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The Heath Company made some of the best, most innovative, and most sought after hi-fi and stereo equipment ever made—all of it in kit form. Starting in 1947 with a number of simple low-power amplifiers based on war surplus parts, Heath quickly expanded through the 1950s with a series of with tube-based Williamson ultra-linear amplifiers. The company developed solid-state equipment in the early 1960s, including the famous AR-15 receiver in 1967. The 1970s saw increasingly ambitious products like the AJ-1510 “computer tuner” and the AA-2010 4-channel amplifier. Over the course of about 30 years, Heath produced more than 200 kit-form hi-fi and stereo products.
This book is a comprehensive guide to every hi-fi and stereo product the Heath Company ever made. Written for buyers, sellers, audiophiles and collectors, as well as those who just want to browse the catalog again. The book contains 208 pages with more than 200 products, 400 super-sharp black and white photographs, charts and diagrams, and all the W-series schematics. Product descriptions include front and rear photos, and most include interior chassis shots as well. Photographs were taken by the author from the holdings of major collectors. Each model includes the first and last year of production and the price when first introduced, a brief technical description and full specifications, references to the products that preceded and followed, and, where available, references to reviews in popular magazines of the day.
The book is organized by product type into six chapters including:
The book's introduction discusses the history of high fidelity amplifier designs from Alan Blumlein and D.T.N Williamson, to David Hafler and Herb Keroes, and briefly outlines Heath’s trajectory in the business of hi-fi and stereo.
There are also three indexes: one for model numbers, one organized by product type, and one in chronological order. Note that the book does not include schematics other than the W-series amplifiers.
Whether you buy, sell, or collect vintage audio equipment, or whether you just enjoy listening to it, there’s something in this book for you. It’s all here. Everything from 1947 to 1991.
Preview the book with 14 sample pages in PDF format.
AJ-13, page 3-04: The photos shown are incorrect. The correct photos are show below.
America on Record: A History of Recorded Sound. Andre Millard, Cambridge University Press, 1995. 413 pages, with illustrations and endnotes.
This is an overview of the technology of recorded sound, but it is a view from 20,000 feet. Those interested in a discussion of fine details will be disappointed. But fine details is not the purpose of the book. Millard does a nice job in characterizing the business, politics and technology of recorded sound, and spends time analyzing the interactions of these three forces. The book is as much an anthropological study as it is one of technology, following not only the inventors, but also the users of the technology. Some readers will enjoy this take, others may not.
From Tin Foil to Stereo: Evolution of the Phonograph. Oliver Read and Walter L. Welch, Howard Sams and Company, 1976. 550 pages, with illustrations, footnotes.
This book was squeezed into only 550 pages by using a very small font. Some readers will find it difficult to focus on the type, much less the subject matter. This a granular, Edison-centric examination of the invention and refinement of the phonograph. It spends essentially no time on any other part of recorded sound, so don’t expect amplifiers or loudspeakers to come up much. While well written and very thorough, it is also a little pedantic. This, and the sheer density of the material, makes for a slow read.
The Sound of High Fidelity. Robert Oakes Jordan and James Cunningham, Windsor Press, 1958. 208 pages, with illustrations.
Low Cost Hi-Fi. Donald Carl Hoefler, Acro Publishing Company, 1955. 132 pages with illustrations.
Hi-Fi Manual. Donald Carl Hoefler, Acro Publishing Company, 1955. 144 pages with illustrations.
I have included these three books because, although they were written originally as “how to” guides for people interested in assembling a hi-fi system, with the passage of time they have evolved into historical time capsules. There are probably dozens of books of this genre, many written in the 1950s and earlier. In addition to containing basic (and occasionally more advanced) information about how hi-fi components work, they often contain brief histories of the industry and/or specific players, and in most cases are jammed with decent photos of equipment from the period. Sure, these books are ancient and musty, but they are valuable for the historical context they provide. With lists of manufacturers, individuals involved in development, bibliographies and more, a collection of small books like these may be one of the best ways to improve your understanding of the history of high fidelity. And, they can often be found very inexpensively—with a bit of online digging.
Illustrated History of High-End Audio: Volume 2, Electronics. The Absolute Sound Editorial Staff. Nextscreen, LLC, 2015. 329 pages with illustrations.
If I had to suggest just one book on the history of high fidelity technology, this might be it. Illustrated History is a large format, hard cover book, and it is not inexpensive. At about 12 inches square and an inch and a half thick, this glossy tome is both a handful and an eyeful. The book begins with a timeline of electronic milestones, and the ten chapters that follow describe the contributions of the major players, domestic and otherwise. This is not a technical book. Lots of great color and black and white photos.
Below is a collection of documents related to audio amplifier development in general, and the contributions of Alan Blumlein, D. T. N. Williamson, David Hafler and Herb Keroes in particular.
File 1: The November 1949 Audio Engineering article written by David Sarser and Melvin Sprinkle. This is the piece that essentially introduced the Williamson amplifier to an American audience.
File 2: David Hafler and Herb Keroes introduce their ultra-linear amplifier design in this November 1951 Audio Engineering story.
File 3: David Sarser and Melvin Sprinkler offer some improvements on the Musician's Amplifier they described in 1949. Audio Engineering, July 1952.
File 4: Alan Blumlein - UK patent #496,883 and US patent #2,218,902 for what is in essence an ultra-linear amplifier.
File 5: David Hafler / Herb Keroes: U.S. patent #2,710,312 for an ultra-linear amplifier.
File 6: A compilation of all articles written for Wireless World by D. T. N. Williamson on his amplifier design. Both the 1947 and 1949 versions are reprinted, as the alternative output transformer ratios cover a wide range of requirements. Modifications and additions include pre-amplifier circuits and an RF unit, with recently published information on adaptation to high-impedance pickups and correction for 33rpm records.
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