September 1997 saw the 35th anniversary of Stereophile magazine, founded by J. Gordon Holt back in 1962. If any interview needs no introduction, this is it. My interview with Gordon was conducted around the kitchen table in Gordon's Boulder, Colorado home over a couple of cold beers. It seemed appropriate to start at the very beginning... J. Gordon Holt: I don't remember when that was.
One of the characteristic traits, I have found, that defines the loudspeaker designer is that they are loners—they seem to avoid one another's company as if on purpose. But if ever you sit down with a designer, all you need to do to open him up is to ask him what he feels to be important in loudspeaker performance.
I first met Tony Federici at a 1986 high-end show in Lucerne, Switzerland. He was at that time distributing Perreaux amplifiers in the US; the dem room Perreaux shared with KEF and McIntosh overlooked Lake Lucerne and Wagner's villa at Tribschen, perhaps the most idyllic setting for Show sound I have ever experienced. Tony was educated as a philosopher: In the 10 years I've known him, I have never known him at a loss for an opinion. It's all the more strange, therefore, that Stereophile has never asked him to submit to the ordeal of a formal interview.
Siegfried Linkwitz was born in Germany in 1935. He received his electrical engineering degree from Darmstadt Technical University prior to moving to California in 1961 to work for Hewlett-Packard. During his early years in the USA, he did postgraduate work at Stanford University. For over 30 years Mr. Linkwitz has developed electronic test equipment ranging from signal generators, to network and spectrum analyzers, to microwave sweepers and instrumentation for evaluating electromagnetic compatibility.
To get some background information both on Aerial Acoustics and on the 10T loudspeaker that I review this month, I gave Aerial's Michael Kelly a call. When had he got involved in loudspeakers, I asked...
Kevin Hayes: Valve Amplification Company arose out of my dissatisfaction with the stereo gear I could buy. I've been an audiophile since before I knew what the word meant, going back to the mid-'70s. I had an epiphany when I first heard a piece of old tubed gear, a Fisher X101, that simply blew away a highly touted receiver that I happened to own. It was a 25W integrated amplifier, using 7591s on the output, and except for sustained organ-pedal notes, it was far better than what I had at that time.
Victor Khomenko, the "VK" of Balanced Audio Technology's VK-5 preamp and VK-60 amplifier, was born in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), and grew up two blocks from the Svetlana tube factory. He attended the prestigious Leningrad Polytechnic Institute and received an M.S. in physics and electronics, specializing in electronic emissions. He spent his early working life in the Russian electronics industry, then emigrated to the US in 1979—with $400, a family, no home, and no job.
Cary Audio Design founder Dennis Had is largely responsible for popularizing single-ended amplifiers in America. Since appearing on the scene in 1989, Cary Audio Design has forged its own niche in the high-end audio industry. I spoke with Dennis Had about how he got started building amplifiers, and why he's so committed to single-ended triode designs.
More than 20 years ago, when the turntable was considered a perfectly neutral component in the playback chain, Ivor Tiefenbrun single-handedly demonstrated to the world that the turntable was not only an important part of a hi-fi system, but perhaps the most important part. That radical idea was the basis for the legendary Linn Sondek LP12 turntable, the product that launched Linn, and which is still in production 22 years later.
Canadian speakers from such companies as Mirage, PSB, and Paradigm have acquired international reputations for offering good sound at more-than-competitive prices. The latest Canadian speaker manufacturer to hit the big time might well be Energy, which has actually been around for about 15 years, but has only recently introduced a flagship speaker. Energy's $6000/pair Veritas v2.8 earned Tom Norton's commendation for having produced one of the best sounds at the 1993 Las Vegas WCES. [TJN's review appears in this issue.—Ed.]
Steve McCormack has carved out an unusual niche for himself in high-end audio. While working as a hi-fi salesman, Steve successfully modified an amplifier for a customer and promptly decided that there was a market for improving the sonic performance of other companies' products. Thus The Mod Squad was born, a company Steve and long-time partner Joyce Dudney Fleming established to offer high-end modification services.
Dr. Richard Cabot is one of today's foremost authorities on audio measurement and testing. Formerly an instrumentation designer at Tektronix, Dr. Cabot is now Vice President and Principle Engineer at Audio Precision. The company's System One, a computerized audio test set (used by Stereophile), has revolutionized the way the world measures audio equipment.
Why had a high-end hi-fi magazine felt the need to produce a classical LP when the thrust of real record companies in 1989 is almost exclusively toward CD and cassette? Why did the magazine's editors think they had a better chance than most experienced professional engineers in making a record with audiophile sound quality? Were they guilty of hubris in thinking that the many years between them spent practicing the profession of critic would qualify them as record producers?
One of the things that fascinates me about the field of box loudspeaker design is how few original talents there are capable of designing a model from first principles. Yes, armed with the Thiele-Small papers on bass alignment, an understanding of filter theory, and a working knowledge of the OEM drive-unit field, almost anyone can, and has, come up with one commercially and sonically successful design—given a fair degree of luck. And the teams of well-trained engineers at companies like KEF, B&W, and Celestion have shown that they can produce a steady stream of affordable boxes with a high ratio of performance for the dollar. But for an individual to create more than just one good box speaker requires a modicum of genius, and genius is thin on the ground.