It is difficult to imagine high-end audio without
Harry Pearson. Looking back on this 30th Anniversary of HP’s founding of The
Absolute Sound, I was struck by just how much he has contributed—and
continues to contribute—to the field. Every discipline needs a visionary
thinker to create its intellectual foundation and illuminate the path forward.
Astonishingly, HP has fulfilled that role for thirty years and counting. (And HP
says, “You ain’t seen nothin’, yet!”)
J. Gordon Holt deserves credit for inventing the then-novel idea that audio
components are best judged by listening to music through them, not by looking at
test numbers. Indeed, HP credits Holt not only for getting him interested in
music reproduction but for inspiring the publication of The Absolute Sound,
ten years after Holt began The Stereophile.
Holt began creating the language we use to describe reproduced sound, a
language HP greatly expanded upon. In fact, I think of HP’s creation of the
lexicon we all take for granted today as one of his three great achievements. I
know how fruitful it is to use that lexicon in product reviewing; to have invented
the terms that convey from writer to reader the sonic and musical effect an
audio product has on reproduced sound is a monumental intellectual triumph.
HP’s second great achievement is the flip-side of his invention of the
audiophile lexicon: his thinking behind the listening. Rather than use a product
review merely to describe the product’s sound and make a value judgment,
HP’s reviews are vehicles for exploring the nature of reproduced music, how
electronics and electro-mechanical devices affect the listening experience, and
for identifying certain distortions and the musical effects of those
distortions. HP’s description of the soundstage, to use one example, greatly
expanded everyone’s thinking about the spatial aspects of reproduced sound.
More recently, his concept of “continuousness” has made concrete a quality
that had heretofore remained amorphous. These terms, and others, changed the way
we evaluate audio products—and greatly influenced the way audio designers
approached their art.
By putting into words what had previously been ineffable, and illuminating
the underlying thinking behind those words, HP created the lingua franca
for an entire field.
Harry’s third great achievement is, of course, the idea that all music
reproduction equipment can be referenced to an absolute sound—the sound of
unamplified instruments in an acoustic space. Thirty years later, HP’s simple
yet brilliant concept of the absolute sound continues to be the intellectual
foundation of this magazine.
So join us in celebrating thirty years of TAS, starting with this issue. We
begin by reprinting a classic review from Issue 11, and will have many more
surprises in store over the coming year. Enjoy.