When people first hear about Mapleshade, there’s always a barrage of questions. “Why do you still record on analog tape?” “Can wires really make my stereo sound better?” “Why are Clearview wires so thin?” We’ve tried to address the common questions about our CDs and products on previous pages. But there's a good question we've missed, one delicatly posed by one of our musicians on his first call to our Studio: “What’s this Mapleshade shit?” It's a reasonable question, considering our not-quite-conventional approach to recording and good sound. Here’s a brief sketch of how the pieces of the Mapleshade puzzle happened to fall together by Pierre Sprey, Mapleshade's founder.
Mapleshade is actually my third career. I’m proud of my previous defense and statistical consulting careers, but recording music and improving sound is the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. Born in France in 1937, I grew up in New York, graduated from Yale in aeronautical engineering and French Lit, then went on to a Cornell M.E. in mathematical statistics and operations research. Coming back to New York, I worked as a consulting statistician for Grumman Aircraft and immersed myself in the city’s fertile jazz scene.
In 1966, I was recruited to work at the Pentagon for Secretary of Defense McNamara’s “Whiz Kids.” There, two brilliant fighter pilots and I started the F-16; I also led the USAF’s design concept team for the A-10 tankbuster. Leaving the Pentagon in 1971, I continued consulting for the Pentagon on my fighter programs ’til the mid ’80s.
From the ’70s on, I started doing more and more amaeur recording, mostly in D.C.’s flourishing inner city jazz clubs. A complete skeptic on high-end audio, I had my audiophile epiphany in 1983 after 30 seconds of listening to a system set up by Bob Dilger, manufacturer of the Maplenoll air bearing turntable (and an old A-10
comrade in arms). Soon I was doing design work for Bob on his ’table and using audiophile ideas to improve my recordings. In 1986 I started Mapleshade Studio, immediately after my old friend Shirley Horn asked me to record her Softly album, my first pro gig. By 1988, I was recording people like Clifford Jordan, Walter Davis,
Jr., Gary Bartz, and Leon Thomas, making my own microphones, and manufacturing my first thin solid core interconnects and speaker cables.
In 1990, I met my design partner Ron Bauman. A graduate EE from Lehigh University and president of inSound Inc., Ron is a world class authority on RF communications as well as a brilliant audio circuit designer. He and I hit it off instantly, formed our Mapleshade/inSound wire manufacturing partnership, and began our ongoing 20 year research program to develop, from a blank slate, the world’s least compromised, best-sounding audio wires. By 1991, we had launched the cost-is-no-object Omega Mikro line encompassing the world’s thinnest, least dielectric-laden cables and interconnects—and pioneering the voltage-biased shield system now being widely
emulated by other manufacturers. In 1998, we debuted our Clearview line with the design goal of offering excellent sounding cables with a modest price tag that surpass wires costing 10 times as much.
Also in 1990, I launched the Mapleshade label to produce unusually creative jazz, blues and gospel music recorded with the purest, closest-to-live sound in the industry. We achieved national distribution in 1993. A year later, I started Wildchild! to record, in the same way, other traditional genres like R&B, Irish, country, bluegrass and world musics. In 1999, we added Mapleshade Classical to bring unprecedented spontaneity and “liveness” to the classical repertoire.
In 1997, we started publishing the Mapleshade Handbook to tell more people about our music and products without compromising our direct-to-consumer pricing, to share our design ideas and the experiments underlying them, and to make available the useful free upgrades we’ve developed in the course of our research and development.