I remember from my earliest memories that my near obsession with sound reproduction could be traced to an abiding fascination with the mystery of wireless. How on earth could sound emanate from an earphone via a coil a crystal and a long wire, from a radio station far away in Russia but with no power source; pure magic!
I suffered from a compelling need to find out how things worked. Advancing from play and imagination, the constructor hobby took hold, building valve sets from Practical Wireless articles running on B136 dry batteries with 90V for the anode supply and 1.5V for the directly heated filaments. I also built many radios in the late 1950's with the earliest junction transistors, primitive, low bandwidth germaniums, they were the equivalent of £15 each: now a wide band silicon equivalent is 5 pence! However at the time these tiny amplifying devices worked on a miraculously low 3V with no heaters and were a miniaturised technological wonder compared with valves.
As a 7 year old, spinning a jumble sale 78 rpm shellac disc with a pencil shoved through it and a curled paper horn fitted with a darning needle, I heard the Grand March from Aida for the very first time, in sound bites of about 2 seconds and I was now hooked on the gramophone as well.
After an abortive year's dalliance with Special Physics at LU, sooner or later I qualified in Electrical Engineering and Electronics at the Polytechnic Regent Street, while enjoying an extended part time apprenticeship as a product tester and sales assistant lasting several student years at pioneering audio retailer Audio T (thanks be to founder John Bartlett). I then spent a few years on research and development in high frequency communication receivers, advanced cell pagers, the forerunners of mobile phones and then1GHz oscilloscopes for a subsidiary of Tektronix while continuing to deny my hobby obsession with high fidelity.
Then in 1972 an opportunity arose with two partners to found a loudspeaker company, Monitor Audio Ltd, which proved to be a formative business experience. After nearly three years of technical management and speaker design I parted company with co founders Mike Beeny and Mo Iqbal to work as an independent Hi Fi magazineist, concentrating on audio journalism and product reviews. The loudspeaker research I did at Monitor Audio also gave rise to my enduring 'High Performance Loudspeakers' first published in 1977 and still around in its most recent 6th edition.
I have written extensively for nearly all the major titles but have put most effort into Hi Fi News, (33 years!), also Hi Fi for Pleasure, and the A5 Hi Fi Choice series, not forgetting Stereophile. More recently Roy Gregory at Hi Fi Plus had encouraged me to produce some more challenging and extended investigative product reviews.
I remain delighted, surprised and intrigued by the effect of various sound technologies on music reproduction, and how plastics and metals, paper and wood, valves and transistors, wielded by sensitive skilled audio designers can make worthwhile contributions to the experience of reproduced audio. Music replay in the home is a privilege, hearing more of the music, more of the production and not least more of the musicianship is why I devote massive time and effort in the attempt to optimise audio systems.
I have known Paul Messenger for decades, and worked with him at HiFi News and also when he was editor at Hi FI Choice. I had long wished to collaborate again with him. He finally accepted my invitation to edit a new independent advertisement free audio magazine. HIFICRITIC Magazine became airborne in January 2007, much to our surprise and delight. We are still surprised reaching our 8th year.
Two easy pieces from Martin...