The Audio Cynic

Charley Hansen: RIP

Ayre Acoustics posted the following on the company Facebook page and website on Wednesday, November 29:

“Charles Hansen 1956 – 2017

“With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you that Charles Hansen, founder of Ayre Acoustics, has passed away on November 28th, 2017. Those who knew Charley knew that he was a passionate man who always stood up for what he believed to be right. His family knew him as a loving and dedicated father of his two children. With the passing of Charley, the world has lost one of the most creative and innovative minds in the audio industry and we have lost a good friend.

“While we can never replace Charley, his spirit lives on in the team at Ayre. We are dedicated to continuing his mission of creating and manufacturing the best sounding audio equipment in the world. Most importantly, we will be there for our friends, partners, and customers who have supported us over the years. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at any time.

“We wish you all the best over the holidays, and please play an album for Charley sometime.”

Charley attended CU in Boulder, graduating with a degree in Physics. He was one of the founders of speaker company Avalon Acoustics in Boulder, and then moved on to found Ayre Acoustics. Despite the company name, Ayre produced only electronics, based upon Charley’s mantra of zero-feedback design. The brand is familiar to almost anyone acquainted with high-performance audio.

As the Ayre folks stated, Charley was indeed a passionate man—which made him known to thousands of readers of online discussion forums such as Audio Asylum and Computer Audiophile. Charley would happily answer questions from newbies on all things audio, and if asked for an opinion on a technical development, he would offer it, with no hesitation, apologies, or concern for whatever heads he would be bumping up against.  He was straightforward, relentless, and on occasion, infuriating.

Charley’s endurance in online scraps was all the more remarkable as he’d nearly been killed in a 2006 accident which left him paralyzed from the chest down. A dedicated and skilled cyclist, Charley had raced as an alternate on the US Cycling team. While cycling in the hills west of Boulder, Charley was struck by a motorcyclist who had crossed the center line of the road.

I only knew Charley in the years after his accident, but I was still struck by his drive and determination in the face of constant pain. We bonded over a shared appreciation of singer Shawn Colvin, and I respected Charley both as a technical guru and as an industry observer who always, always had an opinion on the news du jour. More than one conversation with Charley began with his query—said with a combination of bemusement and exasperation—“Do you believe this shit??”

Charley’s death is a loss for audio, for Boulder, and for all of us. He was a fighter and a visionary, and he will be missed.

[Charley’s obituary may be read here. Photo courtesy of Ayre Acoustics.]