Richard Shahinian 1931 - 2017

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Richard Shahinian 1931 - 2017
Thursday, December 14, 2017

Beloved husband of the late Mari (nee: Kalaijian). Loving father of Vasken Shahinian and Talin Shahinian. Loving and doting grandpa of Lucine and Pileigh.
Richard Shahinian was a speaker designer and builder, a maverick, a man out of the mainstream and an iconoclastic individual. Far from being the crazy inventor eschewing all accepted practices of speaker design (an image the mainstream audio press seemed overly fond of), Richard Shahinian harnessed, synthesised and improved on theories of sound reproduction and enclosure construction going all the way back to Rice and Kellog through Cook and Briggs to Buckminster Fuller. Shahinian always saved his greatest praise for his mentor and friend A. Stewart Hegeman of Harman Kardon fame. It was at Harman in the 1960’s, when working with Hegeman that Shahinian fully developed his understanding of three-dimensional spatial distribution of sound and its importance for generating believable sound reproduction.

Arguably it all started on Richard’s 14th Birthday in 1945. Richard was presented with a phonograph, a Webster sheet metal cased window into reproducing music at home. The following year he accompanied his cousin to his first concert, to quote Richard “I have never recovered from the shattering impact of that experience, I was hooked”, a benign addiction that he managed to feed by sneaking into practice sessions at Carnegie Hall. Later in the same year the first hi-fi was acquired and Richard’s lifetime ambition, to recreate that shattering impact from recorded music, was born.

After serving in the United States Marine Corps, Richard started a varied career in and around music. Through the 60’s as a designer at Harman Kardon he was instrumental in the creation of the Citation 13 loudspeaker, a device well ahead of its time. In the 70’s Rectilinear Research benefitted from his input until their demise. Richard had been developing his own concepts of speaker design from the fifties, but it was not until 1977 that a speaker appeared carrying the Shahinian name. The first Shahinian product was the, still in production, Obelisk. Since that time the speaker has been reworked and improved as technological advances have become available but the basic architecture has remained - if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! The Obelisk is based on the core engineering principles that underpin Shahinian speakers; namely an omni-directional or poly-radial sound distribution, a transmission line loading of the bass drivers, a lack of resistors in the crossover and the use of Finland Birch for the cabinets – sounds like a simple recipe right? Well I can assure you from my own experience as a reviewer of many speakers that it takes a certain genius to turn this list of ingredients into a truly exceptional loudspeaker like the Obelisk 2’s I am listening to as I write this.

Further speakers have followed the Obelisks into music enthusiasts’ homes over the last forty years, from the diminutive Larc right up to the majestic Diapason. The speakers are unique, they are addictive and as with many fans of Shahinian speakers, I can listen to, and occasionally even enjoy other speakers, but I can’t seem to live with anything else. I am overjoyed that the company continues in the safe hands of Richard’s son Vasken.

Along with his technical engineering creativity, Richard carried a truly encyclopaedic (an entirely overused but completely apt word in this case) knowledge of his beloved classical music. A lover of fine food, especially cheeses and wines, he always lived life to the fullest while his speakers have brought joy to many people, myself included. Richard Shahinian; engineer, designer, gourmand, an expert in his fields. He will be missed.
Jason Hector