David Hafler 1919–2003

All of us at Stereophile were saddened to learn of the death of audio pioneer David Hafler, who died Sunday, May 25 of complications of Parkinson's disease at St. Agnes Hospice in Philadelphia. Hafler was 84.

Hafler had an enormous influence on several generations of audiophiles and music lovers. A graduate in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania, Hafler served as a communications specialist in the Coast Guard during the Second World War. In 1950, he founded Acrosound, a transformer manufacturer. In 1954, he founded Dynaco, a name that became synonymous with good sound and good value. Hafler's entire career was built on the concept of providing great performance at an affordable price.

His first company's "Dynakits"—preamps and power amplifiers in kit form—were assembled by hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts in the 1950s and '60s, a period when audio was primarily an engineering hobby and most good-sounding gear was built by its owners. Several Dynaco products from the period are still regarded as among the best ever made, including the ST-70, a 35Wpc stereo tube amplifier with a highly efficient push-pull output circuit. The ST-70 was the prototype for most similar designs that followed from other companies. The Dynaco Mk.II, a 50W amplifier, was featured in a media display in the Smithsonian's Museum of American History in Washington in the 1990s. (A detailed history of Dynaco can be seen here.) Hafler sold Dynaco to Tyco in 1968, but stayed on in an advisory capacity until 1971.

In 1972, he founded the David Hafler Co., continuing the tradition of inexpensive kits, but also offering pre-assembled products. The company produced many near-legendary preamps, among them the DH-101 and DH-110, and a line of MOSFET power amps, including the DH-200, DH-220, DH-500, and XL-280.

The DH-500 and XL-280 were among the earliest high-power amps available at accessible prices. Relatively easy to assemble and elegantly designed, Hafler products spawned a secondary industry in audiophile modifications, including the well-regarded work by Musical Concepts. Always pushing the boundaries of audio reproduction, Hafler did some of the earliest experiments in surround sound and ambience retrieval, including popularizing an ingenious method that extracts the difference signal from a stereo pair by wiring a third speaker across the hot leads.

Hafler sold his namesake company in 1987 to the Rockford Corporation of Tempe, Arizona, where it is still based. The Hafler Company makes audio products primarily for the professional market, where the brand is valued for its excellent sound and reliability.

Hafler's name is permanently etched into the history of audio—along with those of Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, and a handful of other pioneers who built the industry in the mid-20th century. David Hafler was inducted into the Audio Hall of Fame in 1984.

Hafler was buried Tuesday, May 27, at Mount Sharon Cemetery in Springfield, Delaware County, PA. His wife, Gertrude Schwinger, to whom he was married for more than 60 years, died in 2001. Hafler is survived by daughters Joan Cole and Diane Marinoff, son Eric, and by five grandchildren and two great-grandsons.