"Life isnt short enough"Laurel& Hardy circa 1934 "Art will save us" artist unknown,possibly Art Dudley or Art Carney.....?
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Two decades ago, when I was upgrading my audio system, I traveled to New York to audition varies components at several high-end dealers. Someone suggested I should hear the Futterman OTL. Until then, I never heard of it or of Julius, Harvey, or George. I arrived at what appeared to be a large work room, definitely not a show room. I do not recall anything else about the warehouse-like environment, but I DO recall that I was smitten with the most glorious midrange coming out of the Quads driven by the Futterman amps. Sweet and seductive! But there was a sonic brick wall with very little bass on the other side. For orchestral music, I needed bass....So, I moved on....But I never forgot that moment in sonic heaven.
Thanks for the story. It reminds me a bit of the first time I heard Quads; even with the 33/303 combo, there was magic. Despite Haden Boardman's insistance in his Sound Practices article back in 1994 that "QUADs have bass, and anyone who wants to argue the toss is either a wimp or tone deaf, so there", my reaction has always been, "eh, not so much".
As time went on, Harvey himself went for more dynamic impact, bi-amping heavily-modded Tannoys with 2 SET amps or an SET up top and a P/P on the bottom. Towards the end of his life he talked of addressing the Futterman circuit again, but I don't know how far he got. Sadly, at his death his belongings and projects (Sun Engineering coaxes, anyone?) seem to have been dispersed. Keep records, audio experimenters! SOMEbody out there may want to understand what you did!
Thanks for this thread, and keep up the fantastic work! These spotlights enrich and expand the high-end audio experience more than you might believe.
For too many today, Futterman is a buzz word for an amp that is not only far from being ready for prime time, but one that is both under-engineered and even dangerous. Instead, I believe we should take a step back, and acknowledge the determination and foresight that the man displayed in truly advancing the craft, and allowing us to live in a place more interesting, colorful, and better sounding than we would have had he not shared his creations with us.
Thanks for the kind words. It's hard to judge reader's reactions if they don't (DOH!) react. I appreciate it when someone takes the time to write. Of course, some comments are more appreciated than others. ;->
I agree with your comment regarding Julius Futterman, and suggest that it could and should be applied to Gizmo and his crew at NYAL, as well. Whether you liked him or loathed him, Harvey, along with Joe Roberts, Art Dudley, David Robinson/ Dave Clark and their crews, revived audio in the early '90's. And for that, they deserve our thanks.
So: thanks, guys.
Not exactly an audio comment but one on how business was done prior to Ma Bell being broken up.
Long distance was expensive. The reason being was that local calls were just about free and service was cheap. Phones were given away free by the phone company. It was not till the Princess phone of the 60's(?) that the idea of charging people for the phone in their house came about. So it was the long distance calls that subsidized everyone's local calling. Local calling also meant maybe 5 to 15 miles from where you lived and then it went up in concentric circles, sort of, from there. So that calling coast to coast was as expensive as a telegram, anyone remember them or Western Union, before they became a money order business.
Yup. Connecting it back to audio, when Western Electric did theater sound systems, they did it the same way as their phone biz. The equipment was generally leased, not sold.
Somehow those theaters ended up owning the gear that I pulled out, way back when; but then, how many folks ended up owning those heavy monster phones? Ah, for a REAL home phone....
I keep a corded phone (the older, the better) in my house, as they are the only ones that will work when the power goes out.
In the garage of my shore house, I have one of those "REAL home phones" you mentioned. It's a mechanical, rotary type, in basic black (anyone remember Abe Vigoda's "Fish" spinoff of "Barney Miller"?), of course. If you're in barefeet, which is common when you're at a beach community, you have to remember to either kneel on the chair at the desk there to make sure your feet aren't on the floor or pull your finger out of the dial as its returning to its starting position. Otherwise, you're in for a noticeable zing.
Aside from that, AT&T was a most benign monopoly, in addition to being a powerhouse of creativity and innovation. UNIX and C (and later, its children, C++ and Sun Microsystems' Java), which they began developing in the late 60s, provided both the platform and springboard for a mindboggling number of the "innovations" we enjoy today, not only in telecommunications (even cellular phones, PCs, Macs, defense, etc), and most probably would have come along regardless of the breakup of Ma Bell.
Hi Bill, Just FWIW, our amps, other than being OTLs, are nothing like the Futterman amps. When I went into business making OTLs back in 1977, I rapidly found out that 'OTL' was equated with unreliable. At the time I knew very little about the Futterman. What I have sorted out over the years was that Julias seemed to know what he was doing- his amps seemed to hold up. The later versions sold by NYAL didn't fare so well- that is where the reputation that we have been fighting ever since seemed to come from.
We sidestepped the reliability issue by employing an output circuit called a Circlotron. We did it in a way that had not been done prior and got a patent. The amps proved very reliable, so much so that we even built guitar amps using the circuit, which can be heavily overdriven all day long, something that would cause the prior art to go into oscillation. Apparently we were the first to make class A OTLs as well and for many years the MA-2 was not only the biggest OTL in production, but also the biggest triode amp and the biggest class A amplifier.
Since the amps were fully balanced and differential, we wound up offering the first balanced-line products to the high end audio market (the original MA-1, 1987) and followed with the 2nd balanced line high end audio product, the MP-1 in 1989. The preamps use the same circuit as the amps to bypass the use of an output coupling cap.
There have been several other OTL manufacturers that have come and gone- Prodigy (Futterman variant, and IMO the best Futterman execution anyone ever did), Counterpoint (Futterman variant developed by Roger Modjesky if memory serves), Silvaweld (Korean Futterman) and Sans Pariel (Futterman variant developed by Charlie Kittleson for San Pariel). I am missing a few names here- its funny when you look back on all this stuff and realize how many there were!
Non-Futterman amps include Graaf, Tenor, Naked Truth Audio and Joule Electra. Of those only Joule had staying power. There was a Hungarian OTL manufacturer and I believe another in Italy that is still in business.
There is that whole thing about OTLs being load-sensitive. This is true but I find transistor amps to be just as load-sensitive but there are more speakers for transistors :) This whole conversation lead me to look at how negative feedback can or cannot help an amp to drive a speaker- its possible to make OTLs with very high damping factors and very low output impedances, but running the same amount of feedback as a transistor amp. What I found though is that there is no point. You run that much feedback and the amp can be unstable, and for sure it will never sound right- to make it sound like music you have to run zero feedback (and **that** is where the choice of speaker is important). My philosophy is that if the speaker needs the amp to have feedback, that speaker will never sound like real music, so why bother? There is no question that this has limited sales potential, but in high end sound is what should be paramount IMO.
Thanks for the bit of history.
Here is a link to a site that appears to present good background on the Circlotron topology, on its Electro-Voice incarnations in the mid-50's, and on the several different related patents that were granted and/or applied for around that time:
And here is a link to what I believe is the patent Ralph referred to:
And a link to all issued U. S. Patents that include the word "Circlotron" in their text:
Isn't the Internet amazing?
Amazing? Yes, it certainly can be.
I'm reminded of a comedian who said some years ago,"here's the greatest advance in communications in the history of mankind, and it's mostly being relegated to some guy typing 'are you really a girl??' at 3 in the morning."
In all seriousness, if I didn't think it was amazing, worthwhile, and an incredible way to bring a community together, I wouldn't be doing this. Thanks for the comments, Al.
There have been several other OTL manufacturers that have come and gone- Prodigy (Futterman variant, and IMO the best Futterman execution anyone ever did), Counterpoint (Futterman variant developed by Roger Modjesky if memory serves), Silvaweld (Korean Futterman) and Sans Pariel (Futterman variant developed by Charlie Kittleson for San Pariel).Actually the Sans Pareil was one of several OTL monoblock amplifier models made by Fourier Components in the St. Louis area. Tom Gambill had moved there from California and started the company. I believe John Atwood was involved in the design of one or more of their products. They closed in early 1997.
Very cool article on this interesting corner of hi-fi history.
OTL amps are definitely the underbelly of our hobby, and having Gizmo proselytizing their beauty (in conjunction with his worship of Futterman as the intellectual Godfather of this amp) only helps to increase their legend.
Thanks again for this write-up!
Hi, thanks for this wonderfully personal historical overview. It took my breath away for a second when You wrote about German copies of the Futterman. By chance, I once saw one, remembering the owner talked about selling it, but without knowing that Futtermans are something special. Did You ever have the chance to listen to one of these? How was their audio quality? I'd love to have a Futterman, and given how rare they are, its quite hard to find one. And it's a little bit hard to believe original amps made by Julius Futterman should be worse or equal as copies or the NYAL models. Well, any information will help. I don't even know the difference between H3 and H3aa models.
And many thanks for the article!
Just an addon, One day he (Julius) showed up at my NYC residence holding two extra capacitor cans, put them in parallel with the existing cans on the H3a using the octal sockets on the front of the amp. He said it would improve the driving of the KLH Nines. He also told me to change the fuses on the KLH Nine signal inputs to 5amp so it would be more linear than the default fuse values KLH recommended. Just in case anyone else has a pair of Nines being driven by an H3a it's good to know.