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 setting up $5k custom server he sent last week
“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 familar with computer audio. I’m one of the pioneers who started developing these kind of 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 from Thailand initially but we start to have growth on US and Europe market while Thailand is in decline,” 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 year-end, 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.”
Fidelizer Nimitra Specs
CPU: Intel Celeron J1900 Quad Core 2.0GHz
Memory: 4GB DDR3L
USB: 5 x USB 2.0 / 1 x USB 3.0
Connectivity: LAN / WiFi / Bluetooth / HDMI / VGA
Supported formats*: AAC, AIF, AIFC, AIFF, APE, ASF, ASX, BWF, CDA, DFF, DSF, FLAC, M2A, M4A, M4B, MP+, MP1, MP2, MP3, MP4, MPA, MPC, MPEG, MPG, MPGA, MPP, MPX, OGA, OGG, RADIO, W64, WASAPI, WAV, WMA, WMV, WV, WVX
Power input: 12VDC with 2.5mm DC jack
Power supply: 12V 5A switching 100-240V 50/60Hz (PSU upgrade is coming soon)
Dimensions: 225(W) x 44(H) x 200(D) mm
* for streaming from built-in Asset uPNP library server with DSD64 support. JPLAY Streamer accepts only WAV and TIDAL streaming