Sound and the transmission of sound has fascinated me since I was small. It was never what was on the wireless or the TV (then just three channels of terrestrial telly) but how it arrived in our front room, or the car that fascinated me – and how and why sometimes the voices seemed much more natural than at other times. It’s clear now that I was brought up on speech-based services and today I still listen predominantly to the human voice, be it a radio discussion, a well-produced drama or a live feed from Parliament.
Recognising my early addiction, my mother wrote one of her persuasive letters to our local BBC radio station and arranged for me to help out during the school holidays, answering the telephones, filing the records in the library, logging the music played or (my favourite!) reclaiming tape by taking the best parts (with fewest edits) from ten-inch NAB reels to create reusable tapes. Best of all, I was paid for working amid the aroma of hot valves and the sound of spooling Levers Rich tape machines.
After college I secured a job at the radio station, running the Tape and Disc Library, and began to apply for internal vacancies at the BBC’s HQ in London. After many attempts I was accepted and began in the BBC’s main newsroom on the third floor of Broadcasting House. From then on high quality audio has been my life. Shortly afterwards I qualified as a radio amateur and enjoyed using the equipment of the BBC’s Ariel Radio Group perched on the seventh floor of The Langham, from where a colleague received news from a ‘ham’ on the Falkland Islands of the Argentinian invasion. We continued to monitor the frequency throughout the conflict.
Five years later, in the company of the BBC’s eminent journalists and presenters, I had developed a writing style of my own and was having freelance articles and reviews published in Ham Radio Today, Electronics Today International and CB magazine, having met one of the editors in a local hostelry. A friend noticed that the illustrious Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine (circulation then well over 100,000 a month) was advertising an editorial vacancy. I was promoted to News Editor and, upon the retirement of Angus MacKenzie, asked to take-over his much respected Radio column.
To use different equipment each month and to have a plentiful supply of CDs arriving from the record companies made for an enjoyable life although there were pages to fill and deadlines to meet each month. The job also involved much travel, not only to international hi-fi shows but also on manufacturers’ visits around the globe to see new equipment and to meet the industry legends.
Five years in front of a typewriter though and the radio bug began to bite. I had been a guest on a monthly hi-fi phone-in at Radio Sussex and the new station manager called me in after one programme. He liked my style and asked me if I’d like to return to radio to be one of his roving reporters. He talked salaries, an expense account and company car complete with UHF transmitter so I could report from virtually anywhere in the county. The lure was too strong but I continued to enjoy my hi-fi.
This continual need for good equipment led me to take-on the marketing role for one of the industry’s most highly-respected brands and I was privileged to work at Harbeth for nine years before taking early retirement. More time means I can indulge in leisurely reviewing and it is a delight to be able to contribute to the Ear.
Harbeth Monitor 30.1 Anniversary loudspeakers
Hegel H190 & Trigon amplification
Cakewalk by Roland DAC/ADC
Elgar – choral work in particular, including Dream of Gerontius, Falstaff
Britten – notably Noye’s Fludde
JS Bach – Cantatas, St Matthew Passion, St John Passion
Vaughan Williams – Symphonies and choral works
Mozart – Requiem, Masses
Verdi – Requiem