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Last Edited:
12-Sep-2004

 

 

H.H. Scott

H.H. SCOTT WAS FOUNDED in 1947 by Hermon Hosmer Scott. The prefix H.H. was to differentiate his fledgling company from E. H. Scott, the Scott Radio Company of Chicago, makers of "The Rolls Royce" of AM radios. Although H.H. is different from E.H., they are similar enough to make one wonder it perhaps Scott, always the shrewd businessman, hoped that some of E.H. Scott’s reputation for quality might, by association, rub off.

H.H. Scott's first product was the Dynaural Noise Suppressor. This product, aimed primarily at the professional broadcast market, made it possible, for the first time, to play records over the radio. Prior to its introduction, 78 rpm records were considered too full of pops and ticks to warrant airplay. Scott's first product, while a technical step forward, changed the face of American radio in a way that, in retrospect, cannot be considered positive. Overnight, all those wonderful live programs were replaced with recorded music. Chalk up another victory for technology over live music. Scott continued making a Dynaural Noise Suppressor through 1956, when the model 114A was finally discontinued. (editor's note: DNS was featured on such high-end Scott Types such as the: 121-C, 122, 272, and 296, well into the sixties. In fact, twenty-five years after Scott introduced DNS, SAE, introduced a conceptually similar processor in the mid-seventies called the SAE 5000 Impulse Noise Reduction System.)

When the Dynaural Noise Suppressor was first introduced, Scott licensed the device to several companies for inclusion in their products, among them, the Fisher Radio Company (editor's note: oddly enough H.H. Scott, first licensed its DNS circuit design to the prestigious E.H. Scott, in the late forties.) This alliance was short-lived, as Scott soon began to market its own Amplifiers and Control Centers, utilizing its Dynaural Noise Suppressor circuitry. From the beginning, Fisher saw Scott as trouble, and the two companies were competitors through the mid-Sixties. Even today when people think of Scott, they also think of Fisher. These two companies became the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum of American audio.

From the very start, Scott used a model numbering system that was rococo in its complexity. Scott’s use of letters to differentiate up-dated versions of products is still employed by many contemporary High End manufacturers, and still wreaks havoc or hapless consumers. Like most overly complex systems, Scott’s model numbering system was designed to be simple. The system was set up as follows:

100 - Preamps and control centers

200 - Power amplifiers and integrated amps

300 - RF devices like tuners

400 - Sound measuring devices

700 - Pro sound products

800 - Acoustic measuring devices

THE SYSTEM worked rather well until 1952 when the model 99A integrated amplifier was released. This unit was the first to mount tubes horizontally, pioneering "slim-line" styling that is common in current audio components. The marketing folks at Scott felt that since their product was priced at "only" $99, what better way to get their point across than call the unit model 99? It should have been christened the 299 to adhere to the system, and in 1960 Scott did introduce a model 299 integrated amp. The model 99 went through several incarnations and remained in the Scott tine well into the stereo era. The model 99-D was finally dropped from the product line in the September 1964 price list.

Although Scott's first product, the Dynaural Noise Suppressor, was important as the Dolby or dbx of its day, Scott’s primary contribution to Audio was its FM tuners. If there is a single antique Scott product worth owning in 1987, it is one of the tuners. While no one person is ever responsible for a major new technology, Daniel von Recklinghausen, Scott's chief engineer, was certainly a major force in the development and popularization of FM radio. Recklinghausen, unlike his contemporaries, still has designs that are in the forefront of current state-of-the-art audio technology. The EMlT tweeter, which can be found in some of the finest systems in the world (including the one at Sea Cliff), was designed by Recklinghausen. KLH first marketed it as the DVR tweeter (you are all such quick studies that I need not tell you what DVR stands for).

Recklinghausen was, and is, a rare breed of audio engineer -- one who uses his ears and has an open mind. A quote from a Boston Audio Society meeting best illustrates his philosophy: "If it measures good and sounds bad, -- it is bad. If it sounds good and measures bad, -- you've measured the wrong thing." Listening was an integral part of the design process at Scott. The Audio Hall of Fame article on H. H. Scott contains the story that once Scott came to work one morning with a black eye, the result of a scuffle with an angry neighbor who objected to Scott's night-time listening and testing sessions. This is the kind of dedication to sound quality that is only found today among High End manufacturers. At Scott the sound of music was the reference.

An article in the December 1954 issue of Radio and Television News co-written by Recklinghausen, Casey, and Pomper introduced the public to the first commercial wide-band FM-only tuner, the 310A. Scott was so confident of its lead in the market that the article even included a schematic of the new unit. This six-month lead in FM technology continued through the multiplex stereo era. Not only did Scott bring to market the first FM multiplex adapter and the first FM multiplex tuner, but it designed and built the first multiplex broadcasting and test equipment.

Scott took some very calculated risks in the development of the FM multiplex adapter. No one knew which of four systems tested would be accepted by the FCC as the standard, so Recklinghausen and his staff had to design multiplex adapters for each of the four systems, utilizing as many of the same parts in each design as possible. On April 19, 1961, when the FCC finally announced the new multiplex standard, Scott was ready with enough parts and materials in stock to immediately manufacture 1000 multiplex adapters and begin shipping them to radio stations across the country.

During Scott’s first 15 years, from 1947 to 1962, it was more of a High End manufacturer than a mid-fi , or consumer electronics company. Products were added not because it was a new year and marketing demanded new products, but when sufficiently substantial improvements were made in a design to warrant a new product. During the Sixties, the definition of "substantial improvement" became increasingly abused as marketing became more influential in decision-making. In the early days, Scott products were not cheap. In 1956 its Model 280 -- an 80-watt mono power amp -- sold for $199.95; its 310-B tuner for $159.95. In 1987 dollars, the 280 would cost $860, the 310-B about $690.

Scott remained independent until 1973, when it was sold to its European distributor, Electro Audio Dynamics. This began the final chapter in a gradual decline that began in the mid-1960s. The transistor age, and the entry of foreign products into the American audio marketplace, was the beginning of the end for Scott, Fisher, and most of the American manufacturers. Rather than aim for the smaller up-scale market, as McIntosh did, Scott tried to beat the Japanese at their own game. Scott lost.

While its early products are important and much sought after by collectors, "The Antique Collector" will concentrate on components made between 1956 and 1964. 1956 on the bottom side because most electronics that are more than 30 years old need substantial restoration and modification for reliable everyday use, and earlier pieces are priced to reflect their rarity and collect ability rather than their sonic virtues. After 1964, Scott products took a nose-dive in quality and sonic excellence.

-Steven Stone

Editor's Note: This text first appeared in TAS, Volume 12, Issue 50, pg. 83-85, The (Golden Age) Antique Collector: part 1. Reprinted with the permission of the Editor-in-Chief of The Absolute Sound, the (only) High End journal about music and sound.

 

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