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by Michael Jones

32 years ago

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“Meanwhile, back in the real world”. I can’t remember where I first saw this saying in relation to audio, but it does seem an apt description of McLaren Audio. No ‘fly-by-night’ company, Zetka (the parent company of McLaren) has been established for some twenty four years.

Zetka started manufacturing road warning lights, and now manufacture electric fence energisers, road safety equipment, specialized lighting, and of course, audio equipment.

In 1978 the first 01 series McLaren audio products were released. The first two products were a moving coil headamp (model no. 101), and a phono preamp (201). A graphic equaliser followed, which proved to be extremely popular.

Next up were the pre and power amps that are still supplying music for many listeners around the country. The 501 bipolar power amp, and the 401, 601 and 601A preamps are still very popular, as is shown by their high resale value.

The advantages of MOS FETS (metal oxide semi-conductor field effect transistors) were obvious to the McLaren team, so obviously the next project was a MOS FET power amp. In fact there were two – the 701, followed by the 180 watt 801.

Professional amplifiers (for band P.A.’s and public address systems) require ruggedness, and above all, reliability. After all, a band does not want their PA to break down in the middle of a concert. Professional electronics was the next area to be tackled with the ZPE series.

With professional electronics it is best to talk with those who use and deal with them every day. While talking to a band outfitter on another matter, the subject of professional amplifiers came up. This gentleman had only nice things to say about the ZPE amplifiers.

Which brings us up to date with the McLaren 02 Series of amplifiers. While designed and built in New Zealand, they have been designed for the world market. The tooling up cost for the 02 series could not be justified for the New Zealand market alone.

McLaren Audio

Aimed largely at the American market, over 18 months of market research and design work went into the amplifiers. The way an amplifier looks (both inside and outside) proved to be an important factor for the American market, as well as a increasingly important factor in our market.

The front panels are anodised a champagne bronze colour, which is rather different from the usual black or silver. This was a deliberate move, as it makes the McLaren range stand out in the dealer showroom, while allowing the amplifiers to look very good in a home. It is a rare event for the inside of an amplifier to look beautiful, but that is an appropriate description for the internals of the preamps.

Looks are one thing, but what goes into the amplifier is more important to the end result – the sound – than how it looks. Talk to any audio designer and the one thing that is guaranteed to crop up in the conversation is the power supply. Bruce Crothers, McLaren’s audio engineer, described to me how each stage in the preamp has an individually regulated power supply.

The power amplifiers have also been designed with power supply aspects in mind, as well as isolation of stages. There are two power amps. The 702 is a 100 watt stereo model, with the 902 a 250 watt monoblock.

But all of the work would be wasted unless the product succeeds in selling both here and overseas. While selling steadily in New Zealand, 90% of production is successfully exported to the United States, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Italy.

It looks like another New Zealand audio success story…

(From the print magazine Zounds, December 1986)

Michael Jones's avatar

Written by:

Michael Jones

As the founder of AudioEnz it's been a large part of my life for thirty years. Thank you for being part of my last thirty years.

Posted in: Hi-Fi
Tags: mclaren audio