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Remembering Lloyd Walker…

03-30-2022 | By David W. Robinson | Issue 120

Lloyd Walker:  portrait with baseball cap. Happy Valley, OR, 2016

And now my good friend Lloyd Walker, of Walker Audio, has passed away. A great audio designer gone.

Another memoriam, like the too-many that I have written over the years.

They're always hard, and this one is going to be particularly so. So much so that I'm going to have to pause right now, smoke a cigar with some fine Port, and stare at the sky for awhile…

Departure. Happy Valley, OR, 2022

It's later now.

If you didn't know, Lloyd was an absolutely brilliant turntable designer. He used a very definite philosophy:  a brass-guided linear-tracking tonearm, extreme mass in the plinth and platter, a very sophisticated air suspension system for both the tonearm…which was carbon fiber…and a separate one for the plinth and platter. No unipivot-linear tracking hybrid here; this was the finest linear tracking system that I've ever heard. The Proscenium Black Diamond was driven by a band with a very accurate motor for both 33.3 and 45 RPM. There was a precisely-crafted brass record clamp (later with crystals embedded), and extremely precise adjustments for VTA and tracking force. These were executed at the highest level of true artisanal quality, with all parts being individually made of brass, crushed lead and resin for the plinth and platter, sealed to prevent lead contamination, and finished to exacting specifications. They were then assembled and finished by hand into his Proscenium Black Diamond line of reference ‘tables. (For more details about the Proscenium Black Diamond, see HERE. Note that Lloyd passed away before he could update the site with the details of his final, greatest achievement, his recently development Proscenium Black Diamond Master Reference. More on that later.)

Fred Law and Lloyd Walker at RMAF 2005

I first met Lloyd back in 2003 or 2004, perhaps at one of the CES shows. That, or a Rocky Mountain Audiofest. I wasn't familiar with Walker Audio at the time, but I dropped by his room when I heard the music (killer!), and then saw the unique turntable system that he had developed. It was a work of high audio beauty, all right…a wonder to behold. And seductive as all get-out.

Walker Audio's Proscenium Black Diamond at RMAF 2005

With his folksy, Texas twang, and his cheerful, smiling face, I was immediately won over. Listening for a while to what I the Proscenium Black Diamond with all of its artisanal-quality dedicated gear really touched my heart, and so Lloyd and I talked about a Positive Feedback review.

He and Fred Law were able to deliver the review system in the latter part of 2004. It was quite a shipment:  many boxes, several of which were really heavy, all palletized, waiting for Lloyd and Fred to fly out and do the work.

The initial installation in my reference listening room made quite an impression on me, and really changed what I thought was possible with LP reproduction. His constant LP reference for dialing in a Proscenium Black Diamond system was Reiner/CSO's Scheherazade on Analogue Productions RCA Living Stereo reissue vinyl.

(Did I mention that this record was a CONSTANT reference for Lloyd? Over nearly two decades, I can't tell you how many times I've heard this album. Seven or eight years ago, I finally returned the favor by turning him on to the Analogue Productions reissue of the Reiner/CSO The Pines of Rome, which he allowed was a "pretty good record.")

Having this new benchmark recalibrated my audio sensibilities…other candidates at the time faded by comparison. That included my trusty-rusty Linn LP-12, which I eventually sold to a happy audiophile in Japan, because the Proscenium Black Diamond was so many parsecs better.

Eventually, I purchased the review sample. To do so, I had to part with one of my most beloved possessions:  my 1990 Porsche GT with 1995 GTS engine. This really hurt. But when it came down to it, my thousands of LPs and my life-long passion for music trumped the seduction of driving a monster 928 down the road.


But the call of Lloyd's grand and ongoing artistic achievement proved to be too much…and very much the right decision over time.

In the years that followed, Lloyd would come by from time to time…every year or two or three…with a major new upgrade to what I had. Level III was installed in 2011…

Level III lands

…Level V arrived in 2014…

Lloyd and Fred, working on the installation of Level V...

…Level V finally in place…

In 2015 I published a major, very extended review of Lloyd's upgrade of my Proscenium Black Diamond to Level V, plus some other parts and pieces. You'll find my comments about that significant step up right about HERE.

Fred Law:  a portrait, 2014

I should pause to mention the fact that Fred Law was not merely an employee of Lloyd and Walker Audio. He was really Lloyd's right-hand man, his sounding board, and the one who made sure that every Proscenium Black Diamond met his expectations for finish and beauty. If it didn't, it wouldn't go out until Fred said that it was right. Their friendship was close...the teasing was never-ending...and the mutual respect was quite evident.

Going on:  In 2016 came a major upgrade to the master Air Supply of the Level V, together with its downstream distribution system. This immense beastie is bloody impressive, and has worked without a problem for six years now…

The new Air Supply was followed in 2018 by a new system of air pressure regulation and a simple method of activating the new system.

A further tweak to the new Walker Air Pressure System came in 2020...

Every one of these upgrades brought notable improvements to LP playback. Greater transparency, more detail, better and tighter bass, lowered groove noise (especially in conjunction with the Soundsmith Hyperion cartridge), and an ever-improving organic feel in tonality and harmonic coherence. I was starting to run out of face to accommodate my growing smile every time that Walker Audio issued a new major upgrade. (Not to mention the minor system enhancements and tweaks that Lloyd was always playing with.)

Fred Law enjoying his work:  a moment

As a result, over the years I handed Walker Audio award after award:  PF Brutus Awards stacked high, for product after product, upgrade after upgrade; PF Gizmo Awards, which became so common that I finally gave Lloyd and Fred a unique award:  A PF Lifetime Gizmo Award all the way back in 2006, the only one that I've ever given to this date…

…and finally a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Frankly, Lloyd took just about every award I have to offer.

Yes, he was that good.

A portrait of Lloyd Walker, 2014

Lloyd and Fred were planning to come out in 2021 to do the ultimate upgrade to my Proscenium Black Diamond Level V, which, after some consideration, Lloyd called the "Master Reference." Unfortunately, COVID's Delta variant was in full swing, and business for Walker Audio was slow, so we kept putting it off, deciding that we'd get it done in 2022.

And then Lloyd, whose health was starting to fail in later 2021, was struck with a severe stroke in March of 2022, and passed away just a few days later.

Untitled. Dan Zimmerman

Even though I knew that Lloyd wasn't in the world's best shape, I was still thunderstruck by the suddenness of his departure. It made me think of all the years that we've known each other…some 18 as I count…and the fact that so many good musical memories are wrapped around Lloyd and Fred.

Portrait of Lloyd Walker at work. Happy Valley, OR, 2014

Lloyd was a good person, a close friend, spiritually quite strong, and a truly great audio designer. He spent decades developing the Proscenium turntable system, knew it intimately, and never gave up the search for new things to improve. To say that I'll miss him is a massive understatement; he was a friend closer than a brother. He always made me smile, and I learned some things about persevering on every detail of audio design work. He sweated those details for decades, and the results speak for themselves.

In order to hear the final level of achievement that Lloyd produced, I've made arrangements to have Fred Law install the Master Reference upgrade to my Proscenium Black Diamond Level V in late May. I look forward to experiencing what Lloyd considered to be his magnus opus, his parting salute to the audio arts before he departed to a far better world.

If I can bear to write about it, I will…otherwise not.

So long Lloyd! See you soon….

All photographs and image processing by David W. Robinson