As many audiophiles know, Allen Wright of Vacuum State recently passed away. The reason why i did not jump on the news is because he and i were good friends and to just rifle off some article would have been a disservice to this great man. Allen was a New Zealand born high-end audio designer who began his career on metal can military specification 6L6 tubes. At the age of 12, according to his website, "...he was into one tube regenerative radio, and later misspent his high school years building and operating a fully home brewed SSB ham radio station (ZLIBBO) as well as exploding various pyrotechnic devices. His first stereo system was jury rigged out of the audio stages of two old radios, single ended 6V6's with no feedback driving electro-dynamic speakers." Eventually after a string of related jobs he landed a gig with Hewlett Packard as a service engineer.
"By 1976 he had formed Allen Wright Electronics and was manufacturing some really fringe solid-state audio equipment designed by local audio guru, Rowan McCombe... A Lux CL35 tube preamp arrived for repair and the owner was talked into having it modified. Similar to the Audio Research SP3A, it was the first current hi-end tube preamp to receive the upgrades developed across years of solid-state mods. A disturbing all-nighter was spent comparing the results of this modification to the very well reviewed Guru designed production solid-state PreA... Once the true religion [tubes] was discovered, all solid-state production was finalized, the company name changed to Vacuum State Electronics and various items of tube equipment soon became available."
i entered into Allen's life during the early days of the Internet. This was before modern discussion boards as many know them today, as Allen and i had threads and private messages on CompuServer's CEAudio board. As best i can recall, this was around 1993 or so and Allen was looking for a new United States distributor of his The Tube Preamp CookBook. We discussed my then fave amplifier the Audio Note Ongaku and other bits. Eventually my arm was twisted and he sent me a copy of the book on Thursday the 26th of ???. The reason i know this exact date is because i still have his letters to me during that time. While it would be easy to scan and post them here via pdf, there are some private matters contained within them including Allen's always refreshing (perhaps bold) honesty about various then current designs within the high-end audio marketplace. As for the book distribution, i barely broke even and that was fine by me.
Allen also sent me a brochure of his then new 1987 products (pictured above) that includes his Four Value Series and Realtime Series. And i quote, "The Vacuum State Four range is based on the concept that simple, well-engineered tube circuitry can provide you with a more enjoyable musical reproduction than possible from complex, costlier solid-state equipment" The Realtime Series part of the brochure says, "The Realtime Series components do not need negative feedback because their innovative tube circuit are inherently linear and have a very wide natural frequency response. Accordingly the single passes through, entirely free of blurring time-smear and transient abbreviations that can have such degrading consequences when negative feedback is used; instead the amplification is being performed in 'real time'."
If you have a First Edition of Allen Wright's The Tube Preamplifier CookBook with grayish brown cover sheet that has a B&W photo and black plastic binding (as seen below) you have one of the books i personally had manufactured and distributed back in the day. For you history buffs, below is the very first edition with white metal binding as Allen had made in Germany, then there is a middle version, and the lowermost version is the one i had produced. Below that is a copy of the book Allen personally signed for me, and note he says "Hoping you are enjoying the music, as the tag line "Enjoy the Music" i had already long established online on CompuServe's CE Audio discussion board.
With all that said, it does not tell you much about the actual man. Besides many messages online, Allen and i eventually first met at Clark Johnsen's Listening Studio retail store in Boston. Clark, as always, was a great host as we enjoyed many hours of music and then off to Clark's home as we were all going to stay the night at his place. Since this was early Internet, both Allen and i went to our laptop computers, plugged into Clark's phone line so we could get our e-mail. Remember this was long before cell phone tethering or even WiFi. This was back in the day when a 56kbs modem was King! Clark had no computer and heckled both Allen and i, as Clark refused to get such devices (still love you Clark very much even sans computer back then... and nice to see you have joined us on the Internet). Allen was a teckkie, he loved electronics and it showed in every way. He also took well to his wonderful girlfriend and his love of a great beer.
Met Allen again at the New York Noise shows a few times and this is where he really glowed while touting the benefits of tube amplifications. Of course by this time he was becoming famous in various circles. Oh how the smart and crafty get busy! We also met at the High End show in Germany and there we had time to share drinks, food and great conversations. Allen was a man with a true glow, a zest for life and a thirst for knowledge.. and it showed. There is so much more to be said, yet in the end Allen was a man who took great strides to produce some of the finest tube audio amplification equipment while also writing books to help others. If you e-mailed him he would reply in a timely and thorough manner. His products were of such high caliber that he earned two Enjoy the Music.com Blue Note Awards and our own Dr. Bill Gaw owns a few of his creations. So in the words of Allen Wright i say to you...