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THE aim of this guide is to bring together in compact form all the material necessary for designing an audio installation of the type known as "high fidelity," within the limitations of one volume it is impossible for it to be complete; nor is it necessary that it should be so.
There is a vast amount of matter available for reference and study. Apart from the numerous books treating high fidelity as a separate branch of audio engineering, there is the whole range of standard textbooks and innumerable articles in the technical magazines. Some of these are of very great value and the student, engineer and purely amateur enthusiast should not fail to refer to the various indexes published annually listing what has been written. Yet it has to be said that there is an even vaster accumulation of writing on the subject that, while having technical integrity, does not seem to have much practical value.
What value has this guide, then, when so much has already been written? The answer to that stems from a conversation I had with the publisher some three years ago. We were discussing various books and scientific papers and he said that he found it very difficult to steer a steady course through so much material--and so many shoals. I said that I, too, had sometimes had to hunt through masses of stuff to get hold of some fact I wanted and very often didn't find it. There and then we resolved to compile a guide which would be a handy data book for those interested in audio.
The work was started but before very long we came, independently, to the conclusion that what was wanted was not so much a data book as a guide book, something that would describe how the job was done, with emphasis on the need for the designer to have a clear idea in his mind what he wanted to do before he started in to do it.
This meant that a good deal of the material already got together had to be scrapped and other material fashioned into the new approach. This accounts for the long delay between the original announcement of the guide and its actual appearance. While apologizing to those who have been so patient, I think I can fairly say that the guide will be more useful to them in its present form.
I describe how my more than 30 years' experience in audio engineering suggests a problem in design should be tackled. I also add from time to time some comments on blind alleys I have explored, and I conclude with a wholly personal section on where I think we are all going and why we shouldn't go there! These past 8 years have been exciting years for all audio workers, but because, in the continual search for novelty, certain ideas are being exploited which were tried and rejected thirty years ago (but which are unknown to younger readers), a good-natured word of warning here and there seems desirable.
I have not attempted a thorough treatise on speakers and enclosures. The subject is far too vast even for a whole volume.
Meanwhile I offer this guide as, I hope, a dependable guide through the intricacies of audio, and where it fails I shall be grateful for comment and criticism and suggestions for its improvement.
-H. A. HARTLEY