This editorial, written by the late Edward T. Dell, Jr., was published in 1970 in the second issue of Audio Amateur
. In memory of the founder of audioXpress
, we resurrect his words:
Three developments during the sixties will, I believe, have a profound effect on the future of audio in the reminder of this century. They are Leonard Bernstein's championing of the work of Charles Ives; the electric guitar explosion; and Walter Carlos' recordings using the Moog synthesizer.
Charles Ives would have liked both the electric guitar and that strangely beautiful device developed by Mr. Moog. Ives used to stand between two houses where children are practicing piano lessons and attempt to listen to both in order to "stretch his ears" as his bandleader father put it. That was the Danbury, Connecticut of the 1870s. Ives also made a practice of standing in the town square on July 4th to listen to as many bands in the parade as he could - at the same time.
1964 Modular Moog synthesizer (Robert Moog)
Ives and his father knew the ear to be a mentally direct able instrument - something we are still learning. To hear "hi-fi" types talk, you'd suppose what came to the ear was some sort of absolute quantity. We all claim to know that home truth about the eye and where the seat of beauty is located. It is time we learned it about the ear.
Let us admit to ourselves we do not yet know much about how or what each of us hears - comparatively. Nor have we any sort of correlation at all between what each of us is pleased to call beautiful and what is accurately reproduced. If there is such a conversion scale I do not yet know about it. What we are learning, and it may be the beginning of wisdom, is that aural beauty is a matter of self-conscious choices and the willingness to re-examine our aural pleasures.
The electric guitar is, for some, an abomination. It is loud, dangerous, and unauthentic. The danger is real enough, the rest is subjective judgment.
Many of the same observations have been made about the Moog Synthesizer. One reviewer faulted the Switched-on Bach recording because the synthesizer was "rather weak on massed string tone." It is though he had lived so long in the world of apples that when a banana turned up it was not acceptable because it tasted different. It would be equally foolish to fault the orchestra for its inability to successfully imitate more than a fraction of those sounds of which the synthesizer is capable.
The synthesizer, and whatever comes along after the electric guitar are pushing out borders, boundaries, and limits. They will alter our view of audio reproduction. So far, its history as followed a typical western pattern. We began by analysis. We haven't done the fidelity analysis well or thoroughly. Much more is needed in following that old fashioned and necessary track. Fidelity is not yet achieved by any available yardstick.
An early stand-alone Dolby noise reduction unit from Advent Corporation, the company founded in Cambridge, MA, by Henry Kloss in 1967.
We believe the offerings of the Advent Corporation - their home-style Dolby and ten-octave room equalizer are enormously valuable steps in the right direction. We are on the threshold of a new world of pleasure in both control and variety.
In the larger picture, we ought to see something beyond the small conceptual backyard which is high fidelity. We ought to see a new universe of pure sound not limited by musical instruments, not even all the world's marvelously various variety of instruments.
Ivesian "ear stretching" must not become a new doctrine either. This freedom needs no codifying and ought to threaten no endeavor - even the old unfinished quest for fidelity.
Edward Dell (1923-2013), founder and former publisher of Audio Amateur Inc., developed his taste for publishing and audio as a teenager. He became a veteran builder of audio hi-fi speakers and was a longtime full member of the Audio Engineering Society and the Boston chapter of the Acoustical Society of America. He published magazines and books on all areas of audio for more than 35 years.
After launching the company's flagship publication, The Audio Amateur, in 1970, Dell published a number of specialized titles covering a wealth of subjects in audio. Proud to lead a force of some 700 authors worldwide - experts and enthusiasts in audio technology - he started audioXpress 32 years later, in 2001. Dell propelled audioXpress to its position as the audio technology authority and, in 2011, he sold his company's assets - which included audioXpress, Voice Coil, and the annual directories Loudspeaker Industry Sourcebook and World Tube Directory.
Dell corresponded with many longtime readers and authors after his retirement, maintaining a connection to the audio world he loved. His literary legacy continues to inspire a new generation of audio enthusiasts as they design and build their own "dream" systems.