Ari Varla

Ari Varla, the long-standing principal electro-acoustic design scientist at Genelec Oy, Iisalmi, Finland succumbed to a prolonged illness in Iisalmi, Finland on the 22 August 2008. Ari Varla was born on the 1st August 1956 in Tampere, Finland. He received an M.Sc. degree in electronic engineering from Tampere University of Technology in 1987 and joined Genelec already in 1980 during his university studies, staying with Genelec his whole working career. He was one of the key figures at Genelec Oy.

The company would not be the same without his life-long contribution. He has been centrally involved in designing most Genelec products, altogether more than 60 loudspeaker system designs mainly for professional audio monitoring, most of them still in active production.

Ari Varla was one of the best and most renowned experts in speaker system design. His pioneering work with waveguide-loaded direct-radiating mid- and high-frequency drivers, dubbed DCW by Genelec, began in early 1980s and has resulted in their globally wide acceptance as a significant part of modern multiway designs for professional audio monitoring. He was also one of the central figures in the development which led to the low distortion LSE subwoofer enclosure concept. He holds several patents and has published numerous papers on loudspeaker design.

Ari was an inspiration to all of us at Genelec throughout the years. Despite his serious illness Ari elected to continue to work intensively with new loudspeaker designs as long as he humanly could, displaying that acoustics and loudspeaker design were truly a life calling to him. He was a firm proponent of applying the highest engineering standards in loudspeaker system design. He advocated novel designs, drawing from the very principles of acoustics in an inventive manner. His expertise was wide, from driver and loudspeaker system concept design to optimizing production methods and tools. His work was methodical and systematic, and this with his deep knowledge and excellent intuition of the acoustic phenomena has deeply inspired the several generations of younger engineers who had the privilege to work under him. His principles of maximizing the total system quality and methodologies in achieving them are deeply rooted in Genelec engineering methods.

Ari had the skills to design all the aspects of the electro-acoustic chain of an active loudspeaker, from the electronic filtering and signal processing operations through to the power amplifier characteristics and the properties and construction of drivers and their enclosure systems. Ari was also extremely adept in manually fabricating elaborate electro-acoustic prototypes, bending all materials to his needs.

This was also witnessed by his free-time activities in form of BMW cars renovated to perfection, immaculately refurbished fishing gear, electric guitars, and in particular vintage tube guitar amplifiers of which he was an acknowledged expert. In addition to playing the guitar, Ari’s hobbies included fishing and astronomy. He always had his fishing boat ready on a trailer to go to any of the local lakes or to the more distant salmon rivers of Lapland. He enjoyed making very tasty food with his family and friends. And obviously, in the field of astronomy he designed and built his own Dobsonian 20” telescope fitting in the trunk of his BMW to be easily ported to a any suitable location for observations.

Ari had a great sense of humor and could see the comic side to many issues. He frequently made sharp-eyed remarks about any triviality or artificiality of human life. There was no topic where he could not find a surprising and often humorous angle to share in a meeting or at the cafeteria table, and all who knew him do remember his magnificent laughter.

Even though we knew of his cancer already for some time the rapid final progressions of the illness has now suddenly left his family, his friends, the whole Genelec community as well as many partners worlwide in a deep and sudden grief.

Mr. Varla was a member of the AES.

Image by Mauno Hämäläinen, Savon Sanomat 1981