Much to my surprise, he turned out not to be an audiophile, not at all obsessed with equipment and status. The real driver for his audio hobby had always been the music and a passion for recording. I will always be grateful for the start he gave me as an audio reviewer and for his patience with my early reviews which were truly horrid. His priorities in reproduced music were greatly influence by his love of orchestral music, and in particular, early 20th century impressionism. He instilled in me an appreciation for the importance of tonal balance and timbre accuracy. Imaging and detail were far down on the list. He was appalled by the timbre distortions shared by minimonitors and less than enamored by "pretty" sound for its own sake.
Gordon's basement in Santa Fe was always the scene of something new and interesting. There were also pieces of gear strewn about here and there throughout the house, including some pretty ragged looking planar speakers that failed to survive Gordon's' cats. But in the end we probably spent more time watching movies on his KlossNovabeam projector system than we did listening to music.
During the mid 80s, facing a personal crisis, he extended a helping hand, and I shall remember his kindness for the rest of my life. It was a sad day when he moved to Boulder Colorado. We somehow lost touch over the past decade, and one of my biggest regrets is having failed to make the trek up to Boulder just a few more times.
I first met J. Gordon Holt at a CES show yet have no idea what year. I suspect he was going out for a smoke break and I joined him. Our conversation invariably drifted into recording, which he was passionate about. When moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1991 I visited Gordon in preparation to interview him for The Absolute Sound. The interview never happened and subsequently discarded questions from Harry Pearson such as, "When did you lose your dream?" when I discovered that J. Gordon was still living his dream to the fullest. It is ironic that this question proved more appropriate for Harry than Gordon. Subsequently I did interview Gordon for Stereophile.
One of Gordon's most compelling character traits was his unceasing curiosity. Up to the day he died he was still active on the Internet researching whatever caught his intellectual fancy. Also Gordon loved music, not all kinds of music; but nearly anything performed by a symphony orchestra. He was not, contrary to what you might expect, enamored by audio gear. He saw stereo systems as a necessary evil rather than a collection of objects to be treasured. When I rewired his system one time he immediately admitted that the new cable made a difference and did sound better, but he didn't like the fact that it did.
As to J. Gordon Holt's place in audio history, it¹s very simple — without him high-end audio as we know it today would not exist. The minute anyone starts to describe the sonic characteristics of a piece of audio gear, they owe most of the terms and intellectual methodology to J. Gordon Holt. He was the first person to ever write that components could and did sound different from one another. Any audiophile who hasn¹t read any of Gordon¹s reviews is as ignorant as an English major who¹s never read Hemmingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald.
To call J. Gordon a giant of the audio industry does him a disservice. He was a giant in all aspects of his life, and will be sorely missed by everyone who had the chance to know him.