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Special David Blackmer Memorial

After yesterday’s humorous edition of inSync we are sad to report that today’s special edition is both serious and somber. David Blackmer, founder of dbx, and more recently the brains behind Earthworks products has passed away. In honor of David and his fine family (including his extended family at Earthworks) we are suspending inSync operations today and will return tomorrow with our normal programming. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Following is the official announcement from Earthworks.

David Blackmer passed away March 21, 2002 in his home in Wilton, NH. He was 75 years old.

In one way or another, David was involved in improving Audio since he entered the Audio business as a stock boy at Lafayette Radio in Boston in the 1940s. The story goes that he fixed a pile of malfunctioning radios which nobody else could. He had been building radios since age 10. From a very young age he was a problem solver and an inventor. He always wanted to know how things worked and in the process of finding out he would think up and implement improvements. It was his life long passion to improve the sound quality of audio equipment until it approached the sound of the original. He was a long time Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society, a Life Member of the International Electrical and Electronic Engineers. He studied radar electronics in the navy and studied at Harvard University and MIT. We worked at Trans-Radio Recording Studio, Epsco, Hi-Con Eastern and Raytheon. He was involved in design of the telemetry for the Mercury space program. He was co-founder of a medical equipment company called Instrumentation Laboratory.

David is best known as the inventor and founder of dbx. Originally, dbx was based on the simple idea of using decibel expansion to replace the peaks lost to the limited dynamic range of magnetic tape. It lead to much more. The Blackmer VCA and RMS detector changed the world of Audio, yielding the dbx noise reduction system, dbx compressors, the dbx subsonic synthesizer, dbx VCAs were used in most early automated consoles, dbx processes were used in many early stereo TVs.

As president and chief engineer of Earthworks Audio David Blackmer developed and brought to market an astonishing string of new audio tools which are, on the whole, more accurate than anyone thought was possible. In the last years of his life he developed a new model for human hearing which includes the importance of time domain resolution. He strove to establish new standards of sonic realism.

David Blackmer touched the lives of many people. Engineers who worked with him may remember a process he called tickling, in which he would assign a project to an engineer. ‘Do this and see what you get. My suspicion is that…’ The engineer would build it even though it seemed far fetched. Sometime later, with great excitement, he would present his results. He might get back from the Boss, as much as ‘that’s nice, interesting. OK. Now I want you to do this’. David was already on to another idea. The engineer, who had had a religious experience when the seemingly impossible project worked pretty much as predicted with startling implications and numerous practical applications, was left holding a breakthrough idea in hand while his efforts were re-directed elsewhere. Many of these bright young people went on to develop these cast off ideas, sometimes into their life’s work. David Blackmer was a visionary. He had more ideas than he could possibly use and he often gave of them freely.

By example, he has encouraged us all to aim for a higher standard of excellence than we might have known was possible on our own. He often derived the inverse of impossible to come up with elegant solutions which everyone else had missed and he always pushed the envelope. He will be missed.

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