Ode to Hi-Fi: The End of an Era?

There are moments that stand out in most people’s lives. Where you were you when you heard John Lennon was shot. Your first kiss. The moment when you first heard high-fidelity music, and it was so profound that it changed the course of your life.

For me, I first heard truly amazing audio when my father purchased a pair of Quad ESL-57 Electrostatic speakers back in the mid-70’s. The setup was complete with Quad II tube power amplifiers along with a Quad 22 control head pre-amp. The system also had an Empire 280 turntable. The system was the focal point of our family room, and listening to it was an event. The tubes needed time to warm up, the speakers needed to be pulled away from the walls, and the family fought for the best listening positions.

The sound from the Quads was, in those days, stunning. Having been blessed with numerous opportunities to hear the New York Philharmonic performing live, the high-end response of the Quads was as close to live as you could get. Crystal-clear transients, effortless treble, and beautifully transparent, natural, musical sound. Listening in our family room transported me back to Avery Fisher Hall.

To combat the lack of bass that plagued electrostats, my father added one of the original servo-controlled Velodyne ULD-15 subwoofers. To say that it rocked our house would be an understatement. My mother was concerned that it could crack the foundation, and well, it probably could. But nonetheless, it completed our Hi-Fi system, and for years, it was perfection. In later years, a Pioneer CD player was added, but the music really shined whenever we reverted back to vinyl.

Without question, that stereo system had a huge influence on my life and career. Very early on, it instilled in me an interest in music, electronics, and the art of recording. Sitting for hours with my father critically listening to music over the Quads led me to a career as a recording engineer and sound-quality consultant. I owe so much to that early influence.

Last month, my parents called to say they’re downsizing and selling their home of 58 years. Last week, my dad sold the complete Quad system. Speakers, amp, pre-amp—even his collection of hundreds of LPs—all gone. It’s sad to see it go. It was such a terrific system, with so many memories. But, you know what—that system still works, and it still sounds damn good. The buyer’s daughter is a musician and is pumped to get all that vinyl. The system is going to another home, and maybe starting an entirely new chapter in its life.

The end of an era? Yes. But it’s also the start of a new era.

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