morning I learned that Sidney Harman had passed away. Every Obit hailed him as
a “hifi pioneer” but few had much information about what Harman’s lasting
contributions to our industry were.
first entered the audio industry in 1939 as an employee of David Bogen. After a stint in the army Harman returned to Bogen where he rose to the
position of general manager by the early ’50’s. In 1953 Harman and Bogen’s
chief designer, Bernard Kardon founded Harman Kardon with a grub-stake of $5000 each. Their first product was
an integrated receiver, the Festival
read some accounts that claim that the D1000 was the first receiver – an
integrated amp with a built-in radio tuner, but that was not the most revolutionary
part of the design. The Festival D1000’s cosmetics were what separated the
D1000 from other manufacturer’s gear, because Harman, aided by his first wife
who was an interior decorator, had discovered that consumers buy sound equipment
with their eyes.
D1000 was the first piece of audio gear that was available in more than one front
panel finish. You could even get unfinished panel to paint yourself. While it
may not seem like such a big thing, offering different color front panels, in
1953 this was huge. The D1000 was a major success and proved that the cosmetics
of consumer audio products matter.
old-time audiophiles will tell you that Sidney Harman’s biggest contribution to
audio was hiring Stu Hegeman as his head designer in the late ’50’s, and
allowing him to produce the Citation line of tubed electronics, I believe that
incorporating a strong visual style element into electronics was Harman’s
biggest and most far-reaching “new idea,” which is still felt in the industry
today. Companies such as Meridian, Levinson, and Krell owe much to Sidney
Harman and his Festival D1000.