John Dawson co-founded Arcam (Amplification & Recording Cambridge) in 1976. Both he and business partner Chris Evans had been students at Cambridge University, and worked together to produce the company’s first product, the legendary A60 integrated amplifier.
This slim, understated amp was well made, sensibly featured and delivered a musical sound that proved satisfying well beyond its relatively modest price. It set a template that the company has followed ever since, and that’s to produce good quality, well-equipped products that will slot into a wide range of systems without issue. The company’s products, even at their best, tend to be unassuming and quietly capable, much like the man himself.
Dawson’s forward-looking nature and ability to tackle huge technical challenges meant Arcam, despite its relatively modest size, had a leading role in bringing DAB to market and was an early entrant into the nascent home cinema market. This was an area where the company went all-in, and developed a strong reputation for making musical home cinema amplifiers and disc players. Where most rivals pushed specifications and features, Arcam chose to prioritise performance and quality.
Astonishingly, almost half a century after he founded the brand, Dawson remains hard at work as a consultant at Arcam, evolving the company’s clever Class G amplification technology to ever higher performance levels and being instrumental in the development of the new Radia range of products that have catapulted the Arcam brand back into the hi-fi limelight. The line's A5 and A15 integrateds have dominated the stereo amplifier Awards category this year, while its new CD5 has taken a Best Buy Award in a three-strong CD player Awards category.
In our view, John Dawson is something of an unsung giant of the industry that, like his company’s products, hides huge technical ability behind a quiet, unassuming exterior. He is a worthy recipient of this year’s Outstanding Contribution Award. Congratulations, John!
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