I Remember Tim de Paravicini
I knew Tim de Paravicini for over 40 years. My last contact was in late November 2020 when he wrote to me that he wasn't doing so well and just a couple of weeks later, he was gone. As has been mentioned by others Tim was a larger-than-life character. He did not suffer fools (or those he considered so) gladly. In his defense on most subjects, he would express strong opinions he was well informed. From our perspective this of course was especially in all things connected with audio. But television technology, cars, airplanes, and what seems to be a host of other things he did have in-depth knowledge. I don't intend to repeat his biography, which has been ably told elsewhere but just tell a bit about my own experience and friendship with Tim de Paravicini.
I met him after having listened to the EAR 509 mono amps at an exhibition in London in 1978. He had started a company, had a production guy and a sales one. I met the sales guy in Heathrow but had so many questions that he thought I'd better speak with Tim. I got the chance to do so by driving up to St. Ives, not too far from Huntingdon and Cambridge, where Tim was based. In fact, quite quickly it became very clear that Esoteric Audio Research was Tim de Paravicini.
Tim de Paravicini at HiFi 1997
I had been setting up distribution arrangements for Rogers in Holland and soon got to an agreement with Tim. So on an autumn evening, Tim rolled up in front of our terraced house in his old Jaguar and proceeded to get two very modest cartons from behind the front seats. They contained my new demo EAR509 amps. After a few refreshments, Tim was on his way to Germany for other meetings.
My wife took one look at the amps and said "Not in MY living room". Then as now she is the aesthetic heavy in our relationship. She is also, though, the mythical wife who has a good pair of ears. I told that we were just going to listen to these that I would be trying to get to Dutch dealers. This she could agree to and she liked what she heard so much that just a bit grudgingly she said "I suppose they can stay". This pair, except for being put out for tests, stayed with us for almost 40 years.
Tim de Paravicini at HKAV 2008
Tim was never shy about calling a spade "A Spade". He was gaining recognition for his redesign of the Michaelson and Austin TVA-1, which according to Tim was a rather radical one. This as well as the Musical Fidelity A1 brought him a fair amount of renown, but none of them were anywhere as radical as the 509 amps. It was Tim's strength as a transformer designer that made it. His use of the PL509 and later PL519 tubes together with his bifilar wound transformer made it a super amplifier.
It had REAL bass, could deliver current and so didn't sound like a typical tube amp at all. It certainly didn't sound like your typical transistor amp either.
Tim often said that he didn't mind whether he was using vacuum tubes, solid-state JFETs, or bipolar transistors. Each technology could be used in a good design. You just had to able to make such a design. He liked tubes for the challenges they gave him, and of course, he mastered the transformers. He was generous to me and I have good memories of staying with him and his wife Oliva in the old rebuilt chapel when their daughter Avalon was just a little girl. My wife complains that my room is always a mess, but Tim's workshop was something to behold.
I remember carefully treading my way, looking somewhat surprised at an LS3/5A with the better part of a whole roll of solder tin glued on the cone around the voice coil cap. The lesson? You can get bass out a ridiculously small speaker if you have enough power on call. Tim did. Also, fast bass may have nothing to do with a light cone. Damping of the system of course does. Another lesson I never forgot was the difference in sound on a fairly small RAM speaker using a well reputed 50 Watt amplifier and Tim's ~500 Watt monsters sporting ten PL519 tubes for each channel. With the big amplifier, everything was just so much more dynamic. It was really hard to believe we were listening to the same speaker.
Tim de Paravicini with Stan Ricker
One of my audio axioms stems from this experience: "You can never have too much power". It must be added that it should be used judiciously. Tim taught me that you are much more likely to blow up a speaker with a too-small amp than with a too-large one.
Tim was at home in many environments. I must admit to a certain pride (although it had nothing to do with me) when he started rebuilding studios, tape-recorders, and LP cutting lathes. I still listen with great pleasure to Water Lily recordings and Mobile Fidelity records made with Tim's equipment. To stick with the transformers for a bit. If you have ever listened to and held "The Head" in your hand you will not forget it. Tim designed transformers and had them made for him. No off-the-shelf products for him!
Tim de Paravicini with his wonderful wife Oliva.
The last many years we only saw each other when we met at shows together with Oliva and the last years with their son Nevin. Tim de Paravicini, the colorful and brilliant designer who didn't seem to find my questions bothersome and who treated me kindly and taught me many things will stay with me.
I do remember Tim!