I started BEAR Labs in 1990. My name is Randy “bear” Bradley, my friends call me “bear.” I’m not sure why but there has been some sort of bear theme in my life for as long as I can recall, so the name “bear” for the business seemed very natural. Actually, “BEAR Labs” is an acronym for Bradley Experimental Audio Research Laboratories.
This is how I got started:
In 1964 I became an amateur radio operator, I was only in Junior High School. I’m still amazed that I did it, but I actually built an exact copy of a 6146B transmitter from the ARRL Handbook. Best yet, it worked! If I had only known that tubes would have a revival 30 years later! My good friend and mentor, the late Bob Barkey W2UO, supplied a whole range of exotic small parts from his magic closet. Without Bob's help and generousity with time and friendship I may never have been able to build that transmitter or become a ham.
BEAR Labs isn’t my first venture into the world of audio, back in 1973 I had a business in NYC called “Mountain View Sound” that specialized in musical equipment repair. After that there was “The Electronic Farm” which specialized in some rather esoteric hi-fi gear. Look at the ARCHIVES to see the CVSR speaker prototype there! At the same time that I was doing these things Harvey Rosenberg was running NYAL in a storefront in Ossining NY, and the biggest amp that anyone had ever seen was Mark Levinson’s ML-2, being sold in NYC by Lyric Hi-Fi. A Phase Linear 400 or 700 was considered a “big” high quality amplifier.
Audio wasn’t the only thing I did during the 70’s. I was a “road technician” for many bands the best known being Blue Oyster Cult and CHIC. I suppose I should mention my friends the Dictators as well. I personally built the first non-military Soviet satellite TV receiver for Ken Schaffer. Written up in the NY Times and elsewhere, it was installed and used by the Harriman Institue at Columbia University in NYC.
During the 1980s I hardly did anything in audio, instead Computer Graphics was my field. First at NYIT/CGL, then the pre-eminent computer graphics center in the world and the spawning ground for what later became PIXAR. I was Manufacturing Manager. Then at RPI’s CICG (later RDRC) I did 3D raytracing images, many were published on magazine covers, in and on books. During that period my friend from back in NYIT days Greg Panos, a Virtual Reality pioneer, introduced me to an ex-RPI engineer, Steve Tice. Tice founded Simgraphics Engineering, and based upon my proposal we started their Entertainment Division. Years later it has become their main focus. Audio was only a hobby, one that was being pretty much ignored.
By 1989 I had actually put together a surprisingly good system, based upon a pair of Acoustat IV electrostatic speakers. CDs had come of age, and limitations were suddenly much easier to hear since the source was much better. I began to search for an amplifier of high quality that would drive my ESLs.
It was this search that eventually led me to turn my hobby into a business.
The Symphony No.1 amplifier was my first, and very ambitious project. It is and was a no-holds-barred implementation of one of the finest contemporary solid state amplifier circuits. It led to an association with Erno Borbely. Erno at one time worked for the David Hafler Company, where he designed a series of amplifiers including the well known DH-200. Later he worked for National Semicondutor.
The Symphony No.1 Amplifier grew from a prototype which I built after reading Erno’s articles in Audio Amateur Magazine. I decided to build the prototype after finding that I could not find an amplifier at any price that met all of my design requirements or sonic requirements. That called for an amplifier that would exceed the capabilities of the ESLs. Erno's design was simply very much better than just about everything else.
To give you some idea, this 1988 prototype was 78 pounds and sported dual mono power supplies each with 675VA of toroidal transformer. The amplifier was capable of about 125 watts into eight ohms, and used 8 Mosfet output devices per channel. Built on a 5/16” flat aluminum plate chassis, this was a serious amplifier by any standards. The sonic results were well worth the effort of design and construction. The difference was immediately apparent the first time it was turned loose on the ESLs.
It was so much better than anything else
that I had heard that I realized that this was an extraordinary amplifier.
There were a number of reasons that it is and was a superior design.
[see Design Philosophy]
That was the start. As good as the 1988 prototype was, I knew that it was only 75% of this circuit’s capability. So, I set out to build the ultimate evolution of the design. This became the Symphony No. 1 Amplifier. This is how BEAR Labs came into being.
Today, BEAR Labs is a “micro business” that specializes in the design, building and sales of extremely high quality audio equipment. I’m located in the countryside about 125 miles north of New York City, along the Hudson River in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. At night, in the summer, the only thing you’ll hear is the sound of crickets and frogs - no road noise, no cars or trucks. A great place for late night listening.
Oh yes, my contact information including address can be found in the How To Order Section.