In honour of the Queen’s 60th Diamond Jubilee anniversary and all things British, Hi-Fi Hunter presents a run down of the best British Hi-Fi gear the has been released at each of the previous anniversaries of the Queens Elizabeth II’s reign.
1952 – Accession
Quad II Monoblock Power Amplifier
On 6 February 1952, Elizabeth II became Queen of England and Great Britain declared it had nuclear capability. In the same year Peter J. Walker O.B.E. designed the classic Quad II valve amplifier, one of, if not the first decent domestic amplifier. A class-a, push-pull monoblock design with 15 watts of output and featuring a pair of the infamous KT66 valves. Still highly sought after today and still available from Quad brand new, built to the same design.
Hunt down Quad II
1962 – 10 year anniversary
Radford MA15 Mk2
After just 10 years on the throne, the swinging ’60s saw massive cultural change, world war 3 was averted during the Cuban missile crisis and a little known band made their debut at the Marquee club in Wardour Street, London – The Rolling Stones. In the Hi-Fi press Arthur Radford and Arthur R. Bailey were writing about their new valve amplifier designs, initially intended as construction kits for enthusiasts. However these later went on to become the highly successful commercial products, the STA15/STA25, MA15/MA25 stereo/mono power amps and the SC2 preamplifier. The former power amplifiers are what Radford are remembered for, with the STA25 even making a comeback in 1987.
Hunt down Radford STA
1972 – 20 year anniversary
Linn Sondek LP12
With Betsy having been on the throne 20 years, times were hard, high unemployment, miner strikes and the ‘Bloody Sunday’ shootings in Northern Ireland. To this backdrop, Linn released their first product, the infamous Sondek LP12. Setup by Ivor Tiefenbrun in Glasgow, Linn were an offshoot of Castle Precision Engineering, however the LP12 changed everything. It featured a similar 3-point suspended chassis design to the Swiss Thorens TD-150, but refined it further. Through effective marketing and cult following the LP12 went from strength to strength, continually evolving and is still considered the baseline to compare all other turntables against.
Hunt down Linn LP12
1977 – Silver Jubilee (25 years)
Bang & Olufsen Beomaster 1900 and Rega Planar 3
In 1997, the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee and was honoured by popular contemporary musicians of the day, The Sex Pistols with their song “God Save The Queen”. Elsewhere, Bang & Olufsen, who have always been known for their innovative product design, released the Beomaster 1900 to wide spread acclaim. It was stereo FM receiver with 30W output, low distortion rates and a unique slimline chassis design, with surface touch buttons (no pressure sensors here). On all accounts a winner, a design classic and one of B&O’s all time best sellers.
In the same year Rega released their long standing favourite, the Planar 3 turntable. Hand built to this day in their Southend factory, Rega have sold insane numbers, in many colours, all over the world. It’s simple, yet refined design has been a hot bed for mods and tweaks making it the budget turntable to buy.
1982 – 30 year anniversary
Creek Audio Founded and launch 4040 amp
The Queen hit her pearl anniversary in 1982, but had a rude surprise when Michael Fagan broke into her bedroom at Buckingham palace. In the same year Creek Audio hit the British Hi-Fi scene with a bang and launched their first product, the CAS4040, an entry level integrated amplifier. It gave top notch sound for a bargain price, sold in vast numbers and spawned a multitude of revisions. Such that, even today the second hand market is littered with instances, all great candidates for those on a budget.
Hunt down Creek 4040
1992 – 40 year anniversary
Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus
After wearing the crown for 40 years, in 1992, things weren’t all ruby for the Royals. The Queen started paying income tax for the first time, many other royals lost income from taxpayers and of course Prince Charles and Princess Diana divorced. However Britpop and Cool Britannia are just getting started. Long time cool Brit speaker manufacturers Bowers & Wilkins were busy working away on their revolutionary Nautilus speakers. Albeit, not launched until 1993, these high end speakers are like nothing else out there, basing their transmission line design on a tapered horn spiral, mimicking nature at it’s most beautiful.
2002 Golden Jubilee (50 years)
Naim AV2 and Meridian 557
2002 saw the introduction of the Euro currency, the passing away of the Queen’s mother and of course the Queen’s golden jubilee. At this time surround sound and home cinema was in full swing, to the extent the big British Hi-Fi names were taking it very seriously. The Naims AV2 was right at the top of this trend, featuring the latest digital processing of the day and combining it with the high quality musical capabilities Naim are well known for.
Another company no stranger to the surround sound trend is Meridian, but also well known for their 557 power amplifier released in 2002. A high powered 200W, dual mono design highly regarded for its effortless power and clean sound.
2012 – Diamond Jubilee (60 years)
Finally we come to the this weekend, when Queen Elizabeth II celebrates 60 years on the throne. But what product will we look back on in the future and consider a great British legend?
There are of course a multitude of great examples of British gear from other top British firms, both past and current, but alas there are just too many to include them all.