Audiophile Origins, by David Hicks

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A few months ago Jay Selwitz forwarded me a photo of a newsletter that he’d saved from the Northern California Audiophile Society. Jay had been a member in his younger days. I emailed Michael Kuller, who was listed as one of the organizers of that society, and Mike’s reply was interesting enough to me that I wanted to share it here with all of you. Mike thought it was all ancient history, but I believe most of our SFAS members were alive during those times of ancient history, and hey, most of us still listen to music from those ancient days, so how ancient can it really be?

“Hi David,
Here’s the story about NCAS:

In 1979 I met some audiophiles in SF and we used to get together to listen to new components.  We were familiar with a number of manufacturers and high end audio stores in the area so we thought it would be fun to start an audio hobbyist group.  Gary Hoffman and I were the ones who founded it.  As far as I know we were the first audio group in the Bay Area.

We put in ad in the back of Audio magazine and a classified ad in the SF Chronicle to promote our monthly meetings.  I wrote the monthly newsletter,The NCAS Audio Amplifier, if I recall  (7 pages on my typewriter at its height) and mailed it out; Gary was in charge of the quarterly journal, and we both worked on the meetings.

We set up monthly meetings and called them “events”.  We got manufacturers to come show us their newest equipment and had the meetings at SF State and later UC Berkeley.  We had one memorable meeting at Leo De Gar Kulka’s Sonic Arts recording studio.  At another, we put a thin curtain up and played 3 different loudspeaker systems behind it with members guessing which were which.  J. Peter Moncrieff of IAR used to attend our meetings.  William Johnson of ARC presented at one. We got a private evening demo of the new Wilson WAMM speakers by David Wilson at Garland Audio in San Jose.  We knew Jon Curl and Brian Cheney of VMPS speakers and got their advice from time to time.

One of our most ambitious projects was an exploration of “cable sound”.  We wanted to determine what made cables sound different and did a lot of listening tests (blind and otherwise) and consulted with Bruce Brisson (who had just founded MIT) and Monster cable.  We published the results in the journal. At our height we had 300 members on our mailing list.

I had to stop running it in 1982 after 3 years when I founded a new business, so I turned over the newsletter to a couple of members.  The group went downhill since the other members didn’t really want any responsibility and Gary couldn’t handle it all.  NCAS died about a year later.  The problem with most organizations like this is that members want to be entertained and not do any work.

After leaving NCAS, in 1985, I got a call from Harry Pearson asking me if I wanted to review equipment for TAS.  I had put he and Stereophile on our newsletter mailing list because I had a column in it discussing the latest audio publications. HP had sent me a couple of postcards about things I had written there.  I wrote for TAS from 1985 until 2001 when the magazine changed hands.  By then I had grown tired of listening to equipment and just wanted to relax and listen to music.  So I put a final system together and I still enjoy listening to it today.

About 1996 I got a call from Dennis Davis, a former member, who was interested in restarting the group.  He called it Bay Area Audio Society – BAAS.  I joined the group and participated a little but was pretty busy with reviewing.

So today, I’m not much interested in equipment, just music.  If you publish a newsletter, please put me on your list.  If there’s any way I can help you let me know.

Best regards,
Mike Kuller”

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San Francisco Audiophile Society

San Francisco Audiophile Society