Industry Watch: November 2013

November 5 2013, 13:01
Ray Dolby

Ray Dolby

Ray Dolby (1933–2013)

Ray Dolby passed away on September 8, 2013 at the age of 80 died after battling with Alzheimer’s and leukemia. While Dolby was mostly known for his work in noise reduction and electronics, his surround-sound invention had an enormous impact on the loudspeaker industry (see Photo 1).

Born in 1933 in Portland, OR, Dolby was raised in San Francisco, CA, and attended Sequoia High School (class of 1951) in Redwood City, CA. As a teenager in the decade following World War II, he held part-time and summer jobs at Ampex in Redwood City, working with the company’s first audio tape recorder in 1949.

While at San Jose State College and later at Stanford University (interrupted by two years of Army service), he worked on early video tape recorder prototype technologies for Alexander M. Poniatoff and Charlie Ginsburg. As a non-degree-holding “consultant,” Dolby played a key role in the effort that led Ampex to unveil its prototype Quadruplex videotape recorder in April 1956, which soon entered production.

In 1957, Dolby received his BS in electrical engineering from Stanford. He subsequently won a Marshall Scholarship for a PhD (1961) in physics from the University of Cambridge, where he was a Research Fellow at Pembroke College. After Cambridge, Dolby acted as a technical advisor to the United Nations in India. In 1965, he returned to England, where he founded Dolby Laboratories in London with a staff of four. In that same year, he officially founded the London-based Dolby Laboratories and invented the Dolby Sound System, a form of electronic filter. However, his first US patent was not filed until 1969, four years later. UK-based Decca Records first used the filter.

Probably his most famous invention was the surround-sound technology now used in movies, cinemas, PCs, and home theater equipment. Dolby Surround became well-known when two 1977 blockbuster films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Star Wars, used Dolby stereo technology as an essential part of the films’ appeal. Today, the bulk Dolby Laboratories’s revenue comes from technology licensing. Ray Dolby was #190 on the Forbes Fortune 400 list in 2012, the fruits of an amazing career.


Bob Diamond

Bob Diamond

Bob Diamond (1956–2013)

It is with great regret that I announce the passing of Bob Diamond, another outstanding member of the loudspeaker engineering community. Born in 1956, Diamond received his BSEE at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.

He began his career as an Acoustical Engineer at International Jensen (1987). He joined JBL Professional 1987–1993 as a Senior Loudspeaker Engineer. Diamond then became the Chief Loudspeaker Engineer at Aura Systems/Aurasound from 1993–1995. He left Aurasound and formed Diamond Audio Technology, a company that bore his name, as president from 1995–2000. Diamond became the Director of Product Development at M&K Sound from 2000–2003, moving to Cerwin-Vega as a Senior Transducer Engineer from 2003–2005. From 2005–2007, Diamond again served as a Senior Transducer Engineer, this time at Nuventix.

From 2008–2011, Diamond held positions as Director of Acoustical Engineering, VP of Engineering, and President of Zylux America. He spent the last two years of his life caring for his grandson Corbin, for whom he was putting together a college education fund. His untimely death prevented this, but a group of friends and family have established the Bob Diamond Memorial Fund. To contribute, visit

I personally knew Bob Diamond. Our paths crossed on numerous occasions over the years at Aurasound, M&K, and Diamond Audio. He had a great sense of humor and was an excellent loudspeaker engineer.


THIEL Audio Hires Mark Mason

THIEL Audio, winner of more than 60 prestigious awards for loudspeaker design and performance since 1978, has appointed Mark Mason as the company’s new Director of Product Development. Mason represents the first in-house engineering presence for the brand since Jim Thiel’s passing in 2009.

Mason brings a depth of engineering experience combined with a range of technical capabilities to THIEL after nearly a decade as Design Team Manager at PSB. Mason’s expertise includes critical applications (e.g., driver design), Class-D amplifier design, and high-performance acoustic systems design. Mason said he was familiar with THIEL and he has tremendous respect for what the brand has achieved in the three-plus decades since it was founded.

Most recently, Mason was Director of Product Development for Specialty Technologies (SVS), where he was responsible for the company’s product management strategy and execution. Mason’s designs have garnered numerous prestigious awards including: The Absolute Sound Editor’s Choice, Sound & Vision Certified and Recommended, Best Home Cinema Room (S&V Bristol Show), Audioholics Consumer Excellence, Stereophile Recommended Components, and Electronic House Product of the Year.


Consumer Confidence Grows

Consumer confidence in technology spending reached the highest level in 2013, while sentiment toward the overall economy dipped in August, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The CEA Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE), which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, increased by 1 point in August to 87.2. The ICTE edged past July’s level to reach the highest point so far in 2013. The CEA Index of Consumer Expectations (ICE), which measures consumer expectations about the broader economy, decreased 5.2 points in August to 162.6. The ICE remains 6.1 points lower than August of 2012.

The CEA Indexes comprise the ICE and ICTE and are updated monthly through consumer surveys. New data is released on the fourth Tuesday of each month. The CEA has been tracking index data since January 2007. For more information, visit

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