RIP Dr. Gizmo

My dogs were killing me. It was the end of the second day of the 1985 Summer Consumer Electronics Show, which I was visiting on behalf of English magazine Hi-Fi News & Record Review. I had been dutifully tramping the capacious corridors of Chicago's McCormick Center and the rooms of the (now demolished) McCormick Inn, looking for signs of musical life amid the huge promotion for the 8mm tape format, which was being heavily touted at CES as the future of both video and audio (!) reproduction. Even trade-paper headlines shouting "Audio: Not Just Video Peripheral!" failed to lift my spirits as I took the shuttle bus over to the Americana Congress hotel on South Michigan, where most of the high-end audio companies were hanging out.

Torn between pressing on with my quest or returning to my hotel for some bottled R'n'R, I entered one of the two New York Audio Labs rooms to find a balding, neatly dressed gentleman wearing, I remember vividly, red-framed glasses, and playing chamber music on modified Stax ELS-F81 electrostatics driven by Julius Futterman OTL tube amps. The sound was stunning, the music refreshing. But chamber music? Electrostatics? I asked if the NYAL amplifiers were rugged.

"Rugged?" I was led into the next room, where a power drill was hooked up to the output of a Moscode 600 amplifier being fed 60Hz from a signal generator. The amplifier didn't appear to be at all fazed by being asked to feed 110V into a load rather more complex than a loudspeaker. "You want liquid midrange?" asked the dapper gentleman. Oranges and a bottle of vodka were produced, a blender replaced the drill, and I was treated to a "real Orange Julius."

I had corresponded with the man wearing the red-framed glasses since 1982, when he had sent me his Tube Bible pamphlet, but that moment of orange satori was my introduction to Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg, erstwhile "Tube God" and self-styled "Doctor of Gizmology" and "Guildmeister of the Triode Guild," in the flesh. Between him sending me his books Understanding Tube Electronics: A Study in Natural Harmonics Audio in 1985 and A Search for Musical Ecstasy & the Archaic Audio Revival) in 1994, I was to have many discussions with Harvey about the relationship between audio and music. Why Stereophile is precisely the way it is today is due, at least in part, to Harvey having helped define for me why and how listening to music in the home enriches the human condition.

In recent years, we didn't talk as much as we had. While I could hear what he was searching for, I couldn't follow Harvey down the path to musical Nirvana through single-ended triode amplifiers and horn speakers—I simply couldn't hear enough of what I needed. And the kilt, the ubiquitous tubes'n'feathers headdress (see the photo, taken at Home Entertainment 2001 with Ron Welborne of Welborne Labs) were things I didn't understand at all. But I still avidly read Harvey's writings in Listener magazine, where he was listed on the masthead as "Fashion & Beauty Editor."

So when Sam Tellig phoned me on Monday, July 16, just before this issue went to press, with the news that Harvey had passed away that morning en route to Evansville, Indiana, I was immensely saddened. According to his nephew, Mitch Tobin, 60-year-old Harvey reported not feeling well on the flight from Chicago. "After getting off the plane...he asked the people who were meeting him to take him to the doctor. Harvey lost consciousness as they arrived at the doctor's office, and he could not be revived by the staff there, or by the paramedics who responded."

The funeral was held July 19 in Queens, with a memorial the following Saturday afternoon in Manhattan. Listener editor Art Dudley is also organizing a memorial get-together, to be held this month. The Gizmo website has a long page of tributes from fellow audiophiles and music-lovers, but I choose to remember Harvey Rosenberg with a passage he wrote in the July-August 2001 issue of Listener, reprinted here with the kind permission of Art Dudley:

"Coming Full Circle: While writing this I received news that my friend David has malignant cancer, and it reminded me that Mr. Death can, at any moment, invite us for our last slice of pizza. Whenever I consider my mortality and ask myself what I would do if I only had a short time to live, an intrinsic part of the answer is, Get the most musical pleasure.—Dr. Gizmo"

Show business
Writing of that 1985 CES reminded me that that was the Show where my eyes (and ears) were opened to what could be achieved by home theater done right. In Magnepan's suite at the Palmer House Hilton, Wendell Diller put on a superb dem showing The Right Stuff laserdisc with surround-sound playback on no less than three pairs of MGIIIs.

Surprisingly but gratifyingly, given the immense growth of the home-theater market in the 16 years since my Chicago experience, our own recent Show, Home Entertainment 2001, featured some great two-channel systems and sounds. The first part of our full coverage appears in this issue, along with Stephen Mejias' tallying of the votes for Best Sound at the Show. My thanks to everyone who filled in a ballot—the winners of the drawing for a pair of Blue Room Mini-Pod speakers were Charles Thomas and N.M. Redingfield.

Like HE 2001, Home Entertainment 2002 will be held at the New York Hilton. The dates are May 30 through June 2, 2002—put them in your organizers right now!

Business business
The leadoff letter this month (p.9) concerns the limited number of equipment reports currently being published in Stereophile. Despite the success of our Show, I won't pretend that things in Two-Channel World are as healthy as I would like. The boom in home-theater and custom-install sales, the diversion of time represented by the Internet and computers, and the uncertainty over the future of music reproduction in the home, have all contributed to what must be regarded as at least stagnation of the two-channel market. These factors have led to a reduction in advertising compared with the boom years before the 1997 collapse of the Asian high-end market, exacerbated by the usual slowdown in the summer months, when Stereophile issues are historically smaller. As the magazine's finances are based on matching each page of advertising with a page of editorial, our issue sizes can fluctuate alarmingly.

But fall 2001 looks better than we anticipated, and the news on July 9 that media giant Primedia was to acquire the emap usa magazines (see the official announcement)—the purchase will create the second-largest magazine company in the United States—can only be good news for Stereophile.

Relevant Letters from September 2001:


Editor: I am one of those audiophiles who find reviews of computer "stuff" and home-theater components in your pages anathema. As a longtime subscriber to Stereophile, I am also irritated by the increasing paucity of equipment reviews. In the "good old days," each issue would contain between 10 and 15 component reviews, not including Follow-Ups. Yet now I read articles by manufacturers of highly respected equipment lamenting that their "kit" is not being reviewed, while at the same time, I read about how Stereophile reviewers have components waiting months to be reviewed.

I don't get it! There are plenty of new high-end goodies out there to be reviewed, not just expensive reissues of old though excellent "warhorses." When I can get through an issue in one half-hour sitting and never refer to it again, my loyalty is severely tested.—Margaret J. Nicholson,


Editor: I just read today (July 2) that emap has sold off their US-based magazines. Will this affect Stereophile at all, and will Stereophile continue publishing in the same format? I am concerned because I have been a subscriber since the transfer from Petersen to emap, and Stereophile is the best magazine for hi-fi enthusiasts. If you can set my mind at rest, I will be happy.—Alan Taylor,