What would you normally do if you were a 26-year-old male? Falling in and out of relationships? Constantly checking your Friendster account and anxiously waiting for your next date? Maintaining a blog with the hope of attracting the opposite sex? Well, Nick Chua, Malaysia’s youngest audio designer and arguably the most successful to date, has no time for that. Instead, Nick is heading one of the most promising audio brands today, Promitheus Audio. And it is from Malaysia.

Unless you have not been accessing the internet (e.g. Audio Asylum and Audio Circle) or latched onto the audio grapevine for the past 12 months, the word “TVC passive preamp”, which stands for Transformer Volume Control passive preamplifier, has been taking the audio world by storm. Ok, we exaggerate a bit. Let’s say it’s a mild but bracing storm nonetheless. Discussions on the merits and affordability of the TVC have been rife and many users, mostly overseas, swear by the excellent price/performance of the TVC. And one of the reasons behind all this euphoria is a 26- year old Malaysian, whose maturity and foresight simply belies his age.

Nick has a degree in Engineering and lectures part-time in Electronics. At 18, he built his first phono preamplifier (also called phono stage). His ambition and confidence grew and very soon he started a side business in building transformers. Any audiophile would tell you how important a transformer is and that a transformer is the heart of the amplifier and can make or break the sound. Each transformer is painstakingly hand-wound by Nick’s chief sifu, someone who has been building transformers all his life. The transformer business saw Nick dealing with guitar amp manufacturers (i.e. Ceriatone) and audio manufacturers from far and wide. In fact, Nick admitted, rather regretfully, that most of his business is from overseas, with very little support in Malaysia, except for the rare few who are loyal to his work.

The transformer business brought Nick a decent income, just enough to make his audio hobby enjoyable. It wasn’t until the success of his TVC project that Nick started to expand. Currently, Nick maintains a staff force of 10 people, mainly technical staff who work on the full line of Promitheus Audio products. Nick admitted that the main problem with a start-up company is the lack of cash and funding. Being young and inexperienced, Nick faced some difficulties in coming out with substantial cash for the company. But, as luck would have it, Nick’s gamble on the business has paid handsome dividends but refreshingly, he still remains humble. “Being a designer is nothing glamorous. I am not a greedy sort of person. I would like to take one step at a time”, asserts Nick.

With the resounding success of the Promitheus Audio TVC (Nick did not disclose the volume of transactions he does online but admitted it is “very big”), is Nick starting to dream big? “No, this is the trap for a budding audio manufacturer. The pitfall of mass production is that you would compromise on quality. Bear in mind, every single one of our products are hand built with much care and attention to detail. Once we grow bigger, we would lose that competitiveness. We would like to maintain what people call “flexible manufacturing”.” Nick says matter-of-factly. In fact, one of Promitheus Audio’s biggest headaches at the moment is shipping and logistics. Nick has very generous policy on shipping damages and refunds as he believes in doing business “the western way” to suit his overseas customers. And this generosity sometimes can result in losses and lost of productivity.

On his future plans, Nick states that he plans to develop Promitheus Audio into a high-end but still affordable brand by introducing a statement or reference line of products. His key challenge now is marketing and funding. He plans to make an appearance at the giant CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in the USA next year to showcase Promitheus Audio products to a larger audience base. We were curious whether his overseas customers realize that Promitheus Audio is a Malaysian brand. “Sure, they do”, Nick states proudly.

On a lighter note, we asked Nick on his marital status and if he is seeing anyone at the moment. Nick nonchalantly says, “I am still single and unattached. No time at all. I work from 8am till 2am every day, 7 days a week.” Oh dear! Perhaps there may be a few attractive and single female audiophiles among AV express readers who are interested to woo this enterprising young man?

We also asked Nick what advice would he give to an aspiring audiophile who wants to build a successful audio brand on his own? “You must first enjoy the hobby and not think of making big money overnight. You must be willing to sacrifice. You have to build a friendly business that is customer driven. Once customers are happy, your business will grow”. Sagely advice for anyone, in any field.

As we left the Subang Starbucks café that night, we couldn’t help but admire this determined young entrepreneur who has single-handedly raised the Promitheus Audio brand to great prominence in the competitive and cut-throat audio industry. Nick Chua has certainly taken the path less traveled, compared to many young men of his age. This path is fraught with difficulties and challenges but we are all rooting for Nick to shape Promitheus Audio into a successful brand internationally. And looking at Nick’s talent, determination and insistence on high-standards, this isn’t a far-fetched possibility. Go Promitheus Audio!

Website: http://www.promitheusaudio.com/

Audio Image (03-79563077) in PJ distributes Promitheus Audio TVC passive preamp and Power Energizer.

Other Promitheus Audio products:
Power Transformers, Audio Transformers, Non-Oversampling DAC, Tube Active preamp with Output Transformer, MM/MC Phono Preamp, Power Amps, Pure 4N hand-made silver interconnects, Pure 4N hand-made silver speaker cables, Solid state output transformers, Ebony cones, Balanced Power Supply, Power Energizer


Anonymous said...

Nick has his fingers in too many pies. He should concentrate on what his core product e.g the TVC. If you follow AC thread its disturbing to note that the products keep evolving almost every week/month as well as the occasional product failure. Its always better to make something and keep to the design for a period of time (while you sell as much as you can) and then say in a couple of years introduce better versions. This is really econonic common sense. Those who have bought your products would be happy to upgrade. Its at this time you would introduce your other products very slowly, one at a time say every 6 months. This way you become an evolving entity that is going to be around for a long time. Looks like he needs someone to advise on product and marketing strategy or he will just burn out.

Anonymous said...

That was a while ago last year. He has not come up with any new developments.

I have been following his developments for a while. Like you said he made some marketing mistakes but looks like it has been sorted out.

Kind of a sore thumb posting to disprove someone who "tries" to venture into the hifi scene

However i must confess that i use his TVC so my opinoins are biased

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...


i can't comment on his marketing skills nor TVC itself (since i haven't tried it) but what i want to applaud is - as it is the emphasis of this article - is his entrepreneurial spirits. many malaysian audio designers had attempted to break into the international market in the past but no one has walked this far. this itself is something worth cheering about. and coming for someone as young as nick, it is all the more remarkable.