Philips Black Tulip

Philips Black TulipDon’t you just love Philips? Virtually every time this ingenious Dutch consumer electronics giant went anywhere near serious hi-fi, it all went horribly wrong. Such was the ‘Black Tulip’ range – the company’s portfolio of avowedly high end late nineteen seventies esoterica designed to take on the Brits and the Japs in one fell swoop. Unfortunately it made about as much impact on the audio market as a DAF Variomatic around Silverstone…

To the Dutch, black tulips are considered the rarest and most beautiful of flora – well, Philips was right about the ‘rare’ bit at least, as no one bought any. The main problem was that, as the name suggests, these separates were black when this was about as trendy as a Vanden Plas Allegro. Silver was sexy, and the Japanese mass market practice of producing god-awful audio and putting it into big brushed aluminium boxes festooned with massive chrome knobs worked a treat. Only Philips’ conceit could have convinced the marketing men that it could change folks’ tastes overnight.

The tragedy is that the preamplfiers, power amps and tuners weren’t half bad. As well made as anything the Japanese were doing at the price, they actually sounded quite a bit sweeter. The black brushed aluminium fascias also looked quite neat – if only Philips had done them five years later, it could probably have cleaned up. It didn’t of course, and the ‘Black Turnips’ bombed


  1. Tim Hart

    I have a tuner, table, amp. Except they are not black. Not been used in boxes for 30 odd years.

  2. Mark Barrs

    In the late 70’s this was my dream system but couldn’t find anywhere that sold it.

  3. John Wilde

    Saw a full Philips Black Tulip Stack system at the Ideal Home exhibition at Earls Court in the mid 1970s and wanted instantly. Then saw the price £1500 and later that day, in the same place, bought a very stylish slim-line Sanyo music centre in brushed silver for £100. It worked well enough but I blew the speakers within a short time and upgraded but still to another music centre, just with more power. Years later I had a temporary job as a Currys van driver – too many stories! – and offered a guy £50 px for his system, it was all we were allowed to offer. He refused, rightly.

  4. Martin Redwood

    I have a stack. It was amazing. I need a replacement timer, top piece. The control centre.

  5. Richard Harris

    As I write this I am listening to a CD (spinning on a Philips CD200 player, about 35 years old) playing through ‘Black Tulip’ motional feedback speakers – these were the swan song of the MFB speakers, to my (admittedly somewhat jaded) ears it still sounds good. I have the record deck shown in the picture above in a cupboard upstairs, I think it still works but it is too big to fit in the cabinet with the CD player.

  6. Rich C.

    Wow, this ‘rack’ system looks very much ahead of its time and bears many similarities aesthetic-wise with Revox’s separates units of the early 80s era, particularly the red-coloured digital LED displays on the radio tuner and digital timer units.

    Just a pity the tape position indicator on the cassette deck is of the (then) conventional rotating 3-digit numerical ‘cog’ type, rather than the (then-newer) digital LED display type like on the other units described above. That, combined with the illuminated VU meters, would have looked well and truly amazing.

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