Rumble on your bottom

“Can you help me move some boxes on Monday?” asked a chum. Of course I could. Somehow, however, I mustn’t have heard when the dear chap described the contents of said boxes. Which turned out to be outrageously valuable hifi speakers (B&W Signature 805s, if you really want to know). Outrageously valuable, flamboyantly beautiful, elegantly constructed… and, it turned out, stupendously magnificent-sounding.

The boxes, you see, were being moved from one shop, around the the corner, to another shop. Wherein they were attached to a succession of similarly-stratospheric amplifiers, and equally celestial boxes which schlupped in little silver discs and span them around and around.

We sat. We listened.

After three hours, we went away and had a spot of lunch. We then returned.

We sat some more. We listened some more. We even – and this is remarkable – Decided.

We then packed everything up and went away again, bearing our boxes of speakers. We did not, however, walk out with a Quad CD-P and matching 909 power amp, which in my book was a crying shame since the combination was unbelievably clear and yet delivered deeply pleasant listening. Tragically, chum’s ears are a tad more discerning (which is mildly reassuring, seeing as how he’s a BBC radio sound engineer and all) and he was bothered by a slight harshness in the not-quite-top-end. Which, frankly, I didn’t hear at all, but I was with him most of the way until then and actually I’m rather proud of that.

So poor chum is having to make do with his ancient CD player and a skanky Rotel 1062 integrated amp we’d purloined from the first shop. A mere £600-worth, and barely fit to be in the same room as the gorgeous speakers.

And, at length, I returned home. Whereupon I made the mistake of putting one of the discs we’d been listening to into my own system. My beloved bought-for-a-song Marantz amp, the almost-matching CD player I lovingly nickname ‘Skippy,’ and the twelve year-old baby Mission speakers which were a bit rough even before Lucy trod on one. The disc span up, and I listened.

Shit. I need a new stereo system. Anyone got six grand to spare?


  1. When I was a BBC audio engineer many years ago, I had a colleague who used to make valve amps on the side and did very well at it.
    Another one came up with an even better wheeze. He bought a sample of every kind of cable in the Maplin catalogue, soldered up them with Phono jacks, and listened to each one.
    The one that sounded best to him he bought a whole drum of, soldered on the gold phonos, and he sold the special cables at a 10000% or so markup.
    A Song of Reproduction is as true as ever…

  2. Ah, the pitfalls of listening to Really Good equipment.
    Quad electronics can be had for reasonable prices second-hand. And they’re built to last. An acquaintance of mine used to have a Quad setup (33/303/FM3) with some top-of-the-line KEF speakers, at least 10 years old by the time I got to fiddle with it, but still the best setup I’ve ever heard.

  3. I had a similar experience, in the Cornflake Shop, with Harvey of Harvey and the Walllbangers. I wanted something good to play my records on and Harvey said that the Cornflake Men were the people to see.
    We wandered up the Tottenham Court Road and turned off into a little used cul-de-sac. The sign above the door said CORNFLAKE SHOP. The window gave onto a disappointing and uninspiring display of architecture magazines and uncomfortable sofas. The door was locked, but I knocked on Harvey’s say so. After a pause enough to get a good espresso in a worthy cafe, the door opened an inch and through the small crack a man enquired of my purpose.
    My purpose was simple: I’d worked with enough sound engineers and record producers to know the effort that goes into sorting out the sounds we hear when we buy recordings, so, not wanting to mess with their profession, I wanted an amp with just an on/off button and a volume control. [this was in the days of high stacked illuminated graphic equalisers for chrissakes!].
    The man at the door thought for a moment then let us in. He nodded briefly to Harvey in some underground unspoken unconscious acceptance of a fellow apprentice, and ushered us down some decrepit stairs to a basement that was home to a comfortable sofa and a record collection [for indeed they were records in those days] largely imitative of my own.
    The Cornflake Man produced amplifiers and record decks and speakers that could entertain kings. He talked about the lack of wow on our top and the benifits of the sharpened fibre needle. Harvey told me that this a Good Thing and I bought a worthwhile bundle.
    I am still with it today, the amp connected to the G5, the speakers [which came with a 32 page instruction manual] positoned pornographically in the studio. And I can detect no flutter.
    [get your own blog Coombes]

  4. My brother is a pain. He’s just had a bathroom installed and basically has the go-ahead to drop the same figure on a new stereo. If i tell you that this bathroom is in Putney and was installed by Fired Earth, you can see why this is a big deal. We are talking eleven grand here.

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