In the first of our new regular series Movers & Shakers Q&A, we quiz a range of local hi-fi stalwarts and legends to get behind the business to their guiding passions. It’s fitting that we begin with one of NZ’s most respected and committed audiophiles, Paul Quilter, founder of the Listening Post, owner of the best-sounding audition room in the country, and CEO of PQ Imports with its wide range of quality brands such as Cambridge Audio, Magnepan, Graham Slee, T+A and Ruark.
Hearing a mate’s system that he imported from overseas in 1972. It was a Sony turntable, amp and speakers and he played Close To The Edge by Yes.
Was there a singular epiphany where you heard what hi-fi could offer and went “WOW!”?
Hearing my Infinity IRS Betas driven by tube amps for the first time.
Have you always worked in hi-fi? If not, what did you do before, and what triggered the change?
I trained as a telephone technician when I left school, worked for the Post Office till 1976 and then got sick of Government Department politics and decided to get into retail. This decision was driven by dealings with the local electrical store over a TV set and the realisation that I could and would do a better job for customers than they were doing!
I took a job as manager of an electrical store and 18 months later decided to start my own retail store. The Listening Post was born – March 1, 1978.
Did your parents keep on asking when you were going to get a real job?
No, they told me that I had a month to get a job, and I did as I was told!
Was it a love of music or a love of the gear that inspired you?
Definitely a love of music – it had been a part of my daily life since I heard Radio Hauraki at around age 13 – late 1966.
What IS your favourite music, anyway?
It defies categorisation – but broadly speaking rock, indie, folk, pop, blues, not necessarily in that order. My friends and staff tell me that my music tastes are eclectic.
Music from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, or later (or before)?
From the 1950’s till today
What was the first hi-fi you owned and were really proud of?
The first one I bought was on my honeymoon in 1973. I almost had the shortest marriage on record with 4 days of the 6-day honeymoon spent in hi-fi shops on Norfolk Island. I bought a Pioneer PL12D turntable with Sony TA11 amplifier (which I still have) and Sony SS 610 speakers.
What are the hi-fi separates you aspire to own?
What I have now is about as far as I will go, although I may replace my Magnepan MG3.7i speakers with MG20.1’s
What’s your current hi-fi system in your home?
Connects to a VTL TP6.5 phono preamp via Transparent Ref XL interconnects.
The TP 6.5 in turn connects to a VTL TL7.5 preamp with Transparent XL balanced cables.
The power amps are VTL Siegfrieds, connecting to the speakers via Transparent XL speaker cables. The speakers are Magnepan 3.7i’s which are augmented by a pair of REL S2 subwoofers in the front corners.
How did you get into your current business, and how long has it been going?
I started the current importing business in 1986.
What makes your current business unique?
Name one really hot product you have on your books at the moment.
The GoldenEar Triton range of loudspeakers
What are your long-term plans for your business?
To leave it in great shape and pass it on to the next generation of hi-fi enthusiast.
Of course vinyl is better. True or false? Why/why not?
True – Yes, to my ears it is the best. Space, detail, air and ease, coupled with a realistic soundstage and a clear sense of bass instrument tonality and scale.
I’m a hi-res digital convert. True or false? Why/why not?
No, not really. I appreciate the format, convenience and portability, but am not convinced that it sounds better than other formats.
Lots of power is always better. True or false? Why/why not?
True in most cases. Some smaller powered amps can sound very lovely, but it is more about the matching of partnering gear than absolute power.
Valves all the way. True or false? Why/why not?
True. I moved to valves in 1984 and have not heard any solid state gear that would compel me to change.
Motorcycling is a great passion of mine, with certain other interests such as food, wine, photography, travel all being wound into the adventure.
Where do you think hi-fi is headed in the long run?
Music is a part of a person’s soul. It will vary, change and adapt, but a life without music would be depressing and dull. Music soothes, stimulates and inspires. I think that there will still be a market for physical media as the increase in numbers of vinyl being pressed is indicating. The vast majority of music however will be streamed. I think services such as Spotify and Tidal are what the average user wants. Those of us who are old school or enjoy the album artwork and the tactility of handling the music will still be buying vinyl.