R.I.P. Harry Pearson

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Albert Von Schweikert

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R.I.P. Harry Pearson
« on: 7 Nov 2014, 02:58 am »

Hello Fellow Audiophiles,

It is with great sadness that I report the death of Mr. Harry Pearson, creator of The Absolute Sound magazine.  HP, as I and many of his friends called him, was quite unique in the history of high end audio.

Not only did he start TAS, he generated the first lexicon of terminology to describe what he heard when testing various components.   Both he and J. Gordon Holt, the creator of Stereophile who passed many years ago, had a hand in creating what we all know to be "high end" audio. 

HP had a unique character, a very strong character, that would not tolerate nonsense.  He made quite a few enemies by simply telling the truth, but fortunately, I was spared from his list of "unfriendlies."   He and I had owned and used some of the same equipment way back when, so I became a regular writer of "letters to the editor."  Sometimes we agreed on equipment choices, and sometimes we agreed to disagree about others.  If you knew HP, you understood his dry wit and would not let it bother you; many were offended but HP didn't give a damn.  For that, I salute him, since he felt that honesty was better than pretense.  In fact, HP's first job was writing for a magazine that accepted advertising from the very people he was critiquing; you can understand why he felt compelled to start his own magazine where subscribers would learn the truth about components without worry that ad dollars were influencing the outcome of a review.

Many years later, I was given an opportunity to have HP write a review of my flagship model called VR-8.  HP was no businessman, and under his leadership, the magazine lost money and promptly folded.  During the interim, while TAS was being reformed, HP wrote several reviews for Fi, which was a magazine created by some of the ex-writers from the ashes of TAS.  HP wrote about components he was personally interested in, not because they were popular but because these components had merit.  One of those components he chose to review for Fi was my VR-8.  If any of you have read his review, you know that he stated  "the VR-8 was the finest dynamic system (cones in a box) that he had ever tested." 

The photo above is of me with the pair of VR-8's I delivered to HP in 1998.  I can't remember who took this photo; it might have been HP himself or perhaps Scott Markwell, his equipment installer who helped me set up the VR-8's in HP's room.

Yes, HP's faves were the Infinity dipole open baffle ribbon towers supplemented by the Magnaplanar Tympany woofer panels, but he noted that my VR-8's had more dynamic range, punch, and excitement than his reference system.  Dealing with HP during a review was hell on earth; you never knew if he hated or loved you or your product - he had that effect upon people.  However, no matter the outcome of the review, you knew that you could always count on him to be honest and direct, rare qualities in this business.

To HP I will be ever grateful, as he had the nerve to go against the grain and write a review on a relatively unknown designer and unknown company.  That fact that he didn't trash my work is still an amazing fact to me, as I have experienced some very "interesting" reviews from magazines around the world that would not accept my work with open arms due to pressure from established companies who felt threatened by my engineering skills and rapid advancement in the field.

HP, tonight I'm going to uncork a great bottle of wine (yes, the brand that you ordered at dinner which cost me $485 back in 1998) and I will drink a toast to you -  "To the man who followed his instincts and ended up creating the hobby that we now call high end audio."


Re: R.I.P. Harry Pearson
« Reply #1 on: 7 Nov 2014, 04:24 pm »
Thanks for sharing Albert. It was the first I'd heard that HP was no more. Michael Fremer wrote a revealing and personal note about HP on his Analog Planet, a sort of warts and all account which also mentions HP's tendency to drink expensively on others' tabs. He really was a character it seems but there is no denying his passion for and commitment to hi-end audio. His words were always more likely to cause a reaction (good and bad) in me than most other writers for TAS or S'phile. He shall be missed.


Re: R.I.P. Harry Pearson
« Reply #2 on: 7 Nov 2014, 08:22 pm »
Thanks for this Albert. I've not felt enough attention has been brought to this sad event on Audiocircle.

Like them or not, HP and J Gordon Holt created high end audio, at least in my view. Both characters and it makes me wonder what will become of this hobby now that they are gone and many of the rest of us are getting up there, where our mortality is staring us in the face.

For me, I don't sweat the stereo any longer, although it is very good and  I pay respect to  HP and J Gordon Holt, the founders of high end audio for this. Without them, who knows what we would all be listening through. Maybe as good as we have, but maybe not.

Thanks again to HP for help promoting the SOTA.