The Case for Vintage

At the Stereo Lab, we get asked frequently why someone should pay $1000 or more for a 50 year old stereo system. The answer is multi faceted. In the 1970’s Japanese audio companies were competing fiercely for every dollar and they built very nice, very robust and very good sounding gear. We hear about the “wattage” wars that raged throughout the 1970’s by brands like Marantz, Pioneer, Sansui and Kenwood, each trying to outdo the other in terms of raw power, total harmonic distortion numbers and every other measure. This competition allowed for some great product.

Today these pieces have withstood the test of time and are still providing joy to music lovers all over the world. A vintage piece can be fixed, usually, this is because the design was such that discreet parts could be identified and replaced if faulty. The idea was, if your piece broke, it could be repaired by a trained technician. Starting about 1980 the manufacturers began to make parts and designs that maximized profit over durability or audio fidelity. Then came the semi conductor revolution, computer chips began to be the norm for powering and controlling consumer audio gear. This allowed for the home theater system to be born. The 5.2 system was two main speakers, two rear speakers, a center channel and a subwoofer. This system requires computers to decode the surround sound signal. Combine this with a general trend toward cheaper builds and compromises on sound quality and you have an entire generation of consumer audio gear that is not aging well at all. Typically these pieces are black as opposed to silver and have tac switches instead of large pots and controls etc.

We also get asked what the best sounding gear is today. For the money vintage is the way to go, dollar for dollar and pound for pound vintage gear sounds fantastic, has great statistics and will continue to delight for years to come. However, if you want to jump into the high end audiophile pool, there are any number of very expensive brands and styles to choose from. We are talking tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. We are not that type of dealer, we occasionally get a very high end brand but mostly we focus on the good stuff from the era when a regular person could afford and enjoy fabulous sound at home.

Be sure to visit Stereo Lab at 4538 Indianola, Ave in Columbus, Ohio and see our selection of used gear. We nearly always have some Marantz, Sansui and Pioneer in stock. All of our gear has been serviced by a pro, and carries a 90 day warranty (if purchased in store).