David Hafler

David Hafler; designed sound equipment
By Gayle Ronan Sims
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

David Hafler, 84, of Rittenhouse Square, an audiophile who devoted his life to perfecting home high-fidelity sound components, died Sunday of complications of Parkinson's disease at St. Agnes Hospice.

A resident of Merion Station from 1960 to 1990 before moving to Rittenhouse Square, Mr. Hafler also owned homes in Boca Raton, Fla., and London.

Naturally, all of his homes were filled with music from quality sound systems he designed, said his daughter Joan Cole. He didn't watch television, she added.

Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Mr. Hafler graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1936, and received his degree in mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940.

His life changed after the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor. Mr. Hafler quickly married his high school sweetheart, Gertrude Schwinger, and he enlisted in the Coast Guard, which made him an officer.

Both were very good moves. The couple remained inseparable until her death in 2001. During the war, while serving as communications specialist in the Caribbean, Mr. Hafler was exposed to the notion that sound could be reproduced faithfully.

After the war, Mr. Hafler worked for A.J. Wood, a market-research firm in Philadelphia, until his love for music spurred him to design easy-to-assemble electronic sound equipment for consumers.

In 1950, Mr. Hafler founded Acrosound in Roxborough, which built and sold audio transformers. It was his next venture, Dynaco, which he founded in 1954 in West Philadelphia, that set the standard for home music systems. Dynaco manufactured and sold amplifiers as build-it-yourself kits. At the time, the average hi-fi enthusiast had to assemble the parts for a home sound system.

Mr. Hafler sold Dynaco to Tyco in 1968 and served as an adviser until 1971.

One year later, he founded another company, David Hafler Co. in Blackwood, Camden County, manufacturer of inexpensive kits and preassembled hi-fi gear. Mr. Hafler sold the firm in the early 1990s to Rockford Corp. of Tempe, Ariz.

In 1999, the trade magazine Vacuum Tube Valley said in a profile that Mr. Hafler "has probably been more instrumental in the development of component hi-fi for home use than anybody in the history of the industry." In 1984, he was named to the Audio Hall of Fame.

One of his products, the classic Dynaco Mk. II 50-watt amplifier, was part of the media display in the Smithsonian's Museum of American History in Washington in the 1990s.

Another interest of Mr. Hafler's was collecting rare chess sets, which he was able to do because his business took him all over the world.

Mr. Hafler's 240 beautiful and historic chess sets from across the globe were described by Sarah Coffin, specialist in chess collections and consultant to Sotheby's auction house in New York City, as "one of the finest collections of chess sets in the world."

"The theme of my father's life was that if he couldn't be a top player, he could be a top manufacturer or collector," Cole said. "He loved music. But he couldn't play well enough to play professionally. So he manufactured the best sound equipment possible. He also loved to play chess, but he wasn't a world-class player. So he became a world-class collector."

In addition to his daughter Joan, Mr. Hafler is survived by daughter Diane Marinoff; a son, Eric; five grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.

Graveside services were Tuesday at Mount Sharon Cemetery in Springfield, Delaware County.

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