If your were to assemble a vintage system ?

Let’s say you were going to put together a vintage system and your source was primarily vinyl. Your price limit is $1500. What would it be? 
Make it as musical as possible. Super detail or thunderous bass isn’t going to be very high on the list. My first thought would be a 70’s Marantz receiver (50ish wpc is more than adequate) an 80’s AR table, and any iteration of a Vandersteen 2C that didn’t bust the budget. 

Could easily also swap in a Pioneer SX750 instead of a Marantz. 
Cartridge? Not sure- might actually go with something modern/current. AT or Nagaoka 

what would you put together? 
No idea on cost, I'll be close. Sansui, Infinity, and a Denon TT for DD or a Thoren for a belt, AR or Dual, will all work perfect too..

600.00 for a receiver
1000.00 speakers RS4b something like that..or VMPS Towers
3-600 for a TT and a good MM cart

Double that cost, is where I was at with Mcintosh. I still use Macs, Thoren, VMPS and a few more..

Cables 50 years ago.. 20 bucks.., mine were USAF surplus Silver # 12 still have them (100 foot was 40 dollars) I made ALL my own cable even back then, Copper, RCA cable and RCA ends.. No gold! Radio Shack.

Nickel, copper, some plated stuff back then. Sterling maybe..
I don't remember anything being gold plated..

Well, it wouldn't involve any receivers, that's for sure! Remember you said "musical" not "crapical"!  

For musical I would go with something like the Dynaco SCA-35 tube integrated amp. https://www.tnt-audio.com/ampli/dynaco-sca35_e.html For speakers if we really are talking musical and vintage then it would be the Advents. Although they are horribly inefficient and won't play loud with this amp they will sound awfully musical and their vintage appeal cannot be denied. If you want your musical loud then JBL L25 which is what I got, or the slightly more expensive (and a lot better looking) L36.

Being vintage we cannot have real cables and must go with lamp cord so we take advantage of this and use our funds to buy a nice Dual turntable and of course the beautiful Pioneer TX-9100 tuner. https://stereonomono.blogspot.com/2015/04/pioneer-tx-9100.html
These could all be mint/refurbished and still be under $1500.

Not much of a budget but you are good with the AR table and Vandersteens. But you have to toss the old receiver idea, those were bloody awful. Maybe an older Yamaha or Sansui integrated amp but buy the time you freshen it up you are into real money. I'd buy a used but current integrated amp with an old time look. Spend a little money and don't cheap out on power or low line amps, get something good it will last a long time. 
I’m going to keep posting this stuff until MC stops being 1) rude and 2) annoying. So it could be for a while:


For a recent non-believer, I used an Onkyo SR500 Dolby Digital receiver--purchased reconditioned for $200 (they're $250 - $300 new) against some well regarded separates. It's rated at 65 watts x 2 stereo per the FTC guidelines into 8 ohms. Distortion is 0.08% from 20-20k from 1 watt to 65 watts into 8 ohms. It has a "direct" bypass feature that supposedly bypasses all the digital/DSP for analog stereo signals.

The Onkyo was put up against the well regarded Bryston 4B 300 wpc power amp and a Bryston 2 channel pre-amp. They were driving a pair of expensive floor standing KEF speakers and the source was a high-end Marantz CD player. The person who owns this system is very proud of it and has spent a lot of time getting what he considers to be the best sound possible.

I had the Bryston owner pick the level he wanted to do the comparison at while listening to his system. I then used pink noise to level match the Onkyo to his system while he was out of the room. The Onkyo was running in its "Stereo Direct" analog mode.

I called him back in to listen, he sat down in the sweet spot and I replayed the same CD track he'd used to pick the levels. He immediately started complaining about how bad the Onkyo sounded. He said it sounded thin, compressed, harsh and a few other things. I smiled and turned the Onkyo off and the music kept playing. He'd said all those negative things about his own Bryston gear!

With him red faced, we proceeded to do at least an hour of listening with me swapping cables, or only pretending to, when he requested a switch. He listened to his favorite audiophile CDs. I did lots of swaps and fake swaps and during each would ask him which he thought he was listening to. In the end, his answers were roughly 50% correct which is the same as if he'd been randomly guessing. He even finally admitted, he couldn't tell which was which and WAS only guessing! I took his place and also couldn't hear any difference between the lowly receiver and his prized Bryston gear.

And ref: “lamp chords” - no audible differences as long as basic current handling requirements are met:


What needs to be stated plainly here is that the only thing this experiment demonstrated was that the use of cables of the correct specifications should not be audibly any different than each other. If you use an appropriate gauge wire, and the proper connectors: you should be golden regardless of how much—or little—you spend on cables. Consequently, you should probably just stick with Monoprice, Mogami, or AmazonBasics for your audio cable needs if you don’t care about how they look.

1.Any Vintage Luxman rosewood finished receiver!
2.Any East Coast Sound speaker, AR, Advent, ADS, etc.!
3. Any Micro-Seiki turntable with any Grado cartridge!
spendor bc1 ~800
nad 3020 or 3040 ~300
technics table, at95e or at12sa ~400

musicality in spades
40-50 years ago fellas.. Unless you were someone with a lot of money you bought a receiver.. I owned a MX110, first then C22, BUT a Sansui or Accuphase there was no better.. 50 years ago. Mcintosh maybe.. Marantz if you could afford it. Same with Mac..

NONE of the stuff would have come close to 1500, though..NEW right?

I paid 4400.00 and got a steal for 2 MC240 and a C22. I paid another 450.00 For a Thoren TD124 II/SME 3012 1979-80. Seq ser numbers on the Mac 240s too.

Now close to 15-20K if they were taken care of..Mint 20-25K
NEVER Unboxed 30K.
I love Mac...and Thoren. Garrard is the one that blows me away, today, mercy are they expensive, Glad I kept a couple.. Thoren is a lot better unit though..Hands down! Even their belt decks are better.

RUSSCO = Garrard Killers... 1/10 the price.. 3 times the weight..What does that work out to per pound?

I'd have to go with my first decent system I put together in the 70's
Dynaco SCA80 
Large Advents
Dynaco FM5
AR turntable

Currently own Dynaco ST-70 and AR XA turntable. Would probably go with Dynaco Pas3 preamp.  Not sure about speakers. Maybe ARs. 
What great memories of my first system.  There were so many beautiful receivers back in the late 70's.  I would be happy to keep my Pioneer SX-636.  And the Electrovoice Interface B's were ahead of their time.  Would keep those too.  Might upgrade my Pioneer PL-112d table and Shure M91ed.  But it was a first system that owed no apologies.
I’d happily return to a 2270 Marantz, an AR with a Stanton 681EE cart, and keep the SAE 2 band parametric eq I still own. Also keep the Behringer UltraCurve to tweak for the room.

I’d cheat and keep my audio ’puters.. ;) That, and my omni’s.

Sometimes vintage has to give sway to the new. *G*

If forced to ’go vint’ on speakers, 4 JBL L100’s and a diy sub for ’boom’s sake...with a D amp. *L*

For ’cans’, a pair of Koss Pro4AA’s....the ones’ I owned literally fell apart on my head, rewired twice....
Go for a used rega table with a dynavector 10x5 into a vintage integrated amp like a harman kardon or a tandberg with a vintage american speaker made prior to 1979 by a big maker jbl, altec, electrovoice, or dahlquist.
   If you go vintage especially amp/receiver have it thoroughly inspected and replace any old/tired electronic components. In the 70's, I bought a Pioneer SX850. It suited my needs back then. When the tuner stopped working (no big deal since vinyl was my preference) it played on. Eventually, it died. Rather than repair I moved on. In those "Japanese dominated market days" Sansui had an edge over most. The best I heard back then was a Dynaco a friend had built from one of their kits. Smoked all the others.

A sansui integrated, a pioneer pl series turntable with a Shute v15 cart, large advents. 1500 will be close. It would sound decent for sure. 
I’ve purchased a pair of QUAD ESL-63s, a QUAD 44 preamp and a 405-2 power amp. All I need is to buy a mid 80s vintage turntable and I’ll have my vintage system. I’d love to get a J A Michell...
we have a room plus for that...



while i do have a vintage Grace cartridge, the Hana ML gets most of the work.....

enjoy the music and the journey 

we have a room plus for that...



while i do have a vintage Grace cartridge, the Hana ML gets most of the work.....

enjoy the music and the journey 

Was just playing around with a perfect little vintage $1,500 rig... a much written about Musical Fidelity, A100 integrated, Canton, Karat 40 (3) way monitors; beautiful German build and a Music Hall, MMF 2.1 TT w/Adcom high output MC cart. Or, how about a Luxman R-1050 reciever w/rosewood cabinet, pair of Linn, Keilidh short towers and a HK, T-60 w/Signet cart. Guess the possibilities are endless. Will take some looking and shopping but these pieces are out there 
 The 70`s  gear I`d return to would be; The Dynaco preamp Pat5,  Dynaco 400 power amp  or David Hafler DH 200 DIY, Onkyo T100 tuner,  the original Technica SL 1200 T/T, Ortofon M15 Super E cart. Teac 4010 GSL reel to reel tape recorder, speakers Magnepan Tympani 1D`s I purchased all used $1585.
I have put together a vintage system along with my modern one and swap them over occasionally although I only have modern speakers Monitor Audio  Bronze 6s.

Vintage system.

Dual 510 with ortofon vms 30mkll
Sony tc-399 
Akai gxc 760d 
Akai aa1020 or rotel rx-1203 

Modern system

Rega p1 bias2 cart acrylic platter 
Marantz pm6006 
Marantz cd6006 
Marantz na6005 
Sony dtc-750 

Both sound great ....
Forgotten the headphones 

Vintage Dynatron SP3 refurbished 

Stax l300 
Sennheiser hd 650
Hifiman he-560 
Schiit lyr 2 
Oh and a tascam md-350 

From my collection of vintage gear this is what I am listening to: Ariston RD11 TT/FR29 arm/ADC magnesium headshell/Coral Sleeping Beauty MC cartridge, RGR 4 preamp, Sumo Andromeda amp, DCM Time Windows (52779,52780), Mitsubishi DA-F10 tuner. SUT is new and custom-made. Speaker wire is Q Audio Time Stream from the 80's. CD player is a 1997 Marantz CD67. The overall SQ is competitive with any of today's five-figure systems! 
Yes, @zavato, can't do much with $1500 of today's money.

So why not assemble your system with $1500 of yesterday's.
eg for a 1970 system, £15,756 for UK inflation and today's $ conversion rate.
All of the above bought used over the past five years. Only the custom SUT was new. Best bang-for-the-buck by shopping on the secondhand market!
1. Advent 300 receiver
2. Large Advent (walnut) loudspeakers

3. Dual 510 turntable w/Micro Acoustics phono cartridge

I've got a vintage system that includes a Thorens turntable from 1985 - TD 166 mk2 mated to a Sumiko blue point #2 cartridge. But I never understood why audiophiles use the term "musical" to describe the sound of a certain hi-fi component when music is what they play over their system. I mean, doesn't it all sound "musical?"
I would acquire a Quad 405 amp and a Quad 33 preamp, then rebuild them and add the DC/delay option offered by Dada.  For a turntable, a Technics SL-7 and some P-mount Ortofon cartridge or a Thorens TD-150 or the like and an Ortofon M2 Blue.  Speakers are a challenge.  The budget would probably not allow AR-LST's, but maybe AR-3a's or that failing, Dynaco A-25's.  I'd make my own cables as I have always done.Note: I have done the amp and preamp rebuilds and they perform very well in my current system.
This is right in the wheelhouse of our little shop here in Austin. We restore pre 1980 amps, receivers, and turntables for clients. And in our mind, "vintage" ends around 1980.  A few suggestions.

First, any vintage amplifier or receiver should have recently replaced electrolytic capacitors. It’s a waste of time otherwise. No doubt the reason that some have had bad experiences with period gear. You won’t hear it as intended otherwise.

Some speakers age better than others. Classic Klipsch usually need little or no attention, many other mid centuries use foam surround and NPE capacitors that need replacing.

Unless vintage cart has a new (not NOS) OEM stylus, it’s best to go with new here. Hard to beat an Ortofon 2M Red or Blue for the money.

Some examples with alternates we think will take on many a more expensive modern one:

Turntable: Technics SL1200II / P2 as alternate
Amplifier: Sansui AU 717 / Luxman R-1050
Speakers: ADS L 710 / Klipsch Heresy (original)

This particular combos might be tricky to keep in the OPs budget, but it would be well worth it.
AR 2ax speakers
Fisher 450t receiver
Sansui TT with a Stanton 681 EEE
cartridge. Put Last on all new records before they were played.
With fresh ears...in my teens,
the best sound I remember. 
Im now listening to Pass, VPI and Monitor Audio. 
Braun speakers (719 or 810) ADS too.

Marantz 2225 with the VU meters

Thornes TT? Something.

All on eBay and with in you range.


I’d get new for the down time and future hidden costs that are certainly part of the rig. You’d have to stream. Peachtree makes an intergrated with bluetooth (use yr. phone or laptop). There are others too. Maybe some klipsch speakers new or used. 
Lots of used cables/speakers to snag. With lamp cord vintage it is!
Caveat emptor!

Amazed that no one has mentioned Harmon Kardon. Also amazed how many liked Pioneer. I never heard one that I liked and I heard a lot of them. And I cringe at Luxman. Worst purchase of my life. But we all have different preferences and hearing I suppose. I had/still have a HK 730 twin powered receiver that I believe would shame some modern separates. But It NEEDS to be recapped and some minor repair. So you MUST include that cost in any purchase, which jeopardizes that $1500 limit. Friends, This stuff is 40 + years old. 
That said, my system would consist of

HK Citation  amp & maybe preamp
Infinity Speakers
Technics 1200 TT

Sorry, I don't have model #'s

You're right, the HK 730 is an excellent unit.  If you already own one, these are well worth having redone, or buying one.  If you don't, just as with an old car, a buyer would be better off getting one that has already been restored. 

Good separates, HK or otherwise, would likely blow this budget.  

Good separates, HK or otherwise, would likely blow this budget.

Indeed today they would. Amp alone is $2k for one that needs repaired. I figure it may have in the 70’s when I bout the 730. But I suspect the budget of 1500 is still pretty tight. MSRP on the 730 was $425.
BTW, I messaged you about the 730.
The one I have playing in my shop (too dusty, no vinyl):
Dynaco ST-70
Large Advents

If I did vinyl, it would be the AR-XA that’s currently in its box in the shop.

I also agree jjss has it going on.

That original NAD 3140 was magical. Unfortunately, disposable parts & construction make restoration impractical
Marantz 1060, can be had fairly inexpensively 500.00 . With a little patience and solder, recapping is 125.00. A Thorens TD160 with a  MM cartridge is about 600.00. Two Fostex FE166NV full range drivers 225.00 and a couple of sheets of 3/4" Baltic Birch for a set of double horns $150.00. Bit over budget at 1600, but would be a very satisfying set up.

I would start in 1973, when I bought and built a Dynaco SCA-80Q at the desk in my dorm room at UW-Madison. My roommate and I each bought a pair of The Smaller Advent Loudspeaker from the "Happy Medium". We agreed to split the system. He bought a Dual 1215, probably with a Shure M91E.

I know that many of you might sneer at the Dynaco SS amp, but it was a learning experience. When we split up as roommates, I bought an AR XB, which I still have, albeit with a Grace 707 arm in its current incarnation.

I have arrived back at a pair of Smaller Advents paired with a Knight Kit KA-40 16Wx2 tube amp that my Dad originally built in 1959-60. It is my workshop stereo, enjoyed almost daily while I work. Mostly streaming now, from digital files on an iMac connected through an Apogee Duet. It is really enjoyable system! The Duet dates from my silly project of digitizing all my vinyl instead of listening to it. I stopped when the law of diminishing returns was applied.

My main system is Linn, 1983 LP12, Accurate Kontrol, AV5125, Active Keilidhs, Mac Mini, iFi Nano iOne. Both systems are enjoyable in their own way. I play around with Amarra, BitPerfect, Tidal, Spotify, Apple etc. but the above law applies to that as well. Started with LP12, Kans and Denon power amps in the 80-90s, then to Arcam electronics, then to Linn.

Not exactly an answer to OP's query, but I'm still enjoying authentic vintage gear that has withstood the test of time. Plus, my 95 year old Dad loves that I have his old gear and use it!

My system is vintage...AudioStatic ES300R and DCM5 powered by Mark Levinson bos. 333, 360S, 380S and 25S...average equipment age 25 years, sounding better than 95% of today’s hi-end
AR or Empire TT; good MM cartridge; Spendor, stacked original large Advents, or ProAc Series 2 monitors. Decent receiver. 
I would replicate my first system, from 1970. 
Sansui AU-555 Amp
Sansui TU-555 Tuner
Dual 1019 Turntable w/Shure V15 Type III cartridge
Samsui SP-100 Speakers
 AKAI R2R w/X field head

wished I had McIntosh money back then, LOL
I don’t want to take you away from building a Vintage system because there is a lot of stuff you can do with this gear, that produce great systems, but it has a some challenges.

All componentes degrade on the power amp and line stage , so stuff like DC on the outputs, squash of the frequency response and dinâmics should be reviewed. Consider the possibility of placing new caps, new fuses, new power transistors, new diode with no ripple effect etc... etc...
mall this has a cost that need to be factored on top of the purchase price unit.

In my experience, every componente that you by should be serviced and improved. So the idea is to by at a low price to then be able to service it properly.

You will also need to find a good technician that is familiar with the models/brand you are buying, has he will help/avise you in improving the unit without major increases in cost.

Has vintage system I would go for a pre-power combo. Has a pre amplifier I would probably use a Marantz from series 21xx. For power I would get one or a pair of Rega Maia.

Speakers might be a challenge has you wont be able to audition them, so probably would go for a Monitor Audio R-352.

Hope this helps


@filipedine You're right, extensive service is needed before equipment of this age will perform as intended.  But not quite this extensive. Certainly all electrolytic capacitors in the amp and power supply stages.  Some small signal transistors such as the differentials in Pioneer and Marantz degrade from heat more than age.  In certain makes and model, we have seen resistors degrade.  Non polar capacitors typically need not be replaced.  Some exceptions are the early Sprague "bumble bees" in tube gear.  Operating tube gear with failing capacitors can lead to very bad things.  

It has not been our experience that power transistors need to be replaced, unless there was a catastrophic failure.  A "blown" channel.  Same for power resistors.  Although some diodes are replaced, many can be retained.  Failure of power rectifiers for example is pretty rare, and these do not normally need replacement. As for fuses, they do not normally need replacement.  A blown or damaged fuse is however a potential sign of serious trouble.  Fuses do NOT normally fail.  Replacing and powering up in some cases can cause irreparable damage.  

If you are buying vintage gear, it's a safer bet to get a piece of equipment that has already been through a restoration process by an experienced technician, than to buy an unserviced piece.  Otherwise, buy with the idea that hundreds of dollars of work could be in your very near future.