When I was three, I remember sitting in the living room towered over by shelves full of records – his collection was huge, around 12,000 albums. Dad would put on ELO’s “Mr Blue Sky”, the first track I remember ever hearing. There was a lot of ABBA then too, and jazz - Dad’s heart and soul. The most frequent artist on rotation was his musical hero, Miles Davis.
For over 40 years the music set up in our family home never changed. Dad’s 1970s Rega Planar turntable would sit proudly centre stage, with his Quad amp on the shelf underneath. On either side stood his huge (wives used to joke that that is where they would hang washing to dry) Quad Electrostat speakers.
“The better the setup, the better the sound” he used to say. It wasn’t just about the album that you’d put on. Speakers were (are!) there to enhance your listening experience – and he taught me that their placement was even more important than where the record player was if I wanted optimum sound quality.
I am so glad I grew up being introduced to music via vinyl and that warm, rich, deep sound that those of the digital age just, generally, don’t know. The analogue format, which can be overlooked by many, is what allows artists to transport their music from magnetic tape to LP to your speakers without the complications of digital conversion. This, in theory, is the closest you can get to what the artist intended. It is a more open sound, which means more is heard. Another Dad lesson.
All these years later here I sit with my Ruark MR1s, placed as Dad would have them, pushing out incredibly powerful sound, despite being so compact. With big speakers you can get lost in the bass, but here with the MR1s there is clarity of sound, and real articulation of vocals. It’s clear that Ruark get the concept of ‘true sound’ – the detail and accurate timbre of each note, because that is what these speakers deliver every time I listen to them.
In June 2013 Dad and I started an Instagram passion project together which turned out to be so special for both of us: @dadsdiscdelights. The first photo on this account was Dad with Miles Davis (of course!). Dad would select an album he loved from his collection and write about it, and I would shoot the photo. We spent hours together in his music room, pushing all the furniture out the way so I could shoot with depth where needed. We continued this project together up until he sadly passed away, and I have continued to run the account to pass on the wisdom and passion he shared with me.
Even though he passed only eight years ago, I think he would be amazed by how speaker technology and design has progressed during that time. The sound of Dad’s vinyl on my Ruark MR1 system is astonishing. They sound larger than they are with good bass and a delicious treble. I’ve tried several musical styles: Sufjan Stevens and his feats of orchestration sang through. Elbow’s One Day Like This sounded majestic. But jazz…jazz always inspired my Dad - whether it was Jelly Roll Morton, Gerry Mulligan, or Gil Evans - so for Dad I stuck on his first pressing of Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’. The sound of Dad’s favourite track ‘So What’ knocked me out – amazing tonality from the MR1s and a hint of magic. I wish Dad was here to experience this sound again. But I know if he did, he would describe it with a word he often used: tasty.
I’ll leave you with a few rules of thumb that I’ve learnt over the years to help you get the best turntable/speaker set-up:
- Have a stable, heavy, and flat surface to put your record player on
- It’s better that your speakers and record player don’t share the same surface to avoid the passing of vibrations from the speakers though to your turntable.
- Speakers should be placed at roughly ear height from your chosen listening position. If you’re sitting on the sofa, your speakers should be around the height of your ears when sat down.
- You should also make sure that your speakers are not flush against a wall.