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Audio Cults – My Stereo from the ’70s and the Cult I Was In

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A bit of a strange coincidence occurred not long ago. I found an old commentary describing the speakers I used to own, part of a discussion explaining why I have never wanted to settle for small speakers.

At the same time I saw a fellow on Audiogon was selling the electrostatic tweeter array for the very same speaker I owned, the RTR 280DR. Let me tell you, it really took me back; I haven’t seen a pair in over twenty years. 

Here is the story from the old listing talking about the RTRs, sparked by a discussion of Demo Discs.

Fooled Again

I was duped into buying my first real audiophile speaker, Infinity Monitors, when the clever salesman played Sheffield’s S9 through them. I desperately wanted them then and there. It was only later when I got home with them that none of my other records sounded as good, or even good for that matter. That was my first exposure to a Direct to Disc recording. To this day I can still picture the room the Infinity’s were playing in; it really was a watershed moment in my audiophile life.

And of course I couldn’t wait to get rid of them once I heard them in my own system with my own records. I quickly traded them in for a pair of RTR 280DR’s. Now that was a great speaker! 15 panel RTR Electrostatic unit for the highs; lots of woofers and mids and even a piezo tweeter for the rest. More than 5 feet tall and well over 100 pounds each, that speaker ROCKED.

This was the mid-’70s, more than forty five years ago, and I am proud to say I have never owned a small speaker since.

I’ve heard a lot of them — some good, most of them not so good — but that’s not a sound I could ever live with.

Small speakers can do many things well; that is not at issue.

What small speakers don’t do is move enough air to bring the music on the recordings to life in a way that gives meaning to the term Hi-Fidelity. In my opinion of course.

Right around 1976 I went from the RTRs to Fulton’s famous J Speaker (seen below), a slightly larger and  better (or so I thought at the time) version of the RTR.

It was the Stereophile State-of-the-Art Cost-No-Object speaker for many years, a distinction it shared with the Infinity Servo Stat 1.

Audio Cults

I was a member of the Fulton cult for more than a decade, owning Fulton brand everything to the extent that it was possible, as if one company could possibly have a lock on good sound.

I rail against audio cults at the drop of the hat, partly because all-one-brand systems never sound good, and partly because I know what it’s like to “buy into” that kind of thinking instead of learning to listen critically for yourself.

Let’s face it, sad as it may be: most audiophiles would rather be told what sounds good than figure it out for themselves.

How else to explain all the bad sounding equipment and awful audiophile records that are in most audiophile’s listening rooms?


What Recordings Are Audiophile Writers Writing About Now I Wonder?

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In the early seventies, when I was first becoming seriously interested in audiophile equipment, this was a well-known Demo Disc at some high-end audio salons.

Five years later I would have speakers larger and more expensive in real dollars than the speakers I now own. At a tender age I acquired Stereophile’s cost no object, state-of-the-art speaker system from the mid-’70s, the Fulton J. I was the youngest person ever to own a pair of the behemoths, a record that has never and will never be broken I suspect.

The other monster speaker from that time was the Infinity Servo-Static 1A, which I auditioned before buying the Fultons. During the audition the electrostatic drivers kept blowing if the level got up too high, so that was the end of that. Who wants a speaker that can’t play at realistic sound levels?

Of course, many of you may never have heard of Carmen McRae’s The Great American Songbook album, because the heyday for this record was probably 30-40 years ago, back when the audiophile magazines were actually writing about exceptionally natural, realistic recordings such as this one.

I don’t know what they write about now; I stopped reading them years ago. But I doubt very much that they are still writing about recordings of this quality.

What’s striking about this album is how immediate and unprocessed everything sounds. It really gives you the feeling of being at a live show in a club. It helps that the performance was captured directly onto analog tape with minimal miking. Michael Cuscuna was the remix supervisor, by the way.