collecting vintage audio equipment

collecting vintage audio equipment
For collectors, hi-fi very often means lo-tech and two or more parts of equipment where one would do. Most of us might be perfectly content with 'integrated' amplifiers - not so audiophiles who go for separate power- and pre-amps, even transformers.


Collectors love the lyrically warm-sounding valve amps from the 1950s and '60s compared with the punch to the ear of high power transistor (aka 'solid state') amps sold to an undiscerning public during the 'Seventies and 'Eighties. The former valve amps suited crooners like Donald Pears or
Frank Sinatra while hard rock required hard-edged aural delivery, furnished by solid state circuitry. Of the valve amps available, Peter recommends the Rogers Cadet, Leak TL12 or TL10, Quad 22 and Quad 44.


Today's casual buyer goes for media meltdown when buying a hi-fi. It's all about options - vinyl (rarely), audio cassette (an early convenience tool, now much maligned for its poor sonic reproduction ability), CD and mini- disc. The audio buff, by contrast, sets out a very neat shopping list. What raises the collector's pulse - and price - is quirky design and landmark innovation.
There is a strategy of sorts for collecting vintage hi-fi systems. The first step is completing a line-up. For example, a late 1960s' Ocean Boy 820 radio might come with its original Grundig sales literature, showing numerous other radios in the range. Many audiophiles would collect the entire range and display the framed blurb alongside the equipment.



collecting vintage audio equipment
Compatability is a must. The perfect partner for a Quad 33 pre-amp is a Quad 303 power amp while 'Eighties connoisseurs would combine a NAD 3020 amp with Dual deck and a pair of Mission 700 speakers. Back issues of enthusiast magazines from your chosen period will show the way.
Three years after the audio or compact cassette was invented in 1963, the Americans produced the eight-track cartridge and player, mainly as an in- car audio gadget, though you can find home players. These dashboard players (and cartridges) are highly sought after by collectors of classic cars - especially American metal - and can often be picked up cheaply at car boot sales. 



 Collectors often refer to iconic separates which cover any solo hi-fi item, such as an amp, tuner, receiver or turntable. The difference is that each will have been a triumph of classic (or kitsch) design or one which moved hi-fi on by a technical quantum leap.




collecting vintage audio equipment

Before discovering quality hi-fi sound, many readers will have been seduced by the unique 'Seventies hi-fi look of the Bank & Olufsen 3500 series. This receiver came with 19 click switches and unergonomic sliding controls. The B & 0 reeks of the Scandinavian design ethos of its period. It feels solid as a rock - largely because the Danes used the old washing machine technique of weighting the cast.


High on the list of the audiophile's shopping list for icons, however, would be the Garrard 301 turntable, dating from 1953. The 301 was Garrard's first tilt at a deck that could handle all three disc speeds: 78,45 and 33.3 revolutions per minute. Quickly seen as a reference quality piece of kit when launched, the 301 (and to a lesser degree, the 401 model that followed), is regarded now as a triumph of classic design.



collecting vintage audio equipment








The earliest 302 came in battleship grey enamel and enjoyed a unique agricultural feature that collectors find exquisitely endearing. The motor bearing came with a built-in grease cup which had a simple screw mechanism to distribute the contents - manually - round the motor as required. In 1957, Garrard changed the colour (always a bad sign) to a pinkish shade of ivory and, later that year, the grease had been replaced by oil. Other cost-cutting engineering ploys soon followed which is why today's collectors want, above all, the grey and greasy earliest 301s.





In addition, the 301 motors were big. They had to be powerful in order to carry great heavy pick-ups, trailing mainly on chunky 78 rpm records. Yet the 301 was often mounted on nothing more than plywood. What created the unwanted noise and movement was the flimsiness of the contemporary plinth: "A solid, heavy plinth cures 99% of all unwanted motor noise" writes hi-fi expert, Haden Boardman. In other words, the Garrard 301 was even better than anyone realised back in the 'Fifties!



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