Hi-Fi and Audio Personalities - A & B

Here are archive information relating to persons that have operated in or around the audio business, the motives for having a separate page for this is partly to honour the memories of those that have passed but also provide linkage between companies, products and technologies that are difficult to trace directly unlike companies or ideas that usually have a lineage, history and people actively collecting those histories, or making them up, that kind of interest is seldom given to persons which is a bit of a shame since their histories often provide a thread between companies and concepts that are not obvious otherwise. To add to that some people are just interesting per se or have lived interesting lives, although admittedly an alarming number of people in the audio business fit neither of these 2 groups ....

Some of the information here can be a bit terse especially if the persons are not the owner of a company, but that is simply because this sort of information is a bit difficult to get hold of and unlike companies where you can and should put all the info and opinions you can find on a page, there is a need to thread a bit more carefully when it comes to people, especially if they are no longer around to defend themselves.

Note when we list a company name or a trademark they are always listed by the first name of the company or brand regardless if it's a person’s name or not, this is because these are no longer people’s names but brands and thus rules governing how personal names are classified no longer apply and they are sorted as written. Here however we try to follow the sorting rules of the cultural sphere of the person listed, so those countries that use the German style tribal, place or family name tradition they are arranged alphabetically according to their family name, Icelanders and others that do not have family names are listed by first name etc., people from the Hungarian and Korean language areas get their family names listed before their given names and so on.

Borbély Ernö
Hungarian electronics engineer, born and grew up in the 1930’s in the Aszófö village on the shores of lake Balaton (Plattensee) and became interested in electronics as a kid after he found functional electronics parts in the war debris of WWII. Entered the Budapest Technical University (now Budapesti Múszaki és Gazdaságtudományi Egyetem) in 1954 to study electronic engineering but was forced to flee the country in 1956 after the Soviet invasion and before he could manage to complete his degree. Was given refuge in Norway in 1957 and started studies at the NTNU the year after, earning a master’s degree in electronic engineering in 1960.

Despite primarily having been interested in digital electronics beforehand and in fact his master’s thesis being on CPU design he found it difficult to find work in that sector in Norway at the time and in the end took a job with the Norwegian State Radio designing custom equipment for the recording and broadcast studios of that organisation. Hr. Borbély became a naturalised Norwegian citizen in 1964 and found the time to marry fellow Hungarian refugee Irene in 1966. Left for the USA in 1969 after a chance meeting with David Hafler led to a firm job offer and he started work at Hafler’s Dynaco the same year, but during his tenure there that lasted until 1973 he worked on a number of products including the Dynaco QD1 and the ill-fated Dynaco 400.

In 1973 he moved to Switzerland and started work as an Applications Manager for Motorola (now On Semiconductor) but his job primarily involved designing applications for Motorola semiconductor products and choosing and editing the applications designed by others into application notes, given his work and interests prior and since it will not be a surprise that most of his application notes were in the audio field and some of them, in particular those on FET amplifier design became quite influential in the long run, but Moto had been introducing a number of new FET designs in the 70’s that were ideal for audio usage.

Another job offer from David Hafler led Hr. Borbély to leave his post at Motorola and to return to the USA in 1978 to take the post of head designer at David Hafler Co. where he designed the classic Hafler DH101 and Hafler DH200. He only lasted there for a year however, a dispute arose over share options that had been promised to Borbély when he took the job and it resulted in him resigning from his post and moving to Germany in 1980 and starting work for National Semiconductor as a European Training Manager and remained there until the division was closed in 1997. It is interesting to note that the David Hafler Company never managed to properly replace him, all of their amplifier products were variants on the Borbély designs until they started building amps based on designs they acquired from Acoustat in 1987 even though rapid advances in semiconductor technology had made the original designs out-dated by the early 80’s.

As the work he was doing for Natsemi was not audio related unlike most of his former jobs he found an outlet for his audio designs and ideas in the Danish magazine High Fidelity that started publishing his articles in 1980, and by 1982 he was contributing to American publication Audio Amateur. His designs became quite influential initially amongst the designers of commercial amplifiers, not the least due to his use of FET transistors and advanced shunted power supplies, his love FET’s was such that by the 21 century all his designs were based around them, any bipolars had been banned from the power supplies and even the valve amplifier designs were MOSFET hybrids.

In the 90 and the 00’s the DIY crowd however increasingly woke up to the potentials of his work, although the refinement and complexity of some of the designs meant that they were pretty much confined to high-end hi-fi equipment in the commercial sector it also meant that by building them yourself you could end up with a high end product for the price of a mid-end one. By the late 80’s the DIY sector had partially run out of steam, especially the kit manufacturing and audio part supply branches of it, since it was by that time cheaper to buy a fully built product than a kit and in addition you got a guarantee with them as well. The Borbély designs were thus one of the few designs available that represented a real cost saving but most audio kits could by that time only offer a sense of accomplishment and educational value, but when you finished building and housing them ultimately were not cost effective. So even if they were fairly expensive, the Borbély designs and later kits alongside the valve amplifier designs from Belgian company Velleman ushered in the age of the high end audio kit but during the 70’s the terms “kit” and “high end” were considered opposites and not something you put in the same sentence.

As some of the transistors he used in the designs were difficult to source except in quantity he founded Borbely Audio in 1984 initially to supply DIYers with uncommon parts but later started to offer partial and complete kits of his designs, he and his wife Irene ran the company until 2010 when they decided to retire. After 1997 his work has primarily been designing products for other companies, amongst other things he designed amplifiers for PBN Audio and Aural Audio and more recently he has done designs for the Light Harmonic DAC's. Hr. Borbély has primarily written articles, courseware and application notes and to the best of our knowledge he has only authored one book, and that was on semiconductor technology in general rather than on audio applications in particular, however his articles published by Audio Amateur are still in print and can be bought from the publisher.

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The site was last compiled on Sun Nov 10 2013 at 9:15:00am