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Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:31 pm
by Toy Maker
I have talked to Bob about possibly doing a biography on him, and am looking for topics and structure to add.
If you have any ideas of what would make an intersting read, post your ideas here, and we'll go through them, and see if we can use them.

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:56 pm
by kingman
James....I have just acquired a 1999 AUDIO mag with alot of material that I didn't know about Bob. It is a summary of his life from his 1'st interest in audio to the cinema ribbon speakers. I am sure that alot of this material could be applied to questions and a subsequent biography project. It's a nine pager. If you feel it would be of use, let me know.

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 3:07 pm
by stevewithrow
I also have the 1986 Dec Stereo review Mag ( original ) ...They put the 1st ALS,s on the cover and a really nice review....Great article...Let me know James if you want copies of the review
...At that time , people where up in arms with this design for a speaker in 1986....It was stuff like this I would think that put Bob on the map....the woofers at the time where square....

Great read...
ALS 86 proto type 2.jpg
ALS 86 proto type 2.jpg (16.63 KiB) Viewed 5673 times

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 3:26 pm
by beemers417
Thuffman and I are on it. We will come up with some questions/topics. I will make it a topic at the next VHFP geek meeting on the 10th. :-k :-k :-k :-k :-k :-k :-k

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 3:30 pm
by stevewithrow
stevewithrow wrote:I also have the 1986 Dec Stereo review Mag ( original ) ...They put the 1st ALS,s on the cover and a really nice review....Great article...Let me know James if you want copies of the review
...At that time , people where up in arms with this design for a speaker in 1986....It was stuff like this I would think that put Bob on the map....the woofers at the time where square....

Great read...
ALS 86 proto type 2.jpg
Ask him why he went with the 4 12,s instead of 6 square 10,s an the ALS,s....see 2 post up...

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 3:40 pm
by BillD
What happened to all the stuff that chick that was with Bob was collecting?

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:17 pm
by TNRabbit
stevewithrow wrote: Ask him why he went with the 4 12,s instead of 6 square 10,s an the ALS,s....
There were issues with the corners of the surround breaking down on the square drivers. They've only perfected that in the past 10 years or so.

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:20 pm
by TNRabbit
BillD wrote:What happened to all the stuff that chick that was with Bob was collecting?
That question has already been done, Bill; it's all in here:


Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 9:17 pm
by BillD
That was just a bunch of gab. Didn't anybody get in touch with Marjorie at least to see her notes?

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:14 am
by Toy Maker
BillD wrote:That was just a bunch of gab. Didn't anybody get in touch with Marjorie at least to see her notes?
I talked to Bob about her a while ago...
It didn't sound good.

I guess she got laid off from that job, and all her notes and info was at her office or something.

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 9:01 am
by Zoot Horn
Surly she could at least pull/write something from memory,and I'm sure there are enough of us with pictures of the fest to help her make it happen.I'm willing to contribute,,,BTW Roy,, did you ever compile last years fest into a cd/dvd?

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:04 pm
by weitrhino
The start of the story should begin with Bob sitting at the Stereophile lab at the start of the listening session of the Carver Challenge. Begin with a bang, with tension that draws the reader in. Here's an example taken from a biography written by H. W. Brands.

A lesser man would have been humiliated. Humiliation was the purpose of the proceeding. It was the outcome eagerly anticipated by the Lords of the Privy Council who constituted the official audience, by members of the House of Commons and other fashionable Londoners who packed the room and hung on the rails of the balcony, by the London press that lived on scandal and milled outside to see how this scandal would unfold, by the throngs that bought the papers, savored the scandals, rioted in favor of their heroes and against their villains, and made politics in the British capital often unpredictable, frequently disreputable, always entertaining. The proceeding today would probably be disreputable. It would certainly be entertaining.

The venue was fitting: the Cockpit. In the reign of Henry VIII, that most sporting of monarchs in a land that loved its bloody games, the building on this site had housed an actual cockpit, where Henry and his friends brought their prize birds and wagered which would tear the others to shreds. the present building had replaced the real cockpit, but this room retained the old name and atmosphere. The victim today was expected to depart with his reputation in tatters, his fortune possibly forfeit, his life conceivably at peril.

Nor was that the extent of the stakes. Two days earlier the December packet ship from Boston had arrived with an alarming report from the royal governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson. The governor described an organized assult on three British vessels carrying tea of the East India Company. The assailants, townsmen loosely disguised as Indians, had boarded the ships, hauled hundreds of tea casks to deck, smashed them open, and dumped their contents into the harbor--forty-five tons of tea, enough to litter the beaches for miles and depress the company's profits for years. This rampage was the latest in a serious of silent outbursts against the authority of Crown and Parliament; the audience in the Cockpit, and in London beyond, demanded to know what Crown and Parliament intended to do about it.

Alexander Wedderburn was going to tell them. The solicitor general possessed great rhetorical gifts and greater ambition. The former had made him the most feared advocate in the realm; the latter lifted him to his present post when he abandonded his allies in the opposition and embraced the ministry of Lord North. Wedderburn was known to consider the Boston tea riot treason, and if the law courts upheld his interpretation, those behind the riot would be liable to the most severe sanctions, potentially including death. Wedderburn was expected to argue that the man in the Cockpit today was the prime mover behind the outburst in Boston. The crowd quivered with anticipation.

They all knew the man in the pit; indeed the whole world knew Benjamin Franklin. His work as a political agent for several of the American colonies had earned him recognition around London, but his fame far transcended that. He was, quite simply, one of the most illustrious scientists and thinkers on earth. His experiments with electricity, culminating in his capture of lightning from the heavens, had won him universal praise as the modern Prometheus. His mapping of the Gulf Stream saved the time and lives of countless sailors. His ingenious fireplace conserved fuel and warmed homes on both sides of the Atlantic. His contributions to economics, meteorology, music, and psychology expanded the reach of human knowledge and the grip of human power. For his accomplishments the British Royal Society had awarded him its highest prize; foreign societies had done the same. Universities queued to grant him degrees. The ablest minds of the age consulted him on matters large and small. Kings and emperors summoned him to court, where they admired his brilliance and basked in its reflected glory.

Genius is prone to producing envy. Yet it was part of Franklin's genius that he had produced far less than his share due to an unusual ability to disarm those disposed to envy. In youth he discovered that he was quicker of mind and more facile of pen than almost everyone he met; he also discovered that a boy of humble birth, no matter how gifted, would block his on way by letting on that he knew how smart he was. He learned to deflect credit for some of his most important innovations. He avoided arguments wherever possible; when important public issues hinged on others being convinced of their errors, he often argued anonymously, adopting assumed names, or Socratically, employing the gentle questioning of the Greek master. He became almost as famous for his sense of humor as for his science; laughing, his opponents listened and were persuaded.

Franklin's self-effacing style succeeded remarkably; at sixty-eight he had almost no personal enemies and comparatively few political enemies for a man of public affairs. But those few included powerful figures. George Grenville, the prime minister responsible for the Stamp Act, the tax bill that triggered all the American troubles, never forgave him for single-handedly demolishing the rationale for the act in a memorable session before the House of Commons, Grenville and his allies lay in wait to exact their revenge on Franklin. Yet he never made a false step.

Until now. A mysterious person had delivered into his hands confidential letters from Governor Hutchinson and other royal officials in Massachusetts addressed to an undersecretary of state in Lindon. These letters cast grave doubt on the bona fides of Hutchinson, for years the bete noire of the Massachusetts assembly. As Massachusett's agent, Franklin had forwarded the letters to friends in Boston. Hutchinson's enemies there got hold of the letters and published them.

The publication provoked an instant uproar. In America the letters were interpreted as part of a British plot to enslave the colonies; the letters fueled the anger that inspired the violence that produced the Boston tea riot. In England the letters provoked charges and countercharges as to who could have been so dishonorable as to steal and publish private correspondence. A duel at swords left one party wounded and both parties aching for further satisfaction; only at this point--to prevent more bloodshed--did Franklin reveal his role in transmitting the letters.

His foes seized the chance to destroy him. Since that session in Commons eight years before, he had become the symbol and spokesman in London of American resistance to the sovereignty of Parliament; on his head would be visited all the wrath and resentment that had been building in that proud institution from the time of the Stamp Act to the tea riot. Alexander Wedderburn sharpened his tongue and moved in for the kill.

None present at the Cockpit on January 29, 1774, could afterward recall the like of the hearing that day. The solicitor general outdid himself. For an hour he hurled invective at Franklin, branding him a liar, a thief, the instigator of the insurrection in Massachusetts, an outcast from the company of all honest men an ingrate who's attack on Hutchinson betrayed nothing less than a desire to seize the governor's office for himself. So slanderous was Wedderburn's diatribe that no London paper would print it. But the audience reveled in it, hooting and applauding each sally, each bilious bon mot. Not even the lords of the Privy Council attempted to disguise their delight at Wedderburn's astonishing attack. Almost to a man and a woman, the spectators that day concluded that Franklin's reputation would never recover. Ignominy, if not prison or worse, was his future now. ... 0385495404

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 4:32 pm
by DaveLadely
Toy Maker wrote:
I have talked to Bob about possibly doing a biography on him, and am looking for topics and structure to add.
If you have any ideas of what would make an intersting read, post your ideas here, and we'll go through them, and see if we can use them.
I have known Bob since 1961, when we were students at the University of Washington. Bob had been building amps since his early teens. In 1961, Bob was building amps for his fraternity brothers at Theta Xi.
He was experimenting with sum and difference signals to achieve a binaural effect, from Bell Labs technology, using headsets. Bob's amps were very sweet sounding.

I was interested in an amp. At the time, they were about 30 watts. Bob wanted my high quality slide rule, offered a trade in labor if I provided the parts. I agreed, but wanted to wait as I wanted a larger amp for use without headsets, I was never a fan of headsets. We stayed in touch.

Bob started University Television repair. He married Pam. He was drafted by the Army, did not like the Army.

Bob and I shared a house north of the University of Washington for awhile. Later, we moved into a house in Lake City. I was working for Seattle Radio, selling audio/video. Bob had a decent stereo at the time, using his 30 watt amplifier. His speakers were a pair of JBL LE14C. I bought a pair of University 12" 3 way speakers. They were about a good sounding as the JBLs which surprised Bob. He wanted larger speakers than 12", so he decided to try the 15" University 315 3 way speakers. They proved to be very impressive.

The time was right for building me the amp I wanted back in 1962. Bob was happy to do so. But I said I wanted a far larger amp. Seattle Radio had a division that sold electronic parts to people and companies which included Boeing and the military. I could get the parts at employee discount, which was better than wholesale, so I could afford bigger and better parts.

A mutual friend, John Knobel, came to my birthday party in Nov 1966. John wanted to leave because he said he was getting bored, and was on LSD, offered me a "hit". I knew John well enough to trust him, took it. We listened to Bob's stereo all night on LSD, which was a revelation in sound to me, it was so rich and deep, very realistic, like we were at the concert.

When we came down in the morning, the audio sounded anemic compared to what I had experienced. I wanted to hear the realism I had heard, I wanted it back, but without using LSD.

Back at Seattle Radio, I listened very carefully to various speakers and amps. I came to the conclusion that, all things being considered, such as distortion, using the best speakers we sold, the more powerful the amplifier, the more realistic the sound, the richer, the deeper the expression of the audio.

At the time, the most powerful consumer amplifiers available were the McIntosh 275 stereo amp at 150 watts RMS and the Marantz Model 9 mono amps with 75 watts per channel. They sounded very good, but not even close to the realism that I had heard and far from any compromise I was willing to make. I never was impressed with "expert" opinions where they had all the graphs showing power "needed" for rooms, depending on "hard" and "soft" rooms. I felt that acoustics were important, but more for the quality of the sound than for how much power was "enough", though I believed that "hard" room reflections would be noxious enough to reduce the volume. I tend to approach such considerations in a scientific manner, where I consider the possibilities, the practicalities, and rely on testing. At that time, an audiologist tested my hearing, and it extended to about 22Khz, which explained the effect that distortion had on me. Bob also tested my hearing after I said I preferred "flat" tone control settings, and was surprised I could ascertain any adjustment of the tone controls, and that my preference was when he had the controls "flat".

I realized that what I wanted was far more than what was available, not just some incremental increase. I also knew that increases in sound levels required large increases in power.
I discussed this with Bob, but he was pretty adamant about building the 30 watt amp, though he agreed that there was no such thing as too much power, since the volume control took care of that, and also agreed that a very powerful amplifier with low distortion would tend to have less distortion at lower volume levels. So, it was mainly a case of cost and availability of parts. I can get pretty stubborn when I think I am on the right track. At the time, neither of us were making much money, so cost was a definite factor for Bob's advice and limitation on what to build. But being able to get parts for less than wholesale altered that equation for me.

Bob gave me a parts list for the 30 watt amp. I recall the power transformer was by Merit. So, I determined to replace each part on the list with the biggest, best part available for the application. I ordered the second largest output transformers that I found (the next larger, by United Transformer, weighed over 500 pounds, so were out of the question), made by Dyna. For tubes, I chose to replace the ones for 30 watts with RCA 6550s and more of them. For power supply capacitors I chose the largest available for the application, by Sangamo. I also chose larger wattage, military grade resistors (lower noise), etc.
I had a difficult time finding a power supply transformer that was large enough. I finally found a surplus transformer, 97 pounds for $97.00. Since there were so many tubes and large, heavy parts, I bought three chassis. I had them anodized gold at Industrial Plating in Seattle. Wayne, the manager there, had purchased a Fisher receiver from me, was happy, gave me a good deal.

When I finally got the parts together, I brought them all home to our home in Lake City, set them on the living room floor. When Bob came home from a TV service call, he saw the big pile of huge parts, and his eyes got big. I said, "If you really want to built a 30 watt amp with these parts, you can, but I think it would be a shame."

Bob can get very excited and enthused, as you probably know, and he got very excited and enthused, and he still does. He even put a halt to his TV servicing while he went at building this amplifier, which took almost two weeks, as I recall.

Bob and I began assembling the amp, Bob doing all the circuit work using his design. When Bob hooked it up to the University 315Cs, we became witness to the world's first system that sounded fairly realistic.
Bob and I could put our heads on the door frame of the brick house and have our heads bounce slightly from the frame. I have yet to have that happen again. And no lesser amplifier could hope to do that.

Bob then began tweaking the amplifier, which he always does after building an amp. He wants the sweetest sound possible.

Bob and I then took the amp to Seattle Radio's "best equipment room", where we hooked it up to ElectroVoice Patrician speakers, the best speakers then in the sound room at the time. I put on one of the demonstration records. For the first time, the 30 inch woofers actually visibly moved. One selection had a bass drum. In the past, using the McIntosh or Marantz amps, there was the sound of a "boom", but it lacked the character of a real bass drum.

Using the amp Bob built, for the first time ever, we could hear the character of the drum, we heard the initial "slap" of the leather (which has its own distinct sound), the first sharp oscillation of the drum (which requires power), the full, real sound that makes it sound like a bass drum.

Bob told me he wanted to built these amps commercially. But transistors were taking over, there were practical reasons for building powerful amps with transistors, and powerful transistors were around $40.00 each, so he had to wait for the price to drop.

One afternoon, Bob came back from a service call and said he was thinking of calling his prospective company, "Phase Linear". I thought that was a good choice.

As I recall, Bob started his company when power transistor cost dropped to around $6.00 each. Once that happened, Bob worked very hard building his company from scratch. He was rigorous at saving money, making sacrifices, literally living off cheap hamburgers from Dick's drive in near the University of Washington.

Bob is not only capable of building fine quality amps, he is open to innovation and has artistic sensibilities, which is rare among those involved in technical fields. He is far from being limited to the "laboratory". In the beginning, at least, he was totally involved in all phases of the business. He chose not only the electronic design, he designed the appearance and wrote his own advertising copy, if I remember right. Bob is quite "wide banded", as is his philosophy of design of electronics and speakers. Phase Linear literally "was" Bob Carver. I recall his distress when Sharon, his second wife, and his trusted partners turned on him, wanted to sell Phase Linear to Pioneer Corp against his wishes. Since he was married, his shares no longer gave him a majority vote, and he lost. He learned a valuable lesson from that. I never did care much for his second or his third wives, never socialized with them. I didn't think they, like his former partners, really had Bob's interests at heart, were "riding on Bob's coat-tails". I think he has learned his lessons there, too, seems much happier now.

You might have the Julian Hirsch report on the first Phase Linear amp in Audio Magazine, where Mr. Hirsch says that he had always assumed that only a moderate amount of power was needed for amplifiers, until he auditioned the Phase Linear 700. He admitted that, even with Horowitz on the piano, the power of the Phase Linear appeared necessary for realism, since at realistic levels, he saw that the Phase Linear appeared to be using most of its power. Bob's Phase Linear 700 design proved to be quite the achievement, revolutionized and energized the world of audio.

After that, other manufacturers began producing amplifiers far more powerful than the McIntosh and Marantz amps, which had been considered "more powerful than necessary" by all concerned with audio for many years, and so were the effective "ceiling" on power in everyone's opinion, including the most rabid audiophiles. I never ever heard of anyone even suggesting more power, and, when I brought up the subject while I was considering the subject for the amplifier I wanted, I received an unenthusiastic response, as if my proposals were a threat to the status quo. Why even think of more power when the holy grails were McIntosh and Marantz, which offered "more power than necessary", according to the self appointed "experts" and their devotees?
I am amused when I see car audio systems with for more power than the Phase Linear 700, and almost always much more powerful than these characters have for their home systems, a far larger environment.

Bob and I also have a chuckle of those expensive cables, what a rip off they are. As I have mentioned in forums, I sarcastically say that the "best" cables are those with the coolest sounding names, usually Grecian, and with the highest price, double blind tests notwithstanding. Then there are the "classic" purists who long for the sound of "olde." I mentioned to Bob about going to a store that sold "purist" equipment with that philosophy and then saying that the "truly olde classic" sound can't be obtained with modern cables, that one needs to use the old cables, too, those old gray Radio Shack cables that were what about everyone used. I didn't like them, they often failed at the solder joints.

Bob was also an expert in aerial combat with tethered airplanes, using planes he built himself. I attended a competition in the early 1960s where Bob beat all the other contenders. The reward was a ride with the Blue Angels, which Bob thoroughly enjoyed.

Personally, I think Bob was very wise to sell Sunfire when he did. The economy tanked shortly afterward, so discretionary spending went south. The competition is fierce for American companies. The integration with video is a mess, as the HDMI situation demonstrates. Home theater has served to compromise audio, fewer consumers are interested in "pure" audio. Bob never was much into video, he is audio man first and foremost, and now can indulge in his love for audio.

If you have had the opportunity to see his new tube amps, you know they are fine examples of the state of the art in tube amplifier design.

Bob has done a great job of closely replicated the system, including the size of the speaker cabinets, the University 315C speakers, that he and I listened to when we were the only people in the world who were having our heads bounce off the door frames from the sound waves of whomping bass!

Really bought it all back! Pretty intoxicating!!!

You may phone/email me:

Dave Ladely 206-354-0857

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 5:00 pm
by kingman
WOW!!!! What alot of great info!!! Thanks for insight and the post!!! =D> =D> =D>

Re: Bob Carver Biography

Posted: Fri Aug 06, 2010 5:13 pm
by BrianT

Thanks for all that great info.