High-end audio guru has died

Michael Fremer reports the death of Harry Pearson, founder of The Absolute Sound magazine, who invented the term ‘high-end audio’. He was 77.

Pearson … venerated the RCA “Living Stereo” and Mercury “Living Presence” records. (He)… elevated the status of certain recording studios and venues like Kingsway Hall as well as legendary recording engineers like Kenneth Wilkinson, Robert Fine and Lewis Layton and producers like Jack Pfeiffer and Wilma Cozart Fine.

As Wilma Cozart-Fine’s son Tom related to me in an email upon learning of HP’s passing: “I can tell you for a fact that Harry’s articles and commentaries about Mercury Living Presence were read by and had influence on decision makers at Polygram, and the same was true at RCA/BMG. At Polygram, the methods employed to make the Mercury CDs, and their success in the marketplace, were widely adopted throughout the company. Competitors at Sony and BMG started digging in the vaults to find real-deal master tapes and started caring about analog playback, simple signal chains and state of the art analog-to-digital conversion, raising the bar on quality for all classical CDs. I’m not saying it was just Harry, but Harry’s voice was important.”

Full eulogy here.

harry pearson

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  • I don’t wish to denigrate Harry Pearson at all, but I think that John Crabbe of HiFi News did more in the UK. Strictly my personal opinion.

  • I never heard the term “High-end audio” used in professional circles for professional methods. That term was reserved for fishing for gullible consumers who don’t know the difference between science and esoteric snake oil treatments. “High end” refers to consumer market pricing mechanisms primarily, not to professional quality standards. The professional world knew terms like “HiFi – High Fidelity” though.

    • I recall a claim a couple of decades ago that the orientation of the slots in the screw heads of the amplifier mains plug had an impact on the sound. Seriously! That’s how ridiculous it had become. Nobody was prepared to subject their claims to double blind testing yet, at the same time, very few were prepared to admit that they could not hear any difference between A or B. Everything, no matter how absurd, made a difference.

      Happens a little now with HDMI cables.

    • So you call yourself an “audiophile” and then you use the death of Harry Pearson to go on a pathetic fishing expedition to find a way to crap all over audiophiles? [redacted: abuse]

      • No, I’m just pointing out that the professional audio world and the consumer audio world are separate worlds. I believe the man had all the right intentions, making the music live, he just went the wrong way to realize them. Mostly due probably to his lack of in-depth education on the subject.

        • Pro Audio and High Performance Audio are well connected. They are two sides of the same coin.

          Most of the engineering done in high performance audio electronics is done by AES members who are highly qualified. Who do you think designs the gear? Farmers?

          I talk to pro audio folks all the time because they are also audiophiles and have in their facilities products designed for professional production and for high performance audio reproduction. Do you want a list of pro audio greats that also have high performance audio gear in their studios or especially in their homes?

          Your are confusing a few ill-informed audiophiles with the high performance audio industry and also, I assure you, with the vast majority of audiophiles, most of whom from what you’ve written are far more intelligent than are you.

          From where other than your own imagination do you get your ideas?

          • Let’s clarify a few misconceptions on your side. ProAudio and Consumer Audio are connected, but not on the same coin. They are quite far apart actually. The Professional audio world for instance uses scientific methods to evaluate perceptual audio quality, e.g. double blind listening test, while the so called “high end audio” world fears the scientific methods like the vampires fear the garlic.

            An AES membership means nothing about a members qualification. An “engineer” in the english speaking world is anyone who wishes to call himself that way, other regions of the world have protected that title for university graduates.

            Great consumer audio gear makers are out there as well as a lot of crappy ones selling voodoo audio gear with big price tags. The lay man has no means to well distinguish which is which and must rely on advice from experts like Harry Pearson. Now HP had a magazine to sell, so he was running a business too.

            In the end, what sounds better and what not, is based on the ever subjective perception and taste, and self declared audiophiles – most I have talked to – do know nothing about the science but like to be inspired by great (expensive) gear. Since everything about hearing music is imagination, everything, only the price tag of cables or the north-south orientation of power supplies with the earth’s magnetic field can do wonders to people’s imagination…
            They all fail to stand the scientific double blind listening test, for obvious reasons…

            It’s an irrational hobby for most, not a matter of truth and it’s twin brother, science, so there is your decisive difference between the “high-end” audio consumer world and the top of the professional audio world.

            Qualified people in the pro audio world tend to send each other audiophile magazine articles for great laughters… 🙂

            As far as your cheap below the belt punches are concerned, help yourself, I’m not playing there…

          • A good summary of the difference between high end consumer audio world and professional audio world is that one is a religious cult and the other is a scientific community. Now businesses will gladly sell both sides gear, and smart businesses understand, which party needs which PR strategy and which looks… 😉

            Now in a cult you can raise your status by shelling out money, a lot of it. In a scientific community you have no such opportunity and need to earn your reputation by merits. Such are the differences between pro audio and “high-end” audio.

  • Poor Harry. Don’t mind what people are saying here. This has become a bullshit blog with bullshit poured out even on deaths and their past contribution to social life. RIP.

  • Your idiocy is complete with your last post.

    Of course what people like is based on their tastes. That goes for pro audio as well. I guess I’ve been in more mastering suites than have you (and I’ve been in plenty) and I find that each sounds different because they use different gear subject to their particular TASTES.

    Recording engineers choose different microphones and recording devices based upon their personal TASTES. They also choose microphone placement based upon personal TASTES.

    So you’ve really said NOTHING. The magazine I write for measured every piece of reviewed gear so that readers get the observational opinions of the reviewers and the objective measurements.

    I have no more time to waste here with an imbecile, which is what you are. No doubt the audiophiles you’ve spoken to know nothing. You travel in their circles and you know nothing.

    You’ve spewed infantile observations and gross generalization and you deal in stereotypes and for a “scientific” you trade mostly in anecdotal evidence. You are what’s called a “supercilious shmuck” in polite circles.

    • The above comment is in response to “audiophile”‘s last spew. For some reason there was no place below his “writing” to post.

  • Let’s talk about “double blind tests”. A fellow who claimed that all amplifiers that measure alike sound alike challenged me to such a test, which he set up at an AES a few years ago. Five amplifiers and A/B/X switch box. I along with dozens of engineers and others took the test. I got 5 of 5 identifications correct (don’t tell me the samples were insufficient. I didn’t design the test, I took his challenge). My editor at Stereophile got 4/5 correct.Unfortunately, among the group, the results were statistically insignificant so of course I was declared a “lucky coin” and my result tossed. The pathetic part of this is that for some reason the test designer included both a Crown DC0-300 (ear bleeder) and a VTL 300 (warm, non-linear tube amp) and the AES attendees failed to differentiate between them, which tells you that if you get stupid results perhaps the testing is stupid. A/B/X testing is designed to produce confusion. It is useful for sure but hardly dispositive.

    Now I’m done, not coming back to argue with an ignorant jackass.

  • Michael Fremer [redacted: abuse]
    You guess wrong, that is the nature of guessing… Guessing is a known procedure in the audiophile world, no surprise there.
    No, recording professionals do not choose their tools based on taste. They chose it based on how well they work within a given set of relevant parameters. Only if several tools comply with these parameters, does taste come into the picture, among other decisive factors.
    Of course as in any profession there are also a few based apples who have strong opinions and ideologies instead of sound(!) knowledge and experience. You know the type, I’m positive…

  • Dear editor(s): So Fremer calls me “ignorant jackass, idiot, imbecile, supercilious shmuck,…” and that’s ok with you, but I call him “a member of a religious cult” and that’s redacted due to “abuse”.
    You are funny.

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