Sunfire’s Bob Carver
CustomRetailer: Audio hobbyists out there may know something of your background, but for those readers who don’t, how did you get involved in audio—are you a hobbyist?
Bob Carver: Since the age of three, I’ve had a fascination with sound and vision. That was when my dad showed me what my voice “looked like” on an oscilloscope. I spoke into a mic, saw the waveform dance on the screen, and couldn’t believe that one could see one’s voice. I was hooked.
In high school, I read a magazine article about how to build your own amplifier. I tried it and it didn’t work very well, but I got something out of it, and I just kept on building them.
In college, I wanted to study physics because it was exciting to learn about the universe and how it worked, and I continued building amplifiers while there. In graduate school, at the University of British Columbia, my professor had me build an earthquake machine—a machine that shook the ground because there had been an earthquake in Seattle and there was a push on research to find out what it was all about. And that was right up my alley because, from my perspective, a giant earthquake machine is a big audio amplifier driving a giant voice coil. It was a hugely powerful amplifier with the biggest subwoofer voice coil you could imagine—and we actually shook the ground with it!
When I got out of school, I decided to build audio amplifiers for a living because it was so much fun, and that’s when I started a company called Phase Linear. ‘Til that time I had been building vacuum tube amplifiers but right around that era, in the mid-’70s, solid-state devices arrived and I built the first Phase Linear one. Home theater amplifiers hadn’t arrived, nor had Dolby in home theater, so everything was two-channel.