Julian Hirsch, 81, Dies
December 3, 2003
Julian Hirsch, 81, an Engineer Who Wrote About Audio Gear, Dies
By WOLFGANG SAXON
Julian Hirsch, an electrical engineer and writer who was among the first to help a growing audience of audiophiles sort through the good, the bad and the indifferent in electronic sound equipment, died on Nov. 24 in the Bronx. He was 81 and lived in New Rochelle, N.Y.
Starting in the 1950's Mr. Hirsch began to keep track of the hi-fi hobby as it bulged into a billion-dollar industry. By his own count he wrote about 4,000 laboratory test reports for various publications by the time he retired in 1998.
About 2,400 of those were articles appearing in Stereo Review, a bible and buying guide for droves of audio fans. (Months after his retirement, it merged into Sound & Vision, a 400,000-circulation magazine that publishes 10 times a year.)
Mr. Hirsch's monthly column in Stereo Review first appeared in 1961 when it was called Hi-Fi/Stereo Review. He titled it "Technical Talk" and used it to explain how he performed various measurements and what the results meant.
He listed the specifications that a buyer should look for in a component and others that were chaff. At the same time, he sought to describe features not readily measurable and to address readers less technically inclined.
It was his technical approach that at times drew disfavor from other experts, who asserted that he so admired each new line of speakers or amplifiers that he ignored the aesthetic quality of the sounds coming from them. It was, his critics said at the time, like judging a wine by chemical assays.
Julian Hirsch warmed to the technology at 14 with amateur radio. He graduated from Cooper Union in 1943 and spent World War II in the Army Signal Corps. He then worked in the electronics industry on laboratory instruments for spectrum analysis.
Having adopted hi-fi as a hobby in 1949, he and his engineering friends started testing products as the commercial audio industry caught on in the early 50's. They circulated a newsletter to spread the results, the Audio League Report, and eventually found 4,000 subscribers.
The pressure of putting out the report while holding down full-time jobs prompted Mr. Hirsch and a colleague, Gladden Houck, to quit the Audio League in 1957 and form Hirsch-Houck Laboratories. There they tested stereo systems, turntables, receivers, speakers, woofers and the lot, leaving the write-ups to others.
In 1960 Ziff-Davis Publishing asked him to test equipment for it exclusively. His first test report, "Technical Talk," appeared in the fall of 1961 in Hi-Fi/Stereo.
Mr. Hirsch is survived by his wife of 57 years, Ruth; a son, Steven, of Burlington, Vt.; a daughter, Barbara Harrison of Chappaqua, N.Y.; and two granddaughters.
So, we've lost a true legend of his time! Ol' Julian was a good friend - I admired him greatly and learned quite a bit about audio from him along the way. IMO, he was wrongly crticized for "liking nearly everything he tested", because his test reports could adversely affect advertising revenues if they were too critical of a product. If you knew Julian, you'd know that this was total BS ... he was as genuine, honest, and truthful a man as I had ever known.
Now that he's passed on, I guess that leaves me as the oldest, longest-tenured veteran of the consumer electronics industry still alive. Wow!
"I plan on living forever ... so far so good"
Last edited by woodman; 12-03-2003 at 03:58 PM.
The greatest audio writer of them all.
For one thing, he wrote very clearly and could say exactly what he meant. The only audio writer I have seen who can touch him in this respect is Dr. Floyd Toole.
Originally Posted by FLZapped
He had a very comprehensive philosophy of audio which encompassed both subjective and objective factors, science and psychology. He has been missed since he retired from Stereo Review.
"Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony."
------Heraclitus of Ephesis (fl. 504-500 BC), trans. Wheelwright.
Thanks for the post.
A legend indeed. Only the small minds belittled him.
Yes, he will be missed.
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