Updated: Mar 27, 2020
Are you an audiophile or do you know one? Many people have this affliction and don't even know it. An audiophile is a person with a love for – okay -- an obsession with the high-quality playback of music. Why do I bring this subject up? The audiophile's addiction to sound commands them to collect vintage sound equipment. To these connoisseurs of sound, nothing can replace the audio characteristics of many of these past technologies.
The tube amp is a great example. The warm sounds of an old vacuum tube power amp cannot be matched by today's digital amplifiers. Many hi-end boutique manufacturers are out there, ready to take your arm and leg, as they promise to build you a custom piece with this old tech. But, many of these great old pieces that are in high demand are in storage units, garages, thrift stores and maybe, your closet. It’s an underground market almost, as I see most of America has no clue to its cult-like following.
Brands like McIntosh, Scott, Technics, Sansui, Fisher, Marantz, and Audio Research are just a few examples of these old manufacturers. But all of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this genre of collectors. They are just as fanatical about turntables (record players), guitar amps, sound effect pedals, and don't let me get started on old speakers.
My hope is to put you "in the know" before you have a yard sale and put out your old clunker stereo, thinking it's outdated and worthless, and mind you, it may be. Many are not collectible and are considered to make better door stops or boat anchors, but, always check first. Most appraisers, auctioneers and vintage record shops have a good idea or can find out if you have a little hidden gem.
To best illustrate this phenomenon, we recently sold a McIntosh MC2205 for $950 at auction that the owners had slated for the dumpster. An old pair of Lansing speakers, very unassuming, realized $750 at one of our auctions last summer. Again, the movers were surprised when I didn't send them in for donation. And, in my research, I came across an old Kenwood turntable that sold for $4,250 at auction. Yes, that's $4,000 for a record player!
It gets crazier. An old Western Electric tube record player preamplifier sold on eBay for $22,000. To the layman, that’s the thingy you put between your record player and your power amplifier. That must really make everything sound better for sure! This is pre-remote control, people. Actually, I must admit, I do get it. I have heard these serious collectors’ sound systems and there is a huge difference. It’s not just nostalgia for the old, but it does sound better and they can back it up with scientific evidence. But in today’s world of convenience, we just pop in our ear buds and enjoy our inferior music reproduction.