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quad 303 or radford sta15

Discussion in 'classic' started by anderson4209, Sep 7, 2021.

  1. anderson4209

    anderson4209 pfm Member

    Any opinions please
  2. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I’ve actually had both in my system driving the Tannoys! It’s an odd question as they are so hugely different with regards to price and general perception, but my conclusion was I really liked both and I very much enjoy not burning through vintage Mullard EL34s (a quad of which were fitted to the STA 15 in question)!

    Subjectively in this precise context the Radford had a really lovely liquid and transparent mid that edges the 303 (which is still good in this regard for a solid state amp IMO), the 303 maybe a little more weight, a slightly warmer balance. The thing that surprised me is much as I liked the Radford (and it really is superb, I very much liked it) it didn’t make me want to go shopping as I expected it would - I was half expecting to go Radford hunting later that day. It turns out I’m perfectly content where I am, though it needs to be said I gave both amps the easiest ride one can really, 95db Monitor Golds in huge cabs playing fairly quietly in a small room really doesn’t challenge either amp! I suspect in some other contexts the Radford would pull much further ahead.
  3. Gervais Cote

    Gervais Cote Predator

    For rhythmic music, 303, for music with oboe, trumpet and the likes, the Radford really sings like many other amps can’t, it’s almost magic to me.
    Despite its vintage look, the Radford is one of the best amps ever made IMO.
    nmtjb likes this.
  4. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Agreed, there is something very special about the way the Radford did sax, trumpet etc (we stuck mainly jazz through it).

    One other thing that needs to be factored is the Radford is hotter than the (already sensitive) 303 input gain wise, so it will take careful matching to modern preamps just the way vintage Leaks do. The more efficient the speakers the more this may be an issue. Should be a great match with a passive, though it did work nicely with my Verdier on its lowest output setting even if the vol knobs were a bit twitchy.
  5. Mike P

    Mike P Trade: Pickwell Audio

    As Tony has already hinted at in his excellent posts above, we really need more context. They're really rather different beasts.

    What speakers and pre-amp will it be partnered with?

    How many hours per week do you expect to use it?

    Presumably a good example of either is within your budget?
  6. anderson4209

    anderson4209 pfm Member

    Hi Tony, i agree with the quad being warmer im running rogers export monitors, with quad 44, the Radford sounds very good
    but can be slightly edgy at times, the 303 just sounds so easy to listen to, dosent show up poorer
  7. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I’d try another preamp, maybe a really good passive, before making any firm decisions. Neither power amp should sound edgy at all and I’d maybe point the finger at the 44 there, especially in the context of modern high-level digital, and even more so if it hasn’t been fully serviced.
  8. Dowser

    Dowser Learning to bodge again..

    No experience with the sta-15, but I still remember swapping a rebuilt 303 into my system (driving ESL63s) a few years back and loving it- it was there for 4-6 months before I swapped back to my normal DIY SE hybrid monos…and was simply stunned at what I’d gained.I personally think the 303 is an amp that does nothing wrong…but can be easily bettered. I still have the 303, will likely never sell, but it’s now a backup amp.
    Gervais Cote likes this.
  9. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    The Radford is in a completely different league to the Quad!! The question is like asking "Fiat Uno or Ferrari?"
    mik_rik and Gervais Cote like this.
  10. Nagraboy

    Nagraboy Ausculta fili

    Radfords have buzzing transformer covers which meant I had to pass mine on. Probably ok if it’s going in a closed cabinet as probably they would’ve been in the 60s. The 303 is nice and quiet and stress-free as it’s so cheap and also easy to repair. One of my favourite amps with my 15 Ohm LS3/5a speakers but now my spare due to the arrival of a Leak 20.
    TonyScarlett likes this.
  11. Jowcol

    Jowcol pfm Member

    I'm intrigued to see that Mr Colloms rates the Quad 303 as almost junk,
    the Radford (STA 25) as very little better than junk (not really a 'different league'),
    and that other well-regarded classic the Krell KSA 50 as between the two.
    So all of them scrap really.
  12. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Subjective opinions are, as ever, like arseholes. Especially ones presented as fact or with some self-assigned authority. The reality is both the Quad and Radford have stood the test of time well enough to have obtained a sought-after classic status in a market where very, very few products ever do. Countless people still enjoy these amps half a century or more since they were designed and I’m sure many more will continue to do so for decades yet to come. That is pretty much the definition of good design IMHO.
    calorgas, Darren, Darmok and 3 others like this.
  13. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    Mr Colloms’ point system is absurd. What does he test with anyway?
  14. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I’ve always found that aspect quite bizarre as I do any ‘absolutism/fundamentalism’ with audio. If I’ve learned anything in the past 45 years or so it is that some combinations of products work beautifully, and others just don’t. Some of that will be down to external factors (room, installation, context, volume expectations, listening distance etc etc). As such I just can not take anyone’s absolutes even remotely seriously. It’s just bonkers, even if there is a lot of really good interesting opinion in the rest of the review (I have no issue whatsoever with someone liking or disliking anything as long as it is presented as the opinion piece it is).

    PS For clarity I have no issue with Martin Colloms whatsoever, I’m really not having a dig here, I just don’t see how an absolute numerical scale can possibly work in an ever changing hi-fi system and the human reality of fading memories. I’m often surprised by how good my memory is, e.g. I clearly remembered what my original JR149s were like, that when I got them my current pair fell well short, and that by the time I’d finished the restoration they performed as I remember, but no way in hell would I be able to assign a percentage score to that. I just remember their basic sonic character, strengths, weaknesses etc. It is the same with anything I have heard or owned, I can articulate basic character, what I liked, what didn’t appeal, but no way in hell would I want to ‘rank’ stuff as, like everyone else, I’m only basing my opinion on one or two specific contexts in a whole world of possibilities.
  15. Arkless Electronics

    Arkless Electronics Trade: Amp design and repairs.

    Wow that's hilarious! He rates crap like Naim and Audio Note really highly and various excellent amps WAY below them... He must be deaf!

    I don't rate the 303 much at all but the Radford and Krell I rate as some of the best amps ever made.
    Darren and nmtjb like this.
  16. canonman

    canonman pfm Member

    Even more interested that he has rated the only example in the world of a Quad 202
    narabdela and mandryka like this.
  17. Robert

    Robert Tapehead


    Runs cool, eco friendly, easy to maintain, compact, quiet, low distortion, fully regulated PSU, bulletproof, and used as intended with speakers of nominally 6 Ohms and above - what goes in comes out louder.

    Oh and many still work fine (if not to factory spec) after 50 years.

    The very definition of a quality classic!
  18. chartz

    chartz If it’s broke fix it!

    When I got my 303 many passive components were on their way out and yet it seemed to work fine.
    And it did!
    My DIY valve amp runs on 25 year-old (GE) valves and components. So valve stuff can also be reliable. Especially if power valves are not pushed too hard.
  19. Darren

    Darren Doin' the Southern Freeeez

    Martin Colloms isn't infallible. I've owned at least one component designed by him and several that he really highly rated at the time. They were all terrible. I wouldn't set much store by his ratings.
    narabdela likes this.
  20. mandryka

    mandryka pfm Member

    You won't have to worry about turning the Quad off, or using it in hot weather.

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