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HOW IT ALL STARTED

In the fall of 1976 a new high end audio store in San Diego, Audio Directions, began gaining wide spread attention with their impressive array of top-rated products. Operated by “Ike” Eisenson and Roger Stovold, they invited designers and manufacturers of the lines they carried to the store to make presentations to customers and local hangers-on. These became monthly meetings and thus was born the San Diego Audio Society. Ike organized and ran the meetings after Roger chose and arranged for the speakers, presenting top industry folks such as Mitch Cotter, Nelson Pass, Saul Marantz (then with Dahlquist), James Bongiorno, Dan D’Agostino (then with Dayton-Wright), Harold Beverage, and many others. This continued for three to four years until issues arose internally at the store and meetings ended.

At about 1980, Bruce Heimburg and his partners opened a new Stereo Unlimited store on Sports Arena to supplement their La Mesa location. Bruce felt strongly about supporting local serious audio hobbyists so offered his new store as a meeting place. Thus the SDAS continued, but with its first functional change as the informal membership organized itself enough to run the meetings. It elected George Louis as President. Monthly meetings were held but with another change, many meeting presentations were made by Society members to supplement presentations from manufacturers whose products were carried in the store such as Vandersteen and Conrad-Johnson. Later, through the graciousness of Bruce and his partners, selected other companies not sold there were invited as well. And credit should be given to Stereo Unlimited for hosting food and drink as well as the meeting location, just as Audio Directions did in the beginning. So the San Diego Audio Society continued on in this fashion for several years. However, toward the end of the decade, interest and attendance began trailing off, meetings became irregular and eventually stopped, thus the SDAS ceased to exist as an ongoing club.

A CLUB REBORN

A few years passed until the fall of 1992 when a group of enthusiasts, who met one another at Stereo Unlimited, began discussing the possibility of starting a new audio club. That group, including Roger Gordon, Dr. John Beck, Steve Emmett, Harriet King, Mike Singer, and Neil Levy, wanted a fresh start. So they organized a new club, the Music and Audio Guild of San Diego. This was a purposeful name as they wanted to emphasize music and source material as much as audio components in their meetings. Roger was elected President with Stereo Unlimited again serving as Guildhouse, and their first meeting was kicked off that fall with presentations by Straight Wire and The Mod Squad.

With the formation of the new Guild, organization and programs took a fresh direction. A volunteer Board was formed to assist the President with the many tasks necessary to hold meetings. The scope of presentations was broadened and meetings were arranged at local audio manufacturers whenever possible to allow Guild members the opportunity to see inside the component manufacturing process. In addition, occasional meetings were held at other stores to help promote their businesses, while the majority of meetings continued to be held at Stereo Unlimited. True to the inclusion of Music in the club name, meetings sometimes included actual performances as well as lectures on music and music collecting. And while the emphasis continued to be on two-channel reproduction of musical performances, presentations on home theater and video were occasionally included. Then, because a number of Guild members attended the Consumer Electronics Shows in Las Vegas each year, a recap by members with stories, reviews, and pictures of new product demonstrations became an annual program presentation. Equipment and software swap meets were held. Holiday celebration parties also became regular events.

Guest speakers during this period included Ralph Karsten, Bill Firebaugh, Albert Von Sweikert, Peter Noerbaek, Kavi Alexander, Brian Cheney, Kevin Halverson, Jeff Joseph, Ken Kantor, and Dr. Bruce Edgar, among many others.

Roger served faithfully as President, leading the new MAGSD for approximately four years. But because of his business, time availability became greatly limited so he had to step down. Fortunately for the Guild, Dr. John Beck came forward to assume duties as our President and “fearless leader”. As with any club of this type, finding enough participants to share the load of the many tasks necessary to hold meetings had become an issue. So Dr. John organized a nine-member volunteer Board to share the load.
Rejuvinated with new leadership, the Guild was off and running in 1997 with a presentation by staff from Balanced Audio Technologies, followed the next month by one of our most popular meetings — the great BAT VS Joule Electra electronics shoot out (it was a draw with half the members voting for BAT and the other half favoring Joule). Other meetings featured Richard Vandersteen, Randy Patton, Caig Laboratories, Art Noxon, John Ulrich, Keith Herron, Dennis Had, EveAnna Manley, and Dan Meinwald, again, along with many others. There was also more outreach to the Music in our name with auditions, performances, lectures, and visits to local concert facilities. During this period our Guildhouse changed slightly when Stereo Unlimited moved a few doors away in 1999 to new, larger facilities featuring multiple sound rooms. Fortunately, this also included a larger home theater demo room that better served presentations. The Guild prospered until unfortunately, after six great years of leadership and enthusiasm, Dr. John was forced to resign because of relocating outside San Diego.

THE LATEST EDITION

2003 began with the election of Jan Hofman to lead the Guild, a continuation of good fortune. This represented another slight change of direction for the club. Jan objected to the formality of being called “President” and preferred to be considered the Coordinator. This implied that a number of other Guild members would join in to help schedule and run the meetings, with Jan having the overall responsibility for coordination. Eleven members stepped forward as volunteers to find speakers for the remainder of the year. The first speaker was again Albert Von Schweikert, who along with Richard Vandersteen may be tied for most presentations to our Society/Guild over the years. Most of the remaining meetings that year were made by smaller local manufacturers or by fellow Guild members. 2004 was a mix of local talent and industry names such as Dr. Bruce Edgar, Dr. Robert Greene (TAS), Jim Wang of Harmonic Technology, and Alan Hulsebus of Orca Design. Also during this time period, the name of the club morphed into the San Diego Music and Audio Guild; not a big deal but it should be mentioned because of other confusion over the club/Guild name.

By the beginning of 2006, Jan felt it was time for new leadership to keep things fresh and asked for volunteers to run for election. George Louis was the only one to do so, thus ran unopposed to become Coordinator. Two meetings were held that winter and spring, set up by Jan and Tim Ryan. The Guild then fell into hibernation until that November when Jan agreed to again assume the Coordinator responsibilities and meetings resumed. One major change was the new meeting location at the North Clairemont Friendship Center. Bruce continued to welcome us to meet at Stereo Unlimited but many Guild members felt we had imposed on Bruce and his staff for too long, plus with many Guild members commuting from North County communities there was additional reason to relocate a meeting location further northward.

Revived meetings began with a presentation in November on the 2006 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and then the return of our annual holiday party. Kicking off 2007 we had our annual CES review, including photos of many rooms and components, supplemented by a few stories that could be told in mixed company. More meetings included Raul Iruegas (Essential Audio), Dr. Robert Greene, Jim Wang, demo of a Rives designed room treatment, Acoustic Zen Audio, and PBN Audio. In addition we held some “share the music” sessions and enjoyed a couple of parties. Over the 2008-9 period, member presentations on room acoustics and digital music file conversions were supplemented by presenters included Roger Sanders, David Janzen, and again, Albert Von Schweikert. In 2012, we were fortunate to be addressed by Yuki Kaku, designer of the Sony AR1 and AR2 speakers systems, and Kevin Voecks, head of engineering for JBL, Infinity, Revel and Mark Levinson.

Since then, we have abandoned meetings at the North Clairemont Friendship Center in favor of local manufacturer’s demo rooms, member’s homes and occasionally, at Stereo Unlimited. In addition, meeting dates have varied from our traditional Wednesday evenings to Saturday or Sunday afternoon gatherings. Therefore, the best method to remain informed of meeting subjects, dates, and locations is to get onto our mailing list. You will then receive timely announcements and reminders for upcoming events.

So even with the changes in name, leadership, organization, meeting content and location, audiophiles and music lovers from around the San Diego County area have continued to meet, socialize, audition, be educated and entertained for the past 36 years. If you are not already a member, please join us and share in the fun.

Tim Price
November, 2009 (updated October, 2012)