William Zane Johnson!
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Nobody can argue with the fact that Nelson Pass has given us MANY, MANY excellent products and done tons of research to all of our benefit. Nonetheless, i think we owe far more to John Curl than to any other audio designer that is currently with us. After all, he was the one that gave us the first TRUE dual mono stereo amplifier along with many other design innovations that are too numerous to list. He's also done more work at pushing the envelope from BOTH ends of the spectrum ( both affordable AND dream gear) more than any other designer. Who else can you name that has done work for the likes of Levinson, Gale, Citation, etc.. AND brought us products like Vendetta Research, J.C. Audio Labs, CTC, etc... AND has come full circle with "trickle down" design technology for Parasound. I think you get the idea. As to others, I think that Edgar Vilchur and Henry Kloss deserve a mention. Without them, we might still be stuck listening to sloppy mud that many people call "bass". While you might not like his products, you also have to hand it to Bob Carver. He is an innovative genius who's always working on something new and different or trying to address the specific problems that we deal with as audiophiles. Sean >
Tom Colangelo - Cello, Ltd., for the Audio Palette, the Audio Suite, and the Performance II monoblocks, among others. Cello (Mark Levinson) gave Tom the freedom to design without a price point (although I suppose that "inexpensive," "reasonable," and even "very expensive" were taken off the table) - his circuits are therefore big, bold, tough as tanks, and suffer from very few, if any, compromises. The Performance II, for example, is powered by a dual-choke supply capable of sinking 1000W into 1 ohm, yet the amp is not just a solid-state brute - it is also delicate and very, very fast. Cello equipment is not much in the mainstream, but for pushing old-style, analog (all adjectives of praise) audio to its sweetest limits, Tom is the man.
Can't single out one but they include several already mentioned - William Z. Johnson who was directly responsible for the rennissance of tube gear in the early 70's; Saul Marantz, one of the great pioneers of quality audio gear and certainly Nelson Pass for the best solid state designs I am aware of. I would also concur with some of the pioneers mentioned above.
Pass - for elegant and impossibly simple designs, Conrad-Johnson for directively building lush sounding components, Johnson (audio research) for building the most natural sounding high resolution amps I've heard, Vandersteen for building affordable speakers (and keeping it that way), McCormack for an inspired design that he chose to keep affordable, Fisher for building wonderful tube electronics back in the 60's, Winey for spending years refining and finally perfecting (just about!) the magneplanar speaker. I have to stop! Too many great people! We also need to remember their dedicated staff engineers who have done much of the work too.
I am in firm agreement on all of the above,...Bravo to them all! I would add two gentleman that greatly helped a generation, or two, of us to get into this adventure. First Mr. Henry Kloss. From AR and KLH to Advent...and esp. the large Advent he opened thousands of ears to the world of more accurate sounding hifi. Second would be Jon Dahlquist. I am not sure if the Wilsons, Thiels and many others would be where they are without the pioneering efforts of Mr. Dahlquist. Of course Harold Scott, Avery Fisher, Saul Marantz and others paved the way for many. However if there were a gun to my head and the person said "name one", it would be Henry Kloss. Myself and four of my closest audio friends all got our start with either single or double large Advents. Bravo to you Mr. Kloss....I kinda think you may have had a bit of impact on the world of big TV's as well....aka: Videobeam. (again Ferrari, great thread.... thanks!)
My God,...I almost forgot, Jim Winey! Nothing has brought me more pleasure, audio-wise, than the various Magnepans that I have owned over the years. From the 1D through the 1.6, 3.6 and MG20, they have always been the cornerstone of every system that I have enjoyed. Mr. Winey, Mr. Diller (and company) are two of the great gentlemem of our current audio industry.
As a former retailer I know most of these men well.They all were or all practical purposes terrible businessmen. But that wasnt really their forte. Like most truly gifted people only the end result mattered. I sincerely applaud all of them for their undying devotion to the audio art and sciences. Just look how far high end audio has come in just a short span of time!! In due respect to all designers I feel I cannot name just one or two,as I said I know most of them personally. Lets just sit back and enjoy the efforts of Pass,Curl,Levinson,Marantz,Fisher,Van Alstine,and so many others. We can only hope that this new century will bring forth as many gifted designers as the 20th Century did.
I guess it matters what era we are talking about. Certainly all the above menetioned designers,have given the audiophile world worthy designs that have stood the test of time. Heres my list,if I cant remember the designer will list the company. 1.Saul Marantz 2.Avery Fisher 3.Dave Bogen 4.Dr. Sydney Harmon 5.Nelson Pass 6.Mark Levinson 7.Frank Van Alstine 8.CM Labs 9.John Curl 10.Henry Kloss Dont take this list in any order,I just listed these 10 as my favorites. What really saddens me is that many of the famous marques of the past are now just shells of what was once proud names in audio.
Well we have all forgotten one of the more important figures in audio,that is Joe Grado.Since 1953 this company now run by his son,has redefined the art of the phono cartridge.Here is a company that has remained over the years and continues to thrive,despite the digital age.And to my knowledge has never produced a lackluster product. If it say Grado on it,you know its heirtage.
Have to tip my hat to all of the great names that were submitted here. Perhaps I can vote for all of them, and add a few that were not yet mentioned. Dick Sequerra(too many great products to list), Richard Modafieri(Infinite Slope Crossover), John Bowers(B & W), and Irving(Bud) Fried. Regrettably, there are many others, I just can't come up with them off the top of my head.
I guess we have been a bit remiss here in not menetioning Dave Reich of Classe Audio. Have just had a listen to the DR 2 power amp. 25 watts Class A. Apparently he designed and produced some very exemplary high end audio. He has been around certainly long to merit a menetion in this thread. Understand he is no longer with Classe. His products with Classe carry the DR prefix to the model number. Was most impressed with the DR 2.
Sorry guys, but depending on your definition of "top" it is arguably Bose. $$$$$$$$$.
Actually, in 1956, when Bose was a MIT prof, he had a multidriver (I think it was 24) speaker system set up in the MIT music library that was cutting edge technology for the time.
Apart from that, another vote for Hafler.
Time will tell of their long term impact but the designers that I'm most impressed with are Touraj Moghaddam of Roksan, Denis Morecroft of DNM and Junji Kimura of 47 Labs.
Each has eschewed convention and rethought how an audio component should ideally function and have devised innovative,elegant & effective solutions to address the issues.
I'll add Arnie Nudell of the original Infinity Systems and subsequently Genesis speakers. His large, line array speakers established an important speaker category. I can still remember the awe I had when I heard the IRS V's.
Also, I think the cable guys deserve some recognition. How about George Cardas, Ray Kimber, and Bruce Brisson?
Chris Russel and Stuart Taylor of Bryston can be added to the list. While not having the impact of, say, a Pass or Curl, they continue to plug along at a constant level of excellence. And they only seem to be getting better!
Also a vote for the cantankerous Frank Van Alstine who continually cranks out enjoyable and robust products.
Think that a word for Scott Franklin and Bruce Moore is in order also.
Here is a list developed by the professionals, the Audio Engineering Society. True, it only would contain names of people who were alive when the list was developed and it does contain names of people who weren't on the "Hardware" and "Consumer" side of audio electronics, but I thought that it was worth browsing anyway. Many names will be unknown to most of us, but there are some which we should know, including Bob Ludwig, Wendy (Walter) Carlos, Robert Moog and Joseph Giovanelli (whom you will know if you read Audio Magazine).
The gentlemen at BBC responsible for LS3/5a's. The speaker is now considered a Legend.
Peter Walker- who in an interview said that the reason we have flaps on our ears is to cancell the back wave for improving the clarity of the sound, but, we hear about surround spekers which everyone seems to want these days!