In my previous post I introduced you to the concept of vintage audio. In this new writing I would like to provide some guidelines to keep in mind when you want to buy some vintage audio equipment.
Why would you in the first place buy this old, vintage material? Nowadays you have tons of features on your modern device. You can connect whatever music source via Bluetooth, Wifi, cable, etc. without even having to read the manual. However, you can be surprised about how good the old stuff is performing. Vintage audio is not just old, used and cheap. You have many different degrees in price, quality, functionality etc. Whatever reason you have to go for vintage audio equipment, I will try to give you the necessary information to proceed with your plan.
What am I looking for?
To start you should ask yourself: What do I want?
Do you want to have an old radio to provide you with some background music in the garage or do you want a vintage high-end system for you living room? Make up your mind. If excellent sound quality is not important, you can be satisfied with a 10 bucks portable radio from the thrift shop. However, If you are going for a high-end system, you might have to keep a ‘slightly’ different budget in mind. I probably don’t need to tell you that the good stuff never comes for free.
The next question is: What do I need?
There are many different categories of audio systems. These range from simple portable radios, to all-in-one systems, to the what I call ‘one component, one purpose’ systems. The latter can be described as:
INPUT → AMPLIFIER/RECEIVER → OUTPUT
Where input can be any of the following: Radio tuner, CD player, Turntable, Phone, Laptop, Tape Deck, ... Basically anything that can produce sound.
The amplifier is a device to boost the input signal to power the speakers (output). A receiver is simply an amplifier with the ability to switch between multiple input and/or output sources. Very often a receiver also has a radio tuner built in.
Output in the most basic setup just a pair of speakers. Let’s keep it like that for the time being.
Be sure to have all the components needed from input to output to be able to enjoy your music to the fullest. My next writing will cover this topic in more detail.
Let’s go for it!
After deciding on what you need and how much you are willing to spend on it, your journey starts. Ask around. Maybe one of your friend still has something laying around. Another option, my personal favorite: flea markets. On a flea market you can find all types of vintage audio. However, you do not have any guarantees about the working condition and no warranty. On the other side, you can find vintage audio equipment for a couple of bucks, almost for free sometimes. Another option is to go to a thrift shop. The advantage of these kind of shops is that you will be able to test the device and on top of that, you often have a warranty included.
If you prefer online shopping, there are a lot of specialized websites offering (vintage) audio equipment. Be careful, prices on specialized website will be significantly higher. On the other hand, you most often do receive guarantees and warranty as well. Some examples: Ebay.com, audiogon.com, ebth.com, vintagahifiwinkel.nl, theoldstereoguy.com, 2dehands.be, link-audio.be, leboncoin.fr
Almost every country or region has its own second hand website, check it out.
Is it worth it?
Many articles that I have read in the past start with “Turn on the device, turn up the volume and listen”. When you are buying from a seller indicating that the device is in working condition, this is indeed a good step to verify the claim. However, if you are about to buy some equipment with a thick layer of dust, think twice before you do this. It’s better to perform a visual check first. The following elements can give you an indication about the general condition of the device. Most commonly, they are in indication that something is wrong or something was wrong with it in the past.
  • Burn marks
  • Dents
  • Scratches
  • Broken parts (buttons)
  • Power cable: cut, burned, dissolving?
  • ‘Custom’ repairs: replaced parts, strange looking wires, …
If there is no or limited damage to the device, you can make a gamble and go for it. Start listening at a low volume and increase it slowly till you reach a reasonable loud volume. Now listen. What do you hear? Any crackling, hiss, buzzing, distortion, pop, … Any of these can be an indication that something is wrong with the device. Try the different buttons, the balance, loudness, different inputs, etc.
When buying in person you should talk to the seller. What can he/she tell you about the device history ? Does he still have the original packing and manual? Did it ever receive any maintenance? The more you know about the device the better. Let it help you in making your decision.
If you are convinced you have found your ideal equipment than go for it. If you have your doubts about the condition and you are not looking for a little project it's better to leave it and continue your search.
 

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