80s tech heaven

Perhaps this is outside the OoL political remit but it struck me that this post from my place might interest a few OoL readers as well. After all, it’s Saturday.

The boys’ talk was about what we bought way back when … and in their case, what they constructed. My amp, mentioned further down:

My own level of expertise was lower although I knew the insides of an amplifier. My adopted area was more “capable user”, making films with decks, reel to reels, mixers, usual stuff and I did the light and sound myself for plays and performances. Mounting par cans was all in a giddy ladder height’s work.

It started with Chuckles mentioning Long John Baldry and Old Alzheimers here said we used to play him all the time through the Celestion Ditton towers:

… although apparently haiku was more for the Magnaplanars:

Wish I could remember that street in London LJB was so enamoured of – that was during my gay-fraternization years [not telling porkies here – many tales of our camp parties].

Anyway, I moved on to Bose 501s, not 901s:

Fed by the Quad 33 pre-amp and 303 power-amp:


… with various things feeding into that, e.g. Nakamichi double deck which I can’t find a pic of, it being on an angle, with handles, top loading.  Tape was TDK SA 90 for home use:

… although for my radio programme, I had to use the reel to reel tape they’d supply and I’d do it at home on our machine – they deemed it good enough quality to broadcast.  They insisted I do it that way, not live because I was off my bloody rocker in those days and liable to do anything, on account of a Hawkwind show where certain danger entered the scene when I engaged a caller and told him he was a total Fwit.

By the way, we’ll run that LJB number in another post.  Wardour Street – remember it now.

Chuckles mentions:

I still own a Rotel surround sound system, and haiku (I think) is also still a Rotel user. 

Haiku, you see, is even silent in our private conversations, LOL.  I had a Rotel amp at one stage too – did it have an FM radio in it or am I imagining that?

Had one Naka, as well as Revox and Technics reel to reels over the years.

Never really used cassette much, except on the computer side in the 70s. Turntables were usually Linn, Rega planar, or Linn Sondek.

The British gear, both amplifiers and speakers, with one or two exceptions, were woefully under-powered in that era. Equally, much of the US speaker market was ridiculously inefficient, needing small power stations to drive them. And much of the Asian/Jap gear was chrome and flash, with hand-waving specifications.

Meaning quoted grunt per channel versus RMS total waveform?   My mixer/fader, I seem to recall, was TEAC but can’t remember – neat little unit. Chuckles again:

Mixers and such were homebrew or studio qual, like Neve and such, although in the 90s I had a couple of nice German Behringer systems.

And of course there was a fair bit of creating going on:

When two or more engineers are gathered together, an amplifier will be designed. This was the one to have:


Barney Oliver was VP of R&D at Hewlett Packard, back when HP was THE top electronics company in the world. You didn’t apply for a job there, you were invited to work there. That sort of thing. Their equipment was made to spec, not to price, and it was always better than anyone elses.

Haiku enters:

Linn was way out of my price league …

Mine too. Not sure but think mine was Garrard. Haiku:

Turntables tended to be Garrard 301s (not the 401) with an SME arm.


Like the later Technics 1200, much loved of DJs everywhere

Dangly bits

Haiku: “The platter of the 301 turntable was built like the proverbial brick s***house whereas the SME – with its dangling counter-weight – looked delicate but really wasn’t.”

Chuckles: “I reckon Garrard upped their sales by 500% minimum, just by having the strobe marks all the way round the platter. The Garrard Sp25 was also a hugely popular disco turntable. Ditto the SME3009. All the delicate dangly bits made it look seriously upmarket, which I suppose it was.”

Audio studio

In later years, way outside the remit of this post, I used to be fed into Sound Forge in the TV studios where I was the English voice for a bank.  Naturally I got talking to the engineer and soon had a version of Sound Forge at home – sheer bliss.  One could really dovetail near-undetectably and I made many a song to my taste that way.

Wave was a big thing in those days and I preferred to work that way.

Sound Forge:

7 comments for “80s tech heaven

  1. JimS
    March 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    Surely the Quad 33 is the pre-amp?

    I had a Connoisseur SAU2 pick up and the use of a Truxox PD86 (Dad’s) that I added a pair of FET play-back-only pre-amps so that I could monitor recordings.

    When away from home I preferred tape cassettes, the hiss was better than hearing a ‘click’ that you just knew would be predictable part of the record from then on. Thank goodness for CDs!

    • March 3, 2018 at 4:25 pm

      I would say yes and plead memory loss but I do recall another unit sitting under it which I thought was the preamp – no matter. I also recall something Rotel nearby.

      Jim, yes, I now remember – there was a bloody great amplifier to one side:


      So, what was that unit, same size as the 33, sitting underneath? Mystified.

      • Ripper
        March 4, 2018 at 5:35 am

        “So, what was that unit, same size as the 33, sitting underneath? Mystified.”

        In the picture in your link, that would be the Quad VHF/FM tuner.

        • March 4, 2018 at 12:57 pm

          Yep, it was. The Rotel had one too.

  2. Pcar
    March 3, 2018 at 11:34 pm


    I preferred BASF Chrome tapes and Dolby to reduce the “hiss”. Loathed the way so many turned Dolby Off and turned up treble, hiss was unbearable.

    Hawkwind? Lefties & LGBTxyz would ostracise you for that these days – Boy George & Marylin should have been your favs.

  3. Ripper
    March 4, 2018 at 5:27 am

    Not having a lot of money back then, Rotel was the best I could ever afford. Most of the time I built my own amps. The Americans and Japanese amps weren’t inefficient as such, they measure their wattage peak to peak whereas in the UK it was RMS.. RMS is 1.414 of the peak wattage and 2.828 of peak to peak, so the overall effect was that in the UK we used to see adverts for foreign amps with staggering amounts of wattage (on paper), that in real life sounded like a 3w tin box.

    As I learned in those days, the power amp didn’t really matter a lot, the sound quality was all in what you had as a preamp and the speakers you chose. In my case it was more often than not home made, linked to a Garrard (or even a BSR – its surprising what sound quality you could get from those, with a decent pick up) deck with the cheapest radio tuner and cassette deck. I always yearned to own Bose or B&O one day, but never did.

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