Peter Belt, 1930-2017
Englishman Peter Belt came to attention in the mid-1980s, thanks mostly to a series of articles in HiFi Answers and other British audio magazines. He specialized in the design and manufacture of decidedly non-traditional audio accessories, the workings of which were regarded by many as anomalous. But May Belt steadfastly maintained that the products of the company she ran alongside her husband have less to do with mysticism than with shifting the emphasis from altering the performance of playback gear to altering the perception of the listener: "It has always been perception," she told me in 2012.
As I wrote in Stereophile's April 2012 issue, "The products of PWB Electronics, Ltd. all derive from a discovery that Belt, an electronics engineer and former radio repairman, made in 1979. A wooden table in his listening room had suffered a spill of some sort, so Belt used a cleaning producthe refers to this as Chemical Ato try and remove the stain. Right after doing so, he and his wife, May, noticed that the sound of their music system was markedly worse than before. They removed the table from the room, upon which the sound improved. Then, out of curiosity as much as anything else, they brought the table back into the room, and the sound worsened againand so it went, back-and-forth, until the curious relationship between poor sound and the newly "treated" table was beyond all doubt."
There followed a long line of PWB accessories based on this and other of Peter Belt's discoveries, many of seemingly fanciful design: ointments (Electret Cream), stickers (Rainbow Electret Foil), and specially treated paper clips (Morphic Links) have been sold direct and through a handful of retailers, few bearing prices greater than £10 or £20 apiece. One of PWB Electronics' most recent accessories is a Morphic Link Magnetic Bookmark priced at £10, intended to be placed in the user's dictionary. Adjacent to the word link.
Over the years, reactions to the discoveries and developments of Peter Belt have ranged from hopeful acceptance to calm dismissal to hostile ridicule, the latter always borne with quiet graciousness by the Belts, whose consistent response was to urge skeptics to simply give their ideas a tryand who always sent free samples of their products to any interested parties, just for the asking. The scientific grounding of Peter Belt's work has been called into question by many, but the man's sincerity, honesty, and integrity remain beyond doubt.
Funeral services for Peter Belt took place last month; May Belt writes that she will continue to run PWB Electronics alongside the couple's son Graham.