The Strathearn Story

Many will remember the British Leyland Motor Corporation, the nineteen seventies state owned purveyor of such automotive design masterpieces as the Morris Marina and Austin Allegro. A decade of industrial strife and dreadful quality ensured that BLMC’s dalliance with disaster was well publicised, but what many don’t know is that hi-fi had its very own equivalent, Strathearn Audio Limited…

Cast your mind back to 1973, a time of great growth for hi-fi manufacturing. Hoping to cash in on this, a government quango set up to stimulate Northern Ireland’s flagging economy decided that what Belfast needed was a hi-fi industry. Top civil service mandarins in Whitehall agreed, and faster than you could say ‘Yes, Minister’, the government earmarked £3 million from the public coffers to the infant company. With the help of the Northern Ireland Finance Committee, Strathearn commissioned Cambridge-based design centre, PA Technology and Science, to design a number of new hi-fi products. For their £350,000 fee PATS came up with all sorts of futuristic ideas, from a new type of parallel tracking tonearm and an electronic tracking force adjustment system to touch-sensitive switches and flat diaphragm loudspeaker transducers.

The most interesting thing to emerge was a new type of direct-drive motor which was particularly cheap to produce. This being 1973, the year that Technics’ swish direct-drives swept through Britain’s High Streets striking fear into every belt-propelled turntable on the market, Strathearn correctly identified that they were on to a winner. Gone would be the days of .....

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