Quad 405 power amplifier Sam Tellig and the 405-2
"You bought Quads again!"
Now my son really thought the old man was nuts. In my last installment, I told you how I sold my Quad ESL-63 speakers. A little later, I sold my Quad 34 preamplifier and 405-2 power amplifier. Unlike the speakers, however, the 34 preamp and 405-2 power amp were two pieces of equipment I wished I hadn't sold.
Once again, I find myself at odds with other audiophiles (footnote 1). The prevailing wisdom seems to be that the Quad ESL-63 speakers are super (indeed, they are very good) while the Quad electronics are, well, less than super. I'd put it the other way around.
It's strange. Even some Quad dealers are down on the electronics—perhaps because there are better choices for driving the ESL-63 speakers. In my opinion, the ESL-63 does a little better with tube gear (like the Quicksilver mono tube amps) or MOSFET amps (like the B&K ST- 140) than they do with Quad's own 405-2. What's overlooked, though, is how well the Quad 405-2 amplifier works with other speakers, the Spendor SP-l, for instance...
By way of preface, I'll first tell you of the joys of owning Quad electronics. First, they look nice. The 405-2 power amp is remarkably compact and good-looking. Second, it's beautifully built. Though not as lavishly put together as some all-out, price-no-object American power amps, parts quality is high, construction superb. Third, it is beautifully designed—a great deal of thought has gone into it.
Moreover, Quad electronics are known for their reliability. And they are well-behaved...The 405-2 power amp uses current limiting (another audiophile no-no), with the benefit that it is almost guaranteed not to destroy speakers. True, you can't blast away the way you can with other 100Wpc power amps, but the 405-2 was never intended for those who see their hi-fi systems as toys.
Quad doesn't keep changing models, so there's no phony obsolescence. They do make changes from time to time (witness their recent upgrade of the 34), but Quad owners are usually able to update their equipment easily and economically In fact, Quad has been known to supply some updates free, on request, for those who feel comfortable servicing their own units. But here's the payoff: you probably won't want to trade your 405-2 for a new model next year or the year after, because there probably won't be one.
The 405-2 power amp is very neutral, with just a slight touch of transistor hardness in the upper registers. It's more detailed than most MOSFET power amps, but not quite as sweet as MOSFETS or tubes. The 405-2, with its current limiting, is capable of dynamic bass, but doesn't have quite the kick of a Harman/Kardon hk870, a Threshold 5/150, or an Eagle 2. The 405-2 is probably a poor choice for driving difficult, low-impedance loads, such as Acoustats or Apogees.
Overall, though, the 405-2 is difficult to fault. I have yet to hear a perfect power amp, and the 405-2 is as good a combination of qualities as I've heard at the price....I can just hear Ross Walker groaning about this, but you might also try putting your 405-2 on Mod Squad TipToes or Sumiko Counterfeet. It's exciting what this can do, especially when combined with spiked speaker stands and a Target turntable shelf.
For me, the exciting thing about Quad components is that they offer a true alternative to typical hi-fi equipment. The equipment is beautifully built, handsomely designed, very reliable, and a triumph of ergonomics. Instead of questionable features and fashionable buzzwords, you get unusual features representing original thought and respect for the consumer. At $650 for the power amp, the price isn't exactly cheap, but the 405-2 represents good value. And you won't feel stupid tomorrow for having bought it today (footnote 2).—Sam Tellig
Footnote 1: Sam's biggest heresy by far in this department is his refusal to even buy audiophile records. He not only doesn't listen to them, he doesn't even own any! But you should see the records he does own (thousands of them); they're used so much, the spines are unreadable.—Larry Archibald
Footnote 2: This must be the audiophile's version of "But will he (she) respect me in the morning?"—Larry Archibald