again.

After that i got on with my life, but still kept any eye out for those classic Sage Audio adverts in ETI etc. He appeared to be doing well, and inside i wished him all the best every time i saw them. Much later that year, completely out of the blue and totally unexpected, just before Christmas i recieved a Sage Audio calender for the new year. As far as i know, it was the first time he had used this method of promotion. So he hadn't forgotten me, i thought lol. Dear Les, i later, and now, still wonder if it was your way of getting in touch again. Maybe not with any firm plans as such, but it just could have been a gentle knock knock to see if i responded. I did think about it, often actually, but as my life had now taken a different course, and the longer i left it seemed to make it harder to make that call, i never did. However i did not forget him, and used to wonder where he was and what he was doing, and still did off and on every year since. I had noticed the Sage Audio adverts had dried up at some point, so thought he may have gone to work for some big corporate paying big $, possibly someone had bought his designs etc, or maybe even gone abroad to work. I presumed he was happy, and possibly married too, as towards the end, i once met a girl round at his house who was helping him decorate, which he told me was his girlfriend. Les wasn't exactly the let's go out pulling/clubbing etc type, so i was quite surprised to meet her. She seemed like a very nice girl, and just what he needed too. Several years after our last meeting i moved a few miles away, and had a new phone number too. So if he had tried to get in touch with me, he would have been unsuccessful.

Anyway that's enough about Les and me, i just felt compelled to pour it out, and it wasn't hard at all, it just flowed. In fact i'd say after receiving such a shock after all these years of not knowing, it's quite carthartic in a way.

Part 2 in the following post -[B]
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Old 7th August 2009, 11:32 PM   #2
Zero D is offline Zero D  United Kingdom
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Part 2 -

I expect you'ld like to know more about those circuits, and components etc ? yes i thought as much. Well there are things i can reveal, and after giving it a lot of thought, i think maybe now the time is right. I also feel everybody deserves to know more background information, and i am in a position to finally set the record straight on a number of points.

In life, there is a reason for Everything, and that includes the approach that Les felt compelled to take. Yes compelled, because being a sole trader of limited means, having invented/designed/built a world first of practically Zero distortion, and other high specifications in an amplifier, he was up against the " System " What do i mean by that ? As already alluded to by others on here, and elsewhere, big companies had large advertising budgets to spend. Where they spent it and how much, often depended on getting favourable reviews of their products in magazines. Also providing expensive products on more or less permanent loan, to reviewers. And even gifts, paid travel/accomodation/dinners etc etc. Obviously Les couldn't do Any of this, and felt he was up against it.

Now some might say, if he had such unique products, which he did, surely the world would sit up and pay attention and be beating a path to his door. Unfortunately, the real world isn't like that. You may remember, back then all the talk was about expensive components making a big difference to sound quality. For example, certain makes of resistors/capacitors etc. Les had tested these and found that, in a Properly designed circuit they made little or no difference. His amps etc measured the same without these expensive components, so what was he to do. He could have said they use ordinary passive components that are cheap, but what would people think/say to that. Well it's obvious, they'd laugh and entirely dismiss his products, inspite of their excellent specifications. They'd might say things such as, how is it possible that an amp with potentially hundreds of $ of passive etc components in can measure/sound worse than one with ordinary ones in, impossible ! How long would he have lasted, and how many people would have taken him seriously ? Not long, or many i'd say.

So he was faced with a great dilemma, be upfront, or go with the flow. You now know what he decided he had to do, and why.

However when it came to active components, he knew they could make a real difference. He once confided in me the exact make of some of the output, and other transistors he used. I see mention of Hitachi mosfets, but i presume he must heve used these, on only some models, or if the preferred make were unavailable. No they wern't bought in as matched pairs as that costs a lot more $. Instead he tested each one of them in his batch and matched them himself to save $. I also spent time round there gain testing/rejecting some of the lower power transistors which were critical in certain places. It wasn't a secret that the driver transistors he used were RF high frequency types, in fact he advertised that very fact. But of course just sticking any old RF transistor in any old circuit doesn't automatically make it great, they have to designed in correctly, as does Everything else. One day somebody phoned him up pretending to be a sales person from some big electronics supply company, asking what output transistors he required as they could do him a really good deal on whatever he needed. It caught him off guard and he revealed the type and part number. Almost immediately after he put the phone down, he realised that he'd been duped. He presumed it was a competitor or the like, and he must have been right, as the guy never got in touch ever again. That really p**ssed him off, as i'm sure it would us as well. A secret now revealed that others didn't have to know about his products. Needless to say, he made now sure that he was primed should any other such attempted intrusion occur. Which actually it didn't, not whilst i knew him anyway.

The first time i was over at his house soldering components on to Supermos pcb's, i couldn't help but notice the components i was using. Apart from the graded/matched transisors i've mentioned, they were ordinary carbon resistors, and standard capacitors. Where are the Holco resistors etc i thought ? Maybe he'll be putting them in after i've finished ? A few months later i really began to wonder more about this, so i asked him. Looking a bit uncomfortable he said, i wondered when you'ld ask me that. By this time he knew he could trust me, otherwise i wouldn't have been privvy to the information he'd revealed to me already, nor been allowed into the inner sanctum of the spare bedroom. Yeah, that's where all the design/testing/building/drilling/business etc etc took place. Well why not, it has to be done somewhere ! He knew by the look on my face that i suspected something, and wasn't going to be fobbed off, so he realised there was no point in avoiding the question, now was the time to come clean. To his credit he did exactly that. This is when he told me in detail about the fears he had about losing out to lesser products, with perceived higher sound quality, but lower specifications, whatever they cost.

He had made a conscious decision some time back, that he felt he had no other choice but to proceed in the manner he did. The specifications he quoted for his products were totally real, and obviously he knew anybody competent could, and would test to see if they lived up to his claims. In fact he was so confident that nobody else in the world could match his specifications, no matter how large the company. After seeing an advert for some companys amp module, not one of the encapsulated types i might add, claiming highish slew rate, he didn't believe it. So he bought one which he then tested. Surprise surprise, it did not live up to the claims made. Les said that as most people wouldn't test it, they would just accept it as stated. And as it was cheaper than his product it could hurt his sales. He ended up taking it to Trading Standards and Advertising Stanards who launched an investigation, and he showed me some of the correspondence. As it turned out the company folded some time after that, so as it happens i don't think much/any damage was done.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking, talk about double standards here. Except it's not really. Yes in one way i have to agree it is, as Les made claims for components he didn't always use. But the technical specifications he claimed for his products were all real, and could be verified by competent people. Nobody else in the whole wide world came close then, or even today ! Here's just a few examples -

Supermos Amplifier

1 ppm = 1 part in 1 Million = 0.0001% Distortion

250Vs Slew Rate

Damping Factor 800

Etc etc

So was he guilty of being dishonest as far as some of the components he claimed to use, i have to say, yes he was. But unlike others who claimed specifications that just wern't accurate/truthful, and they could never achieve, Les could and did with every product he sold. I know what i'd rather have any day, something that did exactly what it was supposed to do. Rather than something that didn't, or ever would, but just happened to have some costly shiny bits inside it.

I have taken a look at a couple of the available circuit diagrams put together by people attempting to back engineer the SuperMos amplifiers. I can plainly see a number of differences/discrepancies between them, which on the surface don't appear to be able to be explained away due just to them being from different models. Also i immediately noticed in one of the drawings what looks like an error in translation from the actual PCB circuit, to the recreated one. There may be more errors of course, but as i didn't ever see the original drawings, at this point in time, i can't be certain. Unless someone can totally 100% accurately reproduce a SuperMos circuit, we might never know the full picture. Furthermore, i know for a fact, as he told me and showed me, on the PCB is what looks like a little squiggle. This copper track, easily overlooked, is actually designed in as an tiny printed inductor. He said this was quite critical to the performance. So without that one component inserted into the equation, any attempt at trying to recreat a true SuperMos is bound to fail.

I'd like to find out exactly what happened to Les, and why. So if anybody can provide me with reliable information, and/or point me in the right directions, i'd be extremely grateful.

Well, wherever you are now Les, i was happy to know you. You were a very clever guy, and you taught me quite a lot over the short time we had together, and we sure had plenty of laughs too. The world is missing a true unique talent, and you can't say that about many people.

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Old 8th August 2009, 06:13 AM   #3
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Default this was ......

a very nice story to read ....

What really makes it nice is tha it looks like a miror to all small audio industry ("") in your country and mine

The story is very similar to some of the greek made audio products also that started arround 80's

Some of them were so good but never had a chance next to imported gear ...

I actually used a couple of these modules in the past .... Dont even remember if it was any good ....

The importand issue

-----Often we get carried out of our passion for audio while creating constructing or deisgn ..... The truth is that the open market is by far more visious then we could ever imagine .

----products as you descrebed them DO NOT exist ( world beating product ) to have a product like that you need to have it inovative and unic from every aspect .... (notice the word every )

----- dont men enything bad here but the two of you designed a 1KW amplifier that is perfect from every aspect ????? well i am very glad to inform you that mister Behringer has a team of engineers ( 20 ) to design his amplifier ....then another team of engineers to design the power supply for this amp ....and then another team of engineers to design the box for this amp and then another team to optimise the design cost wise ....and then another team to make it easy to use .....

what makes you think that you can ever beat these guys ????

to beat them there is only one way ..... MAKE A PRODUCT THAT THEY NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT BUILD ......

kind regards sakis

( think of people like BOB CARVER ...most if not all his products were unic ....cant say if good or bad but sure unic . there is still products that havent seen the light of the open market .... think ... or email me privatelly )
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Old 8th August 2009, 08:40 AM   #4
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Great story. Fight against the "System", fraud, deception, illicit sex, delusions of grandeur. I see movie rights.
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Old 8th August 2009, 06:20 PM   #5
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Default more info

Thanks for the very interesting post. I remember thinking about this amp thinking how great it would sound, still wondering to this day...

heres a link with more info

Les Sage amp circuit here for analysis
Music: Please audition with your ears not your eyes.
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Old 9th August 2009, 04:24 PM   #6
Zero D is offline Zero D  United Kingdom
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Thanks for your kind comments.

Hi, yes it seems it's a worldwide problem, not just in our countries.

I didn't say we designed a 1KW amplifier that was perfect from every aspect, only as i described it. But it was/is very good, even if i say so myself. In fact i'm seriously thinking of building one again.

I wouldn't say that Behringer makes top quality amplifiers, or other products for that matter. In my experience, and from what i've heard and read, they market their products at a particular price and sector of the community. Nothing wrong with that as such, but hardly high tech. I remember buying a mixer of theirs for an installation, and straight out of the box the faders produced scratching sounds when moved. Could have been faulty i suppose, but others have also had this problem.


Yes movie rights would be good lol. As i have more interesting info i could add.


Yes thanks, that's the exact link i found when googling for Les, which then lead me to become a member on here and post this thread for everybody.
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Old 3rd July 2010, 03:44 AM   #7
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Hi Zero D,

I found this thread after posting on the SuperMOS module thread. Thank you, you have answered some of my questions! I was saddened to hear about Les. RIP.
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Old 7th July 2010, 04:30 AM   #8
Zero D is offline Zero D  United Kingdom
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Hi audiopip.

Thanks for posting i really appreciate it. We now have someone who actually knew him from his earliest days, that's very interesting. I'm pleased i was able to shed some light on things for you, as you have for me too. Yes it's comforting to hope he's at peace with everything now, and after everything he is able to look back and smile.

I keep checking back often to see if there are any new posts by people with more information, on either Les and/or SuperMos etc. I hope your post encourages others to also contribute whatever they can, even if it's some time from now, as it all helps.

Yes very sad news indeed, and tragic, though i still don't know hardly any details about the circumstances, though i would dearly love to.

Thanks again

Zero D
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Old 7th July 2010, 05:46 AM   #9
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Hi Zero D,

You are welcome, I reckon it was pretty good going of Les to get out there in the market place, many have tried and failed and I guess he was no more of a salesman than anyone else in the audio industry, which has always a slight smell of snake oil in 'non professional' circles!

Yes if anyone has any info about exactly what happened I would also like to hear. As so many times in these circumstances one always wishes one could have stayed in touch and been there on the end of a phone.
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Old 21st August 2010, 02:36 PM   #10
wjlamp is offline wjlamp  Greece
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[QUOTE=Zero D;2237020]Hi audiopip.

Thanks for posting i really appreciate it. We now have someone who actually knew him from his earliest days, that's very interesting. I'm pleased i was able to shed some light on things for you, as you have for me too. Yes it's comforting to hope he's at peace with everything now, and after everything he is able to look back and smile.

I keep checking back often to see if there are any new posts by people with more information, on either Les and/or SuperMos etc. I hope your post encourages others to also contribute whatever they can, even if it's some time from now, as it all helps.

Yes very sad news indeed, and tragic, though i still don't know hardly any details about the circumstances, though i would dearly love to.


I do not have some other new infos about Les,but,
back in 1988 ,a cousin of mine,took the train from Wolverhampton to York,in order to take 2 Supermos modules from Les,for me.
Les wasn't there and he paid a lady,the girl that you said, maybe.
Afterwards,here in Greece,he told me the whole scenery of Les Sage Audio,and it was as described in your long posts.He was somehow curious about my choice,but I knew better.
Needless to say,but I will, the amps are still working as day one,and with a sound quality that takes some celebrity designs by the cojones,and makes them sing their national anthems instead.

What if there are plain components,into them? What if the potting compound has some mystery elixir?What if,what if, what if...?
The design works,and in the end of the day,it is the only thing that has value.

Best regards

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