The art of car­toon­ist Charles Ro­drigues.

For decades, the car­toons of Charles Ro­drigues poked fun at us and the hobby we oth­er­wise take all too se­ri­ously.

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - If Not for Charles...

In the very first is­sue of HiFi & Mu­sic Re­view in 1958, the mag­a­zine that be­came Stereo Re­view and then Sound & Vi­sion, a gifted 31-yearold artist named Charles Ro­drigues con­trib­uted the first in a string of car­toons that both cel­e­brated, and made fun of, that odd bird known as the au­dio­phile. It ended up be­ing a long run that lasted more than 40 years. Ro­drigues’s hu­mor­ous in­sight into the au­dio­phile’s mind and his world (the hobby re­mains, to this day, pre­dom­i­nantly male), proved the per­fect coun­ter­point to the dry, tech­ni­cal busi­ness of re­view­ing com­po­nents, and what Ro­drigues saw as the ever-ris­ing prices of gear and in­creas­ingly bizarre claims made by man­u­fac­tur­ers as the years went on.

His themes cov­ered wide ground. Au­dio sales­men were a fre­quent tar­get, a breed whom he painted as a low life form, will­ing to make any claim at any time in the name of a sale. Many of his fun­ni­est car­toons took place at home, where there was inevitably de­picted a re­cal­ci­trant wife rail­ing against the huge rack of gear and giant speak­ers in her liv­ing room, or the prices her hus­band was will­ing to pay to ac­quire them. Ro­drigues loved pok­ing fun at for­mat wars (he lived through sev­eral) and saw au­dio­philes as a thor­oughly ob­sessed lot that would go to no end to ex­tract bet­ter sound from their gear. He had a keen ear for au­dio­phile lingo and enough knowl­edge of spec­i­fi­ca­tions and fea­tures to cast many an in­sider tech joke. In­deed, all of Ro­drigues’s car­toons for this mag­a­zine were in­sider jokes to our quite spe­cific au­di­ence. As far as I know, none of the com­pet­ing pub­li­ca­tions through the years reg­u­larly fea­tured car­toons or had any­one quite like Charles Ro­drigues.

Ro­drigues was of Por­tugese-American de­scent, born in 1926, and was him­self a fam­ily man, liv­ing in the sub­urbs out­side of Cape Cod, Mas­sachusetts with his wife Lor­raine till his pass­ing in 2004. They raised two daugh­ters. He was a World War II vet and went to art school on the G.I. Bill. Ac­cord­ing to for­mer Stereo Re­view Edi­tor-in-Chief Wil­liam Liv­ingston, who wrote the Fore­ward for a 1988 col­lec­tion of Ro­drigues’s work ti­tled To­tal Har­monic Dis­tor­tion, Ro­drigues was a noc­turne who slept dur­ing the day and worked all night for much of his life, lis­ten­ing to clas­si­cal mu­sic on FM as the hours ticked by. Clas­si­cal com­posers did turn up fre­quently in his work, as did his dis­dain for the dis­so­nance of the mod­ernists. El­liott Carter was at­tacked so of­ten dur­ing Liv­ingston’s 22-year ten­ure, he wrote, that he had to warn the artist that his run­ning gags were start­ing to look like a vendetta. Ro­drigues, Liv­ingston said, traced his abil­ity to get in­side the au­dio­phile head to his days play­ing with crys­tal ra­dios as a kid and an in­ter­est in short­wave ra­dio, but he ap­par­ently re­mained just out­side the lines of the hard­core au­dio hobby, op­er­at­ing with an ob­ser­va­tional dis­pas­sion that un­doubt­edly served him—and us—very, very well.—Rob Sabin

“Mary, you’re a good wife. It isn’t ev­ery woman who’d wear that acous­tic smock to help soften this hard lis­ten­ing room.”

Charles Ro­drigues’s first car­toon in the in­au­gu­ral is­sue of HiFi & Mu­sic Re­view, Fe­bru­ary 1958.

“. . . No, that’s not tape hiss, that’s Emma—she hates Bartók.”

“...Joe, I don’t think it’s mul­ti­path at all. I think it’s you!”

“. . . Oh, no, sir—the sound from this speaker here, the Ex­tel MK8, is salu­bri­ous, ex­quis­ite, stun­ning, glo­ri­ous, and daz­zling. The sound from that speaker there, the Airex 3, is su­perla­tive, smash­ing, mag­nif­i­cent, su­perb, and im­pec­ca­ble.”

“You think he sounded bet­ter than his com­pact disc? Well, no, I wouldn’t go that far .... ”

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