David Blackmer, the founder of dbx and president of Earthworks Audio, passed away on March 21, 2002, at his home in Wilton, N.H. A radio-building hobbyist since age 10, Blackmer started in the audio business as a stockboy at Boston’s Lafayette Radio in the 1940s, surprising the staff by fixing radios that had been deemed unrepairable. While in the Navy, he learned radar electronics and later studied at Harvard and MIT, followed by jobs at Trans-Radio Recording Studio and Raytheon, where he designed telemetry circuits for the Mercury space program.
When Trans-Radio owner Lou Lindauer formed API in 1968, he turned to Blackmer for help in designing recording products, which led to the development of the VCA and level-detector circuits used in compressor/limiters.
In 1971, Blackmer founded dbx, based on the concept of using decibel expansion (hence the name “dbx”) to replace the peaks lost from the limited dynamic range of magnetic tape. This led to much more. Blackmer’s VCA and RMS detector changed the world of audio, yielding classic products such as dbx noise reduction, dbx compressors, the subsonic synthesizer, OEM VCAs for automated consoles and circuits for early stereo televisions.
Blackmer sold dbx to BSR in 1979 and stayed with the company for several years. He went on to form Earthworks — initially as a construction company to restore an old mill he bought in New Hampshire — but returned to his love of audio in developing Earthworks’ award-winning line of high-performance microphones, Zero Distortion Technology preamps, and its newest products, the Sigma 6.2 time-coherent, 40kHz bandwidth reference monitors.
Besides touching the lives of millions of listeners worldwide with industry-standard products that have stood the test of time, David Blackmer’s lifelong quest for excellence in audio remains an inspiration to audio professionals everywhere. He will be missed.