Harry Pearson, the founder of The Absolute Sound, died last week at seventy-seven, the New York Times reports. From its inception in 1972, The Absolute Sound was (and remains) an audiophile’s dream magazine. As the Times describes it,
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.”
And it must be said: The Absolute Sound had incredible cover art and design, especially in its first years. Just look at those covers!
“Mr. Pearson initially refused to accept advertising but relented after a few years, though vowing not to soften his analysis,” the Times notes. And sure enough, the back of an early issue I found carries maybe the finest, purest statement of revenue philosophy I’ve ever seen from a magazine:
WARNING: Do not lend your copy of The Absolute Sound to friends. You endanger the continued existence of the magazine by so doing. The Absolute Sound exists entirely on subscription revenues. Freeloaders decrease our revenues, and not surprisingly our incentive. If you really like the magazine and want it to survive you will needle your friends into subscribing.
Kudos to Pearson for his clarity of vision—would that his revenue model would’ve panned out. Here, in remembrance, are three of the best seventies-era Absolute Sound covers I could find: