The Legend of Dr. Tezukuri

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The Legend of Dr. Tezukuri

That issue solved, I started reviewing and, while doing so, I was finally able to complete the most difficult of all my initial cable designs: the phono cable from cartridge to preamp. Because practically no current, at practically no voltage, must be carried by this cable without distortion or noise with nothing added and nothing lost, it was truly a bear to come up with. Once I had developed one that I was satisfied with and had thoroughly tested it in my own system and those of friends living nearby, I made another one and sent it off to Tom Miiller, another reviewer for Sounds Like… (and, both earlier and later, TAS, as well) for evaluation, still keeping the fact that I had made it a secret.

When I called a few days later to see if Tom had gotten it and tried it out, he told me that he had gotten it, that he had tried it, and that it was wonderful, and launched into a whole series of questions about what the cable was, where I had gotten it, and so on. Sticking to anonymity, I told him that the name of the cable was Japanese (true) and that it wasn’t available for sale in the United States (also true—it wasn’t available for sale anywhere). As to how I had found out about it, I told him that I had heard it at the home of an audiophile Japanese-American neurosurgeon friend of mine. (Also absolutely true—I did hear the cable at the home of my neurosurgeon pal, Bill Tomori, who is a Japanese-American audiophile. Of course, I was the one who had brought the cable there, but that was another issue.) All in all, I tried to answer Tom’s questions as truthfully, but as misleadingly as possible, and to give him as little real information as I could, and we eventually ended the conversation with him saying that he loved the cable and was going off to hear more of it.

At that point, I thought the tumult was over, but that wasn’t what happened: Just a few days later, Tom called me and said (this and all further quotes are rendered as accurately as I can remember, but may not be the precise words spoken): “Hi, I’ve done some more listening to that cable and—don’t know who designed it, but I hope he wasn’t a friend of yours. It’s really pretty awful.” He then broke out laughing. It turned out that he hadn’t been satisfied with the answers that I had given him, and had called Jeff Goggin, our publisher, to see if he could get more information. It also turned out that Goggin, despite his oath to maintain secrecy about the cables, had told Tom everything. (When, after getting off the phone with Tom, I confronted Goggin with this, he admitted that it was true, apologized, and swore, once again, never to tell another soul.) In the meantime, though, I was on the phone with Tom, and Tom suggested that we should play a little trick on Michael Gindi, another reviewer for the magazine.

Just about all of us who wrote for Sounds Like… were unhappy with Gindi: We all played by the rules and waited to be assigned products for review. Not so Gindi. When something new and exciting came out (the Avalon Ascent speakers, for example, or the Jadis Defy 7 amplifier), Gindi would simply contact the manufacturer or distributor and ask for a review sample directly, instead of following procedure and going through the magazine. That resulted in Gindi getting all the good stuff and the rest of us missing out. We didn’t like it. And Tom had an idea for some gentle retribution: What I should do, he said, was to make another phono cable and send it to Gindi, saying in advance that he could only have it for a short while and must return it to me when that was over. “That’ll drive Gindi nuts,” Tom said, “He can’t stand for anybody to have anything really good that he can’t have!”

Before sending the cable, though, Tom said that we must “polish” the original tezukuri story to make Gindi feel even worse when he couldn’t get cables for his own system. To that end, we invented the character of Dr. Tezukuri, a blind Japanese physicist, who, because of his affliction, had developed ears like a bat. The good doctor was the inventor of the cables but, for obvious reasons, couldn’t actually build them, so that task was left to his two sons—one an engineer and the other a sculptor. Both, the new story went, did the actual fabrication of the cables and, perhaps because one was right-handed and the other was left-handed (or perhaps because of their different professional skills and training), the cables made by the left-handed son were said to be better-sounding. As before, the cables were not for sale to the United States, and each one here had had to be individually smuggled out of Japan.

With that new story in mind, I built another phono cable, called Gindi to tell him about it, and, at his request, promised to send him one, but only for evaluation, and only for two weeks. After that, the cable had to be returned to me for return to its actual owner. After the cable had been sent and enough time had passed for him to have received and tried it, I called Michael Gindi and asked him what he thought. His answer (this one, I’m sure, is quoted exactly) was, “I don’t know who this Dr. Tezukuri is, but if he wants his cable back he’s going to have to send his lawyers and a small army.” He continued bubbling over with praise and asking more questions about the cable, its origin, and how he could get one to keep for himself.

I tried to answer his questions as well as I could, keeping to the now-established story, but just as Tom Miiller had done with me, I eventually got to the point where I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and broke out laughing. At which point Gindi leaped on me, demanding the truth, and I—caught fair and square—told him the truth. Once he heard all of it, Gindi insisted that we send the cable on to Myles Astor, at the time another Sounds Like… reviewer. “Serve him right,” Gindi said. “He really loves his MITs—probably sleeps with ’em. This’ll really blow his mind!”

First, though, Gindi, just like Miiller before him, wanted to add his own little bit to the Dr. Tezukuri story: One of Gindi’s contributions was that the reason that Dr. Tezukuri is anti-U.S. and won’t allow his cables to be sold here is that he was interned in one of America’s “Japanese relocation” camps (Manzanar, perhaps) during World War II, and when the war was over and he was released, he left this country, vowing never to return. It was during his time in the camp, Gindi and I agreed, that Dr. Tezukuri developed the basic principles upon which his cables were based, and it was that same epoch-making research that caused him to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in physics. He did not win, however, and forever-after blamed his loss of that prestigious award and the recognition it might have gained for him and his work on U.S. interference in the Prize Committee’s decision-making process—just one more example, he believed, of American duplicity and another reason for his anti-American sentiment.

Gindi told all of this to Myles when he sent him the cable and, Myles, loving the cable but skeptical, called me to verify the story, which I did.

Over the next few months, more and more Tezukuri Reference cables—phono and otherwise—were made and sent out, always with the same (or at least the latest version of) the Dr. Tezukuri story, until a goodly number of the country’s top audio reviewers had them and were using them and listing them in their reference systems. Then (as I, not being there, have been told), at a meeting of the Westchester Audio Society one night in November of 1990, Howard Mandel (not the comedian, but the designer/manufacturer of the “Altis” line of quite excellent high-end digital electronics), asked Arnis Balgalvis, a member of the club and a contributing editor of Stereophile, if he knew anything about the Tezukuri cables everybody was using, and Balgalvis told him the standard line, claiming no knowledge of them other than what everybody else already knew. At that point, Myles Astor is reported to have said, “There is no Dr. Tezukuri and there is no Tezukuri cable; the cables are made by Roger Skoff, one of the writers for Sounds Like… magazine.”

Apparently Myles had believed neither me nor Gindi about the provenance of Tezukuri cables, and had contacted Goggin, who had (now contrary to two solemn oaths), once again “spilled the beans” about their true origin, leaving Myles—not knowing that Miiller and Gindi and however many others had also received exactly the same treatment—feeling like he had been the victim of something more than just a prank between colleagues, and out to take a long-awaited revenge. Rightly or not, the result of all that was that Howard, who had a reputation as “The Gossip of the Known Universe,” apparently and instantly told everyone on the entire planet that it was I who was the source of the cables that everyone was raving about, and within just a month, by December 1990, I received more than a hundred unsolicited requests from people who wanted to buy cables.

Despite my good intentions to never go into the cable business, that was enough for me to make up a number of samples and bring them with me, in January, to the 1991 Winter CES, where people, learning these were the mysterious Tezukuri Reference cables they had been hearing of for so long but had never actually seen, were eager to try them out and, when they did, either wanted them for their own systems or to sell or distribute. The result was that I left the show with about a dozen U.S. dealers wanting to carry the line and an equal number of foreign distributors wanting to distribute abroad. In the face of such demand, I really had no choice but to go into business.

After changing the brand name to “XLO,” which everybody agreed was both easier to say and more commercial-sounding than “Tezukuri,” I founded XLO Electric Company, Inc. in March of 1991, which means that in this industry where so many new companies appear, shine brightly for a short while, and then disappear again forever, XLO will soon be celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Thanks, Dr. Tezukuri, wherever you are. You done good.

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