The Closest Approach...
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Quad-The Closest Approach...A Review
On the very morning I sat down to write this review, I was dismayed to learn of the passing of Peter Walker, founder and guiding light of The Acoustical Manufacturing Company (QUAD) for so many years. As possibly the greatest of the audio greats, he will be sadly missed; but as Geoffrey Horn has rightly noted - his work will endure - so too will the continuing pleasure that his work has brought to thousands around the world for over 50 years. Who knows? It may simply be that a 'particular' pair of Quads requires servicing after all these years, and Himself upstairs has called upon the original service man to do the job. As we know Quad service is second to none!
To The Book
I am glad that I'm not Ken Kessler! Even with a year and extensive archives to draw upon, what a monumental task to face - writing the definitive history of Quad. If you are about to purchase the book, you will, no doubt, want to know - is it worth the money? Let us mince no words - Yes. I have had a number of emails that say - "It's a bit pricey" - but they bought it anyway. I have had a number of emails that say - "Where can I buy it?" - the legend precedes the book, of course. I have a number of emails that say - "I didn't know that!" I include myself in this last group, even though I don't email myself very much :)
On that note, I would like to begin at the beginning; with Lord Gowrie's recollections on George Howard. I didn't know that the immense chambers of Castle Howard had echoed to the sounds from Quad ESLs and associated Quad equipment. The Quad reputation is elegantly summed up in the quote - "I don't need to fiddle with the rest of the system, which is, of course, by Quad." Before one starts to mumble and grumble phrases like "...upper class..." , "...toys of the rich and famous...", and so on. Gowrie has continued with an anecdote of a friend with a pair of bronze Quads recovered from a skip (that's 'dumpster' if you only speak American), which "after reconditioning"..."sounded so much more natural than anything else, there was no point", (in selling or upgrading (?)). So, nicely, in the course of one page we are carried across the range of Quad users, ending with the summary remarks on showing another generation "what music in the home can bring to human life". I particularly liked Gowrie's remarks on the..."closest approach to the original Quad". Neatly sums up the inspiration and despair (!) of other designers over the years when facing Walker's originals. I will steal that phrase in future conversation. I may absent-mindedly neglect attribution.
Yes, Ken has hit the brass tack on the noggin with his use of "affection", "fondness" and "loyalty". Modern business people would blanch at the thought of these concepts entering upon their business considerations. Ken's introduction expresses the gist of the book - A family album. An eclectic mix of characters and tales is the stuff of this tome, and it does not descend, at any time, into a hero-worshipping Gospel of Quad, or of Peter Walker. No, the book is not "...all things to all people..." as ..."Quad would never ever try to be...". It is straight forward, factually rich and intriguingly readable; not, like many modern "histories" - targeted. In the even blunter words of Peter Walker being quoted by Ross Walker "...Nobody's bloody well going to tell me how to do it. If they don't like what I'm bloody doing, they can go buy somebody else's". 'Nuff said?
The Great Leveler
By which, I mean - Music. As latter day enthusiasts have discovered, even Rock 'n Roll sounds better played through a Quad ESL. Rich; poor; struggling; successful; witty or witless (?) - you'll find a Quad owner in every category and there are more - categories, that is. People who would not know of each other's existence but for Quad and much less speak to each other are to be found described in this book.
They are all part of a rich social phenomenon. Some understand, first and foremost, the music, the art form and only long to hear it properly at home. Others love the technical aspects and have come to love music as a secondary (but just as important), consideration. All of them know a "good thing" when they hear it.
This book captures that egalitarian feel. It is the proxy testament of we, the many, to a few, who could and did make a difference to the world of audio.