Tim de Paravicini, RIP

Editor's Note: This article will be updated to add new remembrances as they come in.

Dammit! Tim de Paravicini, the Baron as he was known, passed from this mortal coil on December 17th, 2020. I loved the guy. His deep, steeped, sharp-elbowed engineering bona fides in matters of electronics, cars, planes, and life earned him plaudits from all over the world.

Tim was as tall as a Redwood tree, towering over friends and acquaintances at shows. He was also never short of an opinion. His social graces online, of which there were none, created a good deal of heat and frustration. If he thought you said something foolish, even if not totally up a tree, he’d come at you with multisyllable, colorful language. I always pulled him up by his shorts when he acted that way in any of my threads and admonished him to play nice, which surprisingly worked most of the time.

He was an unrepentant, totally unique character. Born in 1945 in Nigeria to British parents, Tim moved to England with the family when Tim was seven, at which time he began building radios. You can read more of his interesting journey in a Stereophile interview by Steve Harris (footnote 1). During his long, storied career, Tim worked with Luxman, Quad, and Musical Fidelity, and founded his own audio company, Ear Yoshino.

Tim was invited to work with Luxman after meeting their South African sales agent. He moved to Japan at the end of 1972 to work as a design engineer. They gave him a free hand, and he developed the C1000 preamp, the 180Wpc solid state M4000 and M6000 power amplifiers, and the MQ-3600 tube power amplifier, among other components. At Quad, Tim designed the Quad II Series, updating Peter Walker’s original. From that company's website: “The Quad II Series circuit design is the work of Tim de Paravicini, a man widely acknowledged to be the UK’s foremost valve amp designer.”

In 1977, Tim moved back to England and founded EAR Yoshino (EAR stands for "Esoteric Audio Research"), aiming to revive interest in tube amplifiers--promoting the cause with his classic, 100Wpc EAR 509. In the 1980s, Tim met the mastering engineer for Island Records and, not being shy, offered to design the best-sounding, most accurate system he had ever heard. And he did so. He also designed the successful A1 integrated amplifier for Musical Fidelity. In the 1990s, his rebuilt analog tape recorders established a worldwide reputation for excellence.

Tim designed and built all-tubed analog electronics for Water Lily’s Kavi Alexander, who cut many recordings on this special deck. Kavi’s Tim de P-revised Studer C37 recorded the Grammy Award–winning album, Meeting By The River. Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab uses cutting heads driven by EAR tube gear.

Tim made analog tape decks for Bob Ludwig, Paul Stubblebine, and James Guthrie, who used it to remaster the Pink Floyd catalog. Tim made two tape decks for David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, rebuilt Paul McCartney’s deck, and made one for Lenny Kravitz. Ringo Starr and George Harrison were customers in this exclusive club.

Some knew that Tim was suffering from cancer, and we all tried, I’m sure, to give him comfort and the credit he so richly deserved. He made a difference. In spite of his cantankerous outer shell, we all knew he had a warm, soft, cherry center.

We’ll miss you, old pal. You livened everything up and made the world more colorful and interesting with your outsized personality. Now, go argue with the angels about negative feedback. You’re not saying you’re right, you’re just explaining to them why they’re wrong.—Jonathan Scull

John Atkinson Adds Some Thoughts: I first met Tim de Paravicini at an audio show in 1978, where Michaelson & Austin were demming the TVA-1 (or it might have been the TVA-10) tube power amplifier that Tim had designed. I learned that Tim had been to grammar school in the next town from me and that we had mutual friends and acquaintances, including Ken Hensley, who went on to become the keyboard player in Uriah Heep, now recently deceased. I asked Tim about tube amplifier design. Instead, I received a dissertation on what was wrong with television technology: The three-color display phosphors used in monitors couldn't accurately reproduce the full color palette.

That was typical Tim being the polymath he always was. I didn't learn as much as I was expecting about amplifiers, but he opened my mind to something I had never even thought about.

Tim mastered the first LP on the Stereophile label, Poem, in the summer of 1989. Laura and I drove to his and his wife Oliva's home near Cambridge, England, to pick up the lacquers. We entered their living room and Tim beckoned us to sit down. Laura and I looked at each other, silently mouthing "Where?"; the room was jam-packed full of things reflecting Tim's eclectic passions. We found somewhere to sit, Oliva brought us tea, and Tim then scared the life out of us by driving us to lunch in his Lincoln, which was almost as the same width as the narrow English lanes.

For our next LP, Robert Silverman performing piano works by Brahms, which was engineered by Kavi Alexander, we had bought a pair of Tim's figure-of-eight ribbon microphones for Kavi to use as a Blumlein pair, along with a tubed EAR microphone preamplifier, which I still have. The combination produced some of the best recorded piano sound I had experienced up to that time.

One of the last times I saw Tim was at a CES in Las Vegas. I went into the EAR room to ask about the new amplifiers, but all Tim wanted to do was tell me how worthless all the audio magazines were. He was as passionate and entertaining as always but that wasn't why I was at the show, so after 15 minutes or so, I made my goodbyes and continued my rounds.

In recent years, I have been reading Facebook threads started by Tim or to which he had contributed. The subjects were as wide-ranging and well-informed as I had come to expect: nothing about display phosphors but a lot on aviation, aerodynamics, cars, Japan (where he was now living), audio even, and, of course, his cancer.

RIP Baron Tim. I can't thank you enough for the ongoing and wide-ranging education I received from you, an education that has now sadly come to a close.—John Atkinson

An interview from 1984, with Dick Olsher and Jerry Novetsky
Dialing In the Original Experience (an interview with John Atkinson from 2004)
Tim de Paravicini: King of Tubes (an interview with Steve Harris from 2007)
Review: EAR 912 preamplifier
Review: EAR/Yoshino M100a power amplifier, by Jonathan Scull
Review: EAR V20 integrated amplifier, by Chip Stern
Review: EAR 890 power amplifier, by Art Dudley
Review: EAR Acute Classic CD player, by Art Dudley
Review: Quad II Classic integrated amplifier, by Art Dudley
Review: EAR 834P phono preamplifier, by Michael Fremer and Bob Reina
Review: EAR 324 phono preamplifier, by Art Dudley
Review: EAR MC4 step-up transformer, in Listening, by Art Dudley

Footnote 1: See stereophile.com/interviews/1107parav/index.html.

jimtavegia's picture

He brought so much to the work of recording and playing back of music. A true pioneer who will be greatly missed.

volvic's picture

I got the news from my FB page, several people from those groups were friends with him, he had been ill for a while and had mentioned it in his FB posts several months ago. The man was a genius and a strong proponent of all things analog and vinyl replay. He will be sorely missed, a true Renaissance Man!!! RIP Baron Tim you will not be forgotten!!

cgh's picture

This is sad news! Tim was a force. I was talking with someone recently about the state of graduate education in the US and how it used to be that much of what motivated us was being terrified of being wrong. That's my memory of how people acted around Tim - he didn't suffer fools lightly and everyone knew it. I wish he wrote more in later years because his ideas were so unique and fun. Godspeed and RIP.

Bill Leebens's picture

I always respected Tim, but it was only in the last few years that I came to like him. It helped to know someone whose people skills made mine look good in comparison.

My favorite Tim moment was a few years ago at an LA show, when Tim was on a "Legends of Audio" panel, along with Arnie Nudell, Paul McGowan, Bob Stuart, and Bascom King. Put bluntly, the PA system sucked, and Tim quite rightly decried that fact, booming that it was "A DISGRACE!!" that a gathering of audio luminaries should be subjected to such bad sound.

In protest, for the rest of the session he refused the passed-around wireless mike, and stood and shouted answers to any questions that were posed to him.

I would add one credit: one of Tim's decks, owned by Dan Schwartz, was used for the mix-down of the gazillion-selling Tuesday Night Music Club, produced by Bill Bottrell and featuring Dan, David Baerwald, and others. And oops, Sheryl Crow.

In a world in which the audio biz is increasingly corporate and designs are commoditized, Tim's loss is both diminishing and disheartening.

Thank you, Jonathan, for so wonderfully capturing the essence of this brilliant and cantankerous soul.It's good to see your byline back in print and pixels.

Sasha Matson's picture

Thanks for posting this fine summary piece Jonathan. Damn this pandemic - otherwise I might have had a chance to visit with Tim D P again at a show!? Like a few years back at Newport. I was early. Tim was too, and we sat in his room there for quite a while- just the 2 of us. He made me smile, and we had a lot of laughs. Tim tended to speak mostly in declarative sentences: "This is crap! That is great!" Etc. Mo-Fi's stuff started to sound a lot better once he worked his magic there. So many other things. My sympathies to all his colleagues & family, Sasha Matson.

Sam Tellig's picture

I like difficult people, so I loved Tim. I bought my review sample of the EAR834P phono stage in 1994 and still have it. Indeed, I am listening right now. Thank you, Tim.

volvic's picture

I just read (forgot where, so forgive me if I don't give credit to the individual), a few years ago at Munich, he was showing someone his latest valve creation. The individual mentioned that perhaps the aesthetics might not be to everyone's liking, his response was “Well if they don’t like it they can f--- o--”

tonykaz's picture

My British Partner G.W.Buckley and I were recommended to EAR Gear for our Michigan Retail Location: Esoteric Audio.

In 1984 & 1985 we imported the EAR 509 Mono Amps and a smaller stereo EAR Amp and a larger Stereo EAR Amplifier.

We closed down our Retail in 1985 having never quite learned how to properly sell EAR Gear. ( or Conrad-Johnson for that matter )

Mr.De Paravicini seemed a level headed business Exporter to us, we never realized him to be a 'personality', our Sheffield England Lady Sylvia worked with his outfit and all was well.

As far as I can relate, Mr.J Austin is the only person I'm aware of to own any of the EAR gear for personal use.

Tony in Venice

Currawong's picture

Some years ago, I saw an incredibly tall English man wandering around the Tokyo Headphone Festival some years ago and, figuring it was someone interesting, struck up a conversation with him. A good call, as he turned out to be one of the most wonderful and interesting people I've ever met. I was very sad to hear that he has passed away. I had known for some time about his cancer, but despite that, whenever I met him, he was in good spirits and determined to overcome it and remain upbeat. The last time I met him in fact, you wouldn't have known, apart from some weight loss, that he was sick at all, as he still had plenty he wanted to talk about, as always.

Not too recently he had set up shop in southern Japan, about 45 minutes drive from me. I was privileged to have him visit me, bringing along something he was working on. Four or so hours later, with Tim talking most of that time, and his wife Oliva (whom must not be forgotten, was his true other half) patiently sitting through all of it. Stereophile personalities got a mention in it all too! When he eventually departed, he left skid marks from his Nissan GT in front of my house -- that was just how he drove, with the same amount of character as when he spoke.

I wish I could have spent more time with him, he was such a wonderful person.

djcxxx's picture

So sorry to hear of Mr de Paravacini’s passing. We seem to be at the end of a unique era in audio reproduction that shaped and guided so many over the last half century.

DetroitVinylRob's picture

Very sad to hear, but so fortunate we are to continue hearing his legacy.

A man who most likely had forgotten much more than I ever knew about how to get very good sound. He was sometimes very difficult to explore new ideas with as he had so much figured out. But I enjoyed every encounter regardless because pain is often a close companion of growth. A simply brilliant creator. Sir Tim, you will be missed.