Inside the factories making the world’s top hi-fi equipment

By in Features, Turntables & Tech



How turntables, speakers and amplifiers are made.

We take these three items for granted. Together they comprise the essential components of every hi-fi system, but while we know how records themselves are made, it struck us as altogether less obvious when talking about the mechanics behind turntables, speakers, and amplifiers.

VF set out to explore the factories and workshops where these three essential components are made. What follows is a behind-the-scenes look at a the processes and production lines the UK’s leading turntable maker Rega Research, esteemed speaker company Bowers & Wilkins, and iconic amplifier manufacturer McIntosh.

The turntable: Rega

From humble beginnings in the ’70s, Roy Gandy’s Rega has become one of the most popular affordable turntable makers in the world. From their factory in Southend, Rega now make over 4,000 turntables every month.

One of those is the RP8 – one of the brand’s flagship models. With everything done by hand – not least the painfully intricate job of winding the microscopic coils on Rega’s cartridges – we asked Simon Webster to talk us through the process, bit by pain-staking bit.

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The amplifier: McIntosh Labs

With their iconic blue-panelled power meters and logo, McIntosh amplifiers are among the most visually recognisable in the world, garnering something of a cult following unusual in the world of high-end audio.

Highly coveted for the authority and clarity of their sound as much as the striking nature of its design, McIntosh’s amplifiers also boast a rich history, dating back over seventy years, and are responsible for powering The Grateful Dead’s “Wall of Sound” and, more recently, James Murphy & 2manyDJs Despacio sound system among many others.

Here we visited McIntosh in Binghamton, New York, to see how the amplifiers are assembled, from the soldering of the electrics, to the hand-wound output transformers.

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The speakers: Bowers & Wilkins

Down on the south coast of England lies the facility where Bowers & Wilkins’ flagship 800 Series Diamond Range, and its extravagant sidekick, the Nautilus range speakers are made.

Assembled and finished on site, from the beach and birch plywood that forms the cabinets to the hour+ polishing sessions that make the 800 Series some of the most visually arresting on the market, the speakers also pride themselves on simplicity when it comes to the internal nuts and bolts.

And with 38 engineers dedicated to “developing the most extreme ways to push loudspeaker design”, it’s no surprise, they look and sound like they do.

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