Remotely Interested

Explicit content warning[1]

Quad 77I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the remote control for my Quad 77 audio system. I will come back to that in a moment, but first of all, a word about hi-fi generally.

A while ago, I was walking my dog in the park, and chatting to someone who, until recently, was in the hi-fi business. He said that the business is now very largely dead, for two reasons.

First, pretty much everyone who wants a hi-fi system has already got one, and what is available on the market now is really no better than what they have already got. I challenged him about this: surely the quality of sound that one gets from the new generation of tiny speakers is pretty amazing, and he agreed that there had been significant improvements at the bottom of the market. But in terms of the best that is available, technology has really not moved on for 20 years or so.

Secondly, he remarked, young people are not interested in hi-fi. They have been brought up on lo-fi MP3 music and often feel rather uncomfortable with hi-fi. And what they stream from the internet is very lo-fi.[2]

Now, if you are reading this, and you are a hi-fi nut, please do not reply to this saying that the new Spanglewerta 4.0 high impedance crossover switch is a marked improvement on the old 3.8, and that when connected with the new plutonium coated plug-in connectors, you can actually feel the leather in Glenn Gould’s shoes when he kicks the piano in that seminal recording of Bach’s French Suites. Nor please tell me about the oral sensitivity of your darling child Octavian (whose acne is so angry you could boil an egg on it). By and large, the Quad 77 system that I bought 20 years ago is as good as anything I could buy today, and still delights.

With it, I bought the remote. It was expensive. About £150, which is quite a lot of money for a remote 20 years ago. It is a fairly sizeable object; about the size of a decent cigar box. Boasting two-way communication, the does number of things that ordinary remotes do not do, and the volume control is about the size of the wheel on an ocean liner. But for most of the 20 years, it hasn’t worked. It has a screen, which says when help is required, and what needs to be done in order automatically to fix it. But doing those things does not fix it.

I have sent it back to Cambridge (where it presumably earned its first degree) more than once. It works for a while when I get it back, and then loses its way again.

But serendipity, following yet another recent power cut[3], has led me to figure out how to fix it. This particular power cut was only for about half a second, but bizarrely it had the effect of bringing the remote back to life, after months of inactivity. After a good deal of subsequent experimentation, I have worked out how to resuscitate the Quad 77 Remote after it fails, and for the good of mankind, I set out the instructions here:

  • Turn off, and then physically disconnect, the Quad 77 amplifier from the mains;
  • Unplug the bus connector at the back of the amplifier to which ever unit is immediately above it (whether that be the tuner or the CD player);
  • Leave it for 20 minutes at least[4];
  • Reconnect the amplifier to the mains, and turn it on. It should be possible now to control the amplifier alone by the knobs on the front of the amplifier, and also from the remote;
  • Reconnect the bus connector at the back of the amplifier;
  • At this point, the remote will not recognise the tuner or the CD player, but if those units are activated by the knobs on the front of them the remote will, after a few moments, see those units, and be able to control them.

Is it worthwhile going through all of this palaver? Oh yes! Operating the remote is like taking my Bristol out for a drive on country roads on a crisp winter’s morning.



[1] This post contains explicit reference to hi-fi audio equipment. As such, it is unsuitable for women and children, who have no interest in such matters.

[2] I can testify to this. Sometime ago, I confessed to Louise that I wanted to listen to Strauss’s four last songs, but did not have a recording of it available. She said that was no problem, she could get it on Spotify. She could indeed, and we plugged her telephone into the hi-fi. It was terrible! It was like eating the most delicious pate de foie gras with a plastic spoon out of an empty tin of cat food in a Manchester alley during a rainstorm. So painful, in fact, that I had to turn it off.

[3] There are a lot of these in South Australia.

[4] Yes, 20 minutes. This seems a very long time in the world of electronics, where most things happen in microseconds. But we are talking cold turkey here, and there is something in the system which has a very long memory. Eventually, like a belief in communism acquired in youth, it eventually fades.



Filed under Culture, News from at home, Uncategorized

3 responses to “Remotely Interested

  1. So, after all that, turn it off and on again. Who would have thought? I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. I use a pair of forty year old Kef Concerto boxes for classical music and a pair of thirty year old Wharfdale boxes for the telly system. For the rest I have studio monitors, very clear, uncolored and very expensive. Modern A class amps are very good but as you say, garbage in, garbage out. Still, my top end hearing is gone so it matters little.

  2. Andrew Burr

    I think you need a walk in another park Phenell!

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