Allen Wright, 1947-2011, Vacuum State Electronics
I just got word of Allen's passing from Bill Thalmann of Music Technology. Bill's worked with Allen over the years and was a big fan of his.
Here is a nifty read of Allen's audio life from the Vacuum State Electronics Site:
Born in New Zealand in 1947, Allen Wright cut his teeth on metal can Mil. Spec. 6L6 tubes, courtesy of his Naval radio operator father and more than once had to be pulled from the internals of communications equipment before lightning struck.
By the age of 12 he was into one tube regenerative radio, and later misspent his high school years building and operating a fully home brewed SSB ham radio station (ZLIBBO) as well as exploding various pyrotechnic devices.
His first stereo system was jury rigged out of the audio stages of 2 old radios, single ended 6V6's with no feedback driving electro-dynamic speakers.
Around this time Allen was introduced first hand to the legendary Tube God when he sampled the 1400 volt anode supply of his transmitter's output stage [so that's what happened to Allen's hair - Joe]. Not surprisingly his interests soon widened to include solid state circuits...
All this was in the mid 60's and after discovering that Auckland University could offer no worthwhile electronics education, he went to work in industry.
A spell in a factory testing tube TV sets led to a slightly more familiar occupation servicing 2 way mobile radio systems. Subsequently a move to Australia, a world trip, a wife and two daughters did little for his electronic education, but along the way he gained enough knowledge and chutzpah to talk himself into a job with Hewlett Packard as a service engineer.
This position exposed him to the absolute cream of the then current technology and there gained a strong professional background.
Ironically, his first design to reach production was a solid state (SS) hi-fi AM tuner. Far from being an oxymoron, such a product was essential in Australia in 1974 as there was no FM broadcasting, and the AM classical stations broadcast a low distortion signal out to beyond 15KHz! It all started out as a challenge from a fellow engineer to make an ss device that could better his modified QUAD tube tuner. Not an easy task but once the full weight of HP's test lab was pressed into play, the Wright Audio Developments LDT3A comfortably bettered the QUAD, and sounding like a very good FM tuner in mono went on to become a minor marketing miracle in Hi-Fi Australia.
With this success and following the break-up of his marriage, he left HP and went out on his own as a free lance designer, consultant and all round gun for hire.
Under the band of Haltronics, a period of building low cost digital instruments followed but audio was always the first love. By '76 he had formed the Allen Wright Electronics and was manufacturing some really fringe ss audio equipment designed by local audio guru, Rowan McCombe.
But sales of locally designed and built Hi-End equipment was always difficult in Australia and to pay the rent he started a full scale modification service. Everything from junker's to brand new Mark Levenson's went under the knife in the quest for better sound. This was a wonderful opportunity to be paid to research and although mostly ss gear was involved, much was learnt to be later applied to real audio.
But a second visit from the Tube God was due and while this time was perhaps less painful than the first, it was in no way less disturbing.
A Lux CL35 tube preamp arrived for repair and the owner was talked into having it modified. Similar to the Audio Research SP3A, it was the first current hi-end tube preamp to receive the upgrades developed across years of ss mods. A disturbing allnighter was spent comparing the results of this modification to the very well reviewed Guru designed production ss PreA.
Before the rebuilt CL35 was fully warmed up the ss unit was ahead, then they were level, but by 5AM and after many LPs, it had to be admitted that offerings were due to the God in Glass, for he is the true king!
For a second opinion the Lux was taken to the Guru, who to kept it for several weeks, claiming his doorbell and telephone had failed shortly after it arrived! The owners response to this is not recorded...
Once the true religion was discovered, all ss production was finalised, the company name changed to Vacuum State Electronics and various items of tube equipment soon became available.
In 1980 a major project was started to attempt to break through current performance limits of HiFi electronics. This was successful and resulted in the Vacuum State "Realtime" series of products, custom made for real music lovers, and continuing with only minor conceptual revisions to the present day.