25 responses Add your response
been there ...started in the early 70s with a Sony receiver, Garrard turntable, and AR bookshelves in my freshman year...
Then moved up to a MARANTZ 2245 receiver, ELAC MIRACORD turntable and a progression of speakers including DYNACO A25s, EPI 100s and finally the JBL L-100s.
Lets remember what the EPIs and DYNACOs etc represented: a cheap and cheaply made mass-market "new revolution" bookshelf product for the burgeoning wave of baby boomers flooding the college dorms as receivers and bookshelves replaced traditional home units.
The L-100s were a perfect match back then for the 60s and 70s pop and rock music facilitator, especially for a misspent youth immersed in Maui-Wowee infused college dorm arena. They had a particular "California" sound.... that's why they were the studio monitors of their time ....a heavily spiked bass, A heavily spiked midrange, and AN equally heavily spiked AND PROMINENT treble response... perfect for the pop and loud rock of that era.
The L-100s performance completely killed the EPIs and DYNACOs .... not even close.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY.....
With a high-end system today (~ $50K for 2 channel system) the "vintage" kit brings back a nostalgia wave reminiscent of a gentler time...BUT the current gear performance completely smokes the vintage kit ...again not even a close...full stop.
Its been an interesting progression .....
I couldn't agree more with the above poster that modern gear completely smokes vintage gear. And it doesn't need to be a 50k system either.
As one of those old timers who bought my first "good" system in 1977, Technics SA-5460 receiver, Avid 103 speakers, Technics SL-1400 TT and Shure V15 III cartridge, it cost about $1000 and sounded pretty good back in the day. A grand adjusted for inflation today would be around $4100 and that can get you a vinyl based system that would kick the above vintage stuff to the curb.
Funny but many reminisce about the good old days and believe that some how the gear back then was better by sheer virtue of being vintage. This is turn is driving up prices of some restored vintage pieces to levels that exceeded what they originally cost. If they used that same money on quality modern gear, they would be amazed at what's available today.
Newer gear is probably better overall in general but the thing that has increased my enjoyment of listening to music at home the most in recent years is the power and flexibility (along with good sound quality) of building my own digital music library and digital streaming of music in general.
After many years of stagnation in terms of being able to find and enjoy new music, I’ve heard and enjoyed so much more new music in recent years than in any year past as a result, probably at least since the time as a kid I discovered good quality FM radio.
As a result, I’ve also been motivated in recent years to get my sound exactly right for me so that I can enjoy all that new music to the max.
My only problem now is not enough hours in a week to listen to it all along with other things, but I do have a back log of music to listen to already that will keep me going still for many years to come hopefully.
Don’t forget, the original Quad ESL was available back then, and so were good tube electronics, the Thorens TD-124 turntable, and the Decca cartridge. So a highly transparent, uncolored system was available, though only the audiophiles and early high end shops of the day knew it. Gordon Holt alone was writing about the good stuff in Stereophile (Harry Pearson and his Absolute sound not showing up until many years after Gordon had started publishing Stereophile), which was a subscription only quarterly (in a good year ;-), with a subscriber base of a few thousand. I discovered him and it in ’71, and that’s when my never-ending quest truly began. Prior to that, it was AR, Rectilinear (who remembers them?!), Shure, Dynaco, and McIntosh. I HATED those damn JBL Century L-100’s---unbearably bright, forward, and colored. But on the other side were the soft, dark, recessed, relatively neutral AR’s. Neither were very good! Hearing my first ESL’s (the RTR tweeters, then the Infinity Servo-Static I, then the Quads) was a revelation! Then Audio Research reached the West Coast, and the SP-3, D-75/D-51, bi-amped Magneplanar Tympani I's was IT!
My primary system is of modern vintage and primarily digitally based though I have a Sonograph turntable connected. I plan on using the ST-70 in a 2nd or 3rd system. I can't help but believe that a refurbished ST-70 with a PAS-3 pre wouldn't make for a nice system when mated to modern front end components and speakers.
Dynaco electronics were sold as DIY kits that could also be purchased pre-assembled. I know that the sound of the Dynaco PAT-4 solid-state pre-amp couldn't touch the sound of a Mac C-26 or C-28. The stereo 400 SS amp did much better against the Mac power amps. I'm not saying they didn't exist, but I never heard any speakers in the 70's that compare with speakers of the last 25 years. The Mac ML speakers, while great for reproducing loud rock music, lacked a lot when it came to presenting a convincing acoustic/classical sound.
Assertions of the superiority of contemporary equipment vs. vintage equipment, such as have been made in some of the posts above and in many past threads on this kind of topic, often tend to be based on what IMO is an unfair and flawed comparison. What contemporary equipment should be compared with is vintage equipment that **today** sells for similar prices. Not a comparison between, for example, a modern $50K system and a system comprised of vintage components that can be bought today for perhaps a few percent of that amount, or even less.
And on the basis of that kind of comparison, based on extensive experience I have had (mainly during the 1990s) with vintage tube components of the 1950s and 1960s, there are countless pieces I could cite from the likes of H. H. Scott, Pilot, Fisher, Brook, Radio Engineering Laboratories, McIntosh, Marantz, and others, that sell today for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, that if in top condition and/or well restored I would easily consider to be competitive with (and in many cases superior to) their modern counterparts that go for similar prices **today.**
And even in the upper echelons of the price spectrum, there are reasons why Western Electric speaker drivers from the 1930s, Tannoy speaker drivers from the 1940s and later decades, Brook power amplifiers from the 1950s, and some Marantz tube products from the 1950s and 1960s sell for tens of thousands of dollars today. In some cases for MANY tens of thousands of dollars. And the reasons are certainly not just nostalgia. In fact there are at least a few of our most knowledgeable and experienced members right here at Audiogon who have assembled systems with some of those products, which if we were to hear I would expect would leave many of us envious.
BDP - yep.
I had one of the first Tympani 1a's, in 1973. What a speaker! Biamped with ARC crossover, modified ST-70's, and solid state monos. The Quad ESL's were just not big enough for me then, or now - so I have several copies of the new crop of Quads.
The new Quads need serious modding to sound their best, but when they do - they are no more musical than the ESL 57's!!!!! Another octave top and bottom, but no more musical. It's the electronics that have really shifted up, now that designers know how to use complementary push-pull pairs. And modern high end caps and resistors. And cartridges. Those Supex units were wonderful, but beside a modern higher end Koetsu?? Not so much.
My experience is that vintage equipment varies a great deal.
For the most part, 40 to 50 year old turntables are rarely competitive, but there are some exceptions. 40-50 year old arms are almost always not with the postage to mail it to you, and forget about most 40-50 year old cartridges, though I would still grab a Shure V15 Type 3 with a modern stylus.
I would not touch a 40 -50 year old preamp, but I think there were some phenomenal tuners 40-50 years ago. Speakers? with incredibly rare exception, I would pass on anything 40-50 years old.
To sum it up, I'll take a 301, with a modern arm and cartridge, a vintage Mac amp, modern pre, a Mac MR71 tuner, and modern speakers
Al, your 'todays cost' comparison does much toward relativity. There are vintage products that can be reconditioned that will play well against modern equipment at similar price point. Not saying I have experience with many of them, however I hold my Dynaco ST-70 as one of them, recognizing the limited power handling capabilities of this amp.
Yup, I was there in the late 60s and early 70s during my late teen and early 20s years. For members who hail from the Philly area, there was Music and Sound Limited (M&S) located in the Jenkintown and later the Willow Grove areas. Remember Mel and Nel, ... the self-proclaimed musicians and inventors?? M&S carried many of the high end brands mentioned above. In particular, I recall the Maggie Typany panels, the Infinity Servostatics and the Quad ESLs. Of course, who could forget the early Crown and ARC lines.
Unfortunately, I was too young and broke to actually buy any of the high-end stuff, but was an M&S groupie. Was able to pick up some used Crown gear, Infinity 2000a speakers and a Thorens TT. For what I had, I was in audio heaven. But compared to my current rig, I think my old set-up sucked air.
@almarg , not sure I understand your comments that the "best of the best" from back then could still meaningfully compete with contemporary very good gear, especially in the speaker space. I surmise that materials technology alone would put most modern speakers in a place that the old stuff couldn't touch.
Thanks for the memories. Truly, ... youth is wasted on the young.
Hi Bruce (Bifwynne),
As I indicated, Western Electric speaker drivers from the 1930s, and to a somewhat lesser extent Tannoy speaker drivers from the subsequent several decades, often go for tens of thousands of dollars these days. I believe it is very possible to spend six figures creating a Western Electric-based pair of speakers, with custom built modern cabinets and modern crossover components (or perhaps active crossovers used with multiple amplifiers). I haven’t ever heard such a system, but based on multiple accounts I’ve heard and also read about over the years from audiophiles I consider to be particularly credible, and who have either done that or have heard such systems, I don’t doubt that such a system can provide performance commensurate with those kinds of prices.
During the 1990s I did own two different pairs of very large vintage Tannoy speakers from the 1960s, the drivers from which would probably go for upwards of $10K today. I was not particularly enamored of their performance, but my belief is that the reasons related to their cabinets and perhaps also to the condition of their crossover components. That belief is reinforced by reports here and elsewhere of experiences of others I consider to be particularly credible.
As far as electronics is concerned, one of the best sounding amplifiers I have ever heard, at least when used with an easy to drive pair of speakers, was a pair of Marantz Two monoblocks, ca. 1960, which I owned for a time during the 1990s. I believe they would go for a bit more than $10K today. I also owned a pair of the legendary and even more valuable Marantz 9 monoblocks, btw, which in the case of the particular examples I had were outperformed by the Two’s.
And then there are the best of the vintage tube tuners, such as the Marantz 10B (I’ve owned two of them), and the REL Precedent I currently own. I haven’t heard any of the upper echelon models that Magnum Dynalab has produced in the last decade or so (I have heard some of their older models), but I would certainly be surprised if a 10B in top condition, or a Precedent in top condition together with the necessary external stereo multiplex adapter (the Precedent pre-dates the stereo era), would not be competitive with them in terms of both sensitivity and sound quality.
The Infinity 2000A! They had the great RTR ESL tweeters I mentioned above, which blew my young mind. I wanted them SO bad, but had to settle for the lesser 1001 model, without the RTR's. Mel was one of the handful of early high end dealers in the country, and was pals with J.Gordon Holt, who lived in his part of the country, Pennsylvania. I still have some of Mel’s MAS inter-connects.
@almarg, Al, ... how much stock do you place on some of the high-tech materials used in better speakers such as neodymium magnets, lightweight and stiff cone materials (e.g., beryllium domes, graphene, and so forth). I assume that the crossovers are also better.
Just talking out loud, but I wonder how the top-end speakers of yesteryear would compare in an A-B audition.
@bdp24 -- I drove (or should I say, over drove) my 2000a speakers with a Crown DC 300 amp. Talk about an electronic IN-compatibility. I had to run the amp with the protect circuit in "off mode" because the amp thought it was shorting out. The high-end impedance was probably in the low single digits because of the electrostatic tweets. I also blew them out on a regular basis. I also recall that the inductors got so hot, I couldn't touch the mounting screw head that held the x-overboard down.
The 1001 and 2000a speakers touted a transmission line woofer set-up which used a cardboard tube stuffed with damping material. Frankly, it looked like a bass reflex system to me. FWIW, J. Gordon Holt rated the 2000a as Class B speakers in the day, which was pretty impressive. And yes, I remember when Stereophile was sans advertisement and paid subscription only.
Btw, do you remember Nel's custom made 10 foot high (or thereabouts) downward firing subwoofer tower? Nel cut the woofer off at 5 or 10 Hz because he was afraid that it could make 2 Hz sound energy that would boil a person's blood or something crazy like that. :)
In 1975 I went into Wacks Audio in Milwaukee, and it started my journey.
I talked to the owner, and he knew I had a big interest in audio.
He took me up a flight of stairs to a locked room, that only certain customers got to see.
Inside were Magneplanar Timpani IIIc speakers, driven by an Audio Research D150, Sp3a and some unknown turntable. The D150 was massive, with three meters and a big knob that cranked up the voltage during start up. One look at that amp, and you knew the owner was dead serious about audio!
The sound that came out of those speakers sounded like "real" music. I had never ever heard anything like that, and was completely blown away!
I could not afford that system, but after hunting around, I bought Magnepan IIa speakers, GAS Son of Ampzilla, Thoebe preamp, and a decent turntable. I was more than satisfied for years!
Bifwynne 6-4-2016 5:47pm EDTHi Bruce,
Frankly, I never pay much if any attention to such things. As I and others have said here many times in the past, what usually matters most is how well a chosen design approach is implemented, and not which approach is chosen.
And when it comes to speakers that applies doubly in my case, as I'm more knowledgeable about electronics than about speakers.
Right bifwynne, it was a cardboard tube as a "transmission-line" in the 2000A. I heard them at Sound Systems in Palo Alto, CA, hooked up to early SAE electronics, which were the hot amps until ARC made it to the West Coast. They also had the speaker ESS was making before Oscar Heil hooked up with them, the Transtatic I. It also had the RTR ESL tweeters (the static part of the model name) and a transmission-line (the trans part), but theirs a real one. In front of the line was a KEF B-139 woofer (the driver Dave Wilson used in pairs in his WAMM speaker), and then a KEF 5" midrange cone. I couldn’t afford their $1200/pr price at the time (or even the $600 for a pair of 2000A’a. The 1001’s were only $139 apiece), but I have a pair now!
That was in ’71, and by the next year they had the Infinity Servo-Statics and Magneplanar Tympani T-I’s in the same (large, obviously) room, running off ARC D-75 and D-51 amps. The guy who owned Sound Systems was kind of obnoxious, and I ended up buying a complete ARC/Tympani/Thorens/Decca/Revox system in ’72 from Walt Davies at Audio Arts in Livermore. Walt went on to develop and is making the Last Record Care product line, and is a great guy.
These postings made me think, I've had a lot of equipment over my 62 years. Some of the memorable setups:
While in college I snagged a Dynaco PAT-4 pre-amp, McIntosh MC225 amp, Dual 1219 turntable with a Shure V15 cartridge and a pair of Large Advent speakers
After college I snagged a Tandberg receiver, B&O turntable and cassette deck and a pair of Canton LE900 speakers.
In my mid-50's I snagged the NAD Masters Series electronics, laptop for streaming, pair of Totem Fire monitors and Velodyne sub.
I agree with what's been said (above), my current equipment IS much better than what's come before, going "digital" has been a real benefit to me, not a fan of pops and clicks.
I moved a few years ago and then decided to 'listen' to all the masses of gear I had accumulated over the 40years in this hobby when setting up my system again. Krell, Levinson, McIntosh, GAS, Citation, and what I discovered to my utter shock was that I really like the sound of Sansui. I have been enjoying my Sansui 9090db, Dual 1229 turntable (with a Grace 747 tonearm), Pioneer RT 1050 half track reel to reel and a Nakamichi 500 Dual tracer cassette deck. Yes, Krell had more bass slam, yes Levinson was pure silk when listening to jazz trios, of course McIntosh was polite and correct. The thing is, to 'me', nothing is as 'musical' as the Sansui. I can listen to it for hours on end and it's utter bliss. I still can't believe all the gear I've gone through just to arrive here, but I am happy and that's what matters.
So Robinhood1940, I completely get it and applaud you. Listen on and enjoy, but it isn't about the gear, it's about the music..