The waVox Museum – A Monument to Willi Studer and Much More

The waVox Museum – A Monument to Willi Studer and Much More

Written by Markus Thomann

Copper has an exchange program with AAA (Analogue Audio Association) magazine of Switzerland (and other publications), where we share articles, including this one.



Willi Studer.


Willi Studer's life's work is monumental: as the founder of Studer/ReVox, and in over 60 years of working in the audio industry, he created a body of work that is second to none, and also tells a piece of Swiss industrial and cultural history. Walter Stutz wants to preserve this legacy with his waVox Vintage Sounds Museum, and make it accessible to the general public – a heroic life's work.

12 years ago, Walter Stutz took the courageous decision to start collecting Studer and ReVox equipment. After 46 years at Swiss Post, most recently as Head of Human Resources, he was looking for a fulfilling and challenging job for his retirement. But he had no idea what he was letting himself in for. What began as a modest collection in his apartment soon grew to such an extent that he had to look for premises outside. The second move to an industrial building in Zürich-Altstetten in 2017 allowed him to expand the collection to its final size. Today, he is only missing a few tube-based sets to complete the collection, and it is gigantic!



Walter Stutz. 


From Studer's Beginnings to the Production of Tape Recorders

Walter’s [museum collection starts with Studer’s] earliest devices, the Tell brand radios, which Willi Studer built in 1932 in his first sole proprietorship, called Helvetia. This was followed by Televox brand radios, even before Studer was able to secure the naming rights for the ReVox brand he invented. This was a small company in Melano near Mendrisi/Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland, which manufactured small table clocks and, fortunately for Studer, was in financial difficulties. So, he bought the ReVox brand (which stands for “reproduction of the voice”). Under the new name, Studer and his team soon developed numerous high-quality devices for music reproduction, such as preamplifiers and power amplifiers, but also entire music systems, especially the console systems with record players that were popular at the time, some of which he brought in from Thorens.

What is striking is how Studer always thought about the user. How can a device be set up sensibly or built into a piece of furniture? How can it be operated logically? His approach was pragmatic and highly quality-conscious.

When an acquaintance asked Willi Studer in 1949 to rebuild a Soundmirror tape recorder brought in from the US, Studer dismantled it and quickly realized that he could produce it himself in better quality. Thus began the development of the legendary Studer and ReVox] tape recorders, which can be seen, device by device, in the waVox Museum, and which ended around 1985. Studer skillfully created variants of the machines for various applications in both the private and professional sectors. Over the years, this resulted in an immense wealth of models that can almost overwhelm visitors to the museum. The total number of units produced is also impressive, [especially considering their retail prices]. The ReVox A77 is probably the best-selling tape recorder in the world. Around 450,000 units left the factory.



A Radio Tell radio: Willi Studer's first audio device, built in 1931 at age 19.


The first Studer tape recorder, a Model 27A. This one was used for live recordings at Radio DRS in Switzerland.


Studer Expands Into Various Areas of Audio Technology

Willi Studer was active in the entire field of recording and playback technology. The museum illustrates how he was able to offer devices for the professional sector under the Studer brand and the private sector under the ReVox brand, sometimes with minimal differences. Increased export activity led to the creation of variants of various models to meet local needs and applications. The immense know-how and high manufacturing quality [of the company] allowed for rapid adaptations. Studer invested heavily in production and built its first production facilities in Zurich-Affoltern, moved to neighboring Regensdorf in 1962, and opened its first plant in Löffingen, Germany in 1964. A plant in Mollis was added in 1969, plus two plants in Bondorf and Ewattingen in the Black Forest region in 1972.



A subassembly room in 1970.



The factory at Löffingen, Germany in 1965.


The number of employees grew from six in 1949 to 45 in 1953, then to 120 by 1958. Ten years later, there were 560 employees and just four years later in 1972 the workforce doubled again to 1,112. Willi Studer was 60 years old at the time. By 1986, the number of employees had peaked at 1,882, before beginning to fall in the 1990s. By 1992, the sale of the company to Motor Columbus AG resulted in a massive reduction of 1,000 employees. Willi Studer passed away in 1996.

In the golden age [of the company], Studer had a good nose for the areas of audio technology in which the company could establish itself. He expanded the professional sector early on in order to be able to offer a wide range of equipment for radio and recording studios as well as for fixed audio installations. Studer A 80R tape recorders were used to record the concerts of the Montreux Jazz Festival on Agfa tapes for Swiss radio stations (DRS, RSI, RSR). He discovered the potential of the emerging language labs and offered his robust technology. Studer products were certainly not the cheapest, but they had a legendary reputation for their build quality and operational reliability. All this is wonderfully documented in the waVox museum by the [tape machines on display], accompanied by instruction manuals and other documents.



Detail of the Studer Model 69-48 sound control desk for the Bundeshaus (the Swiss Federal Parliament Building), from 1958.


Visitors can immerse themselves in this unique world of audio technology of the post-War and economic miracle years. [The museum has on display a] mixing console that once controlled the audio for the National Council and the Council of States of Switzerland, and [later used] in Swiss radio studios where [many] famous broadcasts were produced. Thanks to a tape recorder from Vatican Radio, you [can see] that the Popes also appreciated solid Swiss technology. In the case of the legendary [Studer] tape recorders, the musicians who worked with Studer equipment are well-known, above all, the Beatles in Abbey Road Studios in London [starting around] 1967.



A Studer J37 four-track tape recorder, as used by the Beatles at Abbey Road Studios.


Swiss Quality and Engineering

Studer electronics are a prime example of Swiss engineering expertise and their famous, almost fanatical awareness of quality. The buttons on the devices are always clearly labeled, nice and large, and the devices are built to last and were considered highly robust. The [overall] design is functional. In the [waVox] museum, [every machine on display is] ready for use and connected!

What an immense effort Walter Stutz has put into this. His meticulousness is hardly inferior to Studer's, yet he seems very relaxed when he talks about it. Fortunately, Walter could and can rely on a network of specialists who have actively supported him over the years. It is also wonderful that some of the important Studer engineers are still alive and ready to help when questions arise. The company's knowledge has not been lost, and Walter Stutz has carefully stored all the construction plans for the Studer machines. You could start building these [tape decks] again tomorrow! Walter himself shines during the tours [he gives] with his immense knowledge of the characteristics of the devices, their intended use, and the adventurous stories of how he came to own them.



A ReVox A36 mono tape recorder built in 1954.


The history of Studer is meticulously documented in the waVox museum. Many lucky discoveries, photos, and documents are available and could be used for an even more impressive presentation later on [if Walter Stutz desired]. If you want to delve deeper into the [company’s] history, we recommend the very comprehensive work by Peter Holenstein, The Talking Machines, which can be downloaded from the waVox Museum website. The book itself is unfortunately out of print. A free download of it is obtainable here: https://www.fö,-Literatur-ueber-die-Firma/

Studer is History, But ReVox Lives On

We audio fans are particularly familiar with ReVox tape machines, and it is these that are still used on a large scale today and are therefore also restored. While Studer tape recorders are highly valued by a small niche of analog freaks in studios, and privately, ReVox is a living reality for many hi-fi fans who have restored and use Studer tape decks. [Studer is now owned by Evertz Audio Solutions, which purchased the brand from Harman International in 2021. Studer currently manufactures mixing consoles and signal routing devices. – Ed.]

This is due not only to their legendary quality, but also to the characteristic design [attributes]. Regardless of the era [of manufacture], Studer's engineers had a knack for [elegant, functional design]. In the [waVox] museum, you are gripped by the large wall [of ReVox tape machines on display], [which gives an understanding of] the advantages of an analog era when devices were still operated with buttons instead of by swiping across glass surfaces. [ReVox tape decks] always looked contemporary, which is surprising when you look at Studer's old-fashioned office furnishings in old photos. If you spot a ReVox system, [on the other hand,] you get the feeling that a spaceship has landed!



ReVox B Series Compact Disc players.


ReVox technology has always been modern and sophisticated [for its time]. One example is the legendary ReVox B790 record player with tangential tonearm. It came onto the market late, in the 1970s, because Studer had secretly left [the production of the record player] to Thorens. A few years before the advent of the CD, Willi Studer and his team came up with a radical solution for this record player that was easy to operate. This led to an unusual, functional design that still looks very modern today.

A new chapter began for ReVox in the 21st century with a move towards modern, multiroom-capable devices to complement [their] classic hi-fi [offerings]. The brand lives on today in luxury condominiums/homes, hotels, and other areas. “Invisible” [in-wall and in-ceiling] loudspeakers have been developed, in keeping with Studer's pragmatism, but serving a niche market. [ReVox today offers a full line of compact and floorstanding loudspeakers, as well as audio systems, servers, CD players, and turntables. – Ed.]

The waVox Museum does not (yet) collect these devices. The focus is on the more famous history. However, today's ReVox company, based in Villingen-Schwenningen, is endeavoring to build a bridge to this history and offers its Classic series, older products that have been completely restored to mint condition [The company also provides repair and restoration services for owners of older ReVox equipment.] (This idea has also been the business model of AAA Magazine member Pascal Vogel for a while now, and stands for sustainability.) Pascal is refurbishing and repairing all kinds of ReVox and Studer devices.



A Studer A827 Gold Edition: their last analog 24-channel tape machine.


The waVox Museum – Today’s State of Play

Walter Stutz has done an immense amount of work [over the years] to complete the museum's collection. At the same time, by founding the waVox Association under the name Förderverein Studer ReVox Museum, he has laid a foundation to support his activities more broadly and to subsidize them to a very modest extent. Anyone who would like to support this idea is cordially invited to join the association.

However, the question of what to [ultimately] do with this gigantic private collection is completely open. Since it has been open to visitors on request for around six years, Walter Stutz has guided over 800 people through [the museum]. The amazement and enthusiasm of the visitors is high. For the future, however, Walter is looking for a stable sponsor, preferably also from the public sector, to make the collection accessible to a wider public in a more attractive form.

The ongoing discussion with private individuals and institutions are very promising. More and more people are understanding the immense cultural value of this collection. It truly represents a visible and easily-communicable part of Swiss and Western European cultural and industrial history. The widespread use of Studer and ReVox devices in numerous areas of life creates a vivid picture of the importance of analog audio in the second half of the 20th century through to the threshold of the digital age. The sensuality of analog devices, the fascinating mechanics, and the possibility of operating them offer a promising basis for inspiring a wide audience. The collection seems to me to be ideally suited for an [expanded presentation] with reference to the cultural and social context of the time.



More from Walter Stutz's vast collection.



Studer's last digital tape machine, the Model D827. This one was used at Vatican Radio.


A Revox tape machine packed in a Swiss Army box.



A Revox training model for students in language schools.



One of the last 50 Studer A827 Gold Edition tape machines.


It occurs to me that the Montreux Jazz Festival's video and sound recording collection was recently included in the UNESCO Memory of the World register. Perhaps Walter Stutz’s Studer/ReVox collection is not of worldwide importance in the same way the Montreux Jazz Festival is, but I can't think of any other company that has a similar product range with this [kind of] breadth and depth, and with this cultural and social relevance, at least [for Switzerland]. Walter Stutz has tirelessly created a great beginning. At the end of our tour, he said that the apple was now ripe for the picking! We know that biting into the apple at the dawn of mankind and more recently when the digitalization of society began, was fateful. Hopefully in a good way for Walter!

If you want to take a deeper look into the waVox museum, please visit:



About Markus Thomann:

Markus Thomann worked as an architect before professionalizing his passion for audio technology a good 25 years ago and founding the company Klangwerk. Under this label he manufactures exclusive loudspeakers and runs a high-end store in Zürich. Every spring he organizes the “Klangschloss,” an audio fair at the medieval Castle in Greifensee. He is on the board of the Analogue Audio Association Switzerland.


All images courtesy of AAA magazine.

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