Retro Hi End Trivia Question

Does anyone remember the "Quatre Gain Cell" amplifier?

While thinking about various configurations for my latest "new" system, I found myself daydreaming about the "high end" room of my local dealer when I was still in school:

as I recall, a Thorens turntable with an Infinity black widow arm, the Apt Holman preamp, and Dahlquist DQ 10s and Dahlquist subwoofer driven by the mysterious "Quatre Gain Cell".

It sounded great -- the type of sound and music and fun that got me into this addiction where I am still unsuccessfully chasing the first high....

I would be interested in buying one of these amps for fun to put in a bedroom, but I never see or hear about them.
I remember these. They and the contemporaneous Rapaport Amp had a penchant for blowing up, as I recall. I think I saw one of the later on ebay recently!
Ahhh...the Rappaport amps....

When I worked in an audio store in high school and college, we took in a Rappaport pre amp in trade. The Orion guide as I recall, valued it at about fifty cents.

We practically couldn't give it away, despite the alleged "cult" reputation of the designer and original high price. Maybe this thread will evolve into a high end freak show of obscure components.

But does anyone remember the Quatre "Gain Cell"?
Yes. I owned one. Black, sharp edges, power switch on back.
Used it with DQ 10's. As I recall the midrange was quite good with a punchy bass. Overall the amp had a very airy quality about it and was good for its day. I would switch between it and Kenwood L-07M mono amps. Stopped using the Quatre 250C after it started making some "funny" noises. Was worried it would blow up and take my system with it. But it was fun nonetheless.
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I remember the thing and don't want to offend anyone but found it to sound unapealing. Viridian the Rapaport pre amps I have seen were solid state and also quite unalealing.
I tried a Gain Cell back in the very early '80's while searching for an amp to run my Acoustats properly, but it wasn't up to the task (nor were amps from Crown and Luxman- ended up with a Bryston that worked out splendidly), and haven't seen one since. Don't know how they worked with other speakers.

On the subject of hot-running amps, I used to have a Phase Linear 400 running a pair of ESS Rock Monitors, and that Phase would get hotter than my George Foreman grill!
Hey Cwlondon,

Hi-fi nostalgia. Totally perfect retro system. I remember the same setup. I worked at Infinity in the late-70's . . . weren't we meant to use the Black Widow with a Grado in order to be totally in step with the Best Thinking of the time? Quatre had their shop up the street somewhere in the San Fernando Valley at the time, too, I think. We young hi-fi nerds used to mess around with Great American Sound Ampzillas, too, until Infinity brought out their Bascom King-designed HCA (Hybrid Class A) fan-blown power amp. Ah -- getting to take the proto or a production piece home was quite a treat. Anyone else remember that amp?

Michael Elliott
Yes, I remember the Quatre Gain Cell amp. I bought one the weekend before I got married in October, 1978. It was systemed with an Audionics BT2 pre, a FONS TT and Maggy IIa's. It sounded and ran fine. Even though I had heard all the horror stories, the dealer I purchased it from assured me that thid model was the new improved one. The problem never manifested in my system. In the early 80's I had the amp mod/upgaded to a QMI 300 (I think that was the #). QMI was the company that purchased the Quatre name, technology and company. I replaced the Quatre with a Threshold S450e in 1992 but held on to Quatre. The power transformer did develop a mechanical hum but the hum was not audible through the speakers. About five years ago I gave it to my neighbor's son, who was just starting to get into audio. It went to college for five years (while the owner got an EE degree from the Univ. of MI) and it is still working fine today. The owner stated he is going to keep it and perform a DIY power supply change out and some other parts upgrade. He is into DIY big time now.

Some people have asked how long audio equipment will last and this shows they can last a long time (24 years)even when the odds are against it. I'm looking forward to the day I can hear the mod Quatre/QMI gain cell.
Michael Elliott -- Thanks. Yes, it was with a Grado. Or occasionally the old Denon (103?) moving coil. That must have been a popular set up. Exotic, inspiring and musical.

Perhaps I am just being sentimental and nostalgic but I would still swear that in many ways audio has gotten worse in the last 25 years. And I'm only 37. Not just trying to be an old stick in the mud or anything.

Let's hear more nostalgia!
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How about the Dunlap-Clarke amp? And the Koss electostatic speakers (NOT headphones - these things were huge), Dayton-Wright electrostatics, Watson Labs speakers from Canada, AEA amp & preamp from Winter Park, Florida.
I believe the Koss Electrostats were designed in part by Dr. West of Sound Lab fame. As I remember they were pretty good speakers - didn't they have a "wall wart" sort of powersupply? Dunlap Clarkes liked to combust, also. They either worked well and sounded good or flamed out...
Nope -- the Switching Class-D amp (or "SWAMP" as it was called in-house)predated the HCA by a couple years. It did fail spontaneously and the reason why was never learned despite considerable research. I think that model had just gone out of production when I came onboard at Infinity, and I helped the electronics department package the HCA for production.

Mike Elliott
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Gain cells, Koss, Beveridge, Cotter bases, Fulton Gold cables, 16 inch Fidelity Research tonearms...
Whimsical, often absurd, from musical to criminal, all Dr.Suess audio from that era is eclipsed by the Hill Plasmatronics. Speakers of refrigerator girth, the top 1/3 of the cabinet housed electronics, in the middle was a odor producing purple plasma tweeter, the bottom was home to a paper 15" and 8". But the feature that granted owners unchallenged bragging rights? 5 foot tall, 50 lb. capacity helium tanks hooked to each one! Yikes!
The sequence to turn on the two devices was a ritual of awe and fear. They made horrid clacking noises followed by the rush of escaping gas being detonated by several thousand volt lightning bolt like arcs! These things were better suited to a castle lab than listening room.
To this day, no other designer has had balls to put a backlit switch etched with the word "IGNITE" on a speaker.
I pulled a Quatre DG-250 out of a dumpster in Jan '01. It had three dated repair tags on it, the latest from '93. Figuring that it had been tossed because of internal meltdown, I powered it up by slowly applying mains voltage through a Variac and measured reasonable DC across the Foster's beer-can-sized filter caps. No DC on the outputs. Much better than I expected from a dumpster dive. In a fit of bravado, I hooked it up to my Snell C-1s and my SS preamp and listened for about 5 minutes before grit-induced fatigue set in. It turned out that at some point the output transistors and half of the driver transistors in one channel had been replaced, and the output stage bias current was set very low. Bringing the bias up to about 100mA got rid of most of the grit. Bass was firm but midrange seemed congested and treble was brittle. I much prefer my Audionics CC-2 modified for inverting input. Considering the outlay in time and money, the Quatre is OK, my guess is that the quasi-complimentary output stage holds it back and stability under load is questionable.
I use to work at the factory! I was the sales manager for about a year - selling amps direct, advertising in the classified section of the LA Times. When I was selling amps - which was highly rated and cutted edge and inexpensive (and gorgeous) - other high dealers were selling anything but amps.

The gain cell circuit allowed the amp to clip with even-ordered harmonics, which was one of the reasons it had a "liquid" (tube) like sound. The bass was simply the best there was at the time. Still pretty good. Bought one on eBay for sentimental purposes and was suprised how good it sounded - so dynamic. Kinda like my Creek 4340SE. If I can find the time I might compare the two.
I have a Dunlap-Clarke Dreadnaught 1000, and it's still in daily use after 28 years! It's built like a tank, and I use it to drive the woofers on my Infinity RS1s.
The sound is comparable to other '70s solid state amps in this genre; very similar to the Marantz 500.
Whoever these guys were that engineered it built it to last -- it's one of my favorite vintage components.
The Quatre Gain Cell, ah...yes. I remember all the horror stories about how unstable they were, and the loud transformer hum. I was always curious about that amp until one day, at a local flea market, I spotted one. It had a silver face plate with one of the top corners bent over backward on the faceplate. I took it home for $10.00.

Totally fearless, I put it into my system (Dayton Wright SPS mk3 preamp, Rega Planar II turntable with Grace 707 tonearm and Grace F9L cartridge, CM Labs 912a power amp, JSE's "infinite slope" top of the line monster size speakers on casters.

The amp powered up instsntly and sounded much better than my CM Labs 912a (but that 912a was a drop dead gorgeous amp with that bronze faceplate and those huge backlit meters, and the oak side panels).

There was a midrange airiness with the Quatre that I hadn't heard from any transistor amps. The openness and transparency was absolutely intoxicating - along with the loud hum I noticed when the music stopped playing.

I opened the amp up and couldn't believe how little was inside. The transformer was huge - and loose. I cut some rubber pads and was able to wedge them under the transformer, then retighten the bolts which were under the amp on the bottom plate. It cut the hum to at least 3/4 of what it was. I also decided to glue cut up rubber computer pads on the inside of the amp at strategically loacated places along the sides and underneath the top cover plate. That reduced the hum to where it was now mostly inaudible, even with the ear placed close up to the amp.

I eventually sold it, but still remember to this day how incredibly transparent and open that amp sounded - along with bass that pounded your chest.

Too bad the company couldn't overcome the early reputation for them being unstable.

Anyone know with what serial number they overcame the instability problem?
Wow - having started this thread over 5 years ago, I have only just recently taken delivery of what appears to be a perfectly preserved Quatre Gain Cell from an Audiogon seller.

Cosmetically, it is exactly as I remember it - compact, but heavy, with a single LED along the the bottom of the faceplate with the power switch in the back.

I have not yet had time to listen to it properly, but switching it on to make sure it worked, it seemed to sound surprisingly good.

Now I will have to find a mint condition Apt Holman pre amp and a pair of Dahlquist DQ 10s to complete this vintage system.

When I worked at Quatre, we would often receive the better gear of the day for comparison.

I remember the Rappaport preamp was the best thing out there. (I strongly disagree with an early post). The Rappaport wasn't built that well, but if it didn't shock you, it worked and worked great. I remember someone brough in a gorgeous, state of the FET preamp from Infinity. It sounded so bad we wondered if it there was something wrong with it. We also tried the Apt Holman, which I don't remember being terribly impressed with. People would rave about the (Holman designed) preamp section of the Advent 300 receiver (I loved the look - very military), but didn't think the preamp was at all impressive.

The Denons were good MC cartridges, but I remember the hot setup was the Supex. But they kinda varied from unit to unit. When you got a good one - wow - was it ever good. The "bad" ones were not bad, but a good one was simply awesome.

I remember someone bringing in a pair (this was mid-to late 70's) of speakers from a very new company called Vandersteen. They were the 2s - which sounded very good indeed. One of our dealers brought in another new-ish speaker at the time - the Rogers BBC LS35a's. Very impressive little speaker. They still sound pretty good.

And we were awed by an old pait of AR3a's with the DG250 - man did that amp have good bass - it just transformed the AR's bottom end which tended to be on the tubby side.


Excellent memory and thanks for more high end nostalgia.

I now recall that I borrowed the legendary Rappaport for one weekend from the dealer where I worked during high school.

I remember wondering if it was really any better than my Hafler DH101, and also thinking that I could scramble eggs on top of it if the kitchen stove didnt work.

The Advent receiver - yes I remember that one, too and the cult following for using it as a preamp.

Most people seemed to like the Apt preamp, so I would say you have a contrarian view there.
I have a Quatra DG250. Does anyone have any schematics? One of the channels is dead. Its a black anodized box with led meter on front.
Here is a high end trivia question for the analogue experts:

Circa 1980, there were some Absolute Sound recommended tweaks including:

"Platter Matter" a blue, sticky, sorbothaney platter pad...some other sticky stuff which could be applied in between the headshell and the cartridge, the underside of the platter, or heck - just about anywhere...

...and various after market record clamps including a beautifully machined, black metal clamp with a big silver, spring loaded button in the middle of the clamp.

The silver button expanded and contracted the hole in the clamp to grip the spindle of the turntable.

Could anyone recall what kind of record clamp this was?

Would love to find another one for my vintage collection.

Thank you,
Mr C- One such clamp was the Orsonic Disc Stabilizer(DS-250), which I'm holding in my hand at the moment(black body, silver button and all).

Thank you! Searching around Google images, yes, that is exactly the one.

A nice clamp, as I recall and still looks chunky and well made, even by todays standards.

So I might show you a bid should I decide to recreate my classic KD 500 turntable as part of the collection.

Of course will have to find a blue "platter matter" pad and replacement viscous fluid for the trough in the tonearm....

Thanks again.
Yes! I had one, using a Hafler DH-101 preamp(I built myself), an M&K satellite system, and a Luxman PD-121
table, with a SME arm, and a Supex 901 cartridge, and a Denon AU-320 phono preamp.

I am impressed with your vintage credentials.

Now I also remember I had a DH 101 (although definitely NOT built by myself) and a DH 200 at the time, powering Magneplanar MG 1Bs.

This was about 9th grade for me, so everything was funded by mowing lawns and delivering newspapers while conveniently placed smack in the middle of my parents' living room.

A Discwasher brand Zerostat would also come in handy then....

Those were the days!
Thanks! I guess I was about 25 yrs old at the time!
And had a Zerostat too! I liked the DH200, never got to try it though. I remember the Maggies, and after a while
with the M&K's, I tried the Spica TC-50's, with some
Belles Research power/pre stuff. I used to run around
town, to at least six different Hi-end audio stores,
bringing all my vinyl, and got to know some so well,
that they let me borrow equipment to try at home.
Those certainly were the days!
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Man, I just read this thread from End-2-end. Great stuff and stories.
I remember lusting after better stereo when I was a kid. The house Zenith just didn't get it done, even with the 2g tonearm!
I finally sold my RSL3600s (So Cal House brand, JBL4311 copy) and bought some original Magnepan MG-1s which I kept for near 25 years and thru 1 factory rebuild.
I recall the Quatre being sold locally in San Fernando Valley and advertised on LA Times classfied. I think Ahead Stereo was a dealer.

I owned Quatre book shelf speakers. Walnut enclosure was well made with small 4" woofer with front baffle covered with black RTV. It was a work horse thru my college years and annoyed lot of girls living below me in the UCSB dorm. One girls actually asked me to play girls on film as she kind miss not hearing it. LOL
Quatre speakers? Are you sure?
Boy does this thread take me the summer of 1977 when I stumbled into Paul Heath Audio in Rochester, NY and a whole new world of gear openend up before me...Ended up leaving with a Quatre Gain Cell..GAS Thoebe preamp...Ariston R11s TT which I still have and is being reconditioned as I write this with a Grace 707 and a new 2M Bronze cartridge...JR 149 speakers with M&K special interconnects or speakerwire were even back then..Quatre broke very did the GAS preamp...God has it been a journey since then
How about the SS Audire pre and power amps? Legato? Crescendo? Etc.

Back in the day, I bought a set of the pre and power amps at Crazy Eddie - a NYC based Home Electronics discount store - which had somehow gotten the line. The designer was Julian ?????, purportedly ex-Nasa.

Turntables were also in demand, more or less (IIRC) as follows:

B&O had the linear tonearms. Gerrard had the idler market, and Dual and (stretching the $) Thorens were the belt driven choices for common folks, with AR and Bic in more limited distribution. Linn was the emerging name for the big bux crowd, with CJ Walker, Coinessuer, and Systemdeck offering pretty decent Linn knock-offs priced somewhere in-between the Thorens and Linn models.

Micro Seiki was the high end Japanese unit and Technics, Sony, Denon, Kenwood, and Kyocera were the cheaper DD alternatives from Japan, equipped with S arms, straight arms, linear arms, fat arms, skinny arms, you name it.

Thems were the days.


Systemdeck! Now there's a memory.

How about the other Linn challenger the Pink Triangle turntable.

I remember one dealer tried to sell me on that by saying that Linn threatened to revoke his franchise if he sold Pink Triangle so he decided to switch....but I never believe anything Linn says.

Years after posting this thread, I found a Gain Cell in perfect cosmetic condition..

.I have rarely used it but it seems to work just fine and reminds me of the good old days....

How about Audionics of Oregon and/or the early Ampzillas?

The Denon turntables with the big glowing lights were really cool, too.
I know I'm coming to the party late, but I'm here now ... if anyone is still listening. I am frankly astonished that responses to an inquity about the Quatre Gain Cell is discussed as though it were a DS-250 power amp. However, the Gain Cell I bought, still have (serial 1011) and still use is a pre-preamp used to amplify the sub-millivolt output of a moving coil phono cartridge. It's powered by three "D" cell batteries. I was looking for a schematic for this product and stumbled upon this thread, among others. My Gain Cell finally died after about 40 years of service (left channel is about 30 dB down from the right channel). I can troubleshoot and fix it if I have a schematic. Is anyone familiar with THIS Quatre Gain Cell? Until this day I never knew it even had a model number ... everyone just called it the Gain Cell. But is does have one, silk screened on the back: DG-1. I could sure use a schematic for it. I really like the sound.


Lanny T.
I have a Quartre Gain Cell 250 bought a year ago from an EBay seller. Silver faceplate and excellent cosmetic condition! Haven't tried it out yet - still in storage. Wonder how it will sound with my DCM TW1A's (presently connected to a Son of Ampzilla/Thoebe preamp)? This particular combination sounds so good that I am reluctant to change. Back in 1977 The Audio Critic rated the Gain Cell higher than the Son, but faulted it on reliability. I will post if I make the change.