Charley Hansen: The Wizard of Boulder

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Twenty-three years ago, in 1993, Charles Hansen cofounded Ayre Acoustics, Inc., in Boulder, Colorado. On Ayre’s website, Hansen is named as Research Director for Ayre, and it seems an apt description. Along with experimenting in and developing audio-electronics hardware and software, Hansen has strongly hewn to certain design principles, among them fully balanced operation, an absence of loop negative feedback, and solid-state circuitry. Ayre’s current flagship preamplifiers and amplifiers, the twentieth-anniversary R Series, have received reviews and accolades, while at the other end of the budget spectrum, Hansen’s design work was a key element of Neil Young’s widely publicized and crowdfunded PonoPlayer project.

Stereophile’s Herb Reichert described Hansen as “a wizard.” But Charley (as he prefers to be called) lives not in Middle-Earth but in Colorado. Perhaps it’s the water, or the air, or both—people in Boulder are a bit higher than in Denver. Whatever the reason, Boulder is home to several high-end audio companies.

In 2006, in a bicycling accident, Charley Hansen experienced a severe spinal-cord injury that left him partially paralyzed (footnote 1). Some might have been defeated by such an event, but Hansen has actually increased the pace of innovation and high-quality manufacturing for which Ayre Acoustics has become known. Here is part of a recent conversation with the Wizard of Boulder from Sterephile.

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