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!

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.

A Plea for Sanity….

by Nick Seiflow

A funny little industry, the Hi-Fi business. Perhaps uniquely, it manages to straddle two positions simultaneously, two positions that should never be confused with one another. In the words of the estimable A. Salvatore, a well-known writer and critic “Music is art; reproduction is science”.

A simple enough statement, and would that it were reality! Continue reading

Thorens TD150 Turntable Review – The Most Underrated for 50 Years?

by Nick Seiflow

1965 Thorens TD150 Turntable with 1959 Quad ESL 57

1965 Thorens TD150 Turntable with 1959 Quad ESL 57 Speaker – Yes, your grandfather had it this good!

When Thorens and Garrard were duking it out in the early 60s you had your choice: in the German/Swiss corner was that marvel of precision engineering, the workhorse of radio stations ands recording studios, the TD124. One of the most beautifully built idler drive tables ever conceived, and just so German; no one else would have added a belt to an idler drive (situated between the the idler wheel and the motor, and whose sole purpose was to isolate the platter from the really rather minor vibrations of the motor). The 124 has a permanent seat at the adult turntable table; used prices reflect its coveted status, reaching into the $1000s for a rebuilt example. Continue reading

Forgotten Classic Turntables

What ever happened to the Sony PS-X60?

by Nick Seiflow

Sony PS-X60 Turntable Top View

Sony PS-X60 Turntable Top View

There are dozens if not hundreds of classic turntables that seem to have faded from the public consciousness; I’m largely speaking of the casualties from The Great Turntable Wars of the 1970s here, but our time span could be from 1965 to 1985 – and we’d still miss some worthy contenders.

Case in point – the Sony PS-X60. Made in the late 70s, just before the advent of the little plastic disc that was to spell doom for the vinyl industry. This particular example appeared on my repair bench a little the worse for wear. Continue reading

Zen and the Turntable….

Better Than Nothing?

by Nick Seiflow

Unity 1 TT w Grace Arm w Audio Technica 95E Cartridge

Unity 1 Turntable with Grace Tonearm and Audio Technica 95E Cartridge – Created by the Gnomes of Zontar?

Here at the TT Shop we spend most of our time listening to music (how we suffer…) through a variety of turntables, and of course the trusty ol’ Quad 57s. I for one can think of few better ways to spend my days. Actually that’s a lie. There are no better ways.

Some of the tables we listen to are expensive, even works of mechanical art, and some are finds that materialize in the occasional dumpster. With a little attention even the dumpster tables can do a remarkable thing – and that is make music.

It gets me thinking. What’s better – nothing, Continue reading