Andreas Pavel

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Andreas Pavel
EducationFree University of Berlin
Engineering career
Significant designStereobelt (proto-Walkman)

Andreas Pavel is a German-Brazilian cultural producer and media designer who is generally credited with the invention of personal stereo. [1] [2].

Born in Brandenburg, Germany, Pavel was the son of a German industrialist and vice-president of the Federation of German in Industries (BDI). When he completed six years of age, his family moved to São Paulo, where his father took a managing position at Brazil's main industrial conglomerate, the Matarazzo Industries.

Having studied philosophy and social sciences at the Free University of Berlin, Pavel returned to Brazil in 1967 and started his professional career as head of programming of the newly founded public broadcasting station, TV Cultura. 1970 he took up editorial planning at Abril Cultural, where he edited partwork encyclopaedias for nationwide newsstand distribution, most notably the philosophical source collection "Great Thinkers" and a reference series of "Brazilian Popular Music".

From 1968 onward Pavel lived in an arch-shaped house designed for his mother, the artist Ninca Bordano, by the architect Ronaldo Duschenes. The place became well-known for its legendary quality as a sound reproduction environment. Pavel was acquainted to some important personalities of the time, poets, musicians, philosophers, architects, social scientists, etc. who came regularly to the intellectual debates and music evenings at his house. It was in that effervescent environment of sound, culture, and politics, at a time of military dictatorship in Brazil, that Pavel developed his concept of a personal hifi-stereo listening system, in February 1972.

In the mid-1970s Pavel moved to New York and later Milan, where he established Mediadream Communications Research with the Italian photographer Alfonso Galasso and the Australian tv producer Jeremy Fabinyi and went on experimenting with sound, image, multimedia environments, produced some of the first video clips, and also cooperated with jazz musician Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Research Arkestra. In June 1977 he wrote the blueprint for a personal hifi-stereo system, "The Coming Audio Revolution", and designed a high end modular version of it, the Stereobelt, which is now part of the Museum for Italian Design, in Milan.

Over the next few years Pavel tried to interest companies like Yamaha, Uher, Beyer, B&O, and Brionvega in manufacturing his personal hifi-stereo system. In March 1977, Pavel filed the first patent application on the new medium in Italy [3] followed by further applications in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

Personal Stereo did not come up as an incremental improvement; it was a quantum leap when high fidelity music reproduction suddenly became available anywhere, at any time. This was described by Italian critic and media theorist Enrico Ghezzi as an "anthropological mutation" that transformed people's ordinary life into some kind of cinema, and as a "secret theatre" by French semiotician Shuhei Hosokawa (The Walkman Effect, in: Popular Music 1984/4).

Before Pavel was ready to introduce the new system with the Italian manufacturer Brionvega, Sony took the global market by launching the Walkman in July 1979. After a personal contact between Pavel and Sony President Akio Morita, the company started legal talks in 1980 regarding a possible agreement on royalty fees. But it only agreed to such pay royalties, on some early models, after it lost its challenge to Pavel's German patent. At the same time Sony redesigned the Walkman to eliminate two much-praised features: the double headphone sockets, which allowed two listeners to enjoy the same mobile hifi experience, and the non-recording microphone and mixing circuit that improved communication and increased situational awareness, both of which had been disclosed and claimed in all of Pavel's patent applications [e.g. German Patent Application DE 2813000].

In 1989, Pavel started infringement proceedings against Sony in the UK. Four years later, the British patent was invalidated by a British judge at the request of Sony's lawyers, even though the same judge confirmed its infringement of Pavel's patent claims, the contrary trends at the time, the fact that Sony testified that its first internal discussion of personal stereo happened within two weeks of Pavel's patent publication (October 5th, 1978) - in spite its technical feasibility much before that date -, the reactions of astonishment first inside the company and on a worldwide basis after it was introduced, and its unprecedented commercial success, producing one of the steep sales curve in the history of consumer electronics.

Pavel was left with a cost order of $3.6 million to cover the litigation expenses of Sony and Toshiba, who had joined it in opposing Pavel's patent claims. In 1999, Pavel threatened Sony with further legal suits in every country in which he had patented his invention. The corporation agreed to resume talks with Pavel and a settlement was finally reached in 2003. The agreement led Pavel to switch off a website that he had created to report on the litigation (

The exact settlement fee is a closely guarded secret, but European press accounts said that Pavel received a cash settlement for damages in excess of $10,000,000 and is now also receiving royalties on some Walkman sales.[4] The settlement also includes a clause which will prevent Pavel from bringing future lawsuits based on the same set of patents and patent applications. The settlement grants Pavel the recognition from Sony that he was the original inventor of personal stereo, as exemplified by and introduced with Sony's Walkman. It was achieved after the death of Akio Morita, the founder of Sony who was sometimes credited as the creator of the Walkman, even though this was in contrast with many other accounts produced by Sony, including the one it presented in court.

25 years later, Apple's digital MP3 stereo player, the iPod, took the place of Sony's Walkman. Both products represented an epochal breakthrough for their respective manufacturers. Today the digital stereo player is an integral part of every smartphone. Pavel reportedly had considered asking Apple and other manufacturers of portable digital music players for royalties. However, in December 2005 he said he did not intend to do so, not wishing to spend any more time in lawsuits and negotiations.

In recent years Pavel has focused on a multi-media sensory extension kit (the "Dreamkit"), large scale stereo loudspeakers, and has worked in a new kind of immersive telephony. He has also created the largest existing database of recorded Brazilian music and produced the last great master of Brazilian "choro" music, the late flutist Altamiro Carrilho ( as documented in "A Fala da Flauta”, a 4-DVD-set).


  1. ^ Rohter, Larry (December 17, 2005). "Unlikely trendsetter made earphones a way of life". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Kerbusk, Klaus-Peter (May 24, 2004). "In die Tasche gesteckt". Der Spiegel.
  3. ^ Dumout, Estelle (June 4, 2004). "Sony pays millions to inventor in Walkman dispute". CNET News.
  4. ^ Rohter, Larry (December 16, 2005). "Portable stereo's creator got his due, eventually". International Herald Tribune.

Further reading[edit]

  • Percezione senza più limiti – parla il padre di Walkman e iPod (Il Sole 24 Ore 21/09/2006)
  • Jacques Attali, Une brève Histoire de l’Avenir (Paris, 2006)
  • Jack Challoner, ed, 1001 Inventions that changed the world (London, 2009)
  • Revista Veja, Especial “Os Pioneiros” (São Paulo 31/08/2011)
  • Eric Chaline, 50 Machines that changed the course of History (London, 2012)
  • Rainer Schönhammer, Der Walkman: Eine phänomenologische Untersuchung (München, 1988)