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During the mid ‘60s, Les found himself between jobs having completed an electrical apprenticeship in the mining industry after leaving school then observing the certain demise of coal powered energy. Moving into the field of auto electrical engineering for some fifteen years seemed a logical step but clambering about under heavy vehicles especially during the winter months, eventually lost its appeal. However, working on electronic systems then coming on stream, began to hold a greater, more enjoyable attraction.  Solid state control of charging systems and audio installations loomed large during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s and this is where Les’s appetite really resided so enrolling in a college course for electronics ensued. (this led to Les taking the C&G RAE (Radio Amateur Exam – later becoming a local lecturer for the course).

He experimented with the Naim system of his friends and not only built power supplies for their pre-amps but substantially altered the circuits of these and the power amps.  Soon, the word spread and requests to perform the work for other owners began to flow in.  The same principles he’d applied to the Naims were found to work well with, amongst other models, the so-called ‘current dumping’ circuits of the Quad range of power amps and over the years, 174 examples of the Quad 405 passed through the workshops to be enjoyed anew by their owners.

In order to keep the lights on, servicing audio kit for local dealerships provided a meagre income but allowed access to some of the world’s more esoteric products – more investigations into circuits resulted.

Around this time, Les struck up a relationship with John Michell who asked to have a power supply designed for his then revolutionary Girodek and later, formed a friendship with Tony Miller, the owner of J.E. Sugden.  Having helped in solving problems with a pre-amp design, Les was commissioned, over the course of the next couple of years, to design a pre-amp power supply and ultimately, a complete pre/power combo – the top of the range AU51c pre and the AU51p power amp came to fruition from the Les’s drawing board to find acclaim with the reviewers.

Phil. A. Voyd

Noting well the variable results after setting up a suspended chassis turntable, experiments began to eliminate those problems.  The first problem seemed the simplest to overcome – that of the inconsistent pull of the drive system during play so a solution of adding an extra motor at 180 degrees to the original overcame this variable in a deceptively easy fashion.

Les had no plans to build turntables but did the same conversion for the Heybrook TT1 which although received well by Peter C., was never taken up by them.  A version of the drive system was introduced to Logic and although briefly made as the Gemini by them, was too late to save the company.

Around this time, Les had been introduced to two fellows who were studying at Sheffield Uni and who agreed on a handshake to take the design along with my invented name Phil. A.Voyd (you get it now.?) to make a turntable under licence.  The handshake ultimately turned out to hold little value to the students so an alternative path started to open up for Les.

A new company – Reference Music Systems Ltd was formed to bring the Genesis and many other new projects to market and at this time, the Revelation range of metal loudspeakers was born. Having a lucidity and detail retrieval unknown with wooden boxes, the sound was perhaps a little too advanced for the time.  The cabinet technology and the appearance did not gel with retailers over 25 years ago and derisory comments ranged from ‘looks like a traffic light’ or a ‘Dalek’ were passed back.  However, look at the format with the integral leg as a stand in the context of models today and ask who got there first.  Subsequent years have resulted in the modest numbers made standing the test of time.  In achieving an almost cult status they are currently changing hands at a price in well excess of the original marketed price.

The Stands Unique Connection

A offshoot of the thinking behind certain aspects of the turntable were found to have applications in HiFi system supports so a link was forged with Stands Unique of Northamptonshire headed by the very talented Rod Keith.  To begin, the so-called ‘Widget’ the deceptively simple brass and carbon fibre gizmo you could quickly plant under any item with instant results, sold by the thousand.  There followed more elaborate pieces such as the RFS – Reference Floor Support and the RWS – turntable wall support, each achieving much acclaim amongst dealerships with the resulting repeat orders.  Sadly, Stands Unique Ltd closed with the early retirement of the owners and along with the closure, came the end of Reference Music Systems Ltd.

Back to the Roots

The early work for Les always held the suspicion there was some more to be gained and therefore self-satisfaction never played a part in day-to-day thinking.  Power supplies occupied much of the thinking time – the speed of delivery, the rate of change in time with the musical signal being reproduced and even more importantly, the ability of a power supply to revert to its original state once the music stops were all crucial matters for consideration.  Hours of reading revealed little or nothing about these properties of power supplies so the ‘burning of midnight oil’ became the order of the day (or late night as it transpired) for self-education.

Les makes no secret of his affection for valve amplifiers having serviced many over the years and indeed, a collaboration with the late Doug Dunlop of Concordant Audio resulted in some novel thinking into his designs along with producing for Doug, a solid-state power amplifier – the Exemplar – which incidentally was mistaken for a valve design until folks looked inside.  This enjoyable period sadly ended with the untimely passing of dear Doug.

For several years, Les and a couple of friends organised the Chesterfield HiFi Show firstly in the town and as requests to take part outgrew the hotel, moved to the outskirts of the town.  Subsequent further expansion of interest took the event to the Palace Hotel in Buxton where it enjoyed more success during 1994 & 1995 eventually moving back to Chesterfield for 1996 & 1997 when the last event took place.

Tom Fletcher, Nottingham Analogue owner, was a solid and faithful supporter of the HiFi show and Avondale where many an hour discussing the merits of all things audio became a pleasant interlude once in a while.  Les met with Tom a few days before his sad passing when a few tears were shed saying goodbyes.

Naturally, whilst all the fun products were coming into reality, the lights had remain firmly on so work began to improve some mass market ‘status quo’ products.  The kit produced by Naim Audio came clearly into the spotlight as being plentiful, well made, easy if not elementary to work on and the appetite for owners to continually upgrade existing designs was already established.  The RCA circuit as it’s now firmly acknowledged to be, appeared first on the drawing board and much experience has since been accumulated about the whys and wherefores of this design and its limitations.  Several iterations of the NCC200 came about to be loved by appreciative users and only recently, a new design variant was launched – the NCC220 Qudos module.

Responding to requests for more power than the present NCC models could produce – the NCC300 came into the world being specifically designed to be fitted to the Naim 135 amplifiers whilst exploiting all the previously unused potential of the power supply as fitted at the factory resulting in a 150+ Watts output against the original 70 Watts.

Although the NCC series proved to be very popular Les hasn’t stood still and an earlier design – the SE series was recently resurrected after some pleading by folks having been exposed to the outstanding performance.

The SE circuit has been recently updated and the power output capabilities increased to meet modern standards.

Research into old and new projects races on at speed and such designs as the Magnetrak tonearm, the BMF (Balanced Mains Filter), the Graduation MK2 pre-amp are but a few of the projects well advanced into reality but awaiting sufficient finance to manufacture in realistic numbers.

Approaching 80 years of age, the enthusiasm for new concepts and his energy for improving the listening experience for his customers, is a constant source of inspiration & energy for Les.  Since being joined by his colleague Gavin, the likelihood of many more years of Avondale Audio products giving such pleasure, has become a very solid prospect.