Happy Birthday

 

 

Sixty years is a long time. Not everyone survives, and to have a 60th birthday is a special thing.

One birthday well worth celebrating pertains to a rather odd looking loudspeaker. The Quad ESL. The original, not the wonderful descendants, but the extraordinary and unsurpassed original.

Ugly or beautiful depending on your sense of aesthetics, the Quad ESL (or Quad 57 as we all call it) has survived the first sixty years. Not just survived, maybe, but thrived. Shocking when it first appeared in 1957, it is still just that. Shocking.

Why? It’s worth examining.

Speakers speak. This is a commonplace observation, but it doesn’t do any harm to examine the statement. As every human has a voice, so does every loudspeaker. And we recognize voices very acutely. We express ourselves with our voice; it can be the most personal attribute we possess, and with it we are revealed.

Just so with loudspeakers. Except with one caveat. The job of a loudspeaker is that of the messenger: to convey someone else’s voice, and not to color the message in any way. And that’s a task where one could say that many speakers fail. Perhaps all speakers fail in the recreation of the live event: nothing can perfectly reproduce reality.

The task of the poor transducer is impossibly hard, and we forgive them all for their failings.

But, they must try…

In the world of hi-fi illusion the loudspeaker has to perform a conjuring trick: just as the job of the actor is to allow us to convince ourselves that what we see on stage or screen is somehow real, so is the job that befalls the loudspeaker. A bad actor disallows us to recreate reality and we feel somehow cheated. An inferior loudspeaker does the same. Music turns into disconnected sets of noises, and much as we want to disappear into the performance, somehow we can’t: the result is sometimes a sad waste of time.

The Quad 57 is often described as shockingly transparent, and extraordinarily fast. This terminology can be confusing, and can be translated simply into stating that this loudspeaker has a neutral voice. Noting a very slight, almost imperceptible upper-bass lift, it is fair to say that it actually has no voice at all. It is the perfect messenger.

And because of its voiceless quality it allows us effortlessly to seduce ourselves into being present at the live musical event.

No, its dynamic range cannot possibly re-create the live event, and a subwoofer is not the worst thing to add, but if its job is to permit us to suspend disbelief – then it is top in its field.

And has been for sixty years.

This ugly/beautiful device, this space-heater-lookalike with its limited dynamics is the Merlin of Hi-Fi. This most astonishing thing, sixty years old, and with all its flaws, still reigns supreme.

The Italians put it best, Happy birthday, and Cento anni!

Top Ten List; Number 2 (belatedly). The Thorens TD 124

by Nick Seiflow

Humans. Over 6000 languages, but I’ll wager that only German has the *mot juste* to describe the-performance-of-an-action-with-brute-force-whilst-using-the-utmost-delicacy.

Actually it’s not necessary. The Thorens TD 124 is better than any word.

Looking down on a rebuilt 124, complete with original armboard and Formula IV Unipivot tonearm. Forty Pounds Sterling (without arm) in the early '60s......

Looking down on a rebuilt TD 124, complete with original armboard and Formula IV Unipivot tonearm. Forty Pounds Sterling (without arm) in the early ’60s……

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Season’s Greetings

By Nick Seiflow

Season's Greetings!

Season’s Greetings!

Season’s Greetings – Holiday Hours

To all our customers and new friends that have helped to make our first nine months a success and joy, may we wish you and yours the happiest and safest of Holidays. You have made our venture a joy and we thank you all for your support. Keep spinning the vinyl, and we’ll see you in 2015!

Best wishes from us all,

Nick, Evan, Mike and Pete

We will be open regular hours this holiday season except as follows: Closed Dec 25th, 26th – Open Dec 31st 11am-3pm – Closed Jan 1st, 2nd.

The Thorens TD 125 and Thorens TD 126

By Nick Seiflow

Continued from Part 1…

Thorens TD 126 Turntable

Thorens TD 126 Turntable

The TD126 that followed offered even more electronic sophistication, including (again with original Thorens arm) semi-automated arm and start-stop functions. Ultimately, in the Mark III iteration, even the venerable synchronous motor made way for a DC unit, with even more electronic complexity. Perhaps more to go wrong, but servicing and parts isn’t yet a problem, and probably will never be. Some of us won’t let that happen…. Continue reading

Big Discs Are Better?

by Nick Seiflow

Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to a very fine stereo system. It consisted of a good CD front-end, high quality cabling leading to tubed preamplifier and mono block tube power amps, finally into a pair of excellent custom speakers.

It was one of the first times for a long time that I’d listened to a digitally sourced system, and the experience was revealing. As expected, there was absolutely none of the noise one might expect from vinyl; no obvious compression on peak signals, and imaging and bass control was superb. Continue reading

Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Remastering

by Branden Haynes

This year I turned 40. It’s a “milestone birthday” that tends to get people seriously reflecting on their life. Where you have been and where you are going are some of the questions you might ask yourself. In addition to the life questions that I’ve been pondering, I started to think back to my 10th birthday. Particularly, I thought of the very first record that I ever purchased with my own money. My parents were always music fans and had it playing frequently in our house. As a result, I developed a taste for music very young and it’s been a constant in my life ever since.

Vintage Springsteen

Vintage Springsteen

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U2 Helped Me Find What I Was Looking For

by Branden Haynes

U2 have released their first album in five years as a free release on iTunes while Apple unveiled its latest phone. At a launch event, U2 performed “The Miracle (of Joey Ramone)” from the band’s new album “Songs of Innocence”, which Apple announced it had been sent out to all iTunes customers worldwide at no cost.

Back in the day... "October" (1982)

Back in the day… “October” (1981)

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Vinyl: Or How We Rediscovered Our Love For The Record

by Branden Haynes

For any music lover out there who enjoys vinyl. Have you noticed the increased number of people crowding into the shops on “Record Store Day”? If you said yes, it’s not just your imagination. The fact is we are currently in the midst of a full blown vinyl resurgence. In 2013, record sales increased 32% to about 6.5 million worldwide. That is a 12 year high for the industry, and it seems to be showing no sign of slowing down.

What is causing this renewed interest in vinyl?

Vinyl on Vinyl - Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2

Vinyl on Vinyl – Eagles Greatest Hits Vol. 2

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