Richard “Dick” Hardesty 1944–2014

A Tribute by Shane Buettner

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Richard “Dick” Hardesty 1944–2014

We lost Richard L. Hardesty to cancer on August 19th, 2014 at age 70.

Dick’s was a life lived in audio, first as a retailer and then as a writer. Dick was a consummate educator who excelled at making complex concepts understandable to virtually anyone. His sharp intellect and deep understanding of electronics and engineering helped legions of customers and readers assemble stereo systems capable of providing profound emotional satisfaction for many years.

Dick was a partner with Curtis Havens in Havens and Hardesty Audio Systems, a retail store that was a fixture in the Southern California hi-fi scene in the halcyon days of the 1970s and 1980s. Havens and Hardesty was Vandersteen Audio’s first dealer of note, and one of AudioQuest’s first and most dedicated retailers. In these years Dick forged lifelong friendships of mutual respect with industry visionaries like Richard Vandersteen, Bill Low, Jim Thiel, and many others.

Dick managed Havens and Hardesty after Curtis Havens’ departure before leaving the store in the early 1990s. While Havens and Hardesty the store didn’t successfully navigate the transition to home theater and custom installation, Richard Hardesty the man certainly did; Dick was involved in a number of home-theater-related manufacturing ventures before making a name as a feature writer, reviewer, and editor covering stereo and home-theater electronics.

Dick distinguished himself as a unique and authoritative voice while serving as Audio Editor at Widescreen Review, writing a number of groundbreaking, in-depth pieces explaining the technology and crucial performance metrics of surround-sound processors, DACs, disc players, and speakers. He expertly identified the role of parts quality in defining a component’s sound, revealing the differences between exceptional gear made with premium parts and “me too” products that didn’t justify their price tags. But Richard’s best-known work from this time is undoubtedly his definitive series of articles explaining and benchmark-testing subwoofers, work that earned him the nickname “Dr. Boom” among his fans.  

Dick later founded The Audio Perfectionist Journal, acting as Editor-In-Chief and publisher. APJ eschewed advertising, as Richard’s goal was to serve his readers’ interests alone. APJ’s readership was as fanatical as it was exclusive, and for its devoted readers it remains an essential resource and knowledge base.

Dick was serious and deliberate and didn’t abide self-appointed experts who weren’t acquainted with facts and was ever skeptical of the gurus that always come and go in audio. But those who knew him well remember a surprisingly ready sense of humor and a gregarious, booming laugh. Most of all, his friends, customers, and readers will remember how generous he was with his time and his knowledge; anyone with genuine interest in hi-fi and a set of ears had found a great teacher in Dick Hardesty.

Dick Hardesty was my friend and most beloved mentor. I will miss him the rest of my days, as will many who knew him over the decades.

Rest in peace, Dick.

Dick is survived by his loving wife Paula, daughter Sheri Jones, sister Edee Hardesty, and Pi-Chi, his Belgian Turvuren.

Robert Harley Remembers Dick Hardesty

The first time I met Dick Hardesty was also the first time I heard a Vandersteen loudspeaker. Years before I worked in the hi-fi industry, I visited Havens and Hardesty with a friend just to hang out on a Saturday afternoon at the Mecca of high-end audio in Orange County. My friend and I were a couple of anonymous tire-kicking guys, but Dick invited us to listen to the Vandersteen Model 2 driven by some Audio Research electronics. We spent the next three hours in Dick’s store as he graciously shared with us his passion for music and audio. Dick had no expectation that we were buyers, but that didn’t damp his enthusiasm. My friend and I left Dick’s store thrilled by what we’d just experienced, and the next month my friend returned to buy a pair of Model 2s. They don’t make retailers like that anymore.

They also don’t make writers like Dick anymore. His prose was the epitome of clarity, insight, and technical authority; moreover, he was never afraid to confront the established wisdom. His series of articles in Widescreen Review and, later, The Audio Perfectionist Journal, the magazine he founded, serve as a model for explaining complex subjects in a way that makes them accessible. I am fortunate to have worked with Dick and to have published his writing when I was editor of The Perfect Vision. He was an inspiration to anyone who has tried to write technically about audio. Dick’s contributions to high-end audio were not only manifold, but spanned more than four decades. He will be missed.