Creative Partnership


By Pincus Epstein

In an industry noted for being extremely sparing in bestowing accolades, the descriptive “legend” is a rare title to garner. Nevertheless, this is the title the audio industry has bestowed on Erno Borbely by his colleagues. Innovation seems to come naturally to him. His career spans over four decades of consistent accomplishments running the gamut from the venerable Hafler DH200 to literally pioneering high-performance FET amplifiers through today’s PBN Amplifiers.

The consumate audio engineering team of Erno Borbely (left) and Peter Noerbaek.

Borbely’s relationship with PBN is not casual nor has it been a one-time situation. Since the mid 1990s, Peter Bichel Noerbaek has worked as a colleague with Erno Borbely, creating some of the landmark amplifiers in PBN’s Sierra and Olympia editions. So when you have worked in partnership with a living legend, wouldn’t you want the world to know it? Absolutely! But there’s a dilemma. Noerbaek is so respectful of his living legend collaborator he is hesitant to bask in the same spotlight. But credit must be stated when it is rightfully due. Which begs the question: Just how much of PBN’s products are Borbely’s and how much are Noerbaek’s?

For the answer you have to look at each engineer’s strengths, because ultimately it was the team of Borbely and Noerbaek that became the perfect combination. Borbely’s philosophy is to apply a modest amount of amplification to its maximum use. Noerbaek’s philosophy is exactly the opposite; maximize the output for those times when additional amplification is needed. It is one of those “less is more, but more is far better” disputes.

Ultimately Borbely saw the wisdom. The result has been that the older models of PBN’s Sierra and Olympia amplifiers have become cult classics. Today they command one of the highest ratios of resale to original price values in the high-end audio industry. The division of creative work came naturally for the two: Borbely designed the sensitive input stages while Noerbaek took the power supply and output stage for PBN’s amplifiers. Noerbaek was also responsible for the clean minimalist exterior design that has drawn accolades from architects and industrial designers alike. As Noerbaek likes to say: “We made it sophisticated on the outside while keeping the ‘bling’ on the inside.”

The series they collaborated on withstood the test of time and is still delivering the audiophile goods. Today, the team of Borbely and Noerbaek continues to enjoy its longstanding partnership on PBN’s Olympia products. In an industry that cannot and must not rest on its laurels, these two men keep moving the goal line forward because they both know: A living legend is something about the past. The Borbely and Noerbaek team is always about the future.