1973 and all that – the best HiFi year ever?

2023 is a year of 50th anniversaries in both music and HiFi – which suggests that 1973 was possibly the best ever year for HiFi hobbyists with seminal contributions in both music and audio reproduction. In musical terms, we got both Tubular Bells and Dark Side of the Moon. Whilst Queen were several years away from their greatest work, they released their first album in July 1973. Emerson Lake and Palmer were at the peak of their powers with the release of Brain Salad Surgery and whilst the album wasn’t quite so well received at the time, tracks such as Karn Evil 9 came to define their output.

The year of the three-day week, strikes and the middle East oil crisis, left us a musical legacy few years can match. This creative outpouring was matched by the launch of some of the greatest British HiFi manufacturers.

The Linn Sondek LP12 was introduced to the market in 1973 and continues to be manufactured today. Its fundamental design incorporates a suspended sub-chassis arrangement with three points of support, effectively isolating the platter and the laminated tonearm board. The turntable includes an integrated power supply and employs a synchronous AC motor to drive an alloy subplatter connected by a flat rubber belt.

In its contemporary form, the LP12 comes in three variations:

1. The Majik version serves as an initial step on the LP12 series, offering foundational enhancements over the classic model. These improvements include a dedicated base board, power supply, and subchassis.

2. The Akurate iteration incorporates several upgrades that propelled the LP12 into the modern era. These enhancements consist of the Trampolin base board, the kore aluminum sub-chassis, and the lingo power supply.

3. The Klimax model represents the pinnacle of LP12 performance, encompassing the full array of premium Linn upgrades such as the Keel subchassis, the Radikal power supply, and the Trampolin base board.

For its 50th anniversary, Linn have launched a special anniversary limited edition with design input from former Apple designer, Sir Jonny Ive. It is a credit to the original design how much this special edition looks like the 1973 edition.

Naim Audio also made its debut in 1973. Prior to that, in 1969, the founder of Naim Audio, Julian Vereker, shifted his focus from constructing his own racing cars to experimenting with amplifiers.

In 1972, he secured a contract to provide audio equipment to the fledgling radio station, Capital Radio. The successful design emerged as the NAM 502, a compact amalgamation of an early Naim Audio power amplifier and speaker drive units housed in a single cabinet.

Following the triumph at Capital Radio, Naim Audio was formally established in 1973, with Julian Vereker and co-founder Shirley Clarke serving as directors. Situated in a shop in Salisbury’s heart, their inaugural headquarters encompassed both manufacturing and demonstration facilities.

Naim Audio introduced its first residential consumer product in 1973: the NAP 200 power amplifier. Originally conceived in 1971, subsequent iterations of their power amplifiers exhibit significant technological advancements while maintaining the consistent pursuit of performance benchmarks like speed, rhythm, and timing.

Naim’s 50th-anniversary product is a special anniversary edition of its 1983 Nait amplifier. Looking like the original, but with modern electronics inside it offers 25W of power per channel with peaks of 225W, and three analogue inputs, including a discrete transistor MM phono stage.

The final British Marque launched in 1973 was Rega Research launched in Southend-on-Sea. The origin of Rega Research can be traced back to its founder, Roy Gandy, who initiated his journey by offering custom-made equipment to his acquaintances. His initial substantial breakthrough emerged when he began providing a nearby audio store with his creations. The store owner promptly recognized Gandy’s remarkable talent for designing turntables, leading to a fruitful collaboration. As adept entrepreneurs, they formed a partnership, establishing their first workspace initially above the Southend shop and later converting a residence, which Gandy skillfully transformed into an improvised manufacturing facility.

The first Rega turntable, the Planet, was launched in 1975. The mainstay of the Rega range has been the Planar 3 launched in 1977 and in continuous production since then in various guises: Planar 3 (1977–2000) (2016-), P3 (2000–2007), P3-24 (2007–2012), RP3 (2012–2016) and Planar 3(P3) (2016-present). Rega launched a P3 50th Anniversary model in 2023.

All three companies have expanded into a range of products. Since the golden year of 1973, vinyl has gone and come back, CD has come and largely gone, and streaming has arrived, but the three great British manufacturers who started in 1973 are still here producing equipment to listen to the classic music from the same year.

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