The 1965 New York Audio Show

Note: As our coverage of the 2016 New York Audio Show has just been posted, I thought it would be interesting to post our report from the 1965 show, in particular to see which brands are still around 50 years later.John Atkinson

The 1965 New York hi-fi show was, to these observers, most notable for the marked increase in the number of exhibits which featured good—ie, classical—music for demonstration purposes. In the past, only about a half dozen of the exhibitors played anything of musical worth, the rest of them evidently figuring they could make more noise with wild brass-and-percussion "demo" records. This year, no less than 25 exhibits were playing classical music when we wandered into their rooms, and we were so impressed that we compiled a list of them, which we're going to cite here simply because we believe in giving credit where it's due, and it is in this case.

These were: Acoustech, Ampex, Acoustic Research, Bozak, Circle-O-Phonic, CM Labs, Dynaco, ElectroVoice, ELPA Marketing, Empire Scientific, Fisher, Hadley, Harman/Kardon, Hartley, IMF, Janszen (Neshaminy), Kenwood, KLH, Leak (Ercona), London Records, Mcintosh, Sharpe phones, Shure, Superex phones, and Tannoy. Several of these were alternating from classical to other kinds of material, but at least they gave us an opportunity to hear what strings and concert-hall acoustics sounded like through their equipment.


The best sound at the show this year was clearly (and that's one reason why) the Acoustech Model X, the full-range electrostatic speakers with built-in solid-state amplifiers. Surprisingly, the worst sound we heard was probably that in the Stanton room, where a speaker system comprised of a large, curved electrostatic tweeter (originally the Pickering tweeter) and a cone woofer was producing the biggest middle-range hole we'd heard for ages. Although there were other exhibits that were screechier, boomier, or thinner, none sounded quite as unnatural as this. Might have been a poor choice of crossover points, but we suspect it was nothing more than out-of-phase connection. Whatever it was, though, we were surprised to hear sound that poor in the room of one of the industry's most respected pickup manufacturers.

Most straightforward, pleasant, peaceful exhibit was, as usual, Acoustic Research's, No gimmicks (unless you could consider the much-welcomed inclusion of chairs to be a gimmick), just an occasional switching of the signal from AR2axs to AR3s to AR4s and so on. As always, the AR2ax sounded better to us than the AR3—only a bit weaker at the low end, and noticeably smoother through the middle range. While limited at both ends of the spectrum, the AR4 struck us as being a very nicely balanced system, generally quite similar to the AR2ax.


We were pleased to note that at least one manufacturer—Empire Scientific—has at last taken up the cudgels for adequate tracking force. After all the ballyhoo in recent years about half-gram tracking, it was refreshing to hear Empire's sales manager, Leon Kuby, admonishing people to track as high as 2 to 3 grams with most pickups (footnote 1), for the sake of the sound and the discs, and demonstrating his point with oscilloscope displays of high-level recorded tones.

We were much impressed with the sound of the new Superex ST-PRO headphones. They seemed clearly superior to the Koss PRO-4s, but hard to rank relative to David Clark and Beyer phones. These Superexes merit a test report in the magazine (footnote 2).

Solid-state equipment was everywhere. We still think this is premature—the best units still aren't quite up to the best tube types—but like it or not, it is obvious that solid-state is here to stay. Eventually, it will be as good as tube stuff, by which time the price may be comparable, too. We can't help but think that the word "solid" has something to do with the transistor's popularity. Like, solid, man!

Footnote 1: Don't try this with the average elliptical, though. A shade over 1½ grams is about the safe maximum for most of these, and higher forces will heat the daylights out of records.—J. Gordon Holt

Footnote 2: They'll get one in the next issue.—J. Gordon Holt

misterc59's picture

I'm intrigued by the use of the word "We" as in "We were much impressed". Were exhibits visited by multiple reviewers at the same time, or had multiple reviewers visited at separate times?
If so, times certainly have changed.
Just wondering...


John Atkinson's picture
misterc59 wrote:
I'm intrigued by the use of the word "We" as in "We were much impressed". Were exhibits visited by multiple reviewers at the same time?

The report did have two authors, but it was the style at the time to use the editorial "we." This is something I (not we) am very glad to have abandoned.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

Hmm, some people refer to themselves that way. I once heard an explanation for it but can't quite recall the details ( because "we're" just getting over the Election Results Shock) , ouch!

Thank you JA for bringing this vintage report to us, I have very clear memories that these images re-freshed. It's kinda curious how modest this stuff was but, at the time was as advanced as could be imagined. Even more profound is the idea that this gear was designed and built (only) 200 years after Ben Franklin introduced the Lightning Rod

After reading thru this report I googled Mr.Holt and saw images of him thru the years and plenty of other familiar faces of "Forces in Audio" that, in a way, were part of my everyday life.

I wonder if any of this 1965 Gear could still be considered possibles for today's Recommended List? the 57 Quad ESL? and I wonder what the earliest "Audiophile" capable products were? For me it might've been the early AR turntable and the LS3/5a but maybe not. Perhaps it was the Audio Research SP3, hmm. We certainly had a wonderful time discovering things, back then.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Geez, that was 50 years ago, for gods sake!

dalethorn's picture

I remember hearing the Acoustat X full-range electrostatics in Cincinnati circa 1976, and they were very nice. Hearing/feeling deep bass notes from a full-range electrostat is really impressive for the detail, although they didn't seem to have a lot of bass weight.

raymondsimmons's picture

Where in cincinnati did you hear the Acoustat X full-range?

Ray Simmons.

dalethorn's picture

Oops - brainfart - that was in Columbus.

raymondsimmons's picture

That's okay, we are at that age. There were a number of good places to visit in the Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton area, back then.

Amclaussen's picture

Me too... I first listened the Acoustat in Houston TX in 1981, and I can still clearly remember THE BEST reproduction of the bass drum in the Sheffield Direct-to-Disc album of Dave Grusin's "Discovered Again"... There was a disctint sound of the pedal ball striking the membrane, accompanied by the front membrane of the drum resonating in accord. (No "modern" bass drum sound with the front membrane cut or removed!). The Acoustats were driven with a direct connected tube amps, BTW. This bass drum certainly sounded "smaller" than live (no subwoofer), BUT very well defined and clear, it was quite an experience for me!

BDP24's picture

I was too young to have been reading Stereophile in 1965 or 6, but my first hi-fi speakers happen to have been the AR 4x. Long after discovering the mag in 1972, I bought my first pair of Quad ESL's, in the early 90's. I took them to John Koval, co-author of this show review, located in Orange, California, for him to restore them and install his Koval mod. Still have 'em!

rt66indierock's picture

My AR 4x speakers have been in my offices for 30 years last month. No reason to change. I've always considered the later AR 7 to be the beginning of high performance in speakers. But in 1965 an AR XA turntable, Fisher 600 T receiver and AR 4X speakers could sound very good today