Harry Pearson (1937 – 2014)

Photo credit: New York Times

Photo credit: New York Times

RIP Harry Pearson (‘hp’ to his loyal readers).

Harry coined the term ‘high end audio’ and much of the lexicon audio reviewers use today. He founded The Absolute Sound in 1973, a giant among print audio magazines.

Simply, Pearson was the finest writer we’ve had in our business. Elegant, fluent, charming writing that always managed to capture the essence of a component’s sound. He will be greatly missed in our community.

Paul Vitello's New York Times obituary -- Nov 11, 2014 :

Harry Pearson, a journalist and audiophile who founded The Absolute Sound, a magazine for connoisseurs of high-fidelity audio in the 1970s and the locus of a backlash against CDs in the 1980s, died on Nov. 4 in Sea Cliff, N.Y. He was 77.

A friend, Dr. John W. Cooledge, confirmed the death, saying that he did not know the cause but that Mr. Pearson had had heart and circulatory ailments.

Mr. Pearson published his magazine every other month from 1973 through the 1990s, a period that saw sweeping change in the audio world. Though its reach was modest by mass-circulation standards — it had 30,000 subscribers at its peak, he said — Absolute Sound was influential among consumers interested in, and in some cases able to buy, stereo systems costing $50,000 and up in today’s dollars.

Such so-called high-end equipment, arriving in the early 1970s, was marketed as capable of reproducing the sound of a live performance — or close to it.

Testing those claims in his magazine, Mr. Pearson laid the foundations of a philosophy and vocabulary that helped give rise to a worldwide subculture of high-end audiophiles.

He wrote about recorded music with the conviction and nuance that food critics brought to haute cuisine, assessing qualities of depth, naturalness and “three-dimensionality” in the sound made by some stereo components and not others.

When all those intangibles came together in the right way, he said, they produced “absolute sound,” which he defined as “the sound of actual acoustic instruments playing in a real space.”

Mr. Pearson disapproved of some innovations. He disliked multitrack recording, for example, saying it was at odds with human biology. “We have two ears,” he wrote. “We don’t have five ears or 25.”

Mr. Rothstein credited Mr. Pearson’s criticism with spurring improvements in CD technology. And by 1998, Mr. Pearson himself was reconciled, telling The Globe and Mail of Toronto: “I still prefer records because, at this point, a good analog disc has more information — subtle dynamics, harmonic richness, natural timbre — than a CD. Yet CDs have improved so much over the past 15 years that digital has become a parallel universe to analog.”

Harry Hall Pearson Jr. was born in North Wilkesboro, N.C., on Jan. 5, 1937, to Harry Pearson and the former Joyce Welborn. Taking up newspaper journalism after graduating from Duke University, he covered the environment for The Commercial in Pine Bluff, Ark., and then, beginning in the mid-'60s, for Newsday, on Long Island, where he worked for several years while freelancing for High Fidelity.

He sold The Absolute Sound in 1998; it continues to be published in print and online.

Mr. Pearson is survived by a sister, Loretta.