Friday, November 7, 2014

A king is dead: Harry Pearson passes

Though I never met the man, I was saddened to learn this week of Harry Pearson's death. Perhaps the last of a particularly iconoclastic breed, he is of course famous for founding The Absolute Sound and raising the critical evaluation of audio products to the level of serious journalism.  Over the years he gave a start to many budding reviewers and seemed quite happy to entertain and annoy in equal measure. I found his writing compelling if sometimes a bit too heavy on self-promotion (his superlist, his naming of his own 'Pearson's Rule of Thirds' to describe speaker positioning that many folks use, and his constant reminder that he invented words to describe sound, just so we would all know) but there's no doubting that his words mattered.

I expect TAS has some special commentary coming attached to their announcement, but I heard the news first from Albert Von Schweikert's posting on the Audio Circle site where he relates some of his early experiences with HP. Apparently the man had a tendency to rack up expensive dinners on manufacturers' tabs if invited to dinner, an aspect of HP's character confirmed by Michael Fremer in his account of life with the man. Micheal's entry is really the best I've read: personal, honest, and balancing appropriate respect with an acknowledgement of the man's flaws. The end of Harry's tenure with TAS seems to be a sore point and there is little doubt that HP's output over the last few years of his life seemed a tad below his usual standard but that is no crime. His expectations and treatment of some manufacturers might be a different story if we are to accept some accounts but that's for others who actually have to facts to determine.

For me, there are few audio writers who compel one to read on in the hope of some enlightenment, some insight into a new quality in reproduction or some special recording that I needed to hear. This is not a criticism, it is an observation that writing about audio is not high art, but Harry sometimes made it seem so. We who love music and the technologies of its reproduction are all worse off for his passing. Enjoy his legacy. 

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