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Tim de Paravicini “The Legend” (1945-2020) – by Jonas Sakkis

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Tim de Paravicini (1945-2020)

The Baron & The Legend of true High Fidelity

by mr. Jonas Sakkis

by Jonas Sakkis


Biography

Tim was born in Nigeria in 1945, to English parents. His family has a distinguished lineage, both in his native Italy and in the UK, where one branch of the family settled centuries ago. One of his ancestors was Agostino Pallavicini, an ambassador from Genoa to Pope Gregory XV, and later the Doge of Genoa. A portrait of Pallavicini by Anthony Van Dyke is the collection of the Getty Museum, where it is on permanent display. Tim was in fact a Baron, a title that has been in his family for many generations.

Tim de Paravicini

Tim was brought to England for his education, which culminated to him in receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering. After completing his studies, Tim moved in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he worked as a consultant to hi-fi stores, run a factory building transformers and amplifiers, built PA systems for rock groups and did work for recording studios. Amongst the people he worked in Johannesburg was the import agent for Luxman, a fact that led in 1972 to being hired by the chief executives of Luxman, specifically to bring that company to attention of the world outside of Japan. He was the first and only westerner doing audio design work in Japan at the time.

In the course of Tim’s time at Luxman, he learned Japanese, met his wife Oliva and designed several remarkable audio components that continue to receive notice. Perhaps the most notorious was the M-6000, a gigantic transistor power amplifier, which was one of the first muscle amplifiers ever produced and certainly the first to come from Japan. Among other products, Tim also designed the MB-3045 monoblock tube amplifier, at the time the only monoblock amplifier in the world market, and a product that is now bought and sold at several times its original selling price.

Luxman 3045 model by Tim de Paravicini: High-end tube amplifier representing Luxman’s heyday in the mid 1970s which quite probably existed in fifty slightly different versions and also had LuxKit equivalents. Primary is made of four windings wound together to reduce leakage and distortion inherent to Class AB or Class B amplifiers ; the GX100-3.6 transformer can deliver more than 35W at 35Hz. 8045G power triodes pecially developped in collaboration with NEC. In Class B, the power dissipated on the plate can amount to 60W at 1Khz, thanks to its structure and high heat-dissipation metal. Push-pull stage made of two 8045G triodes on which a negative feedback loop is applied. DC driver stage of the cathode-follower type, uses newly developped 6240G double-triodes. Pre-driver: To rise the gain obtained by the driver stage, another 6240G double-triode is used here, with a 200V tension applied to the plate. A 5dB NFB is applied between the cathode and the 4th winding of the output transformer. Differential amplifier Its first stage uses a 12AX7 (ECC83) double-triode ; the second stage, DC-coupled with the first, gives an out-of-phase signal which is sent to the driver stage. Power-supply section GX100-3.6 Quadra-Filar output transformer (specially developped for the 8045G), C1744 low resistance choke self, two 220µF electrolytic caps. After this stage, the filtered tension is applied to a bridge rectifier. And then… wonderful music musically reaches your ears – providing you have two MB3045 for the latter is a monoblock.

While Tim was best known for designing vacuum tube components, the existence of the M-6000 is testimony to the fact that he was equally at home designing both tube and transistor gear (more on this later). He believed that no one technology is inherently superior to the other, and in fact he believed that, given proper circuit design, they should sound identical. Tim straddled both the world of professional audio and that of domestic Hi-Fi. He was in fact best known in the pro-audio world for his radical modifications on ATR and Studer (and later Denon) tape machines. These machines are capable of digital levels of S/N ratio, and have a bandwidth in excess of 8Hz-80kHz. The Studer C97 used by Waterlilly Acoustics to record the Grammy-Award-winning album “Meeting by the River”, was all tube, while the electronics in the tape machine currently used by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab to master their LP’s and CD’s is solid state – though the cutting heads used to make their LP’s were driven by EAR electronics.

Tim left Japan in 1976, and returned to England, where at first did design work for others. Perhaps his best products from this period are the TVA-1 and TVA-10 amplifiers that he created for Michaelson and Austin (later Musical Fidelity), once again vintage products, which are still sought after this day. He founded EAR (the initials of which originally stood for Esoteric Audio Research) in 1978, and begun to create a line of audio products under that name. He also continued to design amplifiers for other companies, amongst them Musical Fidelity, Alchemist and, more recently, Quad. The list of the most well known recording and mastering engineers, who used his equipment, includes Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering, whose credits include Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Radiohead, Dire Straits and Frank Zappa among others. James Guthrie, who has been the producer and recording engineer for Pink Floyd since 1978 owns an EAR tape machine and a rack full of other gear in order to master and remaster the full Pink Floyd catalogue.

The list of musicians who own and use Tim’s equipment includes Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the late George Harrison, Lenny Kravitz and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, who literally ownes a boatload of Tim’s equipment.

Tim’s audio components have received numerous awards, amongst them many Golden Ear and Critics Choice awards from Absolute Sound, some Class A ratings from Stereophile, over a dozen top awards from the french magazine Revue du Son, Haute Fidelite and Diapason, a number of Editor’s Choice Awards from brittish Hi-Fi News and several, including Component of the Year from japanesse “Stereosound” magazine.

Baron Tim de Paravicini is survived by his wife Oliva, son Nevin and daughter Avalon. Esoteric Audio Research company will continue to operate under the capable hands of Nevin de Paravicini.

Baron Tim de Paravicini

So far, everything was copied from the Internet, mainly “Positive Feedback”. But, what I think is more interesting (at least for people like me) is to write my view about Tim’s personality, together with a brief addition to his activity. I first met him at the very early 80’s, in one Heathrow hi-fi show, presenting a pair of his 509 Mk1 amplifiers with some “heretic (non BBC style) loudspeakers”, these being from Solstice, ProAc, Heybrook HB3’s or something else. Impressive! I started cooperating with him on 1987, although I was very familiar with his work, on TVA-1 and 10, and other Musical Fidelity equipment (the latter I was and still am the importer). I need here to remind the readers the well known history about the landmark amplifier MF A-1. Tim was with Michaelson in a London pub, eating and drinking. He drew on a piece of cigarette paper (he was a very heavy smoker) the very clever but inexpensive to built schematic of that amplifier for Anthony, in exchange for just a bag of grocery that his wife ordered and he was bored to death to buy! Perhaps the best qualification for Tim I ever read was from Ken Kessler “when Tim entered the room, it was fulfilled by his presence”.

In a site, someone wrote “Tim was a wild man”. Well no he wasn’t, he was just absolutely intolerant to non substantiated statements of people with little or no electronics knowledge, who were based solely on the choice of expensive components as a way to make something to sound good, often with doubtful reliability. I will always remember his joyful and almost “singing” Hellooow each time Dena Ross announced me on a telephone call.

We were discussing a lot about electronics design. He was particularly interested about my work on OTL amplifiers and some novelties that I put on the schematics and realization, and he asked me to make it fully DC coupled. I could not find an easy answer at the time and he asked me prepare an answer for the next time Munich show. We never met again. Twice a pity, because he also told me “I know it can be done, and it is going to make the world’s best amplifier”.

His designs were unconventional, and every creation of his was totally innovative. I can give many examples but I will state just two. There was an order for one Push Pull 833 amplifier of around 500 watts for an audiophile in Athens. What he created was full of fresh ideas, and one easy to explain was the following: he avoided DC power on the filaments for a very logical (after being explained of course) reason, and he managed to make a totally quiet amplifier with 100W (10Vx10A) per tube, AC supply! It was very cleverly constructed for heat convection, and it run very cool. It drives Wilson XLF with fantastic success.

The other example is cheaper and widely available. It is the EAR 834T amplifier, the transistorized version of 899 and 834, where he substituted EL34’s or KT90’s with a combination of bipolar and FET transistors as output devices. Instead of each power tube he used four small bipolar and a power FET. I inserted the circuit on the “SPICE” circuit analysis site (Berkeley University) and it proved to be fantastically linear and reliable (as is the whole amplifier by the way).

Tim was not a fan of the hype about the 300B tube, and he proved this with his EAR 859 (sold once as a kit or transformers only, supplying for free its very innovative circuit). He stated that a screen driven PL519 tube sounds (and measures) identical to a 300B. I tried it and it was true! There was one experimental amplifier of mine (SE833) with no transformer coupling. I used a driver tube “hanging” on two DC sources (positive and negative) that is DC coupled to the 833 grid. On a very revealing system (Kallista digital source and big Cessaro horn speakers) the sound variation between different brands of 300Bs and PL519s was bigger than the difference between the two different tubes, and specifically when comparing the sound of a JJ 300B and a Philips/Siemens PL519 we couldn’t detect any difference at all!

I could give many more examples about Tim’s work, but one great example was the work he did for the Michaelson Audio amplifiers. These were very expensive stuff, built in the USA as the ultra high end of Musical Fidelity’s line (early 90’s). 8xEL34s per channel with very clever (Tim would say “proper”) drive circuit. The real innovation was that in order to prevent phase shift and to have the same propagation delay for all audio frequencies, he used on feedback one delay line made out of many coils and capacitors. The amplifier was very vivid and especially joyful to listen!

Tim, like some other talented people, e.g. Stanley Kelly, was never able to make serious profit out of his work (that is the main reason of the EAR products being underpriced compared to the competition). Sometimes his sense of humor counteracted the shortage of funds. I remember one time when I was visiting his factory seeing his old estate Ford Cortina and him mentioning that he was thinking of fitting under the bonnet a V12 Jaguar motor. He was laughing with the idea of the expression of various Mercedes drivers in the motorway being astonished by his old Cortina. He did it by the way…

I could give many more examples of Tim’s way of thinking and doing things, believe me. But I would like to end this piece with a quick reference on his record producing activity. Many producers and musicians were using components and even full recording chains by Tim, but there is at least one record that he worked as a mastering engineer as well. This is one of the most used by audiophiles test record (Ana Karan – Rio after dark, by Chesky Records). Its natural tonality, fantastic transients and very extended frequency response are some of the best out there. I think Tim reached the heights of Kenneth Wilkinson and Colin Moorfoot (two of the best Decca engineers) and this was just one side-part of his activities!

Jonas Sakkis

Electronics Engineer

Exclusive Audio, Athens

Photo Collection of Iconic models from EAR-Yoshino, in production & older models

The EAR 912 is a culmination of Tim de Paravicini’s work with professional studios. Specifically designed for playback in studios, inheriting the product a rich feature set in addition to its high grade sound. Despite these advanced capabilities, it still has style and grace to make it feel at home anywhere. Subtle professional influences such as the UV meters and solid aluminium handles reinforce that this is not just another preamp. Matching its state-of-the-art performance the 912 features a silver or black brushed anodised aluminium front facia and knobs that are beautiful yet durable.

Inspired by Performance – The V12 ! Referenced from Tim de Paravicini’s admiration of Jaguar’s powerplant, the EAR V12 extracts much of the same philosophy. The design utilises six EL84s on each bank for a total of twelve, the sum of which is high performance with balance and grace. The geometry isn’t just engine mimicry but allows for an organised and compact layout with central weight distribution. This creates a design that has powerful lines and compelling proportions. Despite its bold use of chrome and adventurous styling, the EAR V12 sits proud but is not obtrusive in any environment. Exquisite detailing: The V12 utilises EAR Yoshino’s rich tradition of workmanship, blending high calibre engineering with craft. Beautiful hand selected and polished wooden end caps on the ‘half moon’ valve covers add a simple but distinctive touch to the design making each EAR V12 unique. Chrome transformer covers suggesting a sleek aerodynamic power block, with sufficient power in reserve for the most demanding audio terrain. Breathtaking from every angle, the EAR V12 is built with a level of quality associated with solid construction that gives the impression that you are using something truly special.

Classic beauty. A diachronically respected paradigm of tube audio monoblocks design. The EAR 509 mono was born to serve professional studios. The nature of high fidelity in studios makes it perfectly suited for audio playback in the home. The 100 Watt mono is a Tim de Paravicini design classic that has been in continual production for over 30 years. Its timeless rectilinear form is hand finished in polished chrome giving a clean and elegant look. Despite its high power, it has been refined to be densely packaged without sacrificing any performance enabling the compact design.

EAR 890. Push-pull power amplifier using eight KT90 output valves (four per channel). 70 Watts per channel stereo (bridgeable to 140 watts mono) into 4, 8, or 16 ohms. Self-biasing design with Balanced or unbalanced input. A musical bliss – fully Class A operating.

For the recording studio specialists: The EAR 660 Fairchild-type valve limiter-compressor is designed to limit or compress the signal with the barest minimum of interference below threshold, and give the most subjectively satisfying operation on high-level signals. The unit has the standard range of attack and release times, making it easy to use. Considerable effort has been spent optimizing the behavior around the “knee” of the attack/decay envelope and it is this that greatly contributes to the outstanding transparency and transient response that has made the EAR 660 the first choice of so many top audio professionals.

EAR electronics, some of the most musical tube gear in existence. When it comes to high-end tube amplifiers, there are hundreds of brands on the market, many costing much more than EAR. Created by visionary designer and stand above the others as truly unique and special. Integrated models allow you to avoid the use of a separate preamplifier, simplifying the system and lowering the overall budget. The EAR 869 is a single-ended power amplifier that can be used as an integrated or power amp. No connection is required between pre-out and amp-in jacks. The 869 outputs 13 Watts per channel into 4, 8, or 16 ohms, uses EL519 output tubes, is self-biasing and has six line inputs and one tape output.

M100A – Single Ended Class A [Mosfets] – Single -ended solid-state mono power amplifiers operating in pure Class A. 100 wpc into all loads from 1 to 16 ohms. Transformer coupled. Balanced and unbalanced operation. Tim de Paravicini established EAR in 1979, since when the brand has been renowned worldwide for the finest valve (tube) amplifiers. But in 2000 the tradition was broken with the Paravicini 312 transistor preamplifier, now joined by the M100 transistor power amplifier. To anyone familiar with EAR/Yoshino products, it will come as no surprise that this is no ordinary transistor amplifier. Designed explicitly to provide a ‘valve-like’ sound from transistors, it uses de Paravicini’s unrivalled expertise in audio transformer design to the full, with a unique single-ended output stage coupled to the load through an output transformer.Being single ended, the M100 naturally operates entirely in Class A, with all that that implies for clarity and purity of sound. High reliability is assured by the use of multiple parallel output transistors, with adequate heatsink area for any climate (no noisy cooling fans), and the essential simplicity of the audio circuit helps with both sonic and reliability aspects. A choke-input power supply gives maximum immunity to mains supply variations and also prevents the amplifier from corrupting the mains supply in turn. With an output power of 100W the M100 has the ability to drive almost any loudspeakers to symphony-orchestra levels. For the discerning listener, it offers new heights in sonic attainment.

E.A.R. Yoshino products distribution in Greece:

Official Site

Exclusive Audio of Athens, Greece – Distribution / Auditions

 

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