Tag Archives: hi-fi

October 21st 1975

“Trip to London – Audio Fair = great!, Design centre = yawn!, London Motor Show = great bar crawl!”

I wish I had commented on who I went with and how we all got to London. The latter I suspect would have been via the train, but surely I didn’t venture to all these things by myself?….

I think this was my one and only London Audio Fair. I remember feeling daunted by all the stereo equipment on show and how everyone looking at and testing the new shiny boxes were all so very much older – and thus, to my mind, wiser – than me.

The only online reference I could find to the show was a review of it published in the December 1975 edition of Gramophone Magazine, which I have précised below, acknowledging their copyright in the content…

DISAPPOINTMENT could be seen on the faces of most people at this year’s London Audio Fair: it could even be read between the lines on the faces of those salesmen accustomed to dissemble, ie hide their true feelings behind a mask of bonhomie and apparent optimism. The number of exhibitors was disappointing. The quality of exhibitors was just as varied as usual, but there were many more British absentees than foreigners in proportion and this produced a rather uncomfortable air of being transported to other shores. The poor showing by British manufacturers seemed particularly ironic in view of the recently launched “Buy British” campaigns. Attendance was disappointing too, despite the programme of pop concerts and disc-jockey radio items. This must in part be because advance publicity was rather sparse this year, and the 75p admission charge may have put some people off. 
(© Gramophone Magazine Dec 1975)

Looks like a I wasted a whole 75p?!

Oh how I wish I could relive certain portions of my life… like today when I visited the London Design Centre

The London Design Centre was an offshoot of the Council of Industrial Design, itself dreamt up by the British government’s Board of Trade at the tail end of the 2nd World War. The Council’s objective was to promote the improvement of design in the production of UK-manufactured goods.

The council was renamed The Design Council and in 1956 the Design Centre was opened to the public in London’s Haymarket. It combined floating exhibitions with examples of stand out British design and proved popular with both regular consumers and manufacturers (looking for ideas for their products) alike.

This day in 1975 I described my time there as “yawn” suggesting it was a boring side event to the day’s proceedings. I am hugely embarrassed by this as I am sure that – now – I would be old enough to fully appreciate it and describe it with abject glee instead. Such is a teenager’s mind!

It may be that I was ‘saving all my concentration’ for the Motor Show, specifically the described ‘great bar crawl

The first British Motor Show took place way back in 1903 and it was held every year in London until 1976 when it moved to the vast National Exhibition Centre (N.E.C.)  in Birmingham where it became a biannual event. The show got cancelled in 2009, other events undermining its appeal to traders and the public.

The shows were a chance for vehicle and accessory manufacturers to show off their new wares, sometimes aided by a plethora of scantily-clad women who would drape themselves, somewhat unflatteringly, across the bonnets of the cars.

The cars on show would vary from the mundanely ugly (like the hideous Austin Allegro Mk.2 – seen below on the left) to the stunningly beautiful Series 3 E-Type V12 Jaguar (below right)

Other well-known cars which made their debut at the 1975 show include the Lotus Esprit (one of the most famous cars – along with the Aston Martin DB5 – to appear in James Bond movies), the omnipresent Volkswagon Golf and the Jensen Interceptor Coupe.

But, like I have said, my fascination we probably less for the cars than the huge number of bars that surrounded the display floor, all offering ‘liquid beverage’ and all, apparently, extremely lax in checking that their customers were of a legal drinking age. You gotta love Britain in the 70’s!


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September 24th 1975

“Really damn boring at college all day. Went to Lawbak’s Hi-Fi show – not bad. Went up Holly’s house in evening”

The life of a 17-year old eh? “Boring at college”… I have no idea what that really means, but maybe all teenagers go through it?

It’s a shame that I had return to my ‘blogging ways’ with such a boring mundane entry… sorry about that… just as I am for letting the project lapse for the past few months. Long story that I won’t bore you with right now.

I tried to research them, but it’s weird that a retailer like Lawbak’s – a regular advertiser in the back of the hi-fi magazines as I recall – seems to have absolutely no reference online whatsoever. I do remember that companies like Lawbak would hold regular little hi-fi exhibitions at the main hall of the Fleming Park Sports Centre in Eastleigh, and that, sad little sack that I was, I would attend almost all of them.

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September 4th 1975

“Took my speakers in. Sounds like tweeter’s gone again”

Uh-oh… how will I hear the high notes on my Emerson, Lake & Palmer albums?

“In”… where exactly is “in”?

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July 5th 1975

“Start a new job next Saturday at Dixons – will get £4 a day plus commission”

Remember my letter to Dixons back in April?

Well it looks as if my planned defection from the record industry – or maybe my foresight about how things were panning out at Francis Records? – paid off?

I can’t remember ever having an interview, so maybe they hired me based entirely on the contents of that letter?

So, I’d swapped life behind a record shop counter for the equally attractive (at least to this geeky 17-year-old) hi-fi market.

Dixons (a name apparently chosen at random from the phone book) started life in 1937 as a photographic studio in Southend. The business, started by Charles Kalms, was one of the few which flourished during WWII because there was high demand for family portraits and photographic services.

Charles’ son Stanley took over the business in 1950 and he started not only advertising in specialist camera magazines but also selling camera equipment, eventually needing considerable staff numbers to deal with the 60,000 mail order customers it attracted every month.

Dixons grew and grew, added a colour processing laboratory to its ‘photographic’ mix as well as expanding the numbers of stores it owned and opening up floorspace to the then (in the 70’s) public interest in all things ‘hi-fi’

Which is about where I came in.

How would this career change pan out? You will have to wait and see.

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April 1st 1975

“Sold old amp to Roger’s Dad for £15”

Bye-bye then 18-month-old Alba amp which represented my first hi-fi purchase.

It means my new amp only ‘really’ cost me £25.

Yes, let’s continue to qualify this more recent purchase, Mr “70’s Hi-Fi geek”, shall we?!

Whilst I still search for a good online photo of the old Alba amp, here’s an archived review page from 1975 for one very much like it taken from Gramophone magazine.

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March 29th 1975

“Bought new Amp: Prinzsound SA3001 £39.95”

Rather than being any kind of major manufacturer, Prinzsound was actually an in-house brand of the Dixons chain of high street shops. Given this, I think most people in the seventies who were hi-fi ‘geeks’ (and who would have normally eschewed what was considered ‘cheap rubbish’) were surprised to read über-glowing reviews of the SA3001 amplifier in many of the respected hi-fi magazines.

Hi-fi magazines which yours truly devoured from cover to cover. Yep, reviews which impressed me enough to fork out almost £40 on a new amp, a mere 18 months after I bought my last one.

That photo above is actually the SA4100 which came a while later, but the design of my SA3001 was very similar. Brushed aluminium and real wood side panels. A relatively simple and minimalistic design, certainly when compared to the ludicrous pieces of equipment I would buy later in my life.

I’ve more recently discovered that Prinzsound equipment was actually rebranded items from a company called Weltron, a Japanese manufacturer who actually came up with something of a design classic.

The spaceman-helmet inspired radio/8-track player seen on the left turns up time and time again in films and TV shows set in the seventies and spawned a whole slew of imitations, including a full-sized console that housed a record deck, amp, cassette player and tuner. There were even matching armchairs!

My diary may call me a liar a few months down the line but I do believe my Prinzsound amp served me well for quite some time.

The Dixons chain would also play a brief, but important part of my life in 1975… all of which will be revealed in future EFA70sTRO entries.

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March 10th 1975

“Got Pioneer PL12D”

It was a mere 18 months earlier when I bought my first proper hi-fi system, containing the Garrard SP25 MkII record deck.

Seems as if in the interim I had been eagerly reading all those hi-fi magazines I used to buy and had my head swayed by the reviews of this Pioneer PL12D? An upgrade was in order!

It really was a beautiful piece of kit. Counterbalance weight on the back of the arm, open-form headshell, anti-skipping adjustment, nice finish and easy to use.

I chose well. Very well indeed. I may well have worked through a handful of cartridges and/or styli, but this record deck lasted years, decades even, and was still in use right up until I sold my home and gave away many of its contents to friends before moving to the USA.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t looked for another one on eBay to regain a little bit of my youth.

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January 27th 1975

“Sold Tims cartridge for him”

God this is frustrating sometimes.

Who to, and for how much? That’s all I ask of myself really.

I don’t think this was the first time I’d sold something like this, but who exactly were my customers? Maybe I was far more geeky about all this hi-fi stuff than my diary suggests? Maybe I spent a lot of time in the company of other ‘geeks’ swapping notes and comment about this piece of equipment or that hi-fi magazine?

I certainly don’t remember being anything but a teenager merely interested in hi-fi, so perhaps the truth is more along the lines of someone saying “I need to get a new cartridge” and me replying “Hey, I know someone selling theirs“?

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