Among the ancient castles, quaint houses, and picturesque countryside, Great Britain is actually a hotbed of high-end audio. Brands big and small pepper the island country from the southern coast to the northern highlands.
On a recent trip, I had the opportunity to visit three such storied companies: Bowers & Wilkins (speakers and headphones), Meridian (electronics and speakers), and Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles and Pink Floyd recorded).
It was a long day. OK, day and a half.
Getting up at 6 a.m. while you're on vacation isn't ideal. That it was little rainy (in London, shocker!) didn't help. From Paddington where I was staying, it was a quick trip south on the Circle line to Victoria station, and my train to Worthing, a tiny town on the southern coast. Home to B&W.
A taxi at the train station, when I gave him the address, said "Bowers & Wilkins, eh?" Like I said, not a big town.
Spread across a number of industrial buildings within walking distance to the water, B&W designs and tests its myriad products, and builds most of its high-end speakers.
For the full behind-the-scenes with videos, check out "Going behind the scenes at the Bowers & Wilkins factory."
After a quick lunch of surprisingly tasty mini-sandwiches, it was time for the second leg of my adventure. This time, it was a car bound north, back past London, to the town of Huntingdon, northwest of Cambridge.
Where Worthing looked the part of a British seaside town, Huntingdon looked every bit the little English hamlet, Tudor houses and all.
As Meridian is primarily an electronics company (though they make speakers too), their building was smaller than B&W's spread. Though the methods to manufacture electronics varies little across different companies and industries, what happens after production varies a lot. In Meridian's case, extensive testing of each board ensures that every product performs exactly as the designers intended.
For the full look (with videos), check out "Getting to know the Meridian Audio factory."
We wrapped up close to dinnertime, and it was another long drive back into London. While both tours were fantastic, the next day held the promise of something even more amazing: Abbey Road Studios.
If you're a fan of British rock, or even just British music in general, you've probably heard about Abbey Road Studios. The Beatles recorded all their albums there. Pink Floyd recorded nearly all of their greatest there. Radiohead, Queen, Oasis, and dozens of others did, too. Standing in a place with such history was incredible. Check out all the behind-the-scenes pictures, including the most expensive piano you've ever seen (and would never guess about):
For the full tour info, check out the aptly named "Take a tour of Abbey Road Studios."
In a day and a half I certainly got to see a fascinating cross-section of both ends of the British audio scene. From speakers and electronics to the actual recording spaces, it was a quite a treat for this audiophile.
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