Farewell to an Audio Pioneer and a Fine Man

Julian Hirsch was a celebrity, but you would never have known it if you'd met him. He'd have been the first person to shrug off any kind of special status. Yet he was special. For nearly 40 years he was the chief product reviewer for Stereo Review, the largest magazine in the consumer audio field and a predecessor to Sound & Vision. Over the years, Julian put some 2,400 test reports in the hands of loyal SR readers, who eagerly awaited his blessing on gear they were interested in buying - whether a turntable, a power amp, a speaker system, or any number of other components. Even though Julian retired in 1998, we still get requests for copies of his test reports, and his name comes up in correspondence - often in an expression of how much the correspondent admired him.

Then there was "Technical Talk," the column he authored continuously from September 1961 until April 1998. Few writers can lay claim to such an achievement. Julian's writing helped propel audio from a small, kit-building hobby to the multibillion-dollar industry it is today. His columns and test reports also inspired countless readers to become audio enthusiasts, with many moving on to work in consumer electronics as designers, engineers, manufacturers - even writers and editors. For many of us, learning about audio by reading Julian was a rite of passage.

Julian set a high standard of scientific and journalistic integrity in his reviews, passionately following the principles he laid out in his first column: "As a matter of general philosophy, I am for: 1) Honest, meaningful ratings and specifications. 2) The simplest approach to a given objective. 3) Any genuine advance in the art of sound production. I am against: 1) Exaggerated or unfounded claims. 2) The sacrifice of reliability or other desirable characteristics to achieve a merchandising advantage . . . . 3) Gimmicks or fads that add to the consumer's cost without a corresponding improvement in the quality of sound." Besides his own lab work and writing, he also helped draft industry standards for testing power amplifiers and FM tuners that made specifications for these components easier to compare and more useful to shoppers.

On Monday, November 24, Julian Hirsch passed away at the age of 81. Beyond his extraordinary career accomplishments, he was just an all-around great guy - a true gentleman who was kind, patient, erudite, and a pleasure to be around. Given all the turmoil in the world today, we need more people like Julian. I'm fortunate to have known him. More:A Tribute to Juilan Hirsch, 1922-2003

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