Editor McCauley in conversation with Howard Popeck:
Can we stick with potential valve amp hero-designers for a moment?
Certainly. If only I could think of any. (Long pause). Well ….. Hmm. I very much love the sound of Manley amps. Their preamps and their power amps and the magnificent Stingray. Their idiosyncratic site alludes to a design team which I guess she (Eva-Ann Manley) leads. Certainly the figurehead is Eva-Anne Manley. A rather unusual lady. So from a gender perspective, yes I guess she fits into the hero-designer template. Let’s add her to our short list. You okay with that?
Your call H.
Good. She’s in. Now what?
Getting right back to the beginning of this interview, how about solid-state hero-designers. Both ones you’ve met and others you ‘know’ through osmosis?
Osmosis. Commercial osmosis!
Through affection, admiration and direct personal experience, top of my list is Bob Stuart. The thing is that the word genius is overused in our industry. Geniuses are as rare here as they are in other walks of life. But Bob really is. Just look at the pedigree – or as much of it as I’m prepared to discuss, or can discuss.
For a start, he was a features writer on technical matters for Practical Wireless magazine when he was just 14 years old. He developed a passive noise reduction system for tape recording long before Dolby was out of the cradle but he never put it into production. He designed one of the greatest active speakers of all time, the M1. The Lecson amps. The way ahead of it’s time Orpheus pre and power amps. The 101/103 and 105 amplifiers. The short-lived Meridian 107 power amp that was a rebadged Orpheus power amp. The 104 tuner. The M2s. All this in the 1970s.
Is that all? (Slight incredulity)
Nope. No way. On a whim I asked him to build me an amplification system that at a stroke would sonically blow the NAIM 250 amp system for active Linn Isobarics right out of the water. And he did. Didn’t break into a sweat. It was magic. 3 mono 105 power amps per side and no crossovers. Each power amp’s range was customised precisely to match the requirements of the driver it was driving. No crossover. No crossover. (long pause) Imagine that. (Another pause)
Given the inherent nastiness’s of the Linn sound as enshrined then in that horrible speaker, what he did worked wonders. I sold 6 systems built by him. Never has one appeared on the used market. Believe me, I've looked. Bloody brilliant.
Anything else re amp designers?
Lots. But not now. How about a curry Neil?