In Memory of Harry Pearson

Jan. 05, 1937 — Nov. 04, 2014

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Harry Pearson, Founder of The Absolute Sound and an icon of high-end audio journalism. Harry passed away at his home in Sea Cliff, New York on November 4, 2014 at the age of 77. This "Wall of Remembrance" contains memories and stories about HP from his friends, industry associates, colleagues, and readers. Please feel free to add your thoughts and recollections. We would like this Wall to be a permanent memorable to this great man, who transformed an industry and touched our lives.

Thoughts and Rememberances

I'll miss Harry. We became friends when he began TAS while I was at Audio Research. The "dynamic range" of his personality made for never a dull moment. We had many lively debates which we both enjoyed. I got on his nerves at times, but our friendship survived. 

 

Much has been said about his contribution to high end audio. I have nothing to add that hasn't already been said. It was his intelligence and the wide range of his personality that I fondly remember---and will miss. 

 

Wendell Diller

Marketing Mgr.

Magnepan Inc.

— Wendell Diller

I was one of the very first subscribers to TAS. I signed up about a year before the first issue. I recall meeting David Black, who was helping Harry in the beginning, at the Chicago CES about 6 months later and still 6 months before issue 1 and there were still only about 500 subscribers. So I was there at the beginning and I’ve been reading HP for about 4 decades. After reading an author for so long one can’t help but feel like one knows him. I feel like I’ve lost another friend who I used to discuss my audio hobby with for all those years. As I grow older that list of names is growing too long.

 

And I knew Harry slightly from times I accompanied my friend George Bischoff to Harry’s home when HP was testing a product George was making. Now I will never forget the last time I saw HP when Harry was playing Volcano from The Lost World CD, a reference favorite of his for its awesome deep, deep bass. We were using George’s Scaena speakers and the walls and floor were shaking, 3 sets of eyes were bulging and we were all ready to duck flying woofers.  Harry’s favorite cup fell off a shelf in his bath room and he thought it was great and found it  amusing.

 

In the last 50 years there have been two giants of audio publishing and audio criticism, Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson, who almost on their own defined their venue. First Gordon left us and now Harry is gone. We won’t see their like again.

 

I know about Harry’s love of great food and wine. I already planned on opening a 25 year old bottle of Bordeaux with two audio pals this next Friday. Now the first sips will be a toast and homage to Harry Pearson.

 

RIP HP.

 

Allen Edelstein

— Allen Edelstein

Harry was my friend. We had our ups and downs. He pissed me off more than a few times, but he alone inspired my love of music, audio and life more than any other human on the planet.

 

Harry loved life and lived it to the fullest. He made it to king in our industry and ruled over the land and all he could see like no one has before or since. HP was bigger than life.

 

One of my fondest memories was shared with him while sitting on his porch in Sea Cliff. It was the beginning of spring and we chatted, not about music and stereos, but about life and its living. I had come from California where the land was dry and brown. Before us a bounty of green burst through the warm flower beds of his home. I had never witnessed such energetic growth. It seemed to tear itself out of the ground.

 

“Harry, this is amazing, I have never seen flowers and plants bursting into the open like this,” I said, “what makes them do that?”

 

“Winter. These plants don’t have long to enjoy the warmth of the sun. When spring comes they bust through the ground with a vengeance.”

 

“We don’t have anything like this in California.”

 

“Of course not. Life loves living because it knows the death winter brings. California is neither alive nor dead. You can’t have one without the other.”

 

And Harry had both. He didn’t make it to the spring but his life tore through the very fabric of our world. I owe him much.

 

Rest in peace my friend.

 

Paul McGowan

— Paul McGowan

“In the early 1980’s I discovered TAS and its main writer, Harry Pearson.  As I had some of the equipment that HP reviewed, I wrote letters to him to share my experiences with the gear.  We often disagreed, but it was always friendly and HP seemed to like me as a person, not just an engineer.  A decade later, HP, writing in Fi magazine, conducted a rave review of my VR-8 speaker system.  It was literally my dream come true!  I believe that wherever HP is now, he is listening to music as I write this note.  Long live HP and long live his great magazine, The Absolute Sound.”

Albert Von Schweikert

— Albert Von Schweikert

As a member of the high end audio industry, we all recognized your contribution to create such professional platform for us to share our dreams in the circle. “Spirit Forever, HP”.  

 

Jerry Sun

CEO

MC music culture technology GmbH

— Jerry Sun

I first met Harry when I was a young man working at Dahlquist in the early 1980s.  Harry, or HP as he was better known, was a kingmaker in those days – products rose and fell on his reviews.  He was a fan of Jon Dahlquist’s DQ-10, and his positive press certainly helped make that a very successful product.  I had the opportunity to meet him at Sea Cliff (which was what his home/office/review space was always referred to) and I was very concerned that a misstep on my part might harm my company, but he was quite gracious and I enjoyed my time with him tremendously.   He was incredibly passionate about great sound, and gave me a fantastic demo of his then reference system (giant Infinity IRS speakers, Conrad-Johnson electronics, a massive turntable that I can’t quite remember now) and it was just staggering.  He played me Dusty Springfield’s The Look of Love, one of his favorite tracks at the time, and she was just there.  It was an indelible moment and it crystallized for me the transcendent music experience that a high-end audio system can deliver.  Looking back, I realize that I was very lucky, so early in my career, to get some time with one of the true legends of the high-end audio.  I remember him railing against the general ignorance of what was possible in sound reproduction, and Julian Hirsch (then editor of Stereo Review), in particular, who famously claimed that all amplifiers that measured the same sounded the same.  “If they only knew…” he said.  Unfortunately, that frustration must have been with him to the end as records gave way to CDs, and then to compressed files.  But thanks to Harry Pearson’s efforts, high-end audio did become a much bigger business and a great many people were inspired by his writing to listen more intently, and thus to get much more out of the music they love.  We all owe him a debt of gratitude.  Rest in peace.

 

Doug Henderson
President, B&W Group North America

— Doug Henderson

I am deeply saddened and at a loss of words at the news of Harry Pearson's sudden passing. It has been 38 years since I first put my hands on The Absolute Sound. Although he had never taught me in person, in my mind he was a great teacher and I learned so much about audio as an art of reproduction from his publications. If it weren't for him I wouldn't have set my foot into the audio industry. In that sense I owe everything to him.

 

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to visit Sea Cliff in 2009. Listening to his impeccably set-up system--which included the components I designed and built--I was able to understand, for the first time, what the high-end audio reproduction is in the true sense. I felt tremendous honor, and at the same time, I realized I had much more to learn from him. He was generous, jovial, encouraging, and he always had that mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Together with the memory of this visit, I will treasure for the rest of my life the very first issue of TAS he presented to me.

 

His philosophy, principles and techniques regarding music reproduction will continue to guide me in my own quest for the absolute sound. He may be gone, but his legacy will certainly live on in the hearts and minds of thousands of audiophiles and hundreds of high-end audio designers and engineers.

 

Thank you, Harry, for all that you have given us. May you rest in peace.

 

Masataka Tsuda

CEO and Founder

Concert Fidelity

Nagano, Japan

— Masataka Tsuda

“Harry was a unique man and was a father figure for audio journalists.  More importantly he fueled the interests of audio lovers and helped to form our industry. He walked the high road but was not afraid of controversy. We'll miss him.”

- Bill Dudleston, President, Legacy Audio

— Bill Dudleston

It was with profound sadness that I learned yesterday that Harry Pearson had passed away. Bill Conrad and I first met Harry about 35 years ago, when we were first getting started in the industry. I was taken by his willingness to spend time with the founders of an unknown company. He dispensed his observations freely - a balance of criticism and praise from which we learned a great deal. Very quickly we became impressed with his acute hearing, and especially his remarkable ability to recall the sonic signatures of a specific piece of equipment. One time he returned a preamplifier to us for upgrade (our early Flagship preamp, the Premier Two) and, more than a month later when it was returned to him, he described exactly the sonic changes that we ourselves had heard in making the upgrade. While Harry and I crossed swords on one or two occasions, we became friends and I feel the loss on a personal level.

But the loss goes well beyond personal. High-end audio enthusiasts owe Harry an incalculable debt. Inspired by J. Gordon Holt (founder of Stereophile Magazine), Harry virtually perfected the art of reviewing the sound of audio components – (Holt’s own radical departure from the norm in audio component reviews). His contributions include:

  • Establishing the principle that subjective audio review is not a matter of taste, that there is in fact an absolute standard to which listeners can refer, the sound of live music.
  • Playing a major role in creating a language for describing aspects of the sonic character of audio systems
  • Establishing the methodology of a reference system, into which components under review are inserted individually to establish their character (unfortunately a methodology still not rigorously adhered to by a large segment of the review community)
  • Mentoring numerous top audio reviewers and inspiring many others
  • Providing a forum for promising new audio designers
  • Conveying the excitement and passion of pursuing excellence in audio

In the process, Harry was instrumental in transforming what had been a hobbyist’s playground into a significant industry. 

Harry will be missed by all who have a passion for the pleasures of recorded music.

 

- Lew Johnson

— Lew Johnson

I remember fondly Running into Harry at one of his and my favorite restaurant Maguro in Roslyn NY.  I had just sat down and I noticed Harry sitting at the sushi bar alone. I invited him to our  table and thus began a wonderful night of  Harry at his finest, with his uncanny  sense of  humor  and comedic timing.  It was a chance meeting without the pretense of  any equipment reviews  hanging over our heads. Just old friends having food and laughing together.  A very fond memory, he will certainly be missed.

 

Dan D’Agostino

— Dan D’Agostino

RIP Harry 

You will be long remembered 

Best
Steve

— Stephen Daniels

I’ve just heard that the great Harry Pearson passed away on November 4th.  HP was the first audio reviewer I ever trusted, and possibly still the one I trust most. His uncorroborated opinion was enough good enough for me, and that is saying a LOT.  HP always seemed to be listening for, and hearing, the same things I did. I was lucky enough to meet Harry briefly at THE Show.  He came across as a warm, fun-loving soul, much less serious & formal in person than he seemed in print.

 

Rest well, Harry!  We are all in your debt.

 

Art

— Art Alenik

By coincidence, I lived next to Harry. One summer evening Harry was calling my name from the alley between our houses. I came out on the deck with curlers in my hair to see what he wanted. Harry invited me to come over and meet Michael Kay. Harry knew I was looking for a job but he insisted I couldn’t come over until I took my curlers out! I did not get the job but it was sweet Harry thought me. He was always kind whenever I met him.

Petra Wilde D’Agostino

— Petra Wilde D’Agostino

I remember reading my first TAS and HP's review.  I was impressed.  He actually told us what a component sounded like...what its strengths and weaknesses were and what it matched up best with...and how to set up the system.  I remember saying "Wow!; The name of the magazine actually means something!"  This was in a time when other audio magazines merely showed a product picture, told about its features and said everything sounds fine.

 

I had the privilege many times to sit and listen to music with HP and every time it was an education.  HP was a major influence for the better in audio.  Rest In Peace, Harry.

 

Lloyd Walker
President/Owner
Walker Audio

— Lloyd Walker

It’s a profound experience when things taken for granted come into sharp focus when removed from us.  I’m not alone in spending the days since his passing reflecting on the influence Harry Pearson had on so many of us.  I, like so many I’m sure, went back to read past writings, even early writings of an individual who so intuitively shaped the way we think and communicate about our vocation and hobby.  Harry had this innate ability to permit you to feel, comprehend and practically taste the subject matter at hand.  If given the opportunity he may have been the one person I know who could have described the taste of an orange, to one never having tasted it, to the level of complete understanding.  Such was his gift.

Having finally met Harry in person just a few years ago I was finally able to cement my understanding and appreciation of the man.  His charm as a raconteur was a pleasure to experience during an evening get-together.  Through the encouragements of his beloved spirits a keen sense of wit prevailed.  His comedic word play on my name (an all too inviting prospect) became a theme at our table.  This evening of HP entertainment allowed us all to appreciate more than just his astute contemplative mind.  He desired to have a larger than life impact on those he came across – which he accomplished in his life.

Harry Pearson may be physically removed from us but the thread he’s woven through our collective thoughts and our little section of industry will keep him with us eternally.  As we describe our love of a piece of music or our appreciation for specific qualities of a high end audio system or component we will hear in each other and in ourselves Harry’s words and phrases.  From all of us at YG Acoustics we offer heartfelt thanks for the opportunity of knowing and receiving of Harry’s extraordinary talent.  Harry Pearson was the igniting spark to a greater level of passion for so many of us in our pursuit of The Absolute Sound.

Dick Diamond & Your Friends at YG Acoustics

— Dick Diamond

Sadly we can only confess to have known Harry through his reputation, which was clearly inspirational. Hopefully this legacy is never lost, and remind us all why we are so lucky to be engaged in such a great industry.

 

Roy Bird
Chairman
Chester Group ( Exhibitions ) Ltd

— Roy Bird

The death of Harry Pearson, best known by his admiring readers as simply HP, truly marks the culmination of the original pioneers of high end audio. Harry, along with J. Gordon Holt, were both instrumental in defining and fostering the pursuit of what has become the industry of high caliber audio components created for the purpose of accurately reproducing music in the home. While Holt may have been there first, Harry was responsible for creating an aura around the components, the manufacturers and the entire concept of the absolute sound. The magazine that Harry founded was responsible for the establishment of intense and fanatical devotion to state of the art audio gear. The term audiophile took on a meaning like never before. 

 

On a personal level, Harry was responsible for igniting my passion for the finest audio components. From the first issue of TAS which I devoured in 1973 and read multiple times, Harry's unique way of uncannily being able to communicate with words the sound of a component, fueled a love of music and the components required to enhance that musical adventure. Besides having a tremendous sense of aural acuity, no one could write like Harry. It was audio poetry in motion. His singular gift for being adept at combining the perfect blend of information, edification and entertainment resulted in reviews that left the reader totally versed in the qualities - both strengths and weaknesses- of a given unit and when Harry was impressed, his enthusiasm made the reader yearn for its purchase. We trusted Harry with our hard earned money and his integrity was never questioned. Those were furthermore, the times when TAS refused to accept advertising from manufacturers for fear that reviews might be perceived as biased or unduly influenced. Hard to believe in these times where advertising revenues are essential to any publications' survival. Harry pondered long and hard before relenting and accepting the inevitable by succumbing to the economic realities of publishing an esoteric audio magazine with limited readership. 

 

TAS was more a labor of love and passion than an avenue for financial advancement for Harry. By the mid nineties, the harsh realities of operating( and at times not very efficiently or effectively - not one of Harry's strong suits) a small periodical forced the sale of the magazine to a party that would take the enterprise in a totally different, more mass market direction. This effectively marked the beginning of the end of the Pearson hegemony over the movement he inaugurated and built.

 

Harry was instrumental in beginning the audio careers of many. I am one of them. Harry was responsible for my enterprise in manufacturing state of the art audio equipment. My passion, indeed, obsession with all things audio was nurtured by TAS. Harry was  the catalyst and my inspiration for entering this precarious and niche, relatively unknown world of high end audio. One of my determined goals, after starting my company, was to have a Coincident component entered into HP's Super Components List. I would not be content with anything less. A few years later our Total Eclipse speakers were awarded the TAS Component of the Year Award. While this was a remarkable and highly appreciated event, it was not HP's Super List. I wanted in to that list.The dream was finally realized some five years later when Harry choose our Total Victory II loudspeakers for inclusion into that select and hallowed category. Coincident had now made it.

 

Much has been spoken and written about Harry Pearson, the man. Like all great individuals, Harry evoked strong and diverse reactions from those who came into his world. I will only relay my personal relationship with him and it was something very special. We had an instant bond that was cemented by mutual respect, admiration and affection. This relationship applied to my significant other, Evie, as well. He absolutely adored her from the moment he laid eyes on her and gave her a hug that left her winded. He called her  " Bubbles" a reference to her personality and charm. Harry, make no mistake, loved beautiful women. He often joked that if he was ever to switch teams, it would be for Bubbles. In every conversation with me, whether in person , email or telephone, Harry  made a special point of mentioning Bubbles in the most affectionate and flattering ways. Harry was very open with his affection for Evie and me. In one email, he said, " you, me, Bubbles - we got a whole triangular love fest going. And that is our business, no one else's. For starters they wouldn't understand, next, they would be envious." Harry was very open with his emotions. On another occasion when I sent him a photo of Evie and me, he responded with " makes me miss you both. Is it possible to feel homesick for friendship? I miss you really and truly". A sentiment he would repeat during most of the conversations we had.

 

But Harry, despite his stature and accomplishments could be very insecure. When I sent him a short note upon seeing a photo of him (with Arnie Nudell and Mike Kay) taken many years earlier,  jokingly commenting " who is that incredibly handsome man on the right"? He replied, " I can't tell you how much I appreciate this, so I won't even try. But think about it, we've been pals for years". A couple of years ago, I emailed him a short note advising that I had a conversation with a mutual friend who was extolling his virtues.                           

Harry's retort " Must have been a short one." He continued with " it's good for me not to know the specifics, so I don't have to live up to anything. Used to having it the other way around: living things down".

 

Harry was also empathetic and compassionate. When my mother died a couple of years ago, he offered heart felt condolences and replied" I have broad shoulders and am around for you. She must have been terribly proud of you". I could go on and on. Harry meant a great deal to me on many levels. Hs influence on my life was profound. The audio world has lost a ground breaking luminary whose impact on all those in our industry is deeply palpable. I am deeply saddened by his passing because I have lost a mentor, my inspiration and a true friend.  

 

Best Regards,

 

 

Israel Blume- Pres.
Coincident Speaker Technology

— Israel Blume

Harry Pearson: It takes a death to awaken..you to a persons impact on your life. People go on with their daily routines and rarely think about or have time to contemplate other people who changed your life. Harry changed my life...

— Charles Bellomo

In appreciation of an Astronaut

 

If the only achievement that matters to the universe is advancing life itself in some capacity, Harry Pearson was an astronaut. He showed us a whole new universe, one that yielded passions, careers and even companies. And yet he left with nothing more than he came with.

Even those who found him controversial, discovered that at the end of it all, they had gained far more from him than he from them.

To quote a line from one of his favorite films that laconically describes his story, in his style: “I beg you to believe my reputation, I am a constant solider, a sometime poet and I will be king”

 

He was already a king, he had won the race; Harry even had the home of dreams, when he decided to become a soldier, and throw it all back in for something he believed in and a concept still not mainstream, even in audio- Enthralling Sound.

Every room in Xanadu was devoted to the war effort and expanding our horizons and vocabulary, we were even the ultimate beneficiaries of that writing room with a view of the sea, necessary for evoking the passions that triggered an industry.

 

He won another war, the rarest of them all, to be one’s self all the way to the end, free of all influence, never letting anything else define him, and to his own detriment, never surrendering honesty for appeasement nor gain.

 

Here’s to you Astronaut;
If no one joins your cause, proudly march alone.
When they all turn against you, march alone.
When no one will light a treacherous path,
use the flame in your heart and light the way for others.
When you look back, the world will be following you…..

 

Alan Eichenbaum
Scaena Loudspeakers

— Alan Eichenbaum

I worked for Harry full-time for many years in the late 1980s through early 1990s as technical director, managing editor and pop music reviewer and wrote for The Absolute Sound from 1984 to around 2000. I think it’s safe to say I got to know him as well as anyone.

Forgive me for being lengthy…believe me, I could go on and on. Harry was complex, and maybe I can impart a small if rambling glimpse here of what it was like to know the guy.

Like most I first became aware of Harry through reading The Absolute Sound, in the late 1970s when I was in my early twenties. When an issue arrived, time stopped. I would sneak the magazine into work and read it under the table, like a kid in elementary school with a comic book, and devour the reviews of the mythical equipment I thought I’d never hear or afford.

But especially I’d be amused, entertained, outraged, sometimes shocked and yes, even a little scared at what people would say to each other, which was often nasty, condescending, opinionated, egotistical and impassioned…with HP as the agent provocateur behind it all, who seemed to revel in the maelstrom. It only added to the mystique of The Great HP, who really was a mythical figure to us back then.

Over and over again I would read something and think, “Man, I’d never want to be in the middle of all this. These people are crazy!” Yet as a music lover and musician who wanted to hear my favorite music at its best, TAS was a compelling portal into a world of sound I dreamed of hearing.

In the early 1980s my friend and fellow audiophile Robert J. Reina, who I had gone to high school with and who was then writing for TAS, told me they were looking for a pop music reviewer. To make a long story short (maybe someday I’ll tell the long version if anyone cares and if I can remember all the details!), Harry hired me. I was thrilled. Good lord, I was a TAS reviewer! I would be known by my initials! I had actually spoken to The Great HP (in conversations that already had ranged from the inspiring to the humorous to the snarky to the incomprehensible). I’m not worthy!

But I still hadn’t met him. That would come nine months later when I was invited to one of his now-legendary friendship parties at Sea Cliff (even the name of the town sounded exotic). I had to rent a white tuxedo. I was so nervous I was worried about not peeing in those white tux pants, and wouldn’t drive.

I got to the party, a whirlwind of people on the porch. Someone introduced us. The details are now a blur. My first impression of Harry was a man of presence, a good-looking, confident guy, and when he spoke I felt somehow intimidated and put at ease at the same time. Lord knows what his first impression of me was.

I can’t remember what he first said to me. (I was having trouble processing the fact that here I was, a few years out of college and had somehow found myself in the center of the high-end audio world). It was something humorous and complimentary. He then insisted he show me around the house. I was touched…here’s this big party going on with all these big shots and you’re taking the time to break away and show me around? And then for the first time I saw all that mythical equipment, now manifest—the Goldmund Reference turntable. The Infinity IRS V speaker system. The Audio Research SP-11 preamp.

I was awed. I had a wonderful time at the party and met so many of the great, great people who have been friends since.

And of course, I wanted to hear The System. Harry clearly knew what I was thinking and invited me to come back for a listen. I wasn’t holding my breath, as he had stood me up a few times before. But I wound up coming back a week later. We went to an excellent dinner (Harry always did have good, and expensive, taste in dining out; ask anyone who picked up the bill).

Finally, time to hear the fabled Sea Cliff system. I was about to enter the listening room when Harry stopped me, looked at me with frightening intensity and said,

“I want you to really think about this before you enter that room. Because if you do, your life will never be the same.”

(Holy s*hit, what am I getting myself into?) I hesitated. For a second.

He was right. The sound…orders of magnitude beyond what I had ever heard. Soundstaging, imaging and a sense of weight and scale that truly did make you feel like you were in the presence of the performers and the orchestra. Incredible low end, midrange and highs that were more detailed than anything I thought possible. Clarity, transparency…mind-boggling. Fiesta In Hi-Fi, Dafos, that Propaganda record, Lt. Kije…record after record…mind-blowing. But these words are a pale shell of the totality, the experience, the magnitude, the sheer beauty and majesty of the system. I knew my life had been irrevocably changed.

To the point where, a few months later, I refinanced my condo so I could buy an SP-11, Mark Levinson No. 23, Goldmund Studio…seemed crazy but sometimes you just have to go for it…

When, a couple of years later, Harry asked me to work full-time for him, I had to think about it for more than just a second as I knew that if I did, my life was really going to change. Especially since, as a now-TAS insider, I knew how hard Harry could be to work for, alternately charming, temperamental, always demanding the best when it came to the writing you handed in (he made me re-write an intro to a piece I did on Les Paul four times before he signed off on it), sometimes pissing manufacturers and staffers off, on occasion refusing to see manufacturers when they had come all the way to visit Sea Cliff, postponing appointments... Yes, Harry could tick people off, including me at times (to nuclear-force proportions on occasion, and I know there are people who view him less warmly than I do), but what friend, family member or lover do you know who doesn’t have foibles?

I took the job. I saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime. It was.

I essentially became Harry’s right-hand man for more than five years.

Harry and I were fundamentally different personalities, but maybe because of that I think we were perfectly suited to work with each other. We were opposites in many ways—he loved controversy while I was pained by it; he would stand people up (including me) while I would struggle to return everyone’s phone calls; he would push handing in copy to the limit and I was always on time (but man could Harry type fast!); I would love going to trade shows, meeting my friends in the industry and hearing new gear while he was mortified at the prospect (until later in his life, and even then he would go grudgingly).

Yet we shared so much. Above all, we loved music. I know that sounds like a cliché, a vacuous platitude, but it’s true. Music was joy, solace, excitement, emotional release. Music was it for us. (That never changed, did it?) When we would first hook up a revelatory component, and there were many, we would sit down, look at each other and laugh, literally shout, sometimes just shake our heads in awe at what we were now hearing from favorite recordings that we had never heard before from those cherished discs—and how astonishing the performance of the components was and how the music sounded. When we got our hands on a new record, whether something I found at a used-record convention or a Classic Records, Chesky, Reference Recordings, Wilson Audio or other audiophile recording, we would very often drop everything and run and put it on. And be thrilled at what we heard and have to hear it again and again.

We saw manufacturers constantly, sometimes three times a week or more and I can’t count the great times we had with, essentially, a who’s who of the high-end manufacturing community.

Since we were both single at the time we hung out after hours a lot. Between that and the fact that I was working at TAS full-time, I got to see quite a bit of Harry, from his charming best, welcoming a visitor with Southern hospitality, to just after waking up in the morning, grumpy, unshaven, barefoot in a bathrobe and not all that happy to see me and start the day. I witnessed HP the legend and Harry the guy, Harry the center of attention to Harry lonely and looking for a friend to share a drink with on a Friday night.

I knew him when he was conducting brilliant interviews and listening sessions with people like Wilma Cozart Fine, and coming out of his writing tower with reviews I knew were landmark pieces the moment after I finished reading them, to when he yelled at me to drop everything one day because he had to have Velveeta cheese on his sandwich and there was none in the house.

Yet as so many others will tell you, he truly was an inspiration. He was incredibly passionate about music and about the gear. (Though not a tweakaholic gearhead; he left that stuff to me.) I, and anyone who worked with him closely in those listening rooms can tell you that Harry could hear the essence of what a component was doing in five minutes.

He was remarkably talented. Anyone who reviews equipment knows how difficult it can be to put what you’re hearing into words—as Frank Zappa said, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” but Harry at his best had a way of conveying what we were hearing in his writing which made you feel like you were in the room with the gear and knew what it sounded like. Harry I think almost single-handedly defined high-end audio writing and as others have noted gave us much of the terminology we still use (and sometimes abuse and misuse) today, and especially, defined many of the concepts of high-end audio writing. Not that great audio writing hadn’t been done before, but Harry made high-end audio writing a reality in the same way that, while Leo Fender didn’t invent the first solid body electric guitar, he was the one who put it on the map.

I’ll say it again—he inspired people. In his reviews he would pick out a component’s flaws, often at the not-inconsiderable wrath of the manufacturers—who would then go back and improve their creations. He was a voracious and fast reader, loved movies, doted upon his Maine Coon cats (I was never sure whether cleaning the cat box was actually part of my job description) and could talk at length about any number of topics; when he was in a good mood he’d be a charming person to talk on the phone and have dinner and drinks with. He could meet someone and get to the essence of that person’s inner core in moments and strike up a lifelong bond. (OK, sometimes when he met someone it was more like oil and water mixing, on both sides.) There are dozens, probably hundreds of people in the audio industry and legions of readers who have felt his influence.

In the early 1990s I moved from TAS and kept writing for it until around 2000 but always kept in touch with Harry. (Or tried—making an appointment or dinner date with him never did get any easier.) He wasn’t happy that I left, but understood. (I’ll leave the details for some other time.) We saw each other intermittently and kept in touch by e-mail and phone.

A few months ago I heard the news that he had slipped on a patch of ice, broke his hip and was in a rehabilitation center. I quickly went to visit him. He was clearly dealt a blow by having such a serious injury at such a not-so-young age, and it was a shock to see him in a hospital bed looking frail. Still, my heart leapt to see him. We reminisced about the times we had spent together and I felt wonderful, and also scared that this had happened to someone I always regarded as something of a larger-than-life figure. Here was The Great HP, the man behind the curtain, founder of the mythical French University of Canadian Kings (check the acronym), Corvette enthusiast, subject of a New York magazine cover story, one of the creators of an entire industry, now lying in a hospital bed looking weak and fragile.

Yet when we started talking and joking around, it was like we were transported back in time, sitting on the porch at Sea Cliff again and not in some depressing, medicinal-smelling rehab center. The world became just the two of us reminiscing about the past and looking forward to more good times ahead.

I saw him a couple of more times in the rehab center and was thrilled when I heard that he had been released and was back at Sea Cliff. I went to see him there. Again we had a wonderful time, laughing about some of the outrageous times and crazy things that happened at TAS and elsewhere, gossiping, talking about friends, carrying on. Although he looked weakened and needed a walker, and the house was a little bit of a mess, I thought he was on the mend and we talked about going out to dinner again soon.

When I got the e-mail the morning of Wednesday, November 5 saying that he had passed I was stunned. I could not believe it and it still hasn’t sunk in that I won’t be seeing Harry again. I should wax more eloquently here. I can’t.

The last few times we met, Harry told me he considered me to be one of his greatest friends. It meant a lot to me then. It means a lot more to me now.

— Frank Doris

Around 1980, after reading several issues of The Absolute Sound, I wrote a lengthy letter to the editor describing my impressions of the sonic attributes of the major record labels. Several days later, I answered the phone and was greeted by that uniquely imperious and intimidating voice, stating I am Harry Pearson, and you are going to write for my magazine. There was never any doubt who was controlling the conversation. That was the beginning of a long, dynamic, and unforgettable relationship. I had an extensive knowledge of classical and film music recordings, but did not have the discipline to put that knowledge into words. I could write, but not the way a perfectionist like Harry wanted me to write for his magazine. As he clearly did with many of his writers, Harry spent an almost unbelievable amount of time and effort shaping my writing with the discipline that he required.

 

Over the subsequent years, my thought processes were fine tuned in numerous listening sessions at Sea Cliff along with Andrew Quint, who is a fellow physician, audiophile, and writer for The Absolute Sound from the Philadelphia area. We would drive to Sea Cliff in the morning, listen to music for several hours, and then take Harry out to a gourmet dinner including some expensive wine at one of Harry’s favorite places. This became a repetitive ritual, almost to the minute. It also gave us the opportunity to develop a close relationship with Harry that extended beyond music and sound, and continued from the time of his greatest triumphs to his increasing isolation from the industry’s mainstream players. Those private sessions were interspersed with the annual Friendship Parties where Harry presided over everyone who was anyone in the world of high-end audio.

 

The many tributes to Harry by his friends and colleagues are remarkably consistent. Harry was capable of being warm, even sentimental. He clearly valued his many friendships, but he always had to be in total command. It was as if he required himself to live up to the legend that he had created. This often strained his relationships with even his closest friends. But Harry did not have to constantly build and maintain the legend. He was a force of nature, similar to the hurricanes and snowstorms that he liked to discuss since his days as an environmental reporter. He was undoubtedly the most important and influential writer in the history of high-end audio. 

— Arthur Lintgen

To the Staff at TAS and to the Readership:

 

On behalf of all of us at MBL (CEO Christian Hermeling, Designer/Engineer Juergen Reis, and the rest of the MBL team), please accept our condolences for the loss of the visionary that was Harry Pearson. It was in the very pages of early TAS that then writer Dr. Michael Gindi introduced the world to the MBL Radialstrahler loudspeaker, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to TAS/Harry’s editorial prowess for MBL’s success. 

 

I only knew HP in legend, in writing, and in person a few times at various shows over the years, but I know what a significant impact he has had on our industry and our love of music/high end audio.

 

May he rest in peace. He will always be remembered.

 

 

Very truly yours,

 

Jeremy Bryan
President
MBL North America, Inc.

— Jeremy Bryan

Before the internet, The Absolute Sound and Stereophile were the only two places where you could read about high-quality sound. And Harry Pearson, or HP as he was called, was the King of it all. He owned and wrote for TAS, and I think that he was very important in making this hobby of audiophile LPs and audiophile hardware the big business that it is now. 

 

If HP said that Donald Duck Goes To Hollywood was a great LP, then everyone would go out and buy it. And once it went out of print, the price would always rise. If HP said to "stand on your head and eat grapes while you listen," you would have a thousand people doing it. And you know what is crazier than that? It would sound better! 

 

I started Acoustic Sounds around 1986, and a big part of my start was collecting the best-sounding LPs. I collected MFSL and Sheffield direct-to-disc, and I bought anything that was on the HP Super Disc List. I still collect and listen to the records on his list. Every LP on his list sounded good. This is what got me interested in and loving classical music. That's something that I definitely owe Harry for - I would probably have never listened to classical without his influence. I think this happened to many others as well. Also, I started collecting and buying and selling the RCA LSCs and Mercury Living Presence and other audiophile LPs. He and Sid Marks would write about these LPs, and people would want them. That created a demand, and I was doing my best to fill that demand. Some of the RCAs and Mercuries would bring anywhere from $40 to $400 - a few even close to $1,000 - and that's in large part because of HP's recommendations. 

 

HP also championed LPs for a long time after CDs came out. Many, many other people in the business jumped on the CD bandwagon. But HP and Michael Fremer never did. 

 

The first five LPs that I reissued on my Analogue Productions label were some of HP's favorites - like The Plow That Broke The Plains and the Weavers at Carnegie Hall. He basically gave me my first job and started my hobby and business. Thanks, HP. 

 

Chad Kassem

— Chad Kassem

To TAS and the Readership,

I became a subscriber to The Absolute Sound publication back in 1993.  As of today's date, I continue to subscribe to this wonderful publication. Over the years, I have enjoyed reading about our hobby. The TAS staffers and reviewers do an outstanding job. I will miss Harry Pearson and his steadfast contribution to the world of high fidelity gear and recordings, in which, my life would be less enriched. I will monitor this page for continued support to the first person whom started the Audio press as we know it today. Much continued success to TAS in the future!

Thank You,

J.A FANT , Esq.

— J.A. FANT

I met Harry a years ago and spoke with him most recently at a meeting of the LA and Orange County Audiophile Society. I've been an avid reader of HP for many years and appreciated his honesty, integrity, and passion for high-end music. Our conversations were not lengthy but I came away from our encounters inspired and informed. My little label and high resolution digital music download site...AIX Records and iTrax.com were the direct result of my quest to meet and exceed HP's standard of audio fidelity...The Absolute Sound. And his writings and blog posts drove me to start my own daily musing on all things relating to high resolution audio at RealHD-Audio.com. Thanks HP for holding those of us making recordings to the highest standards. You will be missed.

Mark Waldrep aka Dr. AIX

Founder and President of AIX Records

— Mark Waldrep

Flipping through my carefully-preserved first issue of TAS I am again struck by the integrity (The equipment reviewed in this issue was purchased by the reviewers) and blog-like discourse on the nature of things audio electronic. Thank you for teaching me how to listen and pursue the absolute sound, Harry.

— Peter Duray-Bito

I think it was around 1983, I was at a friends house.  We would listen to music on his "Maggies" and debate whether or not they got the bass right.  On one of my first visits I saw this strange little "book" or magazine and opened it...print that was so small you could barely read it and no glossy slick diversions nor ads...just these words, that would for the first time, translate why it was so important to hear music in all of it's sonic splendor... into the English language.  "Sound stage" --- "Spatial" landscapes...it was a whole new language and it was one that he would spend pages, explaining.

And it was like learning to speak, I could finally share with others the qualities that embody my love of music and how seeing the entire picture was so far more rewarding than listening to bits and pieces of it.  At times I would read Harry and think "what a pompous ass" and then understand that I held him to a different set of measurements than one would to a mere mortal...he had taught me so much that I wanted him to be perfect.

I am left with this language that he shared and I fully intend on sharing it with others and in those moments...Harry is still, very much alive.

— Rip

I live in Singapore and have never met Harry Pearson personally but he was the major influence in my life as a music lover. 

Looking to improve my hifi system around 1980, I went to the US Embassy's library in Singapore to do some research, and came across The Absolute Sound.  I became a subscriber a few months later as it was not readily available at the bookshops.

HP and TAS guided me through the my musical journey - buying a Marcof phono amp and Mobile Fidelity's UHQR issue of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of The Moon when I was in San Francisco in 1982, Kenwood KD500 with Grace 707 arm, electrostatic speakers and tube amps and more.  To see if I hear the differences in pressings that he had concluded, I actually bought 7 versions of Supertramp's Breakfast in America while on business travel around the world!  HP was right.

After reading his raving reviews of the Beveridge speakers, a friend bought them together with Conrad-Johnson electronics while I bought the cheaper Acoustats and VTL monoblocs.  They were indeed wonderful but shorted often due to Singapore's 90% humidity year round.  The Acoustats are still working though, after 30years.

His writings, whether one agrees with him or not, are always a pleasure to read.  Personal favourite - the Letters to the Editor page, and his replies.

My closest personal contact with him was when my only letter to TAS appeared in one of the anniversary issues (25th?).  After he left TAS, I had actually wrote to him to thank him for making my enjoyment of music better.  I was shocked when he actually replied my email.

Thank you, Harry Pearson.  RIP.

Andrew Koh

Singapore

— Andrew Koh

Each of us begins by being born into 'the mystery' and it is very quickly destroyed by attempts to define and analyze it.  I believe that HP's great contribution was his introduction of 'the mystery' into sound reproduction. That the sound was more important than an understanding of the gadget that made it. He emphasized the reward of the mysterious power of 'good sound' and the art of simply listening.

— Peter Tilbrook

I fell under the spell of The Absolute Sound and Harry Pearson around 1979. What an incredible spell it was! Here was a book that was filled with intelligent, eloquent, controversial, and entertaining information about music and audio. I received a wonderful education in both subjects from Harry and his talented writing staff. Each issue was eagerly anticipated and read and re-read with great  fervour. I considered TAS a reference source for music, audio and its history. When Harry wrote of a new component, it was as if you were in the room with him, unearthing all of its nuances, virtues and its faults. His descriptive prose was without peer in the audio world. I have kept all of my issues of TAS not only as a reference library, but for the art work on the covers and the photos on the back covers. In the early '80's I sent a letter to Harry regarding two of the top tier tubed amps of the day and he was considerate enough to reply and invite me to fabled Sea Cliff if I was ever in the New York area. Due to marriage, children, work and other life obligations, I was, sadly, never able to take him up on his invitation. I still have that short written note and with his passing, cherish it even more. I want to thank TAS, its past and present writers and most of all Harry for their love and passion of music and audio and passing that onto me. Listening to beautiful music thru a great system is such a delight. Moving, thrilling, enthralling and so fulfilling.  We'll miss you Harry and I am saddened by your passing. You were simply the best Harry.

Sincerely, Brad Billson ACP
Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA

— Brad Billson

I met Harry only 1 time.  He was amazing.

 

My strongest memories have nothing to do with the reason I ended up in his home.  I was there because Harry wanted to review Jud Barber's statement Destiny monoblocks and Jud asked me if I wanted to supply custom made amplifier stands for the occasion.

 

Of course I did and so I was invited along for the installation. We were in the smaller room with Burmester B100s.  The big room had 4 huge towers in it with a host of turntables.

 

During the listening session I glanced toward the big system and asked, “Can we hear it?” Harry said there was something to do with one of the turntables that bothered him and it sounded like a "no" was coming.  

 

His voice suddenly got serious and loud and ordered to his assistant, “Ask Bob Graham to come tomorrow morning”.  

 

And we went out to dinner. 

 

Walking into a local restaurant with Harry brought immediate star status.  The maitre d’ fawned over him and, because we were in his company, fawned over us. We sat opposite him in the booth and Harry told the waiter exactly what he wanted both on and off the menu and exactly the order to bring it.  He picked something for me.  He told me I’d like it.  And the drinks came. 

 

The food was fabulous.  The company was better. Harry Pearson was sitting right there across from me.  Jud Barber was sitting right there next to me.

There are many things I no longer remember about that evening but I do remember Sam Harris’ book, The End of Faith.  I had never heard of it.  Harry seemed to know it backward and forward.  

 

Harris’ book at any sober table of gentle people will likely generate a discussion (and eventually expletives) with a tone ranging from the controversial to the incendiary.  Hose the table with alcohol and you risk a riot.  

 

Harris is complex, yet Harry parsed the most difficult and contentious concepts of the book and spread them out in logical sequences filled with his own further thoughts, misgivings, concerns and hopes for humanity.  It took a man of incredible intellect to navigate the choppy waters of colliding histories, cultures and religions in the context our times without being drawn into reproofs.  His mind and its progeny filled our table for hours. 

 

The next morning, to my amazement, The Bob Graham was standing in Harry’s living room asking what the problem was.  I think he took a train in and there were some pick up logistics involved with Harry's assistant. 

 

The turntable problem wasn’t of Bob’s making; rather it was of a nature Harry thought Bob could fix.  And he did.  And Harry ordered the system on and told us to evacuate the premises.  Honest.  We stood outside.  Harry would not allow us to hear the system until it was fully warmed up and ready, and the problem was proven gone.

 

“You can come in now”, he said after a ton of minutes.  

 

When we reentered through the back door there were 2 chairs positioned in front of the loudspeakers.  Four people, two chairs.  He told Jud to sit in the middle and pointed me into the side chair.  Harry and Bob stood off to the right side in front of us watching our faces.  Harry nodded and the assistant “dropped the needle”.  

 

The atmosphere in the entirety of the room charged with a new energy.  It was a nightclub.  There were people and glasses and ice and an electric piano and the holographic image of Bill Henderson singing, Send in the Clowns.  Yes.  Bill Henderson.  Send in the Clowns.  45 rpms.  Everything Harry said about it was true. It was extraordinary. 

 

That was the only song Harry played.  He ordered the system shut down. 

 

Ten years later, this awful thing had to happen so that I could more fully appreciate that Harry opened his home, and his person, and did all of this for someone he had never met before and would never see again.

 

Harry Pearson was exactly the right man, in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time.  And, I will never forget his presence in my life.  

— Joe Lavrencik

We expect our giants to live forever and when one is lost we take a serious step back, mourn and contemplate the impact on our industry and lives. Harry’s contribution is immeasurable and transcends not only the industry but friendship and family.

 

Thank you, Harry.
Fondly - The Staff at The Sound Organisation

— The Sound Organisation

On behalf of the international team from Absolare, we wish to convey our sincerest condolences to all those close to Harry Pearson on the sad news of his passing.  We offer our deepest sympathy to TAS staff and members of the global audiophile community, acknowledging the lasting impact his pioneering vision brings to all of our lives.

 

We are grateful for his courage, sincerity, and endless passion that touched us all so profoundly.  Looking forward, we find solace in the knowledge that his spirit will live on through the enduring legacy of The Absolute Sound.

 

Rest in Peace Harry.

— Kerem Kucukaslan

My heart is heavy.

 

Of all the journalists in all the world, Harry was the man who influenced me more than anyone else. And that's the biggest understatement of my whole grown-up life.

 

I learned how to listen for space, for depth, for the sweet and seductive reality that surrounds female vocal works, for the resonances in a baritone's voice, and the three dimensionality that characterizes real music in real space. Harry taught me how to do all those things, along with teaching me the language to capture it all in words. What a gift it was!

 

Before I met Harry, I was oblivious; stereo was a flat curtain of sound strung like a clothes line between two speakers.

 

But he was not just a wonderful teacher for me, he taught the whole world. He really did. The whole wide world.

 

When Harry reviewed my Phase Linear 700 amplifier in the premiere issue of TAS, he launched me with such power and authority that I was able to start a company and never look back.

 

Throughout the years I have captured untold beautiful memories of dinners in Seacliff with Harry, Mike Kay, and so many brilliant people. I will never, ever forget the incredible sound of Arnie Nudel's IRS speaker in Harry's listening room. I was exposed to many things by Harry, things that I would never in a million years have come to believe in and appreciate without him. I wish I had recorded our conversations, for today I could listen to them forever and ever with renewed awe. Like a photographic memory of Albert Einstein's blackboard throughout time when he left us.

 

Thank you Harry, you are one in a million.

 

Bob Carver

— Bob Carver

First of all let me state this, I never saw or talked with Harry face to face. So why am I sending this? Because, over many years, I sent him at least 100 e-mails. Some he'd answer, a lot he didn't. I was invited down to his aerie twice for those late Fall get togethers but never went, me among all of those writers that I had been reading for years? That scared the hell out of me! After that disastrous fire I found two copies of the Weavers LP and sent him one; I received a post card from the great man thanking me, he had his mailing address and phone number on it. From time to time I sent him LP's and CD's that I thought had some sonic merit to them but never received a reply, I guess that Harry thought differently. Except for that Mercury CD of Rodrigo's Concierto Aranjuez, while it didn't make his 'best of the best' list it did warrant a mention along with the London Yepes/Argenta LP reading that I finally found a copy of recently. He did send me a picture of him siting in front of his computer monitor, a picture that I'll cherish as long as I live! Back then he was in good health, not like recent pictures of the man obviously in trouble health wise.

 

In closing I must say to Jonathan Valin for his memorial essay, well done Jonathan! But what will become of Harry's vast LP collection? And finally I ask all of you out there, who will take up the banner that Harry has left? My answer, no one that I can think of. Harry was more than my mentor.

 

Jim Germann
Tonawanda, NY

— Jim Germann

It took me a while to figure out how to say all I had to say concisely. Much of this tribute is industry related and indeed, so mine should be, but in fact, there was a bizarre and wonderful personal side to my experience with my friend and “brother”, as HP often called himself.

When I met him in 1980, I brought the first Melos Audio product to him for review. Saying I was intimidated would be putting it lightly. I was a newbie, he was anything but. I was an unknown and again, he was anything but. I held no influence in our industry; he was its greatest influence.

Surrounded by world class equipment and music collections, I doubted he’d even speak to me, let alone audition my work.

He took me aside as if I were a veteran. He said he felt “as if we knew each other for an eternity” and invited me back time and again. Frankly, my head spun. After all, I was nobody and he was, well, HP.

His faith and championing of little known designers was known by all, and to this day I owe him my start in audio design. But it was his deep, loyal friendship I miss the most.

Our meeting (by phone) took place on Christmas Day that year. I was young and still lived at home. My mom answered the phone and gave me no warning as to who was on the other end. He introduced himself, and I literally dropped the phone, just to buy some time to compose myself.

Yet it was his relationship with my mom that was bizarrely beautiful. Over the years, I was told, they spoke almost daily. My mom really had no concept of the technical work I did for a living or who HP was. They formed a friendship that saw him refer to her as “mom” and to me, and him, we were brothers.

Back then, every TAS gathering held at Harry’s home, which was also the magazine headquarters, saw my mother in attendance. He loved her and she loved him. It became a friendship that was incredibly divorced from the industry somehow, and I was quickly admonished if it appeared at all to him that I was ‘mixing business with pleasure’.

We were brothers. We hiked together, did photo shoots together, dined together, but oddly, rarely listened together.

But we did listen. When I brought my newest speaker designs, the Pipedreams and afterwards the Scaenas, he gave me as much time and attention as he did the major players in line arrays. I did not have the experience, nor the advertising capability of most, but it never affected him. He was always true to audio, music, and frankly, friendship. I would not be the first or the last to expound on his fierce loyalty.

Yet, I was luckier than most in being able to call him “my brother”.

My mom, dad and HP all passed this year. I hope they are together and I am beyond fortunate to be able to have been his brother for over three decades. He will be sorely missed.

 

Mark Porzilli

— Mark Porzilli

Harry Pearson Memories

 

 

Since Harry passed away about a year and a half ago, I have been reluctant to write anything about my long time working with him and our various adventures in sound, equipment, and the philosophy of listening, both for pleasure and critical reviewing listening. Part of the reason for this is that I find I am still missing him quite a bit, and when I start to think about what to write down, I just freeze up and walk away from the keyboard. Another part of it is that what I feel and felt about hp has a very intense and personal side to it, as I spent quite a lot of time working very closely with him on gear and music, more than anyone else I can think of over the years, with the possible exception of his last, and most faithful helper, Joey Weiss, who was with him for many years and was there at the end of hp’s days. But I practically lived at his house for almost 10 years, went to a number of his famous Friendship Parties (in the early days some described them as extortion parties to get more equipment for him and his audio buddies…), and was privy to an amazing variety of happenings, interesting friends, massage buddies, and more, so much more…

 

I was not just a set-up guy for Harry. We shared a personal bond that went far beyond the conventional boss/employee level. He befriended me from the first time I wrote one of many letters to the editor to TAS in the early 80s, and after we met and I eventually became his assistant, he taught me all that I now know about critical listening and fine-tuning equipment during and after initial set-up. For listening sessions, I generally sat in a permanent perch to his direct right and identified problems from that perspective throughout the time we worked together. We also spent many off-duty hours listening to and talking about music just for the sheer fun and emotional excitement of it, the kind of listening when you are not paying attention to the gear at all, just reveling in the music and the way that it makes you feel when it’s late, the lights are out, you have a glass of wine in your hand, and records are sounding oh-so special.

 

He shared with me, from the beginning of our time together, a singular and personal, very private part of him that I can still feel strongly to this day. Yes, I went through all of the same annoying and disappointing trials and tribulations that every hp set-up guy over the years has had to endure, including the infamous bed-side deliveries of his favorite deli sandwiches, turkey chili, endless decaf coffees and the like… (are you listening, Art Dudley? I feel for all of you, buddy, including Dennis Mangerella, who was one of hp’s first set-up men; he tragically died of a rare heart ailment shortly after re-forming a long-dormant friendship with Harry near the end of my time with him; Harry had characteristically alienated Dennis [DJM] years earlier, like he did to so many of his closest friends over time…)

 

What set hp and I somewhat apart from others who had come before (and those who came after, for the most part…) was that we both had almost identical tastes in music and reproduced sound. This was the strongest reason that I wanted to meet him in the first place; after reading his stuff for years and writing letters to him it was almost as if it were pre-destined to work together. We both wanted to hear the full orchestra in all of its glory in our listening rooms. There was rarely an instance when we disagreed on how a given component or recording sounded in the reference system, or how it made music “feel”. When we did, we hashed it out as peacefully as we could, which was sometimes not so peaceful… Regardless, this compatibility allowed us to have very intense and productive listening sessions, often interrupted by one or both of us having an extrapolative suggestion for a more perfect combination of components. We would regularly do this on the spur of the moment, often to great effect, occasionally with a spectacular failure. But it was always about the music in the end, with the equipment being used merely to channel the likes of Reiner, Stokowski, Prokofiev, Bizet, and so many other musical geniuses.

 

I remember reading his early record reviews in the 70s, where he would say, in only a few words, what others would struggle to express and still not really convey over sometimes many paragraphs. Those reviews, such as the one he wrote in an very early issue describing the sound of the EMI/ Previn/LSO recording of Britten’s 4 Sea Interludes, allowed me to buy the record (when I could find the damn imported thing) and experience, even on my primitive stereo rig as a young teenager, some of the same thrills that he did on his reference system. I came to quickly understand that a great record could make even a very mediocre stereo system sound much better, with magical things such as natural-sounding sound-staging, dynamic expression, and inner voices of the orchestra being more apparent, even thorough an otherwise very pedestrian system. Having been raised in a good public school system in San Antonio, TX, where we were taken occasionally to see the San Antonio Symphony, I had been exposed to a lot of wonderful orchestral music since the age of 9. So I had a solid impression of what the real thing sounded like (hp gave me many a Carnegie ticket over the years, as well…).

 

Harry was, for many of the years I knew him, the best friend I ever had, or will likely have in the future, except for my wife, Mary. He was the Best Man at my wedding to Mary, but only for the ceremony; he left quickly after that and it was left to my little brother, Rick, to give the Best Man speech. I thought it a minor miracle that Harry did that much, as he had a well-known dislike of weddings, though he had a terrific time at his own wedding Gala with Brian Gill. (Brian’s sacking of the magazine’s money and personnel later directly led to the closing of the magazine).

 

Together, we were fearless with putting together music systems, and would try all kinds of combinations of gear and music to get as close as we possibly could to that elusive (and, frankly, impossible) goal of getting music to sound real, The Absolute Sound. We never made it, of course, but after many rounds of Carnegie Hall concerts over the years, we did manage to come damn close a few times. Pursuing that elusive goal with, at times, an almost evangelical zeal, made life with us working together exciting and full of promise and purpose and hope. We both really wanted to believe that man was better than his reputation warranted, and we both considered music to be the single greatest construct of the human soul and intellect ever known, and we chased it with fervor every day.

 

Harry never tired of trying to “convert” me to a gay lifestyle; after all, it was his avowed and deeply-held belief that inside every man was a gay man trying to get out. I never swayed from preferring the ladies, but we nevertheless managed to have a very close personal relationship that transcended sexual proclivities, and was something that helped me form my maturing feelings and tolerance for those who are different from the mainstream in all the best ways. The music and the way it made us feel was always the glue that bound us together, and the systems that played it for us were our paintings, our art, if you will. I was always thrilled to be helping spread the word among the faithful of the latest and greatest.

 

There are far too many stories about my time with Harry to even begin to recount them all, so I will confine myself to describing the day we met, at least 2-3 years before I began working for him.

 

I had recently settled in NJ, working for a trucking firm that specialized in expensive and fragile cargo. The first time I saw hp’s house was when I delivered a HUGE Wilson Audio powered subwoofer to him. I met Frank Doris there, his Technical Director at the time, and I was thrilled to shoot the breeze with him. Harry was nowhere to be seen, his usual M.O. Not long after that day, Harry invited me to come see him on a cold February Saturday afternoon in 1989, not too long since the final touches were put on rebuilding his house after the tragic fire that almost destroyed him and the magazine. At the time, I had no inkling of his predilection for canceling invited people with appointments, or even occasionally refusing to see them when they showed up. I think almost all of us have heard of this maddening behavior from some industry veteran or another or had it happen personally when a journey to Sea Cliff was in the cards…

 

I went to the front door, and upon opening it, his first words were “…nice haircut…”, and then he berated me soundly for using that door, as everyone knew that it was the back door by his driveway that was the preferred entrance to chez Pearson, never mind that he told me I was lucky to catch him, as he had almost gone to see a movie on a whim, apparently forgetting that I was even scheduled to arrive…

 

Once inside and upstairs in the main kitchen, we quickly began chatting as if we had known each other for many years, and after a few libations took off in his roaring Corvette to his favorite diner to have a bite to eat, where he and I continued to pour Jack and Cokes down our gullets and feast on any number of Greek appetizers and snacks. He habitually sat at the same table there for many years facing the rest of the dining area, at a table in a corner where he could see everything that was happening. He always liked to feel as if he were somehow in control of every situation… On the way back to his house, we raced, at crazed and breakneck speeds, a really fast Pontiac Firebird up Prospect Ave as it went by the water of Long Island Sound, briefly beating the other car before Harry dropped back and quipped that he could have easily taken him, but that the curves ahead were dangerous, and we needed to be of sound body, if not mind, to do some serious listening. After getting home, by now well-lubricated with cocktails, he casually had me call Frank Doris for advice on how to re-set the output impedance of the Jadis Defy 7 stereo tube amp that was set up in room 2 to power the Infinity IRS speakers, as if I knew Jadis like I was born with one in my hand! With great trepidation and not a little coaching from Frank, I successfully got the amp on its back, removed the cover, and performed the small job. We then listened for about 2 hours to music with the all-Jadis electronics (JP-80MC preamp and early Rockport turntable), one of the best two hours of recorded music-listening I have ever experienced, before or since. Then, without ceremony, he announced that we were stopping, and that I should shut the door on my way out, as he climbed the stairs to his bedroom lair and basically left me just standing there. I left the house, into the freezing breeze from the water not more than a few hundred yards away,  and decided that I had to sleep in my car for a couple of hours until I was right enough in the head to drive the 70 miles back to my place in NJ. There were many more nights like that one…

 

I have never forgotten that night, and the deep impression it made on me. It is very sad, that, in the end, he pretty much rejected me as a friend, as he had to so many others before me, a rejection that stung for a long time, but one I came to be at peace with. My only regret from the entire time I knew Harry is that I did not get to see him one last time before he died. But he will never stop being an important part of my memories and my life, as we walked and worked the road of music and sound and listening for many years together, and I know that I will never again have such an opportunity, as there will never be another like Harry Pearson.

 

I also have many photos, but I want to share with you the one I managed to snap when he was at the greatest moment of happiness that I ever saw in his life: his wedding ceremony to Brian Gill, in 1993, long before such things were legal or accepted. That union, begun on such a high note, soured and died a horrible death after Brian basically killed the company when he figured out that Harry was not the Sugar Daddy he first thought, but just another small businessman trying to stay afloat in uncertain times. That was a dark time, but one that also passed.

 

At the end of the day, music makes it all worthwhile, and Harry knew it as a certainty when few others did, and he spread the word in his often flamboyant but almost always engaging and unique manner. What a guy. Complete jerk though he may have been sometimes over the years, hp made so many people seriously focus on what was really important in reproduced music because he truly cared, and wanted everyone to feel that way.

 

R.I.P. Harry. You earned it. The audio world will not soon forget you or what you taught all of us about listening to and enjoying the music that has always been such an important part of all of our daily lives; you always wished for every man and woman to experience great music on a superb system so that they could realize how such music can shape your very soul and your life, giving it purpose and meaning far beyond what one’s occupation was in life. And all in one’s own home.

 

In the picture below hp is center stage with Mary Schultes, his long-time lead typesetter, in full hp chortle. It is possible that I see the back of Neil Gader’s head, as well as Christina Yuin trying to hide her face. Jim Dawson is in the background, possible speaking with Jerry Gladstein. Hard to be sure. That was a Hell of a party. Hyperion Knight, now in his full glory and prime,  was there to play the piano for the ceremony’s music. So many people of the High End were there to show their support and love. A very fine time was had by all.

 

— Scot Markwell
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