Q&A: Adam Clarkson

Tube Amplifier Design
Brothers collaborate on a new audio system with a classic look

SHANNON BECKER: Tell us a little about your background. Where are you located? Where and what did you study?

ADAM CLARKSON: I have been working in product development for the past 10 years in Franklin, IN, for my father’s company, Agri-Tronix, where we manufacture agricultural electronics and also professional tournament fishing scales. Yes, tournament fishing is a sport and we provide the scales necessary to decide the winner. I attended Indiana University for two years after high school where I studied graphic design and pre-engineering. After my brief tour of college life, I bounced around from bartending job to bartending job before deciding to come to work for my father. It’s truly been a blessing to work for the man I most admire, I’ve learned more from him than I could ever describe. My brother, Ben, began working with me about two years ago after he graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts.

SHANNON: What is your current occupation?

ADAM: Sales, marketing, project manager, graphic designer, technician, and anything else that needs to be done.

SHANNON: How did your interest in audio electronics develop?

ADAM: I’ve always been interested in electronics and always loved good audio. There was an allure to vacuum tubes, so we started experimenting and we really think that we’ve created something special.

Photo 1:Brothers, Adam (left) and Ben Clarkson, are working on BlueTube Audio’s classic wooden speakers designed to match their new vacuum tube amplifier.

SHANNON: How did you and your brother Ben get involved with Kickstarter? What about it appealed to you?

ADAM: The ClockOS was our first kickstarter project. I had a friend who had  decent success on Kickstarter, and I thought, “Hey I could do that.” So we set out to come up with a project to put on Kickstarter and test the waters. We came up with the ClockOS, which had  mild success. We learned so much from doing that project. And, we did some things wrong with that project that really held it back from being great. The idea of Kickstarter is really neat, and I think that a lot of people want to just help out. They want to be involved in something new, get in on the ground floor, so to speak. Even though the backers are not
investing in the company, they still have this desire to be involved. The all-or-nothing funding was the one thing that really convinced us to go with them over the other crowd-funding sites like indiegogo.com.

SHANNON: In what stage of development is the ClockOS?

ADAM: Unfortunately, this project had to be retired as the manufacturing cost was just way too high. The machine shop that originally quoted the aluminum for us came back after the project ended with a price that was three times as high. We then had to scramble to  find a new shop and what we saved in money, we sacrificed in quality. We spent many weekends reworking the machined parts, hand polishing and surface prepping each one to a show quality finish. If you added our time to the cost of the ClockOS project (which any good business owners should) we would have lost money on the ClockOS project. We learned from our first project and took it to the BlueTube amplifier to make sure it was a success. It worked.

Photo 2: BlueTube Audio’s new vacuum tube amplifer comes with two handcrafted wooden speakers.

SHANNON: Share some details about your company, BlueTube Audio. What made you and Ben go into business together?

ADAM: BlueTube Audio’s niche is “functioning art.” We want to design products that are art pieces but have function in modern society. Our new project is the BlueTube Audio vacuum tube amplifier. As for our partnership, we were already working together and, in my opinion, we make a great team. We are brothers so we do have our battles, they are usually small though, and we always work through them.

SHANNON: Describe the BlueTube Audio vacuum tube amplifier and its current status.

Photo 3: The back of the BlueTube Audio amplifier is clearly labeled for easy use.

ADAM: We decide to put the amplifier on Kickstarter as it really is a good platform for raising funds for your initial production run. We needed to have custom sheet metal plates punched, powder coated, and silkscreened for the back panels. The front panels are made of brushed stainless steel and require specialized machinery to punch and cut them. The internal chassis is really a marvel of sheet metal bending that I designed, and I am pretty shocked the sheet metal shop said they could bend them.

We have also three separate PCBs in the unit. The main board is populated with the tube sockets, the capacitors, the resistors, and the other fun components that are required for a vacuum tube amplifier. The secondary PCB has all the inputs and DC voltage circuitry on it. This board also has the USB port attached with smart charger circuitry.

Photo 4: The amplifier’s power button emits a soft blue glow when the device is on.

The circuitry automatically detects the proper voltage and current for your USB device, whether it’s an Samsung Galaxy or an iPad, we can give the device all the power it wants. This secondary PCB also has all the Bluetooth circuitry attached to it. The third board is a small one, but it is connected to the input selector switch and distributes the input signal to the amplifier and then out to your speakers.

All these things require quantity orders that we would not have been able to fund without the Kickstarter program. Now that we have the start-up capital, we can order more parts than we need and actually have inventory on the shelves—about 10 times as much inventory in some cases. Currently, production of the first units is in full swing, and we are constantly ordering parts.

SHANNON: The amplifier’s old-world look camouflages some very modern audio electronics. Why choose this combination?

Photo 5: The amplifier’s vacuum tubes provide the modern-day amplifier with some old-world charm.

ADAM: Because it looks awesome and sounds great! I love the look of the old-time tombstone radios and the handcrafted woodwork. The warm glow of the vacuum tubes. The reflection of the glass and metal. We don’t put plastic on our units because plastic looks cheap. Ben is the woodworker, and he did an amazing job handcrafting these units.

As for the new world technology, well, we don’t really want to sacrifice our convenience either. Why not have both? Great sound and the convenience of Bluetooth.

SHANNON: Do you have any advice for audioXpress readers who are thinking of building their own sound systems?

ADAM: Be careful when working with tube amplifiers. The capacitors can take hours to fully discharge and even when unplugged they can give you quite a jolt.  Also, don’t be afraid to experiment.

SHANNON: Are you planning any other speaker-related projects?

ADAM: Yes, Bluetooth and stereo. That’s all that I can say right now.

SHANNON: Where do you see the audio industry 10 years from now?

ADAM: Much as it is now; however, with the shift to digital in the last few years, there has been some sacrifice of quality. I foresee people crying for better quality. Many people, including myself, love the convenience of having their entire music library in their pocket. But I’ve noticed that I don’t buy albums like I used to. I have the shuffle bug or the skip bug and I don’t listen to a whole album through and through like I used to. I guess this isn’t really a prediction just a complaint of something that I find missing. I miss the collection of a music library. I miss sitting down and listening to an entire album. I miss the sound of good music and the music sounding good. We’re seeing a shift to better things. I just can’t say where we will end. aX

Industry Watch: May

Dispute Focuses on Patent

Figure 1: The 2008 THX US Patent 7,433,483 for a slot-loaded speaker is at the center of a lawsuit THX filed against Apple.

THX filed a lawsuit against Apple Corp. in US District Court, Northern District of California, San Jose, CA, on March 14, 2013, alleging that Apple is using patented THX speaker technology in select iOS mobile devices and in iMac PCs. The patent in question is a 2008 THX US Patent 7,433,483 for a slot-loaded speaker that can boost sound output by controlling directivity (see Figure 1). The patent specifically describes a woofer whose output fires through a narrow slot resulting in a wide horizontal dispersion angle and a narrow vertical dispersion angle. It should be noted that a narrow vertical dispersion pattern is part of the certification standard applied to THX-certified home theater speakers. The configuration described in the patent is alleged to have been incorporated into the Apple iPad, the iMac, the iPhone 4, and other select Apple products. THX maintains that the infringement caused monetary damage and irreparable harm to THX. Apple’s last day to meet and confer with THX counsel and the court over initial disclosure, an early settlement, and other stipulations is May 14, 2013. The deadline for initial disclosures is June 7, 2013. The initial case management conference is scheduled for June 14, 2013.


Quadrant Hires Former Thiel Execs

Quadrant Solutions, a supplier of permanent magnets and magnetic assemblies, has appointed former Thiel Audio executives Kathy Gornik and Dawn Cloyd to identify additional opportunities for the company in the consumer electronics industry. Kathy Gornik co-founded Thiel Audio, a high-performance loudspeaker manufacturer based in Lexington, KY. Gornik was partially responsible for Thiel’s company vision, direction, policies, and marketing strategy, garnering numerous business and industry awards. Gornik also had a leadership role in the electronics industry, serving on an array of boards and committees for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) from 1995 to present. Gornik sold Thiel in November, 2012. Cloyd worked with Gornik at Thiel for more than 12 years. They left after the company was sold. Quadrant is a US-based company with more than 20 years in the magnet industry, specializing in magnetic materials and magnetic assemblies worldwide.


AES Call for Papers

The 135th Audio Engineering Society (AES) Convention will be held October 17–20, 2013 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY. A call for papers and engineering briefs has been issued. Authors may submit proposals in three categories:

Complete-manuscript, peer-reviewed convention papers (submit at www.aes.org/135th_authors)

Abstract précis-reviewed convention papers (submit at www.aes.org/135th_authors)

Synopsis-reviewed engineering briefs (submit at www.aes.org/135th_ebriefs)

Submissions for the first two categories must be electronically submitted by May 16, 2013. For more information, visit www.aes.org.


Triad Offers New Loudspeaker System

Photo 1: The CR-2 speaker system includes a 15” woofer, two 8” midranges, and a proprietary tweeter.

Custom loudspeaker manufacturer Triad Speakers has released its new Cinema Reference loudspeaker system for larger screening rooms and dedicated home theaters. The CR-2 includes a 15” woofer, two 8” midranges, and a proprietary horn-loaded air-motion transformer tweeter—all sourced from premium European professional driver manufacturers (see Photo 1). It is the company’s loudest loudspeaker to date, exceeding 120 dB at 1 m.

New for Triad is CR-2’s diffraction control technology (DCT) baffle design. The curved design minimizes diffraction and resonances, acts as an acoustic diffuser, and can be an on-wall or freestanding speaker. At 46” (H) × 31” (W) × 10” (D), the CR-2 fits behind an acoustically transparent film screen or an 11” deep stretched-fabric wall. It can be wall mounted with up to 12° of toe-in adjustment or used as a freestanding product with the optional floor mount. Finishes include flat black, real wood veneer, and custom colors. The CR-2 costs $15,000. Availability is planned for spring 2013. VC

 

Photo 1: The CR-2 speaker system includes a 15” woofer, two 8” midranges, and a proprietary tweeter

Tribute to Ed Dell

Edward T. Dell, Jr.

Edward T. Dell, Jr. (1923-2013)

Edward T. Dell, Jr.
1923-2013

When Edward T. Dell, Jr., founder and former Audio Amateur publisher, passed away in February, editors at audioXpress asked themselves this question: How do you celebrate the life of a man who single-handedly did more to foster the audio construction hobby than anyone else?

We asked longtime contributors to submit essays about Dell, whose many publishing achievements included making audioXpress the go-to audio technology authority before he sold his company’s assets—which included audioXpress and Voice Coil magazines—to the Elektor publishing group in 2011.

The Audio Amateur

Ed Dell published the first edition of The Audio Amateur in 1970. The magazine catered to audio construction hobbyists.

Here we share reflections on the man who, shortly before his retirement at 88, summarized for interviewer Jan Didden the passion that fueled a long publishing career dedicated to DIY audio: “I wonder how things work. That curiosity has been the basis of most of what I did in my life.”

Magazines

Dell’s many magazines have significantly furthered the art of audio.

If you would like to share your comments about Ed’s legacy with audioXpress readers online, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AudioAmateur.


Essays from friends of Ed Dell:

Nelson Pass

Richard Honeycutt

Chuck Hansen

Gary Galo

Jan Didden

Vance Dickason

Joseph D’Appolito

Zen amplifier

Here is a simple schematic for the Zen amplifier, which Ed Dell published in Audio Amateur to encourage beginning DIYers with a project that presented “Class-A performance” with minimal hurdles.

 

Tribute to Ed Dell: Nelson Pass

Magazines Kept DIY Audio Alive

Suppose you could say that if Ed Dell had not been around for the past 40 years, the audio DIY community would have had to create him. I doubt anyone else could have done better.

With Audio Amateur magazine, Ed picked up the slack from the decline of kit companies such as Heathkit and Dynaco and kept the DIY enterprise alive and healthy well into the Internet age. For a long time, his audio magazines were almost all there was, and much of the resurgence of ordinary people’s interest in audio electronics is owed to his efforts.

I started writing for Audio Amateur by accident in 1972, and over 40 years produced about 20 articles for the magazine, most of my best stuff. I never met Ed in person, but I can tell you he was a pleasure to work with.

I was asked to include comments and an image or two with this piece, and for sentimental reasons, I chose a simple version of the schematic for the “Zen amplifier” of 1994, which championed the notion of minimalism in amplifier design.

While the idea was met with some derision in audio circles, the intent was to encourage beginning DIYers to get past the intimidation of a first project with something that presented “Class-A performance” with minimal hurdles. I think that was the key thing, and later versions became even simpler (or more complicated) as appropriate to beginners’ needs.

Over the years, this amplifier and its variations published in Audio Amateur have been built by thousands of amateurs. It lives on today in the form of the “Amp Camp” design used in one-day gatherings in northern California and Europe, where a small group of newcomers build their own power amplifiers in one day.

So I guess it was a good idea, and Ed delivered it to you. He made the world much richer by his efforts, and I feel certain that this is all he would have wanted.

—Nelson Pass, who specializes in amplifiers, has been deeply involved in the DIY community since 1973 and has published more than 50 pieces aimed at construction by hobbyists, including the popular single-stage Zen series amplifier.

Tribute to Ed Dell: Richard Honeycutt

Furthering the Art of Fine Audio

On February 25, the audio world lost a great visionary and leader, Edward T. Dell, Jr. I first became acquainted with Ed soon after I graduated from college in 1970. A longtime electronics/speaker/audio hobbyist, I frequently bought parts to feed my habit from McGee Radio in Kansas City, MO. At one point, the parts began arriving with a free magazine: The Audio Amateur. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the magazine, and found that it was a quarterly publication created by someone named Ed Dell from New Hampshire.

At that time, I worked for Western Electric as a writer of technical documents for telephone-system engineering. I also wrote in my spare time, my first effort being an article that was accepted for publication by Audio magazine, but then never actually published. I subsequently wrote a piece on the acoustics of wood for guitar making and it was published. My acquaintance with The Audio Amateur led to my third article―this one a tutorial on microphones―which was published in The Audio Amateur in 1972 or 1973 (I have the magazine, but it says 1972, Issue 4, on the front, and the editorial and copyright date indicate 1973.)

Never having understood the concept of “enough things to do,” I had opened Ye Musick Shoppe, a small musical instrument shop, and my wife and I published a newsletter, Ye Musepaper, as a promotional piece for the shop. We mentioned this in correspondence with Ed, and he asked for a copy, since both our newsletter and TAA were created on typewriters and hand-justified. Ed was almost as interested in the process of publication as in the subjects of the articles. Perhaps that is why he was so successful in fostering interest in audio through his expertly crafted magazines.

A self-described dilettante, Ed was more of a hobbyist than what is usually called an audiophile in today’s jargon. Although quite interested in the classic audio electronics and speakers, he was passionate about building audio equipment. He once wrote an editorial discussing the importance of hobbies, particularly electronics hobbies, for our national technological competence and even national security. During my third career―this one as a college electronics instructor―his point was clearly driven home for me. My all-time-best two students entered the electronics engineering technology program after having been hobbyists for years: one, a designer/builder/modifier of guitar amplifiers, and the other, an Extra Class ham radio operator. Other students who were equally gifted intellectually and academically never seemed to have the “feel” for electronics that these two longtime hobbyists had.

TAA included articles on all phases of audio including amplifiers, preamps, test equipment, speakers, and microphones. In the late 1970s, Ed noticed a substantial interest in building speakers, and publication of Speaker Builder magazine began. This periodical was published eight times per year, and became quite popular. Another category of interest appeared in The Audio Amateur, culminating in the 1988 introduction of Glass Audio, a magazine devoted to audio equipment using vacuum tubes. Interestingly, within the first few years of Speaker Builder’s publication, a reader survey showed that audio professionals made up a large proportion of the readership. Ultimately, this realization led to two consequences. The first was the 1987 introduction of Voice Coil, a newsletter for speaker professionals. Ed secured the services of prominent speaker-consultant Vance Dickason as editor. Beginning as a simple newsletter, VC blossomed into the leading magazine worldwide for speaker professionals. The second outcome of finding out how many subscribers to The Audio Amateur and Speaker Builder were professionals was a name change from The Audio Amateur to Audio Electronics, which took place in 2000.

Seeing a need for a single source of supplier information in the speaker and vacuum tube industries, Ed began an annual and a biannual publication: the Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook, and the World Tube Directory.

The success of Voice Coil  led to the introduction of Multimedia Manufacturer in 2003. Then, after decades of expanding its offerings, Ed’s company, Audio Amateur,  consolidated some magazines. Audio Electronics, Speaker Builder, and Glass Audio became audioXpress. Publication of Multimedia Manufacturer ceased. Voice Coil  continues to be the premier periodical for speaker professionals.

In 2011, at the age of 88, Ed Dell sold Audio Amateur to Elektor International Media, which continues to publish audioXpress and Voice Coil, as well as Circuit Cellar, a monthly magazine (print and digital) covering the topics of embedded hardware, embedded software, electrical engineering, and computer applications.

Along with his magazine publications, Ed Dell also promoted the hobby and profession of audio by publishing books such as Vance Dickason’s Loudspeaker Design Cookbook and by maintaining, at various times, a mail-order and online store selling kits, books, test equipment, design and testing software, and specialized components for audio.

In addition to providing continuing education for many longtime audio aficionados, Ed Dell left a lifetime legacy to developing audio enthusiasts and up-and-coming professionals that cannot be overstated. That legacy lives on, but Ed will be sorely missed.

—Richard Honeycutt, an engineer, teacher, audio enthusiast, and audioXpress columnist, is a consultant in acoustics and electroacoustics.

Tribute to Ed Dell: Chuck Hansen

Gracious, Generous, and Supportive

I first got in touch with Ed Dell in 1997 to propose a preamp construction article based on the HeadRoom headphone amp module. Not only did he graciously accept an article from a perfect stranger, he came down to visit me a few months later. (His son Chad teaches at the nearby Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, and it turned out Chad was the faculty adviser for my niece’s future husband.)

My article appeared in the June 1997 issue of Audio Electronics. Ed invited me to the AES convention in New York City that fall.

Thus began my long association with Ed Dell and Audio Amateur, leading to almost 250 more articles, reviews, test reports, and “New Chips on the Block” columns in the various TAA publications. Through Ed, I have become friends with many of the true experts in the audio field, for which I am very grateful.

Ed was one of the most gracious people I ever met. My wife, Kathy, always said he had a very calming voice, and he was genuinely interested in everything you had to say.

 ―Chuck Hansen, frequent contributor to Audio Amateur publications

 

Tribute to Ed Dell: Gary Galo

Minister, Mentor, Intellectual, and Friend

Like so many in the audio community, I was saddened to learn of the death of my friend and mentor Edward T. Dell, Jr., in late February, just two weeks after his 90th birthday. Ed was the founder and longtime editor and publisher of Audio Amateur magazine and its peripheral publications and successors.

Not initially destined for a career in audio, Ed Dell’s undergraduate education was at Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, MA, where he earned a BTh and a BA in History. He later completed a MDiv degree at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, and became an ordained Episcopal clergyman. In the early 1960s, he joined the editorial staff of The Episcopalian magazine, where he held various editorial positions until 1974.

Running parallel to his career in the Episcopal church was a passion for music that, as it did for many of us, fueled his interest in audio. While living in Swarthmore, PA, he developed a friendship with his neighbor, J. Gordon Holt, founder of Stereophile magazine. In 1966, Holt designated the winter issue a “Special Construction Issue.” The entire magazine was devoted to a lengthy article by Ed titled “The Brute―A Super-Amplifier for the Do-It-Yourself Perfectionist.” That article, describing his elaborate remake of the Dynaco Stereo 70 vacuum tube power amplifier, appeared at a time when DIY articles on audio equipment were few and far between in mainstream publications. There were occasional offerings in magazines (e.g., Audio and Popular Electronics) but little else, so one would have expected Stereophile’s “Special Construction Issue” to be a huge success, having filled a major void in the audio press. Well, nothing could have been further from the truth, and the “Letters” section of the next issue was dominated by correspondence from displeased readers.

Their comments included: “I have just received the ‘Winter Construction Issue.’ I can hardly wait for my subscription to expire,” and “I was so pleased with your ‘Special Construction Issue’ that I burned it, page by page.”

Another reader wrote: “Are you people nuts or something? Here I sit, for unending month after month, waiting for your next batch of equipment reports and record reviews, and what do I get for my patience? A whole issue aimed at the solder-and-spaghetti crowd.” This reader really identified the root of the problem, which was Stereophile’s erratic publication schedule. When and if the next issue finally arrived, readers wanted equipment reviews, not construction articles, and Holt assured them that this would be the case, henceforth.

But Ed was convinced there was an untapped market for a magazine devoted to DIY audio (Holt agreed), and in 1970 he founded The Audio Amateur, leading off with a power amp article by Reg Williamson, an author who would remain a staple of the magazine for years to come. Ed chose the magazine’s title carefully―“audio amateurs” were individuals who pursued their interest as an avocation, for pleasure and not for profit.

The word “amateur” in no way implied substandard or inferior work―far from it. Like those involved in the field of amateur radio, Ed believed that the work of audio amateurs should serve as models for the industry in the excellence of their designs and quality of construction. Throughout the coming decades, Ed would add some of the most-respected names in the audio field to his masthead, including Walt Jung, Nelson Pass and Erno Borbely, to name but a few.

Ed’s vision proved to be on target, and after publishing The Audio Amateur as a sideline to his “day job” for five years, he moved the entire operation to Peterborough, NH, in August 1975, where it became his full-time occupation. Believing there was sufficient interest in loudspeakers to warrant a separate magazine, he launched Speaker Builder in 1980. His timing could not have been better. Within a few years, the PC would revolutionize loudspeaker design, and Speaker Builder offered articles at the forefront of this rapidly evolving technology. Ed eventually created a third publication, Glass Audio, responding to the increasing interest in vacuum tube audio equipment. In 1996, Audio Amateur was renamed Audio Electronics and changed from a quarterly to a bimonthly publication. Finally, in response to a changing economic and demographic climate, the three magazines were combined into the single, monthly periodical, audioXpress, that we have known for more than a decade.

Without Ed’s vision and determination, the DIY audio industry we have come to take for granted would not exist, and literally hundreds of excellent projects and designs would never have come to fruition.

I first met Ed Dell in 1980 at the Audio Engineering Society convention in New York City, after having spoken with him on the phone once or twice. We talked about my writing for his magazines, which ultimately happened, and a friendship developed and continued until the end of his life.

In 1985, my wife, Ellen, and I invited Ed to spend a weekend with us in Potsdam, NY. For the next 15 years or so, he continued to visit us nearly every summer. But, it was during that first visit that we came to know something of the breadth of his educational background and intellect. Ellen is a lifelong Episcopalian, and that became the basis for many interesting conversations between them. He told Ellen about having visited C.S. Lewis early in his tenure at The Episcopalian, and gave her a copy of Dorothy Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker, expressing regret that he never had the opportunity to meet Sayers. Ed recalled how he came to find the Episcopal Church a refreshing alternative to the fundamentalism he had experienced growing up. (“I don’t like fundamentalists of any kind,” he once told me.) He also mentioned being influenced by the metaphysical views of 20th century philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, who had said, “There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.” Ed was, indeed, someone who spent his life seeking truth, and this permeated everything he did, not the least of which was his work in audio.

Ed was especially fond of our daughter, Michelle, who was 16 months old when he first visited. He enjoyed watching her developing interests as she grew up. Ed was one of the most well-read individuals we have ever met, and as Michelle became an avid reader, he did his best to encourage her. One of her all-time favorite books was James Thurber’s The 13 Clocks, which Ed brought as a present during one of his visits. Ed was also very interested in poetry, and for a time owned Golden Quill Press, a small business located in Francestown, NH, that published books of poetry. When poetry became Michelle’s chosen specialization as an English major at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, and later as a graduate student at New England College in Henniker, NH, he and Michelle found yet another avenue for conversation during several visits we made to Peterborough during her college years.

His white hair aside, for much of the time I knew him, Ed always seemed younger than he really was, in both his attitudes and his interests. When the PC began to make inroads in the early 1980s, many members of his generation feared them and ran the other way. Ed had already purchased an Ohio Scientific mini-computer for his business to manage the subscription list and had built a Heathkit terminal for it. When clone boards and cases became available for IBM-style PCs, Ed jumped right in and began building them for his office. In 1985, he started a DIY magazine called Computer Smyth (that venture was short-lived, the market was saturated with computer publications). Finally, in early 1986 he asked me, “When are you getting a computer?” Thanks to his prodding, I began researching XT-clone parts and, by early October, I had my first computer up and running (and not a moment too soon, I might add). Ed was still building his own computers, and learning new CAD software, well into his 80s.

“Quiet intensity” is the way I would describe Ed’s demeanor. Though generally soft-spoken, he was a man of strong convictions whose mind was always at work. Nothing got by him, and he was one of those rare individuals who spent at least as much time listening as he did talking. Ed greatly enjoyed the company of people and enjoyed bringing them together. One of the most important things he achieved as an audio publisher was fostering relationships between his authors, both informally and for collaborative projects. I once mentioned this to him, and he commented that it was the most rewarding part of his job.

Ellen and I last saw Ed early last summer. We passed through Peterborough on our way to Maine and took him out to lunch, which we all enjoyed. Ed was using a walker, but was still able to get around with help. He was in an assisted-living facility at that point, and had a small stereo system set up in his room, where he was listening to a complete cycle of Mahler symphonies he had recently acquired. After our visit, Ellen noted that, though he was obviously thinking more slowly than in years past, he still had his edge and the characteristic twinkle in his eye (especially when he asked about Michelle). Last December, he was in the hospital, and we phoned him there in early January. We talked about stopping in again this summer on our way to Maine.

Over the past several months, much has been written about Ed Dell’s contributions to audio. Ellen and I also remember him as a humanist with a keen intellect and broad-ranging knowledge and interests. Personally, I will always be grateful for his help and encouragement at the very beginning of my long career as a writer. Ed left a lasting impression on everyone who was fortunate to know and work with him. Though we will surely miss him, he has left us an enduring legacy.

—Gary Galo, an audio engineer at The Crane School of Music, SUNY, at Potsdam, NY, is an audioXpress contributor.

Tribute to Ed Dell: Jan Didden

Spreading the Gospel of DIY

I first contacted Ed Dell in the 1970s when I submitted, with great trepidation, an article for publication in The Audio Amateur.

But Ed wasn’t the stern editor, making go/no-go decisions behind an impressive desk. Ed was a coach, an enabler, and a motivator. He believed in you more than you did yourself, it seemed. But first and foremost, Ed was a communicator. Ed wanted to bring you a good, happy, positive message. That’s what he did in the colorful streets of Boston, MA, as a minister, and that is what he did as the editor of The Episcopalian.

As luck would have it, he lived across the street from audio engineer and journalist J. Gordon Holt in Swarthmore, PA, in the heydays of Holt’s magazine Stereophile. In 1969, Ed had rebuilt a famous amplifier of the time, the Dynaco Stereo 70. He was dismayed that the best military-specification equipment the industry could produce was basically destroyed after some defined lifetime, often unused, while consumer equipment failed prematurely because it was being built with inexpensive parts and cost-saving shortcuts. So, in rebuilding the 70, he scrounged Boston’s used-parts shops for the very best parts he could find.

He talked Holt into publishing the design in Stereophile, and the amplifier schematic graced the centerfold of the next issue. To his consternation, Holt received numerous complaints from readers who were not at all interested in building stuff themselves! That is when Ed decided to start his own publication, dedicated to DIY audio equipment and speakers. Holt loaned him his subscriber list, and The Audio Amateur was born―as a quarterly―with the first issue published in 1970.

The magazine continued to prosper and, in time, specialized publications were added, such as  Speaker Builder and Glass Audio. In the 1990s, overhead and mailing costs made that untenable, and Ed united the separate publications again as Audio Amateur, and later changed the name to audioXpress. In 2004, Audio Amateur went online with material in addition to the printed magazine, offering combinations of printed and online subscriptions.

For many years, Ed had been friends with the people at Elektor, a do-it-yourself electronics publication based in The Netherlands, swapping advertisements and articles with them. So it was natural that Elektor branched out in the US as Elektor USA and acquired Audio Amateur in 2011. Ed, at the age of 88, reluctantly agreed to retire.

As editor and publisher of Audio Amateur, Ed was the communicator of positive messages. In its first few decades, he always had an editorial in each issue, never tiring of pointing out that making things with your own hands (and enjoying the fruits of that labor) was highly satisfying. He believed that this was most important for people at a time when many jobs had started to become more boring or irrelevant, if not dehumanizing.

His message must have resonated with his tens of thousands of readers throughout his more than 40-year publishing career. Audio DIY is arguably a tiny part of the grandness of humanity. Yet, I am convinced that Ed has reached out and touched many lives, giving people more self respect and self esteem by motivating them to make things with their own hands and develop their knowledge and experience.

—Jan Didden is a longtime contributor of articles to audioXpress and editor/publisher of Linear Audio.

Tribute to Ed Dell: Vance Dickason

Publisher, Innovator, and Humanitarian

Back in 1984 or 1985, Gary Galo suggested to Ed that he republish the original Loudspeaker Design Cookbook (LDC), five years out of print by that time. He had to do some searching to find me, as when I self-published the Loudspeaker Design Cookbook in 1977 and 1978, my name wasn’t featured in the book, mostly because it was originally conceived as a promotional tool for my company, Speaker Research Associates.

After some diligent detective work, he gave me a call and told me he wanted to republish the original LDC. My response was that it was five years out of print and needed to be updated. I suggested that he should send me all the back issues of Audio Amateur and Speaker Builder. Then as I rewrote the book, I would incorporate all the relevant references from his magazines. The magazine references would appear along with the others from the Audio Engineering Society, the Acoustical Society of America, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which I felt would add some well-deserved credibility to his publications. We agreed and, as they say, the rest is history.

My relationship with Ed was a symbiotic one: Publishing my books and hiring me as the editor of Voice Coil certainly contributed to making my career as a loudspeaker engineer possible, and those same publications contributed to the long-term success of Audio Amateur. But beyond that, Ed was a good friend, even though we were only in the same room together maybe two or three times during our 25-year working relationship.

On a more personal note, there is one thing that always comes to mind when I think about Ed, which I believe says a lot about his affable personality. It is a little fridge magnet he sent me in 1997. It was his way of announcing to me the release of the fifth edition of LDC. It reads: “We’ll drink no wine before its time… IT’S TIME!” It’s still in my kitchen, as I’m sure it will remain, until the time comes when someone has to write one of these for me.

The last thing I wish to leave all of you “dear readers” (Ed liked that kind of language) is that I am not certain everyone in the loudspeaker and electronics industry―professionals and DIY persons alike―realizes what a major effect Ed had on us all. I don’t think loudspeaker DIY would have ever grown as big as it is without Ed Dell’s insight into the importance of creating something yourself and his turning that impulse into a publishing company.

In an audioXpress (October 2011) interview, he said, “The act of building is one of the most human activities you can do.” As far as loudspeaker engineering professionals go, I can’t begin to tell you how many of them I have encountered who have said that they got their start in this challenging technology by reading Speaker Builder, LDC, and Voice Coil.

Ed, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

―Vance Dickason, Voice Coil editor

 

Tribute to Ed Dell: Joseph D’Appolito

Thoughtful, Intelligent, and Humorous

I spoke often with Ed. I always found him thoughtful with a wide range of interests. He was open and enthusiastic to just about any article dealing with audio. He was generous with his support for the many articles I wrote and encouraged me to write my book, Testing Loudspeakers. He had a great sense of humor and once told me one very slightly off-color joke that leaves me laughing every time I recall it.

―Joseph D’Appolito, frequent contributor to Audio Amateur publications