ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How To Buy Old Vintage and Classic HiFi Stereo Audio Equipment

Updated on October 29, 2013
A vintage McIntosh integrated Amplifier and Tuner.
A vintage McIntosh integrated Amplifier and Tuner.

Finding great deals on vintage and classic hi-fi Stereo equipment.

It is a widely held belief among many audiophiles and stereo enthusiasts that standard consumer grade vintage and classic hi-fi equipment is, in many respects, superior to their modern counterparts.

There are many reports and reviews that confirm (and some that refute) this, so we won't go into that debate here.

We will assume you fall into the category of preferring (or looking to get into collecting) vintage and classic stereo equipment, and cover some of the things to look for, some things to look out for, and where to find components for your vintage or classic hi-fi system.

Finding components

There are plenty of places online to find vintage hi-fi equipment, either for outright purchase or by auction. The caveats of buying from these venues is that you will nearly always pay a premium for these, as there are thousands of enthusiasts searching for the same components on these sites, they know the worth, and more than likely, the seller has searched the same site for similar items and noted their selling price.

The only saving grace of this method is that many of these sites have protection for the buyer, so that if the item is not shipped as described, the purchaser can often be refunded their money.

There are also vintage audio boutiques in many cities. Purchasing your equipment from such an establishment has both positives and negatives. The negative being the inflated cost of being a retail brick-and-mortar store. They must meet overhead and pay their employees, so the price of the items will be higher than online auctions and private sales.

Many of these boutiques, however, often have a qualified technician that has tested and repaired the items they sell, and often give a warranty with the sale.

I'd like to make a note here about buying vintage vacuum tube equipment. Buying used tube powered components can be tricky. If a somewhat recent receipt for service on the vacuum tube powered component is not available, before running it, the component should be inspected and repaired by a qualified individual, such as the technicians that work at the boutiques mentioned above. Purchasing vacuum tube equipment from boutiques may, in the long run, end up costing less overall, because the item has already been serviced.

Where, then, should you look for vintage and classic hi-fi equipment?

  • Thrift stores
  • Yard and garage sales
  • Craigslist
  • Local classifieds
  • Swap Meets

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores are my favorite place to look for vintage stereo equipment. Many people replace their old, out-of-style equipment with newer equipment, and donate them to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or other local thrift stores. The staff that price these generally do not know the value of this vintage equipment, and set the price very low. In addition, the thrift stores are generally well-organized, so one may go directly to the electronics section, and see all the available items at a quick glance.
Find out the schedule for the display of new items for your local thrift shops and try to schedule visits to them at those times.

Yard and Garage Sales

Drive around your neighborhood on Weekend mornings and look for yard or garage sale signs. Your neighbors may be clearing out the stereo they packed in the garage years ago, and likely have no idea of it's potential worth, or it's quality.

Craigslist

Quite a bit of classic and vintage stereo equipment can be found on craigslist. Sometimes they are good deals. As often as not, however, if a person is posting an ad on craigslist, they've checked the auction sites for the current 'going price' on these items, and are usually priced similarly to these, without the protection of the boutique warranty or the buyer protection of the online auction sites.

Local Classifieds

Your local classifieds may have similar items to those listed in craigslist. They were likely posted by those less savvy with computers, so may not be as aware of their current market price as those who post ads online.
The classifieds are also a good way to locate yard and garage sales in your area.

Swap Meets

Similar to the yard and garage sales, but sellers often know a bit more about their products and their value. You still run similar risks concerning their state of repair and the lack of buyer protection and warranties.

A great vintage solid state amplifier by Marantz.
A great vintage solid state amplifier by Marantz.
A beautiful sounding vintage solid state amplifier and tuner from Harman Kardon.
A beautiful sounding vintage solid state amplifier and tuner from Harman Kardon.

What to look for when shopping for bargain vintage Hi-Fi system components

Let's talk about amplifiers first.

There are, for our purposes, two kinds of vintage Hi-Fi stereo amplifiers:

As noted above, vacuum tube amps should be serviced by a professional if no receipt of service in the last few years can be shown.

Solid state amplifiers have been around for quite a while, but the process of amplification in solid state amplifiers has evolved and branched out over time.

The op-amps, or circuits that amplify sound, can vary a fair bit.

The difference in transistors over the years are quite audible, with many of the older amplifiers having a 'warmer' sound, due to attack rate, crosstalk, signal to noise ratio and their possible 'coloration' of a sound signal.
You'll learn to spot vintage amplifiers from a distance. Many of them have brushed aluminum face plates, an analogue AM/FM tuner, large aluminum knobs, and toggle switches, as opposed to the sleek black, digital, soft-touch buttons of modern components.

Being able to spot these from a car or with a quick glance at a rack of electronics is a skill that will be developed with time and experience.

A classic Technics turntable.
A classic Technics turntable.

Turntables

Vinyl has gone out of mainstream popularity, but for vintage audiophile entusiasts, the turntable is often the crown jewel of their hi-fi system.

Many vintage and classic high-end turntables can now be bought used for a song at thrift stores, yard sales and swap meets.

There are two types of turntables you will most often see, direct-drive and belt-driven. The belts on the belt driven systems are made of rubber which hardens and turns brittle with age.

These belts will more than likely need to be replaced.

Direct-drive turntables have the spindle attached directly to the motor. Less expensive direct-drive turntables can suffer from compromised audio reproduction due to motor vibration.
The more expensive direct-drive turntables have better motors and steps taken to preclude distortion from vibration, and typically have higher quality motors than the their belt-driven counterparts.

It's a good idea to do some research on vintage turntable brands and models before purchasing one, as quality and cost of service vary wildly.

A new needle should be purchased for your used turntable to protect your vinyl collection from damage.

Reel to reel recorders and players are great for use in helping to preserve your record collection.
Reel to reel recorders and players are great for use in helping to preserve your record collection.

Reel to Reel

Reel to reel tape recorders and players are a surprisingly hi-fidelity addition to your vintage stereo setup.

This analogue recording medium is a very good way to preserve your record collection. Being able to record both sides of a few of your favorite records on the warm-sounding, analogue nature of hi-fi reel to reel tapes allows you to listen to your favorite albums in their rich analogue sound without wear and tear on your vinyl, and without having to get up and turn the records over.

Reel to reels do take up a bit more space than most components, and as with turntables, the motors are subject to "wearing out."

Check the cones, surrounds and dustcaps (or dustcovers) of classic speakers before purchasing.
Check the cones, surrounds and dustcaps (or dustcovers) of classic speakers before purchasing.
Potentiometers shaping the mid-range and treble of many older speakers are subject to corrosion and oxidation.
Potentiometers shaping the mid-range and treble of many older speakers are subject to corrosion and oxidation.

Speakers

There are tens of thousands of different makes and models of speakers from the 1950s through the 1980s.

As with all other vintage stereo equipment, there are periods of time with nearly every manufacturer where quality may be at a low point. Research these periods at places like www.audiokarma.org or similar before paying too much money for a set of classic or vintage speakers.

When inspecting speakers, if possible, remove the grill or covering, and inspect the drivers visually.

Check for crushed 'dust caps', torn surrounds, or liquid stained or torn cones.

Check also to see if it appears the drivers may have been replaced. Unless replaced by a professional, the characteristics of the new driver and the enclosures may not have been taken into account, and a mismatch in driver and enclosure design may have occurred. There are many parameters that must be taken into account when selecting a driver for a specific enclosure.

If the speakers are of a high quality nature, but have damaged surrounds, cones or caps, they may still be a good purchase.

Surrounds can be replaced by qualified persons, as can cones and coils. Do not discount a set of very good speakers solely on driver condition. The few hundred dollars it may cost to repair them may be well worth it.

Many older speakers have one or more potentiometers attached to complicated crossover systems that help tune the frequency responses, generally cutting treble and/or mid-range. Potentiometers are subject to oxidation and corrosion, and may have to be serviced.

Condition of your components

All vintage and used components should be checked by qualified technicians to ensure the continued longevity of your components and listening pleasure.

Happy hunting!

Vote!

Why do you collect vintage audio equipment?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      DiceDawg 

      3 years ago

      i am looking to sell a working McIntosh stereo receiver, pre-amp and 2 speakers.... along with several other items and vacuum tubes from an estate in Central Florida. Need fair market value to the Estate

    • profile image

      steve becker 

      4 years ago

      try Speakers -Stereo Refurbished of Georgia 678-542-5623 stev ebcker I love these written pages

    • Jason R. Manning profile image

      Jason R. Manning 

      4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      Very nice collection of information and examples of equipment. Cheers.

    • quiterandom profile imageAUTHOR

      quiterandom 

      4 years ago

      Vincent, I describe places to get vintage audio equipment starting from the section headlined "Finding components".

      Good luck!

    • profile image

      vincent 

      4 years ago

      \i need to know where to buy this type of vintages equip.....???

    • CarolynEmerick profile image

      Carolyn Emerick 

      5 years ago

      I used to have a large record collection, and then life got complicated, but you are inspiring me to build one back again :-)

    • jabelufiroz profile image

      Firoz 

      5 years ago from India

      great...keep sharing...

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)