In the spring of 1974 I was 20 years old ,had just been laid off an extremely well paying, once in a lifetime job and had pockets full of money.
But…It looked like that was going to be the last real money for a while, I saw an uncertain future ahead, with no real prospects.
My new employment was driving a delivery van for Hughes Owens office supplies for what could not have been much more than minimum wage. ($2.00 an hour) , with less than no responsibility.
Feelin’ a little down!
So, I did what any thoughtful, life centered young man of the early 70’s did, (they may do so still today!) I went out and bought something to blast some tunes on.
But not your average Marantz/Pioneer/Sony/Samsung electro mass market gear.
No…I had an esoteric bent, and did my research, reading audiophile magazines, Stereo Review, dense things with lots of specifications, the meaning of which is still not all that clear to me today.
In the end I purchased – okay – here we go, I have reeled these names off so often over 40 years they have become family! – A Quad 33/303 pre- amp and amplifier, (here is a modern review of a vintage unit) with a matching Quad FM3 Receiver, A Thorens TD-125 Series 2 Turntable, sporting an SME arm, I found one for sale here, along with a wealth of other vintage turntables.
and, forgive me, I no longer remember the original needle, cartridge, but rest assured it was equal to the rest of the gear. There was also a Nakamichi 500 Tri- Tracer Cassette player recorder, that my girlfriend, now wife of 40 years, bought for me,
and the finishing touch – a pair of Bronze Quad ESL-57 Electrostatic Speakers – 42′ Wide, 30″ high, 3″ thick, things of beauty and wonderful crisp sound. Of course I was blasting out Mountain’s Nantucket Sleighride over them as well things like The Fugs – Tenderness Junction, so the niceties may well have been lost. I did have to have them rebuilt many years later because I had managed to blast the high end of the speakers to oblivion.
So…. many years later, having discarded the audiophile world for the sound of MP3’s streaming across my wireless network, controlled by my phone, to the soundbar under my television, I thought, Hey, I’ve still got those puppies, let’s get them hooked up and see what we have. I still have over 600 Lp’s so some purpose would be served.
First step, get something pumped into them – check out the sound – hooked up the turnable, only one channel working – maybe it’s the turntable, get a special mini-stereo plug made , in England of course, don’t ask what it cost, might as well have been from Apple, which terminates in the 5 pin DIN plug standard on the Quad, you knew it had to be something out of the ordinary. No luck, now certain repair is needed. So, they sat there, near death.
Then, through almost complete serendipidity, and so true to the Caotica aesthetic, I stumbled across a small firm in Ontario, dedicated to the loving restoration of these units — Dada Electronics. Which was prefect for the Caotica.com team again, a perfect match, like Kurt Schwitters was going to improve your vintage techno marvel — a perfect union.
In this case Kurt is Stew Welcher, the craftsman. He was enthusiastic.
I still have the original packing boxes, complete with styrofoam inserts,…. and isn’t it great the way that stuff hangs around, 40 years on, still doing its job!, so packing them up was a snap. Canada Post humped them across the country, within what seemed like minutes Stew was back to me with an assessment.
I sat down, paused….thought about the purchase price for the units new: (remember – minimum wage was $2.00 an Hour)
thought about it again, threw reason to the wind and decided to go for the complete rebuild and modernization Dada offers, to let these 40 year old units benefit from advances in 21st century technology.
The Work Has Begun, and looks like this:
On the 33, the Hi-Performance Dada upgrade includes:
Perform standard Dada upgrade plus complete
rewire of AC circuit, upgrade to Wima 22 uF on audio boards,
33,000 uF and SF 4007 diodes on Power Supply board, clean and
lube all controls, treat all edge connectors. In my case the volume control was an extra, since it was destroyed by an earlier amateur repair.
So… we are part way through the rebuild. This is what the 33 looked like at initial tear down. That big blue thing on the right is the toggle switch the amateur repair guy used. Trashy.
and what the 33 looks like as it is being reassembled. Tidy.
The 303 Full Monty includes:
Quad 303 High-end Boards and Capacitor set
- Based on the original Quad-schematics, latest version
- All tweaks & improvements known built in
- Only high-end components (Nichicon, Wima MKS4 or equivalents, audio-grade inductor, 1% metal-film resistances, top-quality transistors, Bourns 25-turn trimmers…)
- Jumper-selectable input-sensitivity (0,5V – 1,5V – 5V)
- Silver-plated connectors
- Completely tested & calibrated with professional lab-equipment
- High-quality epoxy PCB’s
- Output-current can be increased on demand
- 100% mechanical & electrical compatible with the 303
- Audio-grade caps (3) for the PSU and the outputs included
- 2x driver-boards & 1x PSU-board
- Mounting & cabling components included
- 7/7 e-mail support
- Excellent technical specs, never seen in a 303
- new power-transistors or input/output-connectors
Plus: Completely gut and rebuild AC Input and Power Supply
circuits. Remove all excess wire and mount new Power Supply
and Output caps facing down (for better performance)
Supply and install 2nd P/S Cap (to strengthen Power Supply)
Supply and install all new capacitor mounting clamps
Custom wire new caps for their new position using audio grade
wire throughout and WIMA bypass caps on the Output Caps
Terminate all board-set connections with silver terminals and
heat shrink. Redo Grounds. Supply and install new Feet.
More Teardown and rebuild photos.
So… now the units are home, powering my ancient Mission Electronics bookshelf speakers, the 33 lodged temporarily above my HP Printer, and the 303 tucked in next door above my small filing space. I haven’t found a spot for the FM tuner yet, or the turntable but I epxect that will come. Weirdly enough the printer uses almost the same colour scheme as the Quad so they look pretty good together. The teak roll front office cabinet is also of ’70’s vintage so I have a pretty good combo going.
To add to the weird setup I have an IPhone 8 acting as my control unit, using a Western Digital MyCloud app connecting to a WD MyCloud 1 TeraByte File server in the basement,
which then streams my music (just over 90,000 tunes down there!) through a first generation Apple Airport Express tucked out of site, through that crazy expensive DIN to mini-stereo plug cable.
Now I can’t speak to whether this whole experiment has been rational or not, but I am listening to John Mayall’s, USA Union, through the same units I had when I bought the record (the record is still out in my garage, stored safely away with the other 600+)
so I guess there is some nostalgia value, and it seems right to me!