audioXpress Staff

Tribute to Ed Dell: Jan Didden

May 3 2013, 13:01

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.

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