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D W Fearn

The history of D.W. Fearn & Associates is the history of its founder, Douglas W. Fearn.

I have always been interested in both music and electronics. As a youngster, I would often go with my father to rehearsals, concerts, and recording sessions of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he played French Horn. The experience of listening to one of the world’s finest orchestras in a fine concert hall shaped the way I hear things. I would often wander around the Academy of Music in Philadelphia during rehearsals and listen to how the orchestra sounded in many different seats in the hall. Or, I might sit on stage with my father during a rehearsal and experience what it is like to be surrounded by pure acoustic music.

At the same time, I was fascinated with electronics and built many devices for fun. As a young amateur radio operator, I built transmitters and other rf gadgets. Later, I built audio amplifiers. This was in the 1960s, when transistors were readily available but expensive and they didn’t sound very good. So virtually all of my experience in those days was with vacuum tubes.

My high school had an FM broadcast station, and I was very active in operation and construction of new facilities there. The radio station recorded and broadcast many school events, including concerts. We were fortunate to have some very fine equipment: Ampex tape machines, Collins consoles and mixers, and an assortment of dynamic and ribbon microphones. Often friends in rock bands would ask me to make a tape for them, and this led to my desire to operate a recording studio.

While still in high school, I worked as a part-time engineer at WPEN in Philadelphia. I continued to work there for a number of years while saving money and collecting equipment for a recording studio. In 1973, I left the station to devote my time entirely to Veritable Recording Co., which I started in 1969.

The recording experience taught me what it takes to obtain good sound, and part of that quest led me to design and build some of my own equipment. It was from that experience that the VT-1 Vacuum Tube Microphone Preamplifier was born in 1993. Except for occasional location recording, my time is now devoted full-time to manufacturing the preamps and developing new products.

The first twenty preamps were built by me, but now all the assembly is done for me by a couple of perfectionist engineers. I continue to inspect each one upon completion, and I do the final measurement tests and the listening test .

I started the business working from home, and when the business had taken over far too much of our house, my wife and I designed a new house with facilities to accommodate the growing business. Rather than “working at home,” I think of my life as “living at work.” We are located about 25 miles west of Philadelphia in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I work with views of woods, horse farms, and the Brandywine River.

I am still enthusiastic about Amateur Radio, and operate using Morse Code exclusively; ironically, there are no microphones connected to my amateur radio equipment. Most of the equipment is restored 1950s vintage all-tube gear. I am also a licensed private pilot with instrument rating, but all the electronic gear in my airplane is solid-state.

Most of my recording these days is classical or choral live performances. I typically use an AEA R88 as the main pickup, with Coles 4038 ribbon spot mics, and B&K 4007 omni mics wide-spaced to add ambience as needed. All mics go through VT-2 preamps direct to a RADAR at 24/96, or, when practical, to a Studer A810.

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