In 1950, at the age of 19, Jac Holzman founded the pioneering label Elektra Records. So he knows about the early struggles of the recording industry against the tape hiss that could obscure great performances. Ray Dolby’s “elegant solution” to the problem allowed the music to be revealed in its pristine form, Holzman wrote.
While at Elektra Records, which recorded such folk music luminaries as Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, and Tom Paxton, Holzman signed The Doors and Carly Simon. He also founded Nonesuch Records in 1963, bringing high-quality recordings of European classical music to US audiences. He later worked as a director for Pioneer Electronics, chief technologist for Warner Communications, and chairman of Panavision.
Here are his memories of Ray Dolby:
Ray Dolby’s elegant solution to tape hiss—the Dolby N/R [noise reduction]Stretcher—gave solid truth to the phrase, ‘High Fidelity.’ No longer masked by a thin veneer of distractive hiss that had to be heard through, the N/R cleverly removed it and the music was revealed, pristine. Analog Dolby tapes that later would be transferred to CD, benefited especially.
“Ray was a fellow pilot. A friend of mine was considering the purchase of a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop (Ray flew one), and I suggested he check in with Ray, who spent a very happy hour reviewing the pros and cons. It was typical of his graciousness.”