Reproduced sound is everywhere. In the author's life, a tiny portable audio device supplies podcasts and music while he walks his dog. Premium car audio systems provide superb surround sound on the road. A whole-house system lets us have the music of choice in most rooms and in the garden. A seven-channel entertainment room system provides music and audio accompaniment to television and movies on large direct-view and front-projection screens. It is all very high-tech, all very convenient, and all very enjoyable. It is also all very good.

It has not always been so. As a teenager in the 1950s, I scrounged war-surplus parts to build pre- and power-amplifiers. The first loudspeakers were salvaged from beaten-up jukeboxes used in a ...

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