audioXpress Staff

Tribute to Ed Dell: Nelson Pass

May 3 2013, 13:01

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.

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