My first time (with Quad ESLs) - a tale of eclesiastical weirdness

An Audio Tale.

So the only time I ever heard Quad ESLs was this:
I was living in the Fens, north of Cambridge, UK for a couple of years in the early 80s, sleeping on a friends sofa, as I recall, and very comfortable it was too.

I was, one evening, visiting a rather nice lady, Rose, who lived in the next village, and we decided to go to the pub in Ely, about 5 miles up the road.

Hitch hiked to Ely, and wandered into the pub there, ordering some or other drink.

A Large Bird wandered in (think “big bird” from sesame street, only not yellow), ordered a pint, pulled a plastic tube from its beak, and proceeded to drink the pint through the tube.

(I should at this stage point out that I was not under the influence of any psychedelic drugs, it’s not that kind of a story!).

So of course we got chatting to the Big Bird (as you do), and the rather deep tenor voice in the end said
“Hang on, I’ll be back in human form in 10 minutes”.

Sure enough, 10 minutes later, a chap came in wearing ecclesiastical garb (think monks) and revealed he was actually the Big Bird. We got chatting again, and the subject quickly turned to music, the Alan Parsons Project’s “Pyramid” album, and at that point he mentioned he had quite a nice HiFi. Not the conversation I expected to have with a monk (or a big bird, come to that), but hey, it was the 80s!

He invited us both back to his place, built in the Cathedral wall itself (again, I should point out this was above board, it’s not one of those stories either), to listen to some music and meet his Quad ESLs.

And gosh they sounded wonderful – big, open, quite loud enough, and in the room (large high ceilings vaulted etc. but heavily damped in his bit with furnishings and wall hangings) they had space to breath and shine, and allowing sufficient distance for a natural bass response (important for those ESLs I’m thinking). The album in question is full of gorgeous production and nice recordings in big 70s studio setting, and really shone. Vinyl (it was the early 80s) through Quad (I think) 405s, definitely a formative experience!

After about an hour, we wandered off to hitch hike home. Never saw him again, 70s session musicians never sounded so good since…

Below, a photo so you know I’m not making this up – this is Rose, and the Ecclesiastical Big Bird :slight_smile:


(as an aside, sadly I have no pics of Rose other than this, just my memories…)

Here’s my own ESL revelation story from around the same era.

The first time I ever heard Quad 57’s was at a friend’s house when I was in High school many many years ago. The active multi way system was covered with a frame and speaker cloth so it just looked like a huge speaker against the wall and I couldn’t see the actual quads themselves.

My friend told me “quads” were being used just for for the midrange, with a visible active crossover, but I thought he meant quadraphonic. I was unfamiliar with the brand but knew what electrostats were from reading Audio magazine but had no idea I was listening to ‘stats at the time.

In my naivety, I suggested he tell his father to try mounting the woofers under the floor to use the basement as a huge enclosure. As I was in high school I didn’t know much about high end audio, but my friend later told me his father, an optical engineer, actually tried my suggestion!

Once I got out of college I was in a computer store in Manhattan that also sold audio gear. I saw the esl 63 US on the floor, asked if they were electrostats and requested to hear them.

It wasn’t a really high end set up, and used very long lengths of radio shack type speaker cable, and quad’s own amps, but I had never heard anything so lifelike. (And impressed me more than my friends father’s rig), I suspect since it had room to breathe.

From there I went to hear esl63 US in other stereo dealers, but now with MIT shotgun cables and Spectral gear. I was shocked at the price of each component, and a bit depressed that as a recent grad I could never afford a 16 or 20 grand system.

But in a few months I was able to replicate the entire quad/mit/spectral system buying used gear from Audiomart mail publication and The NY Times classified section … LOL. The quads I got were 63’s (non US) but with a full Crosby mod, and sounded better than what I heard in the showroom.

I discovered on those quads, that a $100 Technics turntable sounded better that the $600 Phillips CD player I was using at the time. I bought my first used table, a well tempered, and since I was living in NY’s East Village at a time when everyone was selling their vinyl to record stores by the milk crate full, I amassed about 2500 lps!

I enjoyed the hell out of my first audiophile system for many years, until the quad panels kept arcing and I got sick of taking them for repair.

Many years later I heard the just released TAD
CR-1’s for the very first time, (it was in my own home for evaluation). I felt like they sounded so much like the quads but extending every frequency range and dynamics to the next level.

After meeting Andrew Jones and spending time with him he revealed that he owns esl 57’s (and was a protege of Peter Walker) and it was one of Andrew’s references when designing the TAD’s, and are both point sources.

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