The Greatest Hi-Fi Product of All Time

godofwealth

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Some years ago, Hi Fi News and Record Review nominated the legendary Quad ESL 57 as the greatest hifi product of all time. Many others have expressed similar opinions. Gary Krakow wrote on NBC News that the 57s made for the best possible stereo system.


Although I had listened to later Quad models, beginning with the original 63 that I encountered in a store in Mount Kisco, NY, around 1991, I got my pair of 57s only around 2010 or so from a senior audio rep who was a major distributor for many well known brands. I drove to his house in Scarsdale, NY, near NY city, to pick them up. He treated them with such reverence that I was surprised. He was reluctant to part with them, in retrospect for the paltry sum of $1200. They were in almost mint condition for a speaker that was then almost 40 years old. He whispered to me, eyes practically moist: “these are the greatest”. I was speechless.

Having owned them for almost 15 years now, I get his devotion to this piece of audiophile nostalgia. The 57s are incomparable speakers. They do plenty things wrong, but what they do right is so mesmerizing, you are blind to all their limitations. As I type this, I’m listening to some lovely Boccherini flute quintets. The 57s are driven by a First Watt J2, a 15 watt pure class A amplifier, with a Chord Blu Mk2 M-Scaler and a Chord Dave DAC. The instruments are projected far above the plane of the floor mounted loudspeakers, full of rich tonality. You could listen to them for hours without noticing the passage of time.

I have owned many loudspeakers in the past 35+ years, and still own half a dozen other loudspeakers, from a massive pair of Klipsch La Scala horns to Harbeth Monitor 40.1s to two other later Quad models. Each of them does things the 57s can’t, but none of them inspires the kind of passion in me the 57s do.

What makes the 57s unique is their unfussy nature. 10 or so watts is plenty to drive them. They work well with tubes, but sing well with solid state amps like the First Watt J2s. Tubes accentuate their strengths and in some ways highlight their limitations. The 57s shine almost anywhere you throw them into. In the past 15 years, I moved to the west coast from the east coast and they’ve been placed in rooms, small and large. I have listened to them up close 2-3 feet away as well as in the far field. They work well up close and at a distance.

So, what would you nominate as your greatest hifi product of all time? It must be a device that inspires a fanatical devotion, one that you would never sell no matter how much money someone offered you for it, one that has transcended time and fashion and even if it’s decades old, still serves as a benchmark of excellence.

A pic attached of my 57s, in front of the much larger La Scalas. I bring out my 57s every so often to remind myself of how well they sound and how almost 70 years after they were first introduced, they still define excellence.

IMG_5395.jpeg
 
In terms of historical impact and sound, it would have to be the Wilson Watt/Puppy.
 
Stax x1t dac
For me the best sounding dac ever made with a analog sounding cd transport like belt drive burmester 979 you don't miss anything an open window to the music. it is very elaborately constructed you can't see everything if you just remove the top cover. the complex voltage stabilization for the ultra-analog dac 20bit and for anode voltage is hidden behind the side panel. the case quality is a treat to the touch.
Strength
Build quality, open holographic sound, bass quality from a other planet
weakness
you need three powercords for left and right chanel+digtal part underside housing.202103151050223550.jpg

20221020_193303.jpg.520e4a91aead8e69eb455f2857631740.jpg20221024_205208.jpg.bf9b7ea03652417c4e923fef04f2f4e7.jpg20221005_185655.jpg.fe088e3ad9afddeeb8d23a75ec9a2cad.jpg
Perfect match 54ced21eff649e5cc8973af228b2f37e1aba7a29.jpeg
If you had a chance to hear the dac do it it could accompany you for a lifetime
 
Stax x1t dac
For me the best sounding dac ever made with a analog sounding cd transport like belt drive burmester 979 you don't miss anything an open window to the music. it is very elaborately constructed you can't see everything if you just remove the top cover. the complex voltage stabilization for the ultra-analog dac 20bit and for anode voltage is hidden behind the side panel. the case quality is a treat to the touch.
Strength
Build quality, open holographic sound, bass quality from a other planet
weakness
you need three powercords for left and right chanel+digtal part underside housing.View attachment 110649

View attachment 110647View attachment 110648View attachment 110650
Perfect match View attachment 110651
If you had a chance to hear the dac do it it could accompany you for a lifetime
Those dac chips are impossible to get these day, here are a few that have died inside my brothers Kps 25 sc !
IMG_2175.jpegIMG_2177.jpeg
 
Some years ago, Hi Fi News and Record Review nominated the legendary Quad ESL 57 as the greatest hifi product of all time. Many others have expressed similar opinions. Gary Krakow wrote on NBC News that the 57s made for the best possible stereo system.


Although I had listened to later Quad models, beginning with the original 63 that I encountered in a store in Mount Kisco, NY, around 1991, I got my pair of 57s only around 2010 or so from a senior audio rep who was a major distributor for many well known brands. I drove to his house in Scarsdale, NY, near NY city, to pick them up. He treated them with such reverence that I was surprised. He was reluctant to part with them, in retrospect for the paltry sum of $1200. They were in almost mint condition for a speaker that was then almost 40 years old. He whispered to me, eyes practically moist: “these are the greatest”. I was speechless.

Having owned them for almost 15 years now, I get his devotion to this piece of audiophile nostalgia. The 57s are incomparable speakers. They do plenty things wrong, but what they do right is so mesmerizing, you are blind to all their limitations. As I type this, I’m listening to some lovely Boccherini flute quintets. The 57s are driven by a First Watt J2, a 15 watt pure class A amplifier, with a Chord Blu Mk2 M-Scaler and a Chord Dave DAC. The instruments are projected far above the plane of the floor mounted loudspeakers, full of rich tonality. You could listen to them for hours without noticing the passage of time.

I have owned many loudspeakers in the past 35+ years, and still own half a dozen other loudspeakers, from a massive pair of Klipsch La Scala horns to Harbeth Monitor 40.1s to two other later Quad models. Each of them does things the 57s can’t, but none of them inspires the kind of passion in me the 57s do.

What makes the 57s unique is their unfussy nature. 10 or so watts is plenty to drive them. They work well with tubes, but sing well with solid state amps like the First Watt J2s. Tubes accentuate their strengths and in some ways highlight their limitations. The 57s shine almost anywhere you throw them into. In the past 15 years, I moved to the west coast from the east coast and they’ve been placed in rooms, small and large. I have listened to them up close 2-3 feet away as well as in the far field. They work well up close and at a distance.

So, what would you nominate as your greatest hifi product of all time? It must be a device that inspires a fanatical devotion, one that you would never sell no matter how much money someone offered you for it, one that has transcended time and fashion and even if it’s decades old, still serves as a benchmark of excellence.

A pic attached of my 57s, in front of the much larger La Scalas. I bring out my 57s every so often to remind myself of how well they sound and how almost 70 years after they were first introduced, they still define excellence.

View attachment 110638
Amazing to read. Perhaps a more detailed description of them than I have read before. I have read about stacked 57s being the stuff of legend as well. Have you ever heard them? Considered doing it yourself...for another $1200 if you could find another pair?
 
Amazing to read. Perhaps a more detailed description of them than I have read before. I have read about stacked 57s being the stuff of legend as well. Have you ever heard them? Considered doing it yourself...for another $1200 if you could find another pair?
 
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Amazing to read. Perhaps a more detailed description of them than I have read before. I have read about stacked 57s being the stuff of legend as well. Have you ever heard them? Considered doing it yourself...for another $1200 if you could find another pair?
I have often considered stacked Quads, but eventually decided against it. Peter Walker himself said you gain about 6 dB in the bass, and 3 dB elsewhere. In the early days when Quad was demonstrating the 57s, I believe they hooked up a huge array of them in a large concert hall with a whole suite of Quad IIs, and showed off what they could do. That would have been worth listening to.

Ultimately, to me, stacking Quads defeats the very thing that makes them special, which is their somewhat demure and almost “room heater” type Bahaus design. Style is a personal taste, but to me, nothing has every equaled the styling of the Quad 57, which 7 decades later, look so modern still. My La Scalas have been around 60 years, and they too seem to blend in to my living room (although they are much larger, they resemble a large piece of furniture, not some audio monstrosity).

The attraction of the 57s to me has always been their ability to play music so well at a far softer level than you would other speakers. You can play them at fairly moderate levels — around 65 - 70 dB at the listening chair — and they are perfectly satisfactory to listen to. You never feel the need to raise the volume and blast them, at least I do not. Mine have no protection circuitry, so it takes some discipline to make sure they last. I never play mine loud, since I find it unnecessary. Plenty of speakers can play really loud (e.g,, my La Scalas go hugely loud on just 1 watt!).

Here’s a German outfit that designs a more modern version of the 57s:


Sheldon Stokes has a detailed handbook on restoring the 57s. It’s amazing that almost every 57 Quad sold, perhaps 70,000, are still in service somewhere around the world, as they can be restored by someone who is knowledgeable. In the US, Kent McCollum and Sheldon Stokes can fix any broken 57. Wayne Piquet in Florida used to do an amazing job restoring the 57s. Not sure if he’s still at it.


The speaker lives on, kept alive by aficionados who won’t let it die. To me, that is a hallmark of a hifi legend. It must be something that people want to restore, to keep it going. I think the Quad IIs certainly merit that, as do some classic McIntosh amplifiers.
 
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Those dac chips are impossible to get these day, here are a few that have died inside my brothers Kps 25 sc !
View attachment 110653View attachment 110654
Pity some died from heat they need a heatsink like mark levinson does in ml 30.5.
write this guy he still sold these chips in 2021 in his dac modules. scroll down in the link

Here the list of dacs used that chip and datasheet.
I would write to the companies, maybe you'll get a replacement there. the sound must be saved. Good luck
 
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In terms of historical impact and sound, it would have to be the Wilson Watt/Puppy.
In terms of sound: IIRC Arnie Nuddel's Genesis V preceded the Watt-Puppy (I understood from Nuddel that the W-P design was based on the V). Maybe not?
 
Thanks! Interesting reading and as someone who owned the original 1994 version of the Wilson X1/Grand Slamms (when they were already 17 years old) I can fully appreciate how remarkable some audio designs were/are by any standards (yesterday's, today's and tomorrow's).
 
I have often considered stacked Quads, but eventually decided against it. Peter Walker himself said you gain about 6 dB in the bass, and 3 dB elsewhere. In the early days when Quad was demonstrating the 57s, I believe they hooked up a huge array of them in a large concert hall with a whole suite of Quad IIs, and showed off what they could do. That would have been worth listening to.

Ultimately, to me, stacking Quads defeats the very thing that makes them special, which is their somewhat demure and almost “room heater” type Bahaus design. Style is a personal taste, but to me, nothing has every equaled the styling of the Quad 57, which 7 decades later, look so modern still. My La Scalas have been around 60 years, and they too seem to blend in to my living room (although they are much larger, they resemble a large piece of furniture, not some audio monstrosity).

The attraction of the 57s to me has always been their ability to play music so well at a far softer level than you would other speakers. You can play them at fairly moderate levels — around 65 - 70 dB at the listening chair — and they are perfectly satisfactory to listen to. You never feel the need to raise the volume and blast them, at least I do not. Mine have no protection circuitry, so it takes some discipline to make sure they last. I never play mine loud, since I find it unnecessary. Plenty of speakers can play really loud (e.g,, my La Scalas go hugely loud on just 1 watt!).

Here’s a German outfit that designs a more modern version of the 57s:


Sheldon Stokes has a detailed handbook on restoring the 57s. It’s amazing that almost every 57 Quad sold, perhaps 70,000, are still in service somewhere around the world, as they can be restored by someone who is knowledgeable. In the US, Kent McCollum and Sheldon Stokes can fix any broken 57. Wayne Piquet in Florida used to do an amazing job restoring the 57s. Not sure if he’s still at it.


The speaker lives on, kept alive by aficionados who won’t let it die. To me, that is a hallmark of a hifi legend. It must be something that people want to restore, to keep it going. I think the Quad IIs certainly merit that, as do some classic McIntosh amplifiers.
Thanks...would love to hear them someday. As for listening softly, for me at least, when we started lowering noise floor with isolation, grounding and then went back to finetuning the deep bass of the sub, the requisite playback volume went down dramatically. It is pretty typical now to be around 55db at the listening spot, and sometimes at 65db-70db as you say but less often.
 
Pity some died from heat they need a heatsink like mark levinson does in ml 30.5.
write this guy he still sold these chips in 2021 in his dac modules. scroll down in the link

Here the list of dacs used that chip and datasheet.
I would write to the companies, maybe you'll get a replacement there. the sound must be saved. Good luck
Thank you for the information Stephan ! :)
 
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In terms of sound: IIRC Arnie Nuddel's Genesis V preceded the Watt-Puppy (I understood from Nuddel that the W-P design was based on the V). Maybe not?
The IRS Betas were definitely influential but I am not sure if the V influenced the Watt/Puppy or not. I have heard the Watt/Puppys sold in some of the largest numbers as any high end speaker.
 
Amazing to read. Perhaps a more detailed description of them than I have read before. I have read about stacked 57s being the stuff of legend as well. Have you ever heard them? Considered doing it yourself...for another $1200 if you could find another pair?
Mark Levinson did it on his HQD speakers. He added ribbon tweeter and Hartley woofer to stacked Quads. I really would like to hear them.
43FF64DE-9166-4697-BAD6-1EFD7FC49A8E.jpeg
 
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...Sheldon Stokes has a detailed handbook on restoring the 57s. It’s amazing that almost every 57 Quad sold, perhaps 70,000, are still in service somewhere around the world, as they can be restored by someone who is knowledgeable. In the US, Kent McCollum and Sheldon Stokes can fix any broken 57. Wayne Piquet in Florida used to do an amazing job restoring the 57s. Not sure if he’s still at it...
Quad 57 serial numbers stop in the 50,000 range, I reckon far fewer are still in service. BTW, Wayne Piquet is deceased. I spoke with Sheldon a few weeks ago, he's backed up 6-mos. on rebuilds but has a few pairs of 63s ready for sale. Kent just rebuilt my 5th pr of 57's, his lead time was about two weeks.
 
Audio Research SP 10 amazing preamp if you wanted to hear first-class back then, you must have owned it at some point, I'd bet on it. some still like to listen to it today.I think this device has a large share in the success story of this company. I have heard it at friends place with a active cabasse albatros 5 such a good sound.9389_427344124065228_1198934416_n.jpg
 
Audio Research SP 10 amazing preamp if you wanted to hear first-class back then, you must have owned it at some point, I'd bet on it. some still like to listen to it today.I think this device has a large share in the success story of this company. I have heard it at friends place with a active cabasse albatros 5 such a good sound.View attachment 110677
Those active Cabasse Albatros take me back several decades.
Listening to these play DSOTM (the album had just come out) was one of my most memorable audio experiences! We also listened to Deep Purple in Rock, child in time, full blast of course. Pre was an SRPP, don't remember which manufacturer. TT was Thorens 124 / SME 3012 / Shure (15 probably). Majestic sound, I still remember being transported.
 
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Audio Research SP 10 amazing preamp if you wanted to hear first-class back then, you must have owned it at some point, I'd bet on it. some still like to listen to it today.I think this device has a large share in the success story of this company. I have heard it at friends place with a active cabasse albatros 5 such a good sound.View attachment 110677
I believe the Marantz 9 amplifier seen at the back is a stronger candidate than ARC. I still remember how much I excited when I saw the newly made Marantz 9 amps (identical to old ones) in a hifi shop around 1999. Unfortunately they were beyond my budget.
 
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