The Sennheiser HD414 was a game changer in 1968. In those days hi-fi headphones were all big and bulky, closed-back designs, and the compact HD414 was the industry’s first “open aire,” on-ear (supra-aural) headphone. It looked, felt and sounded like nothing else and forecast the future direction of headphone sound.
Over-performing little speakers were always part of the high-end scene, but NHT’s SuperZero was the one that broke the mold. I recently spoke with NHT founder and president Chris Byrne to learn more about this classic speaker. The model that preceded it was, naturally enough, the Zero, but it didn’t take off, so it was redesigned with a different tweeter, a Japanese 1-inch soft dome made by Tonnegen. The woofer was a 4.5-inch treated paper cone driver, made in San Diego. The SuperZero sold for $230 per pair in 1993.
RCA's CT-100 may not have been the first consumer color TV in the U.S., Westinghouse's set beat it by a few weeks, but that model didn't sell in significant numbers. Both sets were on the market less than 100 days after the Federal Communications Commission finalized its standards for broadcasting color television.
In the early 1970s, the biggest consumer TVs were 27-inch direct-view CRT sets, so people must have been blown away the first time they saw TV projected on an Advent VideoBeam 1000’s 7-foot screen. The first Betamax videocassette recorders were still a couple of years away in 1972, and broadcast and cable TV were the only viewing options.
I don’t think there’s ever been a more iconic audio ad than Maxell’s “Blown Away Guy” campaign that started in 1979. It’s the one with the hipster on the right side of the picture slouching in a massive recliner, with a table lamp and martini glass being blown away by the sound of a JBL L100 speaker on the left side of the frame. That ad sold a lot of tape over the years!
On April 15, 1968 Sony held a press conference in Japan to announce a new type of television, the Trinitron. The research team had just finished hand building ten prototypes, so they were shocked to hear Sony executives promising the TV would be in full production in less than six months! The very first Trinitron, the KV-1310, was in stores in October. A year later Trinitron came to the United States.
The original Shure V-15 phono cartridge debuted in 1964 as a "statement" design. The engineering team was headed by Jim Kogen, who later became a Vice President of Engineering, and after that the CEO. The V-15 Type II arrived six years later and it was the first computer-designed cartridge. The Type III was the best selling model in the series, it came along three years later, long before the CD changed the course of audio history.
Shure was huge in the mainstream market, but by the late 1970s and through the 1980s most analog-loving audiophiles had graduated to moving-coil cartridges (the V-15 was a moving-magnet design). I preferred the sound of moving coil cartridges, but conceded the V-15's tracking abilities were well ahead of most of the expensive Japanese moving coil designs of the time.
In the beginning there was "lamp cord." Speaker cable was something you bought off a spool at the local hardware store, but Noel Lee had a better idea: audiophile speaker cables. He had a day job at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, where he worked as a laser-fusion engineer. In his spare time he played drums in an all-Asian country-rock band called Asian Wood.
Sony introduced the world’s first portable CD player, the D-5, in late 1984, just a year after its first home player, the CDP-101, revolutionized the audio market. In the 1970s, Sony Walkman cassette players were as ubiquitous as iPods are now, and the new Discman players were poised to be the next big thing.