September 26, 2021 marked the first major live stream of the season! And we kicked off big time with two wonderful systems. One from the Netherlands and one from the United Kingdom. Yes: Van Medevoort versus Bowers & Wikins and Quad. Let the games begin
Now we could go straight to the slot and describe how the two systems sound. But we’re not going to do that yet. Before we start listening, let’s walk past the candidates. That would be a bit more polite, wouldn’t it?
In the Dutch corner we have a complete system from Van Medevoort. Founded in 1985, Van Medevoort is a solid pillar in the Dutch hi-fi landscape.
Ad Van Medevoort – founder of the company – had gained a lot of experience at other companies before 1985. And he poured that experience into the first series of products; a series of dynamic speakers – the 2.5 series – and not long afterwards an electrostatic speaker: the EE / EB. We are now writing the end of ’86. Van Medevoort’s focus is primarily on electrostatic speakers. His opinion is that there is no better technology than a line-source electrostatic. It is phase accurate, generates low distortion and because of the thinner panel, the radiating behavior is also favorable for a living room. The reproduction of the bass, Van Medevoort continues to do with a dynamic anti-resonance unit, because a fullrange electrostat does not work, in his opinion; it colors too much and has too little bandwidth.
To properly drive an electrostatic, however, a stable amplifier is needed. And that came not much later – 1989 – in the form of the MA220. In the decades that followed, many products were added and of course the existing line was renewed and improved. With the addition of cables, filters and sources Van Medevoort is one of the few companies that can deliver a complete system: from interlinks and electronics to speakers.
Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins was founded in 1966 by John Bowers in Sussex, England. The iconic company made their name with their DM series and later 800 series. Funny detail is that Audioscript from the Netherlands was the first international distributor of Bowers & Wilkins. Right… two years after the brand was founded.
Now it goes too far to cover the complete lineup, but those who go through history will see that there are a few principles that are still being applied. First, of course, the Nautilus tubes; invented and developed by Laurence Dickie (now owner of Vivid Audio) for the Nautilus introduced in ’93. The first Bowers & Wilkins Nautilus is, of course, the prime example. We see these anti-resonance tubes in all glory used externally with the tweeter, but they are more widely used.
A second point is the woven midrange unit. First Kevlar, now Continuum. This discovery was made around ’76 by John Bowers himself who experimented a lot with shapes, materials and of course; bracing the cabinets. The first speaker with Kevlar is the DM6 which many enthusiasts will still remember.
Finally, the Matrix technology that made cabinets much stiffer and therefore took away coloration. The 800 series from ’87 were the first models with this Matrix technology. Unfortunately, this is also the year that John Bowers passed away and John Dibb took over the design part. Not that John Dibb didn’t make good designs; quite the contrary. Look at the Silver Signature and the Nautilus. Still iconic speakers within the brand!
Quad Electroacoustics… Now here is an icon! Whoever mentions QUAD mentions the 33 and 303. The cubes from England. Introduced in ’67 to, among other things, drive electrostats in a decent way. After all: QUAD then already had the ESL57 and later the ESL63. Both very successful models. So successful that the ESL 57 remained in production until 1996. Unbelievable.
But of course there is more to tell about QUAD. A company founded by Peter Walker in London. Initially S.P Fildelity Sound Systems. Only later did it become Acoustical Manufacturing only to rename everything to QUAD in 1983, which was actually a kind of type designation for the QUAD 1 tube amplifier. So officially the QUAD 33 and 303 are still from Acoustical Manufacturing…. though no one will care about that.
QUAD has put out a lot of interesting products over the years. The 44 / 404, the 66 / 606, the 99 / 909 and of course the ESLs which are still made today in the form of the ESL-2812 and ESL-2912. However, the 33 and the 404 proved to be the most successful if we look at numbers.