Jim Fosgate fits the category of Classic American Inventor to a T. This softspoken, quietly intense man has earned 18 patents and founded three successful electronics companies. In the late 1970s, he pulled out of the car audio business to follow his quadraphonic bliss, and designed the Fosgate Tate 101, arguably the finest quad decoder of the era. He also created the best-selling matrix surround processor of all time, Dolby's Pro Logic II, and in 2003 won an Emmy for the Development of Surround Sound for Television. He now serves as a senior executive consultant for Fosgate Audionics, a division of the Rockford Corporation.
There was something odd about the clock on Jim Thiel's office wall. I didn't get it at first, other than noting that instead of the minutes being marked off at 12 five-minute intervals, Jim's clock had 24 markings. That was it: as well as the number "12" in its usual place at the top of the face, there was another "12" at the bottom, where the "6" usually is. The clock that Jim built was typical of everything this laconic loudspeaker engineer is involved in: logical, functional, and different from what anyone else in the same field does. In his cigarette-strained drawl, Jim explained that the short hand of his clock always points toward the sun: directly up at noon, directly down at midnight. That's the way a clock should be, declared Jim, and when you're in his company, it's hard to see how he could be wrong.
The Pennsylvania Gazette documented an early connection between music and an American named Winey when, in 1759, it listed for sale as part of an estate "a middle sized organ, having eight stops." Interested parties were directed to one Jacob Winey, a Philadelphia merchant.
Whistling ductwork, whirring fans, murmuring pipesalong with being jazz's most storied location, a living shrine to the memories of Bill Evans, John Coltrane, and so many others, Manhattan's Village Vanguard, on Seventh Avenue South, was, on this winter's night, the Das Boot of jazz. In every corner, every stairwell, every square foot of available backstage space, some kind of furnace machinery audibly ground, banged, and/or wheezed away.
Elsewhere in this issue, I review the new Spica Angelus loudspeaker, only the fourth product to appear from this Santa Fe-based manufacturer since it started operations at the end of the 1970s. You will have to read the review to learn what I thought of the speaker, a distinctively styled floor-standing two-way, but I also thought it would be beneficial to talk with Spica's founder and chief engineer John Bau. I therefore made arrangements to meet with him in their facility just a couple of blocks from Stereophile's old Early Street HQ. I had been told that John was tall, but until he unfolded himself from his stool in his laboratory, surrounded by computers and computerized test equipment, I had not realized how tall! Undaunted, I settled into a conventional chair, pointed the microphone in a vaguely upward direction, and asked John how he had gotten into loudspeaker design.—John Atkinson
Editor's Note: John Crabbe was Editor of Hi-Fi News & Record Review when I joined that magazine as a lowly editorial assistant in September 1976. At the end of 2007, I had asked Steve Harris to interview John for Stereophile, as part of an ongoing project to create an oral history of high-end audio (footnote 1). Sadly, John passed away in December 2008see "As We See It" and "Industry Update," in our March issue. We are publishing Steve's interview as a tribute to a man from whom I learned my craft as an audio magazine editor.John Atkinson
"This won't be a short job," says Arcam's president, John Dawson (footnote 1). He's talking about the challenge of engineering the next generation of Arcam home-theater products to embrace the new high-resolution video formats. It's possibly the biggest technical challenge English company Arcam has faced since, almost exactly 30 years ago, Dawson and his original business partner, Chris Evans, launched their first product—an unpretentious, 35W hi-fi amplifier called the A&R Cambridge A60.
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.]
Judy Spotheim, maker of the SpJ arm and the gorgeous La Luce turntable that I reviewed a while back for Stereophile (October 1998) and that has subsequently become one of my references for LP playback. She's an intelligent, well-read individual who has a penchant for asking me, "You didn't read that in the manual?!" Ahem. Although the following interview was taped on the phone from her home in the Netherlands, I hope to meet her sometime soon.
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.
Since he joined Snell Acoustics in the mid-1980s, Kevin Voecks, their chief designer (footnote 1), has been involved in the design or redesign of the entire Snell line, from the minor revision of the Type A/III (incorporation of a new tweeter), to the complete redesign of the Type C (now the CIII). Snell Acoustics is located in Massachusetts, and although Kevin spends a good deal of time there or at the measurement and analysis facilities of the Canadian National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, he does a great deal of his conceptual and preliminary design work, as well as his listening, in Los Angeles, where he makes his home. I visited him there last summer to gather a little insight into his background and loudspeaker design philosophy. I started by asking Kevin when had he first become interested in loudspeaker design...
When Hong Kong–based music lover and electronics-equipment distributor Klaus Heymann (footnote 1), now 70, first began organizing classical-music concerts as a way to boost sales, he had no idea he would end up founding the world's leading classical-music label. But after starting a record-label import business and meeting his future wife, leading violinist Takako Nishizaki, the German-born entrepreneur sought a way to promote her artistry. First he founded the HK label, which specialized in Chinese symphonic music (including Nishizaki's recording of Butterfly Lovers, the famous violin concerto by Chen Gang). Next he established Marco Polo, a label devoted to symphonic rarities.
For the musically prolific, releasing too many records too close together can be problematic or worse. Just because you can make a record every week in your home studio doesn't mean you should. The impulse to commit every golden thought and performance to tape without self-editing or even pausing to reflect screams narcissism run amok. Asking listenerseven dedicated fansto then buy and spend time listening to half-baked nonsense that might have become something, given more time and care, is a sure career destroyer. There's truth in the old saw about building demand, avoiding saturation, and creating a hunger among the listening public. Most critical of all, despite downloads, piracy, and Lady Gaga's pointy hats and eggshell entrances, the old Hollywoodism still applies: while spontaneity may sound like a radical idea, you're only as good as your last album.
In 1862, skepticism among the educated was exemplified by the medical establishment, which ridiculed Joseph Lister's notion of "animals in the air." By contrast, the professional skeptic of 2012yes, it's now possible to make a comfortable living in the fieldfinds himself inconvenienced by 150 years of discovery, and makes do with ridiculing Lister for his Quaker faith. I guess that passes for progress in some circles.