Hiroyasu Kondo: RIP
Kondo was sometimes referred to as "the Picasso of audio design," reflecting his strong desire to walk his own path. Born the second son of a Buddhist priest, he taught electronic engineering and molecular metallurgy before founding Audio Note Japan in 1976. Kondo used aged annealed silver in his audio designs—including the windings in his transformers—leading some industry wags to refer to him as "the silversmith." The 27Wpc, $80,000-plus Kondo Ongaku single-ended triode amplifier is widely considered his masterpiece and has been in production since the 1980s.
Former Stereophile senior editor Jonathan Scull, who interviewed Mr. Kondo in 1996, described him as "an ethereal man who floated like a ghost in life. Hiroyasu Kondo explained his musical tastes developed listening to his father's priestly chanting in a Buddhist temple plus a cathartic experience of the Fourth Movement of Toscanini's Dvorak New World Symphony that startled him at the age of 16."
Scull remarked that Mr. Kondo, despite his electrical engineering background, was scathing in his dismissal of designers who were obsessed with frequency response above all other considerations: "Many Japanese manufacturers put great importance on frequency response and tonal balance, neglecting imaging. They are wrong to do so, because they are thinking like electricians."
In Mr. Kondo's death, the high-end has lost one of its true originals. Stereophile extends its condolences to Mr. Kondo's wife, Kazuko; son, Yuji; and daughter, Hisae.