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A Trip Down Memory Lane – Starting with the Master himself

marantz_1_saul_marantzToday I begin a series on the great legends behind some of the greatest products ever produced for home audio. Many of these legends are no longer living, but their products linger on. In fact, some of their products are still the best available, even to this day. More on that later.

This is my trip down memory lane. I ran into these legendary men by first experiencing some of their products. Many of these products I purchased on my own. I have never reviewed a product that was given to me by a manufacturer. (Fortunately I had some friends that loaned my a few legendary products along the way.)

The first quality piece of audio I bought was made by Saul Marantz. It was the remarkable Model 18 stereo receiver. It was quite a piece of engineering. It used a variation of Saul’s first solid state power amplifier, the Model 15. (The first solid state amplifiers sounded dreadful.) Saul’s amp was the first one to lick the crossover notch distortion problem. Tube amplifiers covered the full wavelength of sound, whereas in solid state, one bank of transistors covers the top of the waveform and the other the lower part. Switching smoothly between the two banks was a serious problem. The Model 15 solved the problem and sounded so much better than all the other solid state amps of its day.

The solid state FM tuner section of the Model 18 receiver was based, in small part, on Saul’s famous Model 10B tuner. There has been no tuner like it before or since. The 10B was a tubed product, bur the Model 18 borrowed some of its circuit design. The Model 18 also borrowed the idea of a builtin oscilloscope for tuning purposes. Take a look at this beauty below. I am sorry I ever sold it.

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On the upper left is the tiny oscilloscope. With it you could tune in each station with the least amount of distortion. If you had a directional roof antenna, you could tune out any multi path distortion (signals bouncing off surrounding buildings). Sometimes you had to tune slightly off center to get the best signal. The oscilloscope could be used to measure stereo separation between left and right channels as well as indicate if the signal was in phase. It was embarrassing once for a well known FM station to receive a call from me about their signal being out of phase. I was a novice, but my receive could help monitor the quality of their broadcast.

The stations were spaced evenly across the dial in a log scale. Notice the large tuning flywheel protruding on the upper right. The weighted flywheel made it easy to quickly run up and down the dial as well as to precisely tune in the region around each station.

There were push button switches and rotary switches that offered a complete control center. You could easily monitor a signal being taped by your tape deck with the original source. Of course, there were filters and tone controls, but I was too much of a purist to use them. My motto was just buy the best vinyl that you could find.

This product is very much viable today. Look for it on eBay and other outlets. Forget about buying any other Marantz receiver whose model number is greater than 18. This was the last one that Saul made and it is still the champ. He had to sell his company to Superscope shortly after the Model 18 began production. Some will say that he needed the money to help pay for the research and development of the Model 18. It was probable more because he was losing money on ever Model 10B tuner that he sold, which is His next product we will look at.

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The 10B tuner originally cost $500 (in mid 1960’s dollars). The price was later increased to $750, but Saul was still losing money on it. Sid Smith and Dick Sequerra were engineers who played significant roles it the developed of the 10B. Unfortunately, the development fatally overextended the company’s resources. Nevertheless, the 10B became Marantz’s signature product which helped established his legendary reputation.   Several years after I bought the Model 18 I was fortunate to be able to buy a reconditioned Model 10B. It was and is a masterpiece. Reviewer will tell you that is has long since been bested by tuners with much better specifications. In some cases that may be true, but in the case of purity of sound there is still nothing better.

Today you can still purchase one on the used market. I would advise against it. The cost will be astronomical and it will be expensive to maintain. Sadly, in most cases it would not be worth it because of the poor quality in today’s FM stations. (Forget digital broadcast.) However, in its day, when I listen to live broadcast from the Library of Congress auditorium on a Friday night over WETA in Washington, DC, it was the best sounding home audio available. Master tapes and imported vinyl could not match the transparency and purity of the sound of the magnificent Marantz Model 10B tuner!

Dahlquist-DQ10In his later year Saul helped cofound that Dahlquist Company, maker of the Dahlqvist DQ10 loudspeakers. Designed by Joh Dahlquist, the DQ10 speakers caused quite a stir in their day. Jon, who was an aerospace engineer, helped design the Rectilinear III speaker, which I once owned and enjoyed very much. The DQ10 speakers caused quite a stir in their day. In 1973 Saul and Jon were demonstrating the speaker at the NY HI FI show. Th speaker had the shape of the Quad 57 yet it was a dynamic speaker! There was a big sign that stated: “This is not an Electrostatic Loudspeaker.” At the time, there was not another American made speaker that sounded so alive. One of Saul’s great geniuses was to recognize talent and support it to the hilt. The DQ10 was a forerunner in phase and time aligned drives. It offered very good sound at a very reasonable price.

Hurray for the great Saul Marantz. He invented high end audio, but his products were not outrageously priced considering their overall quality and performance.

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