The Pre-Amplifier that Revolutionized Hi-Fi
There is a short list of signature technologies in audio history that changed the listening landscape, bringing new ideas and levels of performance that created audio experiences unlike any heard before.
For hi-fi lovers, the Marantz Audio Consolette is a true industry disruptor with a place at the top of this list.
The story of the Audio Consolette begins with Saul Marantz and the inconsistencies in 78 rpm records from the early 1950s, before the founding of the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) and its corresponding equalization standards.
From Varying Standards to Setting New Ones
From their introduction in the late 1890s, 78 rpm records featured equalizations set by the recording studios producing them. This lack of standards created a wide range of sound and, well, inconsistent listening experiences.
Not satisfied with the sound quality of his record collection, Saul set out to correct this. His goal was to create a pre-amplifier that could connect to any amplifier and deliver a cleaner sound that better matched what the artists intended in their performances.
Working from his home in Kew Gardens, New York, Saul experimented with multiple designs. His first models of the Audio Consolette went on sale in the fall of 1952. In 1953, Sid Smith, joined Saul to upgrade and improve the design, which led to the Marantz Model 1. A music lover and scholar who learned electronics as a young radio technician in World War II, Sid went on to engineer multiple products for Marantz and become a legendary name in sound reproduction himself.
Even after the new RIAA equalization standards of 1955, the Audio Consolette and its successors were revered by audiophiles for their audio alchemy and musical sound.
A Somewhat Simple Work of Genius
The Audio Consolette is a mono-tube pre-amplifier. As the name suggests, the pre-amplifier is the first stop for audio signals before they travel into the amplifier and then speakers. It handles switching between line level sources and boosts he signal. The unit features three vacuum tubes—two for the phono circuits and one for the modification of the sound to the power amplifier outputs. Even with today’s electronics, some audio pursuits still prefer the warm sound powered by tube amplifiers.
While not overly complicated electronically, the Audio Consolette featured high quality components rarely used in commercial products. As stated in a 1954 advertisement for the unit, “eighteen of the resistors used are of the low-noise carbon type.”
The capacitors used in the pre-amp are lovingly referred to as “bumblebees” or “black beautifies.” Details such as a suspended Bakelite plaque on the capacitor mounts make a big difference in sound quality. With a frequency response of 1db from 20 to 40,000cps, the Audio Consolette includes features such as a seven-position selector switch, bass and treble equalization, bass and treble control, a loudness compensator, and a high-frequency cutoff filter.
The cabinet for each unit features two wooden side panels that support a golden, perforated dress grille atop the pre-amp. The assembly is fixed in the back with brass wood screws. While some confuse the Model 1 with the Audio Consolette, you can quickly spot the difference in that the Model 1 has more of the traditional Marantz cabinet.
The Future Sounds Incredible
It’s been nearly 70 years since the Audio Consolette changed music listening forever. Still desired by audiophiles and hi-fi collectors to this day, the pre-amp is as hard to find as it is beloved. Estimates vary, but some believe there are only around 100 original Audio Consolettes.
But for those who prefer not to invest in this rare piece of audio history, there is good news. The new Marantz amplifiers continue our legacy of uncompromising attention to detail.
For example, like the premium parts used in the Audio Consolette, the Marantz MODEL 30 amplifier is built on its own discrete circuit board, the Hyper-Dynamic Amplifier Module or HDAM. By custom-curating hundreds of individual parts versus adopting off-the-shelf solutions, the MODEL 30 significantly outperforms standard integrated circuits to create the unique musicality you always expect from Marantz. It, too, will make your old 78rpm records sound incredible.
We invite you to view the MODEL 30 and learn more about its unmatched performance here.